USING THE WRONG NUMBERS TO DELUDE OURSELVES
In many political and economic discussions over the past decade and longer, when we try looking at facts instead of turning to reality-denying emotional responses, there are many studies available that objectively compare the U.S. to other advanced nations in Europe and Asia. Unfortunately this might be as pointless for Americans as comparing apples to Twinkies.
Any objective observer of the declining state of the American Empire will agree that our society is being hollowed out from within by a number of factors – but effectively as a result of various sectors of the population engaging in endless “wars” against other parts of society. The perpetual standoffs are not just simply the 1% versus the 99% or some 47% versus 53%. Americans across the political spectrum are just as divided, gridlocked and unable to reasonably discuss any public policy issues and come up with any meaningful solutions – whether the issue is small or large. Thus the default modus operandi for our political system in Washington DC and many states governments is to do as little as possible. Our politicians rely upon our greedy oligarchs and their big campaign contributors tell them what to do to enhance their power and wealth.
In study after study, the U.S. is near the bottom when compared to other advanced nations with respect to overall economic competitiveness, high income inequality, low economic and social mobility, growing disregard for the rule of law, low access to legal services for the poor, the overall collapsing economic safety net, our excessive use of carbon-based fuels versus conservation and renewable energy sources, our crumbling transportation and energy infrastructures, the slowness of our Internet services, the low test scores of our children in all age groups and in all subjects compared to children in other nations, the sheer high level of gun violence and death compared to other nations, our low level of public investment in science, and the low healthcare results with respect to infant mortality, longevity, obesity, and access to care versus high cost, to name just a few.
These social and economic performance lists go on and on across every field of human endeavor. The U.S. compares poorly in most every study with massive declines being noted during the past decade. One conclusion is that our society can no longer do anything right compared to any other advanced nation.
The U.S. does lead the world in some dismal measurements such as spending more than twice the rest of the world on its military, and being the most spied-upon nation in the history of the globe. The U.S. government appears to have an unlimited ability to fund its global military presence and its domestic security state.
It must be noted that the reason the U.S. still has the world’s fiat reserve currency is in part due to our status as the world’s policeman. It was also based in part on our nation’s respect for the rule of law, its top public schools, its competitive industries, its well-paid middle class, and its long-standing large economic and political presence across the globe. Free trade and commerce is guaranteed by the U.S. Military.
But many other nations have become much larger economic powers – due to advancing education, resource extraction, new manufacturing, improving transportation infrastructures, and improvements in overall political competence – generally modernizing and expanding far better than the U.S. over the past 30 years. When conditions are deteriorating around the globe, it is a result of previously copying many of America’s worst policies – particularly in the areas of encouraging the financialization of an economy, deregulating various business sectors, embracing consumerism, allowing the wealthy individuals and organizations in a society dominate its political system, ignoring its public educational system and its transportation infrastructure to name just a few.
Since many parts of the U.S. outside our wealthiest cities and suburbs are quickly sinking to third-tier economic and social status, the comparisons we make with other nations looks backwards and not to the present or future. Instead of comparing ourselves to wealthy European nations and Asia Tigers – we should only use comparisons to nations where we have comparable living conditions for the emerging majority of Americans.
The U.S. has nearly 50 million people on food assistance; more than half of U.S. households live paycheck to paycheck; more than 40% have no savings whatsoever (for either emergencies or retirement), over half have lousy low—paying benefit-less jobs and poor long-term employment prospects; the overall labor participation level for all people 18 to 65 has been under 64% for the past 4 years at now is the same rate as it was back in 1981; 45% — 32.7 million of America’s children — live in poverty or in families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line established back in the 1960’s; and most households are overwhelmed with massive debt for housing, education, and basic living expenses that far exceeds their assets and incomes. (And these are just some of the positive aspects of living in the U. S. for a clear majority of Americans.)
For about 20 years (and more intensely during the past 6) The U.S. Government has been fabricating many numbers for public use with respect to jobs, housing, inflation, economic growth, and where all that created fiat currency ends up. Anyone who believes “official” reports is also denying reality – and it is a bi-partisan delusion of the highest magnitude. The endless lies are laughable and the real comparisons with reality are dismal.
The official national unemployment rate currently stands at 7.7% as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The most positive “un-biased” and least massaged unemployment number from the BLS is listed under U-6, which has remained above 14% for more than 4 years. Other studies from respected non-partisan and independent research authorities put the real U.S. unemployment rate at around 20%.
In order to avoid addressing these pesky little realities, I propose we create a new yardstick by comparing ourselves only with nations such as North Korea, Cambodia, South Sudan, Bolivia, Estonia, Togo, Mali, Liberia, Iraq, Mexico, Egypt, Zimbabwe, and my favorite the Central Africa Republic – a country so poor that it can’t even afford a name. In this manner our political leaders and business elites that form our corrupt crony capitalist elite can continue to reinforce the delusion for Americans that we are still exceptional, number one, and prosperous. This could permit another decade of massive wealth extraction and theft by the oligarchy until there is nothing left in the public and private sectors of meaningful value – as is the case with most of the countries mentioned here.
Instead of doing anything of consequence as a society to address our many problems, we’ll plan to deal with our living and real “nightmares” for the foreseeable future by denying they exist. The End of the American Empire will be frighteningly swift, massive and painful for the majority of people in our Nation.
Sadly the solution will not be hoarding water, food, sugar, gold, guns and ammo. Instead it will require reordering our priorities, greater emphasis on the well-being of others and our various economic, social and geographic communities, seeing the linkage between all our activities, focusing on long-term goals and consequences instead of pursing narcissistic short-term policies, compromising for the greater good of society and the health of the planet, and balancing the needs and demands of the domestic public and private sectors, people from all economic backgrounds, and the international community.
For the past 20 years, the U.S. has proven to be incapable of addressing or solving any challenges. My fear is that we will not be able to do anything of consequence to improve the living conditions in our nation or reverse humanity’s declining survivability prospects on this fragile planet. My wish for 2013 is that my fellow Americans and human beings in global positions of power and responsibility prove me wrong on that prediction.
I again wish a Merry Christmas to all you “consumers” out there who are only “citizens” in name only. You can trust this writer is not participating in this perpetual orgy of materialism in order to forget reality. I’m sure some of you will face reality in January with higher taxes, more credit card debt, and less money to pay the bills for 2013 and beyond.
Submitted on 12/23/12 from Phoenix, AZ by your Southwestern blogger, Marc Pascal. However it is sunny and in the mid 60’s right now so I’ll snap out of my temporary “down state” as a result of having broken one of my contact lenses. I will now have my sweet, pretty, young wife (she’s not buying it even though it’s true) drive me everywhere because I lost my prescription glasses a few years ago. I can forget about seeing a physician (or getting new glasses or contact lenses) during the holidays.
Have no fear though; I can still write posts with limited vision. Don’t think you’ll being getting a respite from my rantings any time soon. My free Xmas gift to the readers and editors of TMV is that this post has just hit 1,500 words in length.