Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) spoke about recovering the American Dream during a Senate hearing on Wednesday, saying that the United States needs to provide "more viable career paths that don't involve expensive educations" to compete with Chinese competition.
Cotton said that his constituents don't think of abstract ideas such as "economic growth" and "consumer surplus" as the American Dream.
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"They know a life of getting and spending cannot hope to fulfill one's dreams," Cotton said. "Instead they dream of a career that pays an honest wage so they can live in a decent neighborhood. They dream of getting married and starting a family. And ultimately, they dream of passing on this standard of living to their children—plus a little bit more. That's the American Dream I hear."
Cotton continued that the "labyrinth of subsidies, regulations, and misguided priorities constructed by Washington does little to help the large majority of Americans who don't graduate from college."
"Our government doesn't offer these Americans much beyond occasionally moralizing about their supposed shortcomings: ‘Go to college,' ‘abandon your hometown,' or ‘learn to code,'" he said. "What they really need are more viable career paths that don't involve expensive educations."
Cotton said that there are "many good-paying, honorable jobs for people without college degrees in this country" and that the Senate needs to focus on legislature that would help create more of them. He advised that a good place to start on this strategy would be to pursue a more aggressive stance against China.
"For decades, Washington pursued a policy of integration with China," he said. "The architects of this policy hoped naively that enriching the Chinese Communist Party would make it more pliable and less communist. Instead, it gave China the means to challenge America around the world—all while decimating the American heartland."
Cotton concluded that America must recover its place as a world leader to help its citizens achieve the American dream.
"If we want to remain the world's strongest economy, we'll need to marshal every citizen, every skill, every talent, at our disposal," Cotton said. "We'll need to recover the vitality, productive abilities, and indeed patriotism that contributed to America's resounding triumphs in the past century."