I ask you to watch the following short (just over 3 minutes) video clip by Robert Reich, explaining six ways in which the United States is becoming less like an industrialized nation and more like a third world, or developing nation. Take a look, and then we’ll talk a bit about it.
To that, I would add a couple:
- Gun violence – The U.S. leads the developed world in firearm-related murders, and the difference isn’t a slight gap – more like a chasm. According to United Nations data, the U.S. has 20 times more murders than the developed world average. Our murder rate also dwarfs many developing nations, like Iraq, which has a murder rate less than half ours. More than half of the deadliest mass shootings documented in the past 50 years around the world occurred in the United States, and 73 percent of the killers in the U.S. obtained their weapons legally.
- Healthcare – In many areas of the U.S., especially in the deep South, life expectancy is lower than in Algeria, Nicaragua or Bangladesh. The U.S. is the only developed country that does not guarantee health care to its citizens; even after the Affordable Care Act, millions of poor remained uninsured because governors, mainly Republicans, refused to expand Medicaid, which provides health insurance for low-income Americans. And now, of course, Trump has chipped away at ACA such that it covers far fewer people than it did three years ago.
- Education – The U.S. education system is plagued with structural racial biases, like the fact that schools are funded at the local, rather than national level. That means that schools attended by poor black people get far less funding than the schools attended by wealthier students. The Department of Education has confirmed that schools with high concentrations of poor students have lower levels of funding. It’s no wonder the U.S. has one of the highest achievement gaps between upper income and low-income students, as measured by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). Schools today are actually more racially segregated than they were in the 1970s. Our higher education system is unique among developed nations in that is funded almost entirely privately, by debt.
Truth is, I could probably think of more, but Mr. Reich’s clip pretty much cover the worst of the problems in this country. Most of the situations described by Mr. Reich and listed above did not happen overnight but have been building up for years or even decades. The gun culture has been with us since the start, but has become worse with the enhanced influence of the NRA and legal access by civilians to military-style assault weapons.
Reich’s first point, that political power is concentrated in the hands of the wealthy, is a direct result of the Supreme Court’s ‘Citizens United’ ruling in 2010, when the Court ruled that to limit donations to political campaigns was an infringement on the 1st Amendment right to free speech. Thus, large corporations with money to burn can now effectively buy our politicians.
His third point, that those in power stoke racial, ethnic and religious tensions, is the one that I lay directly at the door of Donald Trump, for he has been doing just this since the day he announced his candidacy back in 2015. He has stoked fear of ‘other’, has played into the hands of the religious right, has adopted policies that are discriminatory by nature. Divide and conquer.
All in all, while the U.S. economy appears to be stable, while Trump has touted the economy as his accomplishment (it isn’t, for the current economic upswing started with the Obama administration after the 2007-2008 financial crisis), and while unemployment is very low, the average working class family is no better off today than they were ten years, or even twenty years ago. The wealthy, on the other hand, are reaping the fruits of our labours in lower taxes and increased wealth.
Meanwhile … since the wealthy and giant corporations are paying almost no taxes, benefits to the rest of us are being cut, and still the national debt continues to grow. Folks, this is not sustainable. This nation cannot simply keep on giving money to the rich, cutting benefits to the poor, and owing more and more money to both its citizens and other nations. The U.S. was once respected by other nations and appreciated by its citizens. Overall, neither of those things are true today. The question becomes, then, how do We the People make the necessary changes to put this country back on the right path? There is no simple panacea, but we start by voting out those politicians who are indebted to special interests and the wealthy. We stop supporting politicians who are in the pockets of the NRA, fossil fuel industries, and others. We use our vote to express our displeasure, to make changes. If we don’t, then I promise you we will continue on this downhill slide toward a banana republic, as Mr. Reich said.
Think about it.