American Car Is Killing The American Dream

sam L
3 min readMar 6, 2023


Our annual expenditures for car. 2017 and 2018 were the years we spent in Israel.

My wife and I are trying to save for a house. We have a baby and a dog. We have graduate degrees, so do our friends. We try hard to not eat out, to not travel, and yet we never seem to save. So I looked at our budget. What ate up the most? Our cars.

Our two cars cost us between $7,000 and $10,000 per year in gas, insurance and maintenance. After 10 years, we could have saved over $100,000, if you don’t count inflation or interest. Our car is responsible for us not having vacations, stress over having kids, and despair over not affording a home in an area where our kids can get a good education.

I wondered how this happened. After all, when we lived in Tel Aviv we didn’t have a car, we could walk or take the bus everywhere, there were schools and stores and parks near us. We lived in a multi story building but we spent our time outside and we managed to save enough to travel and pay off my student loans.

How did this car take so much from us? Well for that we have to look at how the car conquered America.

Before the car, there was the horse. It was the mark of freedom, of American Dream. But not many had one. Those who lived in cities rarely had a horse as it was expensive to buy and upkeep. Cities were small, walkable. In fact few people had cars, until the fifties. And even then, cities were still small, walkable, with plenty of public transportation. At the end of 1950'ies, the Interstate was put in. The freeways connected cities but they had not yet arrived into the city. Then 1970ies arrived. Cities were dug up and in place of neighborhoods, large snakes with cars arrived. The downtowns emptied of white faces and filled with crime.

Where did the white people go? The suburbs. They traded in the Browstones for the ranch home. No need for parks, everyone had a back and front yard. At that time schools were still not too far, close enough for a bicycle, stores were a little further and work was in downtown. 20 minutes by freeway.

Then as the eighties and nineties arrived, population exploded, more people wanted the suburban life. Homes grew, backyards grew, cars grow. At the same time parks dwindled, streets got bigger, distance to work, school and store increased, so did traffic.

Why? There’s the simple answer: Americans like big cars and big homes. Then there’s the honest answer: white Americans wanted their kids to go to white schools. And white schools had to be far enough from black schools to not be in bussing distance. The simple and true fact is, that racism created an “American Dream” that today, is the American Nightmare.

American fears of black and brown kids is killing Americans with smog, it is killing American ability to afford a home, it is killing our nature with more and more homes being built in areas that were once full of nature. American fears are killing our savings, our future, our entire planet.

Isn’t it time that we stop living in fear, and start living sanely. Isn’t it time we start to live in cities with neighbors and neighborhood parks. With small streets and with good public education and public transport. Isn’t it time that we spent our time on family instead of traffic and money on trips instead of gas?