This is something that I notice from time to time – and every once in a while, it just slaps me in the face. As much as it hurts to say or admit, the US is NOT the “We are the pinnacle of everything that is good” that we once were in the feel good times of post-WW II. This is not to say that individuals aren’t doing great and living the life of Riley. There are certainly those out there. Unfortunately, it seems as though the stratification of the US population is putting the whole cliche, “Them that has, gets”, into law and practice in an over-the-top sort of way.
Through ongoing shortsighted legislation by both parties over the years – but I do put more of this on the laps of the GOP – basic American ideals have been eroded to the a dangerous point. And we are now seeing the sum result of all these choices.
While the U.S. enjoys the second highest per capita GDP of $45,336, it ranks in an underperforming 16th place overall. It gets worse. The U.S. ranks 70th in health, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, 39th in basic education, 34th in access to water and sanitation and 31st in personal safety.
More surprising is the fact that despite being the home country of global tech heavyweights Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Oracle, and so on, the U.S. ranks a disappointing 23rd in access to the Internet. “It’s astonishing that for a country that has Silicon Valley, lack of access to information is a red flag,” notes Michael Green, executive director of the Social Progress Imperative, which oversees the index.
I find it interesting that as much time and effort as our Congress spends arguing over Mexican immigrants, we as a nation come in at 17th in terms of happiness – RIGHT BEHIND our neighbors to the south. So even with all the drug wars throughout Mexico that our media blows off about on at least a weekly basis with lots of “How horrible”, “Can you imagine” and other commentary – they’re STILL happier than we are.
With 95 percent of all economic gains funneled to the richest 1 percent over the course of the last decade, and a tax code that has starved the federal government of revenues to invest in public infrastructure, America will be a country divided by those who have and those who have not. In The World As It Is, Chris Hedges writes, “Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods, and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty.”
The Republicans leading with their poster boy, Paul Ryan, and his golden economic plan are proposing yet more cuts to those plans designed to create any bit of a societal welfare program. Believe me, I want to keep what I make and what I earn, but if I see a starving man and I have a sandwich in my hand, I’m going to give the man something to eat. Every plan that I have looked at is heavy on, “That’s MY sandwich – go get a job and buy your own.” And of course, as of late, that has been paired with a poor economy that doesn’t offer much in the way of jobs. The jobs that are in high supply are low paying minimum wage jobs. We see job opportunities increasing, but…
The countries ranked highest in social progress are doing the complete opposite. They’re investing in schools rather than drones. They’re expanding collective bargaining laws rather than busting unions. They’re providing their citizens with universal healthcare and education rather than selling these basic human rights to the highest bidder.
“Those who care about the plight of the working class and the poor must begin to mobilize quickly, or we will lose our last opportunity to save our embattled democracy. The most important struggle will be to wrest the organs of communication from corporations that use mass media to demonize movements of social change and empower protofascist movements such as the Christian Right,” observes Hedges.
Dems – not everything can be an entitlement plan – there needs to be a way of getting and measuring results. I can only give my sandwich away so many times before I get resentful. If I give my sandwiches away long enough to TEACH someone how to get their own, or allow someone to eat long enough to find a workable situation, THAT I can live with. What I can’t live with is ongoing “You owe me – forever” type attitudes.
America can be a land of many things. It can be a land of opportunity. It can be a land of freedom. It can also be a land without any of those things. My fear is that if we take our eye off the ball too long and let certain individuals and corporations get too far down the road with their own agenda, there may be no coming back for a lot of Americans that deserve those opportunities and freedoms. America CAN be the pinnacle of nations – but only if it is tended with wisdom. Decisions need to be made with the other 95% in mind.