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!