What Makes A Nation Great — Part II

I began this three-part series with yesterday’s post in which I listed some criteria that, in my view, are in large part what makes a country great.  Let’s take a look at how the United States stacks up on some of those …

We have a right to vote, but those who live in poor or minority neighborhoods may find it hard to do so, for polling places may be prohibitively distant, or the hours shortened such that the working person hasn’t the ability to get there.  Restrictive voter ID laws are more likely to disenfranchise poor and minority voters. We’ve seen, in recent months, how hard our ‘leadership’ fights to deny us the right to vote by mail during this pandemic year.  Polling places on college campuses where voters may be more ‘enlightened’ are shuttered.  And, due to gerrymandered districting, every vote is not equal.

A series of Supreme Court rulings between 1990 and 2010, most notably Citizens United v FEC in 2010, made it possible for large corporations and lobbyists to contribute nearly unlimited amounts of cash to political campaigns.  Many of our politicians are in the pockets of various industries, notably the fossil fuel and gun industries, such that the decisions they make in the legislature are not necessarily in the best interests of the people of the nation, but rather of those who pay big bucks to keep them in office.

The U.S. Constitution calls for a separation of powers, a system of three equal branches of government and the responsibility of each to keep the other two honest.  Our legislative branch, Congress, has become so divided by political party that Congress is deadlocked on most every bill.  Checks on the executive office were proven to be null and void on February 5th when the U.S. Senate voted against the evidence, against their collective conscience, and acquitted a ‘president’ who is guilty of crimes far greater than any who came before him.  Even the highest court in the land, the U.S. Supreme Court, is largely divided by loyalty to party.

As for an investment in shared infrastructure … think Flint, Michigan, and the water crisis that began in 2015 and continues to this day.  Need I say more?  More than a few times, states have been threatened with the withholding of federal funds if they didn’t accede to the wishes of the ‘president’.

And justice?  Let’s talk a minute about justice.  If you are Black, Muslin, Hispanic, or Native American, or poor, you might as well leave the room, for the justice that applies to you is different than that which applies to white, wealthy people.  Justice is for the wealthy in the United States of 2020.  Justice is for the friends of William Barr and Donald Trump.  I will pay a heftier price for a minor traffic violation than corrupt government officials will pay for robbing the citizens of this nation of millions of dollars.

Internally, we have a government that is doing everything in its power to deny affordable health care and education to its populace.  We have a government in favour of denying assistance to those in need.  We have a head of government who is racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic.  We have a government that is prejudiced against thinkers, prejudiced against so many groups that I cannot name them all.  We have, today, the wealthiest government in our history, yet their concern for our well-being is next to nil.

What makes a nation great is how well it functions for all the people, not just the few who are wealthy and powerful.  This nation fails that test miserably.  Our government favours those in large industries, gives them tax breaks, while 90% of us struggle to put food on the table, pay the rent/mortgage, and clothe our children.  Our government literally worships wealth and tells its citizens that the wealth of the 1% will somehow “trickle down” to them.  It doesn’t … never has … never will.  The prices of food, housing, and other commodities rise, but our wages do not rise at an equivalent rate, for the wealthy decided they needed to add another zero to their investment portfolios.  No, my friends, this is not what makes a nation great.

A great neighbor helps their friends in time of need.  We, instead, have largely abandoned our allies and instead have cozied up in bed with those bullies who would see the world relegated to only two or three great superpowers.  Our allies needed our help in such things as the Paris Climate Accords, World Health Organization (WHO) and the Iran nuclear agreement … and we turned our backs.

A great neighbor takes care of its home, its neighborhood. They don’t throw their trash into their neighbor’s yard, but that is exactly what we are doing. Science has proven that we are destroying not only our own environment, but that of the entire planet.  Oh, the planet will go on, but much of life on earth will not.  We had only just begun, by 2017, to make inroads in controlling the CO2 we put into the atmosphere, and the amount of plastics and other garbage we put into our landfills and ultimately the oceans that belong to all nations.  Now, all the regulations have been ditched in favour of … again … profit for the few, and we are the pariah of the world for our lackadaisical response to climate change.

In the midst of a deadly worldwide pandemic, our government has told us lie, stacked upon lie, stacked upon lie.  The scientists warned governments early on, yet ours chose to tell us that it was nothing, nothing to worry about, nothing to see here.  The lies added up until today we account for over 26% of the world’s cases of the coronavirus, though we have just over 4% of the world’s population.  And still, our leaders are lying to us, telling us it’s nearly over (it isn’t, not by a long shot), and urging us to put ourselves and our children at risk to grow an economy, though it may cost us our very lives.  The scientists, the medical experts, are being criticized, demeaned, and their voices stifled by a government more concerned with remaining in power than with our lives.

The United States has the highest level of income inequality of all the G7 nations.  The median black household income is only 61% of that of the median white household.  The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, where it has been since July 24th, 2009.  More than eleven years since the minimum wage was raised!  Meanwhile, many of the wealthiest in the nation pay taxes at a far lower rate than the middle-income earners, if they pay taxes at all!  In 2016, the CEOs of the top 350 U.S. firms earned on average $15.6 million.  The annual average pay of the typical American worker, by comparison, was $58,000.

There are other factors, of course, that could be considered, but I think that you can see by this assessment what a long way we have before this country can be considered ‘great’.  Given the divisiveness within our society today, it becomes obvious we are not successfully addressing our problems … a contented nation has no need for hatred and violence.

However, lest you think I am blind to what is actually good in this nation, I will have a third part to this series to talk a bit about the positive, what keeps us from being one of those “shithole” countries, and why there is hope for us yet.  So, I hope you’ll stay tuned for that!

30 thoughts on “What Makes A Nation Great — Part II

  1. Pingback: What Makes A Nation Great — Part III | Filosofa's Word

  2. You are putting a great deal of hard work and thought into this series Jill.
    The problem is you have this indoctrination in the USA which suggests that everyone who works as hard as they can will get their just rewards. This is a fine and noble sentiment, except as you and others have pointed out; it’s not a level playing field. And if you try and suggest otherwise a lot of folk are going to start squawking about ‘Socialism’
    This was not helped by a lot of folk citing Ayn Rand who, bless her in her naivete propounded ‘Objectivism’ which like Marx’s ‘Communism’ assumes that if we all take a deep breath and ask the little pixies to sprinkle their magic dust everyone will play nice and fair and all will be a land of fluffy bunnies, sunshine and lolly pops.
    Sadly both are hopelessly out of kilter, the balance lies in between and takes consistent, persistent very hard work to keep some sort of equality, sometimes swinging one way (a bit) sometimes swinging another way (a bit).
    Keep up your good work though. Just because it seems impossible it doesn’t mean it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Roger … yeah, this one literally drained me, for I spent not only time, but bits ‘n pieces of me on it. And you’re right … we’ve been living in a country that never existed except in our minds, for we were told the lies from the time we developed speech. Sigh. Yeah, I suppose I shall keep trying, but … in truth I am fairly discouraged at the moment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I grew up in a time when we still thought The British Empire had been a very good thing and wasn’t it a shame it was falling apart.
        You weren’t really told lies you were told what folk wanted to believe and folk paid back the service by telling leaders what they wanted to here.. In this leaders and people joined hands in an empathetic marriage in which the agreement was:
        ‘You keep telling us good things and we’ll keep telling them back to you’
        A kind of tainted innocence in which the majority all the way up and down the social ladder indulge, because they felt good about it.
        Then, as is the case in History, the balance started to go askew, folk became confused and frightened and lost their bearing. This is when charlatans and fools prosper.
        Nothing new here USA. It’s your turn. You’ve had a few narrow misses in your short history now you truly are at your crossroads.
        We. You and I Jill, sit in our small corners, doing as we see fit to our own circumstances.
        Take care kiddo.

        Liked by 1 person

              • The classic live performance from the Stop Talking Sense Tour 1984:
                David Byrne delivering the song in the style of fundamentalist preachers delivering sermons (even talking in tongues)

                Lyrics:
                And you may find yourself
                Living in a shotgun shack
                And you may find yourself
                In another part of the world
                And you may find yourself
                Behind the wheel of a large automobile
                And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
                With a beautiful wife
                And you may ask yourself, well
                How did I get here?
                Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
                Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
                Into the blue again after the money’s gone
                Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground
                And you may ask yourself
                How do I work this?
                And you may ask yourself
                Where is that large automobile?
                And you may tell yourself
                This is not my beautiful house!
                And you may tell yourself
                This is not my beautiful wife!
                Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
                Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
                Into the blue again after the money’s gone
                Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground
                Same as it ever was
                Same as it ever was
                Same as it ever was
                Same as it ever was
                Same as it ever was
                Same as it ever was
                Same as it ever was
                Same as it ever was
                Water dissolving and water removing
                There is water at the bottom of the ocean
                Under the water, carry the water
                Remove the water at the bottom of the ocean!
                Water dissolving and water removing
                Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
                Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
                Into the blue again into silent water
                Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground
                Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
                Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
                Into the blue again after the money’s gone
                Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground
                You may ask yourself
                What is that beautiful house?
                You may ask yourself
                Where does that highway go to?
                And you may ask yourself
                Am I right? Am I wrong?
                And you may say yourself
                “My God! What have I done?”
                Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
                Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
                Into the blue again into the silent water
                Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground
                Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
                Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
                Into the blue again after the money’s gone
                Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground
                Same as it ever was
                Same as it ever was
                Same as it ever was
                Look where my hand was
                Time isn’t holding up
                Time isn’t after us
                Same as it ever was
                Same as it ever was
                Same as it ever was
                Same as it ever was
                Same as it ever was
                Same as it ever was
                Letting the days go by
                Same as it ever was
                And here the twister comes
                Here comes the twister
                Letting the days go by (same as it ever was)
                Same as it ever was (same as it ever was)
                Letting the days go by (same as it ever was)
                Same as it ever was
                Once in a lifetime
                Let the water hold me down
                Letting the days go by
                (A bit obscure at time, but it’s about whether all the material things really count in Life)

                Liked by 1 person

                • Nope, I had definitely never heard that one, for I would have remembered! Thanks, and thanks so much for taking the time to provide the lyrics, for I never would have understood them in the song. Strange song, but I liked the tune!

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Infectious in a good way, David Byrne actually did get the idea for the performance from watching videos of services at small enthusiastic gospel churches.
                    PS: While I am here. Will be off the grid for a couple of days more than usual.
                    Sheila’s 70th birthday tomorrow 19th July (she hasn’t been well poor kid) and unbeknown to her our daughter Meg is coming for a surprise flying visit and staying Sunday to Tuesday.
                    My birthday on 20th July, I being a mere stripling of 69!.
                    Will be back sometime mid-week.

                    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow What a great second chapter. Have you given any thought to writing a book? Just expand on this until you have it in book form and then send an autographed copy to the Turd. Or maybe not. He doesn’t take criticism well and he could fire you even though you don’t work for him.. And yet I am afraid he will get back in to his second term by hook and crook because it’s what he wants and he is a spoiled baby who insists on playing the game by his rules and if anyone tries to keep it honest he picks up his marbles and goes home after kicking away the circle and all the rest of the marbles.
    Maybe this pandemic is going on and on to teach us all to pay more attention to what we once had and what we are now losing. We are seeing an increase in the number of children infected here in Kentucky. Children are our future and because of money being lost by the wealthy they are being slaughtered by the unfeeling minority for the single purpose of putting more money in their pockets. But maybe it’s the way we will finally get equality this way when all the parents finally rise up in protest and begin demanding their right to live and the rights of their children to live and live healthy lives, possibly with some trees and grass remaining for them to see and enjoy.. Can any of us really imagine never lying in the grass and watching the clouds make pictures in the sky? Or never having a favorite climbing tree with just the right branch to lie on and dream? Okay, I’m getting sentimental now and wishing for something from my own past to come alive again when the truth of it all is that kids today prefer sitting inside on all the best days and ruining their vision, hearing and eventually the joints in their thumbs playing games on their electronic devices? Oh yeah, I love my electronics when I’m not hating them, but I have to remember that it was my generation that invented them and made them affordable for my grandchildren.
    Keep it up Jill. Can’t wait to read the last chapter. Huge hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Angie! You boost my sagging psyche! I’ve thought many times about writing a book, even tried my hand at it a few times, but … I seem to have a mental block. I write a chapter, go back and read it, and find it’s just about as interesting as a blob of clay. I do think I have a book somewhere in me, but it’s one of those things you can’t force, can’t make it happen … someday, inspiration may hit and I’ll burn the midnight oil pounding the keyboard. I’ve also considered compiling my posts about Trump once he’s out of office, and making a book from them … something along the lines of “A Bird’s Eye View of the Trump Circus Act”.

      There remains the possibility of him being re-elected, though I think (hope) it is very unlikely. A bigger danger, I think, is what happens between the election and January 20th if he loses, for I do not see him “going gently into that good night”. Nor do I see his most dedicated fans simply fading into the background. Win or lose, I think we’re in for some chaotic times in this country.

      The push to re-open the schools is simply ludicrous. Trump threatens to withhold funding for any school districts that do not re-open on his time schedule … strictly against the law, but hey … it’s Trump … he can “do whatever he wants to”. And then Betsy DeVos, the Wicked Witch of the West in my book, goes on the Sunday morning shows and reiterates Trump’s rhetoric. The only reason Trump cares is that many parents cannot work right now because they have no child care, and he wants everyone working to make “his” economy look “great” before election day. He’s willing to kill our children to boost his chances at re-election. And the damn fools who support him are still applauding him. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

      Thanks again for your kind words, my dear friend! Hugs!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll pass along some advice given to me by Roger Moore: Poet. He blogs on WP also and has been encouraging me to write the book that’s trying to pop out. Print out all of your posts and go thru them as many times as it takes to pull out the meat of the subject and begin at any point there to edit, edit, edit. Before too very long you will have a decent sized manuscript on your hands. Put it all in order the way YOU want it and look for a publisher.

        The Turd is trying to kill off as many of us as he can without being left behind as the only living person in the universe. Of course he needs his posse around him to boost his ego even higher so he wouldn’t survive long as the only person alive so he could very well become the last living person in the world. And I so agree with you about the interim between November and January. If he decided to put the country under Military Rule we are going to be fenced in by barbed wire on top of those walls he will build around the entire country.. And in case you are wondering, I always try to laugh in dire situations because the alternative is to rant, rave, cry, shout, and every other emotion known to man. I’ve worried about what kind of future world my great-granddaughter will live in and if Turd get re-elected, or if he takes it back at gunpoint it won’t be a world worth living in. He wants to be king and just might see this as the way to become one.

        HUGS

        Liked by 1 person

        • I shall give some thought to that advice … it actually sounds workable! I’ve even given some thought to a title: Notes from a Survivor of the Reign of Trump. If, that is, I DO survive it.

          I don’t know as it’s so much he wants to kill us all off, as that he simply doesn’t care if we live or die. We are meaningless to him … no more important than that fly we might swat on the windowsill.

          I like knowing that you try to find humour and laugh during these troubled times. I try, and sometimes I even succeed, but more often than not, I fail and find myself unable to sleep or eat. I think November is looking better by the day, for Trump is his own worst enemy, and from what I’m reading, chaos is reigning in his campaign headquarters. But, I predicted he couldn’t possibly win in 2016, too, and look where that got us. Plus, he is energetically working to stop the likelihood of mail-in ballots nationwide, and others are working to disenfranchise as many poor and minority voters as possible, so who knows? 🤷

          Take care, my friend, and keep safe. NO MORE FALLING!!! Big Hugs!!!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Jill, well done. There is a book written by Thomas Friedman (who wrote “The World is Flat”) called “That used to be us: how American fell behind in the world it created and how it can come back.” This bolk should be required reading for all legislstors – federal, state and local.

    In short, when America invests collectively with federal, state and/ or local government funds with private capital and/ or venture capital, it accomplishes so much more. There are certain investments for the greater good where government funds have to be involved as the ROI is low or negative for private money (this is am argument that Libertarians would lose). We have forgotten this.

    Michael Lewis “The fifth risk” is a good companion book as it reveals how much are country is at risk because people like the current administration have beaten up on hard working, smart and loyal public servants calling them The Deep State. As Lewis’ research found the Deep State are the folks who actually know what they are doing. We are at risk because we are downplaying their role.

    I know I took this down an economic path, but the folks who are making this discussion political are the politicians, not the hard working folks we should listen to. Keith

    Like

    • Thanks Keith! I’ve read a few of Friedman’s books, but not that one … I’ll check it out!

      The economy is definitely a key factor, but I purposely did not mention it here, for so many people seem to think it is the only factor that matters. But yes, without a strong economy it is difficult, if not impossible, to help those most in need, let alone take care of ourselves. BUT … if the economy is giving most of the wealth to the already-wealthy, can it really be said to be successful? I think what we see in this country is capitalism run amok. My hope, strange as it may sound, is that the economy will not simply bounce back, but will need to be re-structured in order to slowly regain strength, so that perhaps the wealthy will finally be made to contribute a fair share and the poor to receive theirs.

      Like

  5. Given the tale of ‘Trickle Down’ when the 1% were given swingeing tax cuts more than once only to find the 1% used the extra money to buy back their own shares shows the collusion between the Government and the 1% to make themselves better off than the workers in their firms.In real terms the CEO and directors of these firms find themselves comfortably well off while the workers are often on the minimum.wage with no increase in sight.The Government are suitably rewarded with financial help at election time.Money that should rightly be shared with workers instead goes to politicians who keep the cycle going. It’s immoral.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 5 people

    • Hello David, i agree that stock buybacks from tax cuts and especially galling buybacks from gov’t bailouts due to the pandemic is criminal! It’s the greatest swindle of our lifetime, a boondoggle scam of epic proportions where gov’t gave away TRILLIONS to crony corporations under the guise of saving the ppl from financial ruin. If one took the time to read the cares act, you’ll be surprised who benefited most. $1200 per person is peanuts and an insult to working Americans.
      Perhaps a greater change is in order for the next election cycle… an overwhelming majority must vote for a viable uncorruptable 3rd party! We all know at this stage the 2 party system is a lie, there’s only oligarchs in Congress rigging the game and pretending to work on behalf of the ppl. Why do you think all the policies enacted benefit the elite 1%, and everyone else suffers. They know that voting for either Dem or Repub changes nothing, as long as they control the game and hoodwink the population into thinking that their vote counts!
      Yes of course we must vote Trump out of office, but Biden is no better, then what? After Biden the Repubs nominate an even worse candidate that makes Trump look like a choir boy. As you can see it’s a race to the bottom. Yet the wealthiest and most powerful laugh all the way to the bank. This is end stage capitalism unfolding, so unless we the voting public do something radically different, why should politicians cater to our needs?
      We shall overcome when the conditions are bad enough for the majority of citizens to wake up and scream enough is enough!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, ‘trickle-down’ has been tried to a greater or lesser degree by every republican president since Reagan, and people still fall for the myth! The number of people in Congress today who are millionaires is unconscionable. How can they possibly understand the problems of the rest of us??? But still, the very people who are hurt the most by their policies of greed, keep voting them back into office. I hope this is the year when people wake up and say ENOUGH!!! I’m crossing my fingers, but not holding my breath.
      Cwtch

      Liked by 1 person

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