Shhhhh. We're not 'the greatest'
Let’s have a show of hands:
How many of you have a great desire to live out your lives in a Third World country?
I don’t mean to spend a year or two in some impoverished region helping the residents become economically self-sustaining on a subsistence level, or teaching them how to build and maintain a sanitation system or building a school.
What I’m asking is who among you wants to live the rest of your life in ever-increasing poverty, with too little food, with little and eventually no access to health care, with a poisoned environment, with bad and deteriorating housing, with no real say in a government that is run by corrupt politicians entirely for the benefit of a tiny minority of the rich and powerful?
What? No takers?
In that case, you have two choices. You start thinking about where you can live when you leave this country or you start putting some real effort into getting the crazies and sociopaths, the neo-fascists and the American Taliban out of our government.
The next Congressional election will determine the future of this country for decades to come, perhaps until its collapse.
Many Americans, even some who are vaguely liberal, think it is somehow wrong to tell unpleasant truths about this country. Those on the far right, who now wield far greater power than their relatively small numbers justify, think it is treason. And little of what the public thinks it knows about this country is accurate.
But it’s time to face some harsh truths -- much harsher than your co-opted and emasculated "news media" dare report.
The United States of America should no longer be counted among the "first world" countries.
The "greatest country in the world?" By what standards, in what areas?
A classic assessment of the American position in the world would put it among the dwindling number of "Second World" countries, heading toward third world status.
Most Americans don’t know that, because they aren’t handed the facts and don’t dig them out and because they know so very little about the world outside our own borders and only a little of what’s happening within those borders. People of different economic strata don't mix much.
That’s not exaggeration nor hyperbole. It’s a fact, supported by a great body of evidence.
The "three worlds" system of defining countries is a creation of the Cold War era.
By consensus, the first world included the United States, Canada, western Europe, Japan, Australia and, probably, New Zealand. They were the countries at the top of the heap in terms of economic development, quality of life, participation of the people in their governments.
Then came the second world, which was made up primarily of communist/socialist industrialized states: the Soviet Union, the Eastern Bloc nations such as Poland and Hungary, plus China and Eurasion states, such as Kazakhstan. They were productive, some had power and wealth, but the citizens had little voice in government and the quality of life of most citizens was poor in comparison with people of the first world. The wealth was largely wasted on military spending, and what was left went to the tiny ruling elites. A few Latin American countries, such as Argentina, also slipped into the Second World category.
At the bottom, still, comes everybody else, the third world of "developing" --or not developing -- countries ruled by very small, very corrupt, very rich elites; the vast majority of citizens of those countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America exist in deep poverty. The populations often are at least partially controlled through fanatic religiosity. Each of the countries is ruled by a single party, whether or not it is designated a "party."
By most standards, the United States sank out of First World status sometime during G.W. Bush’s first term, though hardly anybody who lives here is aware of that fact. We keep our large and rapidly growing body of poor out of sight, and the news media pretend the poverty doesn’t exist or that it is, at worst, a problem affecting only a small number of those "other" people – blacks, Latinos, immigrant Asians and Africans.
A big factor in the number two and three worlds is the degree of corruption of those who rule – whether or not they hold office.
The U.S. government under George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the next most powerful office holder in the land, Tom DeLay, is the most corrupt in this country’s history – blatantly corrupt. It openly serves only the very rich, promotes massive theft from the public by its corporate sponsors and lies baldly to an ignorant public, which accepts its lies in the face of a great body of evidence to the contrary.
Next to the Bush Gang, Warren Harding’s band of poker-playing petty thieves looks like a Cub Scout pack.
The evidence could, and should, fill several books, but here are a few pertinent facts:
* The United States is one of only two "developed" countries that don’t provide health care for all of their residents. The other supposedly developed country with us in that shameful category is South Africa. The number of people not covered by health insurance in this country is growing at a rate of more than 1.5 million per year. At the end of 2003 about 45 million Americans were without health insurance, so the figure probably is around 48 million now. (Several sources.) At the same time, under Republican rule in the federal government and a number of states, budgets for public health programs are being slashed.
* The number of children in this country living in deep poverty now places the United States 22nd among "developed" nations. Mexico is the only so-called developed country to score lower. (Several sources.)
* This country is 41st in the world in infant mortality; that is, 40 other countries have lower rates of infant mortality. Cuba scores better than we do. Women in this country are 70 times more apt to die in childbirth than are European women. (New York Times)
* The World Health Organization ranks this country 37th in "over-all health performance." In terms of fairness of distribution of health care, we’re ranked 54th. Yet we spend more per person for health care than any other country. Much of that money goes into the pockets of those who own or run insurance and pharmaceutical manufacturing companies.
*About 13 percent of the U.S. population now lives in real poverty, and the percentage is growing by about a half of one percent a year. Given legislation and budget plans in the works on federal and state levels, it is very likely that the rate of expansion of that poverty number will increase substantially over the next couple of years.
* The United States is 49th in the world in literacy and 28th of 40 countries examined in terms of mathematical understanding. (New York Times)
* State and federal governments in this country have drastically reduced aid to education over the past four years. (Many sources.)
* Americans work longer hours and get less time off than workers of any other industrialized country, yet the incomes of U.S. workers are growing more slowly than in any of those countries. Workers in several other countries – including France, which our right wing loves to hate – show greater worker productivity. (Several sources.)
*A third of all American children are born out of wedlock and soon half of all U.S. children will live in one-parent households. Divorce rates are considerably higher in the red states that voted for George W. Bush last November than in the blue states which went for John Kerry. (Several sources.)
*U.S. employers eliminated a million jobs in this country last year, 3.6 million unemployed Americans ran out their unemployment insurance and 20 percent of the unemployed were without jobs for more than six months. (New York Times.) Since the Supreme Court gave the presidency to George W. Bush, this country has failed to come close to producing the numbers of new jobs needed simply to keep up with natural growth in the work force. When you see headlines proclaiming that the unemployment rate has fallen, it simply means that more people have given up trying to find work. The United States lost 1.3 million jobs to China in the last 10 years. And that’s just China. (Almost any newspaper archive.)
*As of last spring, this country imports more food than it exports. Brazil will pass the United States within the next several years to become the world’s largest producer of agricultural products. (New York Times).
* But the Bush Gang is keeping us safe from terrorists, right? The International Association of Chiefs of Police recently reported that cuts in federal aid to local police agencies under the Bush crowd has left the country more vulnerable than ever before.
* We are at the top of the entire world in a few areas, it must be confessed. We produce more weapons than anybody else. Our people spend more on "consumer goods" than anybody else, and we have more debt, as a nation and as individuals, than anyplace else.
There’s much more information showing how this country has sunk in business leadership, in knowledge of science and in product innovation, in education and investment in research, and in many more categories. But a key element in a country’s standing lies in who runs things and how.
* The Environmental Protection Agency last month published a new rule "limiting" mercury emissions from power plants, but in fact the rule weakens environmental protections. The Bush administration adopted the position of industry people who said that "overly" aggressive measures cost too much. In pushing through its new rule, the agency deliberately covered up the results of a Harvard study commissioned by the EPA, and using some EPA scientists. That study said mercury emissions are far more harmful than the agency admitted. When the study was uncovered, the EPA claimed the results were not known until the rule was in place. Actually the EPA had the results in early January. Top EPA officials ordered the hiding of the Harvard study results and the later cover-up of its timing, agency scientists said. (Washington Post.)
* Vice President Dick Cheney’s son-in-law, Philip Perry, has been named by George W. Bush to be general counsel of the Homeland Security Department. Perry is a lawyer and a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin, one of the Homeland Security Department's top 10 contractors. Perry directly lobbied Homeland Security on behalf of Lockheed. (StarTribune and others.)
* Of course, daddy Cheney still is involved with Halliburton, the biggest contractor for the U.S. Military in Iraq, though he sometimes claims he has severed all ties with the company; that is demonstrably a lie. In Iraq, Halliburton has failed to deliver services for which it is being paid, and has otherwise been caught cheating to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Just one of the many claims against the company: it overcharged the Pentagon $108 million to deliver fuel to Iraq in the early part of the war there. In just one transaction it charged $27.5 million to deliver $82,100 worth of fuel. (Los Angeles Times.) Halliburton goes merrily on its way with no sign that it will be punished or even that the cheating will be stopped.
* Ten members of the Food and Drug Administration panel that voted to allow sales of a group of strong pain killers to continue had ties to the drug makers. Heart problems have been attributed to use of the drugs. Without the votes of the industry-tied panelists, the panel would have sought to have at least two of the drugs pulled from the market. (Associated Press.)
The Bush administration has a clear pattern of appointing people with close ties to regulated industries to top jobs in the regulatory agencies.
* The Bush administration told American allies in Asia that North Korea had exported nuclear material to Libya. In fact, the administration knew that North Korea had sold the materials, which could be useful in making nuclear weapons, to Pakistan and Pakistan sold the stuff to Libya. The Bushies didn’t want to "out" Pakistan because in it’s warped view of the world, Pakistan is our ally in the hunt for Al-Quida leaders. Rather than making our Asian allies angrier at North Korea, the bumbling ruse only served to make them trust the U.S. less. (Washington Post.)
* The Bush Gang pushed hard for its ironically named "Clear Skies Act." The act is, in fact, a polluter protection plan. It would eliminate provisions of current law requiring power plants to clean up emissions, delay other cleanup deadlines until about 2025 and prevent states from enforcing environmental protection laws. It shields coal-burning power plants from having to limit carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming. The act was drawn up at the behest of power company execs who were/are among Bush’s biggest campaign contributors and, in fact, it is likely that the act’s key provisions were written by agents of the power companies. The bill got hung up in the Senate, but it could be back. This is another boondoggle pushed by the president’s EPA. (Multiple sources.)
* The U.S. Government is suffering under the worst deficits in its history, but the Bush Gang is pushing for still more tax cuts for the very rich. Cuts that allow low-income people to save for retirement would be allowed to expire under the Bush Gang plan, but tax cuts on stock dividends and investment gains would be extended indefinitely. Additional tax relief (beyond that already given) for people with incomes over $1 million a year would total $32 billion next year alone. At the same time, under the Bush plan, veterans’ benefits would be cut 10 percent over the next five years and spending on schools and job training would drop 9 percent. Spending on environmental protection would drop by 16 percent and transportation money would be cut by 13 percent. (StarTribune.)
* We recently saw passage of a bankruptcy bill that will make it extremely hard for average citizens to file bankruptcy, even if their financial problems are caused by huge medical bills (as are about half of individual bankruptcies) or other circumstances beyond their control. Rich folks will be allowed to shelter large hunks of their wealth should they find it necessary, or convenient, to declare bankruptcy. The law was pushed hard by banks and other credit card issuers. Finance and credit companies gave Republicans $5 million in the 2004 election cycle. MBNA, a major credit card issuer, has topped Enron (remember Enron?) to become George W. Bush’s largest lifetime campaign contributor.
* Just a quick reminder: The Bush Gang has bribed columnists, broadcasters and other supposed journalists, has sent propaganda in the form of news reports to television stations all over the country and has otherwise phonied the news.
*There are many other examples of how the administration has been influenced by campaign contributions, as well as ideology, but you can’t have a list like this without at least a nod in the direction of Tom DeLay, the worst crook to hold real power in the United State Congress in many decades.
*DeLay, who was involved in a decision to withdraw feeding and watering tubes from his own dying father in 1988 (not an evil decision), made a big play to the religious nutters in "demanding" that the bodily husk of Terri Schiavo be kept breathing. DeLay has admitted using the big campaign funds he controls to force other members of Congress to votes he wanted them to make. He has admitted blackmailing another Congressman into a vote by threatening to undermine the political campaign of the member’s son.
He has taken luxury trips paid for by lobbyists and corporations, including one from a lobbyist now charged with stealing millions of dollars from Indian tribes that operate casinos. DeLay voted against anti-gambling legislation two months after taking a $70,000 trip paid for by the lobbyist, who worked for the tribes and a gambling services company.
DeLay was the planner and chief organizer of the outrageous gerrymandering of Congressional districts in Texas which has guaranteed a large Republican majority in the state’s delegation in perpetuity. He also was responsible for removing Republican members of the House Ethics Committee and replacing them with more compliant members after the committee officially criticized him four times for breaches of ethics. And he should be indicted in Texas for his part in a scheme to illegally funnel corporate money into political campaigns in that state – some of his associates in that scam already are under indictment – but his power in Texas may keep him out of the courts. He also used a children’s charity as a cover for collecting soft money for Republican campaigns. And there is more, all provable.
DeLay is a valued ally of the Bush Gang.
This is very long. It could be four times as long and still not cover the topics of the Bush Gang’s malfeasance, criminality and deliberate turning of this country into a feudal state run by a handful of the super rich for their own benefit.
I apologize to anyone who may care about the long time between new pieces on this site during the past month. There probably will continue to be substantial periods between new essays until early summer because of a very large work project on my home and some travel between now and early summer......jcf