”You need to work your butt off”

By Babette Res


The American Dream used to be the goal all Americans wanted to achieve in life. But is it still reachable for all Americans under Trump? We talked with Jeff Rose, who runs a chauffeur business in New York City, and some of his employees.


Jeff Rose is the owner of the successful chauffeur company, Attitude, in New York City. ‘’The American Dream is still alive, but like any organization, you have your good and your bad days. And America also had difficult times. For example, during the recession in 2008. That also affected me, in a way that I lost much clientele and bills were stacking up. But the idea of the American Dream in my opinion is moving like a pendulum. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes you have a hard time. But you can’t compare America with the ideal. I believe that the pursuit of the perfect, is the enemy of the good. That means that nothing is perfect and you should not try to make everything perfect.’’


At Attitude, one-third of the employees are immigrants and 70% are from the lower class. Angie (51) is an African-American woman and she has worked for 25 years at Attitude as an administrative assistant. In her eyes the American Dream is not dead. ‘’For me the American Dream is not really reliable. But my daughter is a good example. She went to a private school and later to a catholic nursing college. After a year she switched to social work and she works as a staff leader now. She worked very hard to achieve this. And I think that America is a country which gives you plenty of opportunities, but you need to work your butt of to achieve them. I had an opportunity at Attitude, and I work very hard every day to show my kids that you cannot take anything for granted. As long as you are dedicated and work very hard for it, then I really believe in the American Dream.’’


The minimum wage has been raised to 15 dollars an hour in New York City since the beginning of January 2019. For the lower class this is a good thing. But for people who own businesses, like Jeff, it is more difficult: ‘’It sounds like I’m a greedy white man, but every dollar I spend on an employee is a dollar less for me. I started this company 30 years ago, with just one car. And I worked very hard all those years to achieve what we have now. We have a garage with dozens of limousines, Escalades and Mercedes. Everything I earn, I put back in the company. I have always made sure that my employees got paid. Even during the recession. It sometimes happened that I missed my own paycheck. But my staff got paid. I think that’s the most important thing. Because of Attitude, I’m able to give people opportunities.’’


Jeff’s right hand, Rupert (48), is Chief of Staff. Originally, he is from St. Croix, but he moved to New York City 26 years ago and now works for almost 20 years at Attitude. ‘’I think the American Dream is different for African-Americans. Especially now. Trump is very radical towards immigrants. But it’s hard to feel what the American Dream is for us, African-American people. Folks of color need to work extra hard. Sometimes I think I can better move to Canada or the Caribbean, because of Trumps view. You always have to deal with racism. I have lived now for 26 years in Queens, in a Jewish neighborhood and people still look at me like: what is he doing here? Like I don’t belong there. When you work hard in America you can definitely experience the benefits, like having a stable job and a house. But they make it hard for us. Don’t get me wrong, I like it here, but you really need to find a way to live with the racism.’’


The idea of the American Dream is shifting, compared to 80 years ago. But the idea of the American Dream is also different from what Trump claims it to be. America is a country of opportunities, but you have to work very hard to achieve it. Especially for minorities and lower social classes it’s extra hard. But many people still believe in the Dream.