Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The American Dream is Dead!

The United States has one of the least upwardly socially mobile populations in the developed world; mobility has been steadily declining since the 1920s. As a first class university education is virtually free in Germany, it is rising to ‘unaffordable’ for most Americans even within the public university spectrum. While an American born in the bottom rung of the U.S. economic ladder has an 8% chance of rising upwards, Denmark reflects double that number (and a much smaller percentage of people in poverty).
We have, by far, the highest per capita healthcare costs on earth. Likewise, we have a contracting middle class and the greatest polarization between the rich and everybody else in the Western and developed world. The statistical mean and the average Americans born into contemporary society would have much better chances for upward mobility virtually anywhere else in the developed, democratic world… in fact probably in any developed nation, democratic or not.
To social demographers and many historians, this macro-economic trend is simply a reflection of the unraveling of yet another social structure. There are no 10,000-year Reich’s, and even the most stable countries unravel sooner or later. In fact, the United States is one of the oldest continuous democratic forms of government on earth. The ample precedents from historical clocks, without a big reset, tell us that our time is running out. We are in fact moving toward a self-created demise, aided by so many others hell-bent on toppling the king of the hill. We are among the most disliked countries in the world. When privilege prospers – the legacy of too many years at the top of the ladder – and the masses face declining standards, political systems just fall, sometimes violently. Our legacy aristocracy is based on pure wealth.
Today, rich U.S. incumbents are too entrenched at the expense of others, the economic polarization has stymied internal economic growth (according to the IMF), the need to place the controlling elites with loose regulations and low taxes has resulted in austerity in the great equalizing forces of high quality (economically efficient) infrastructure, job-creating scientific research and exceptionally high level education. Our military excess has lined the pockets of too many in the related industry sectors. As American primary and secondary schools plunge in global comparisons, as highways and bridges crumble under the press of time and population growth, as university costs soar and as we slash and burn government-supported scientific research, it’s clear that America has transformed from a land of opportunity to a land of opportunists. The rich avoid taxes and outsource manufacturing with off-shore constructs plus local special interest legislation purchased with their now-legal influence-buying dollars.
In the coming election, we call the issue “income inequality.” Conservatives want lower and more easily calculated taxes… but if you run the numbers, those at the top of the economic ladder still do so much, much better than the rest of us. They rail at our regulatory schema, claiming it hurts job creation. The conservative mantra is to support the “job creators” (yup, the folks who make those outsource decisions), a rephrasing of the trickle down/supply-side economic theory that continues to fail every major statistical test neutrally applied.
Take away regulatory burdens, and the financial shenanigans of top Wall Street dogs that decimated the global markets in the Great Recession will come barking back. We’ve never fully recovered from that last debacle; the pain continues to sear: “Large banks are preparing to pay $1.865 billion to settle accusations that they conspired unfairly to control a derivatives market that stood at the center of the financial crisis, a lawyer suing the banks said in [a NYC Federal District] court on [September 11th].” DealB%k, New York Times, September 11th. The damage is still incalculable.
 Take away the environmental regulations; the big resource extractors will make even more money, and our air will look like Beijing. Canada has a much more regulated financial structure, and, by the way, Canada has never faced a huge depression or recession in its modern history. I don’t think their citizens are suffering under an impoverished social structure.
According to the Department of Labor, “The [Fair Labor Standards] Act requires employers of covered employees who are not otherwise exempt to pay these employees a minimum wage of not less than $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. Youths under 20 years of age may be paid a minimum wage of not less than $4.25 an hour during the first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment with an employer.” Local communities in liberal cities – from Seattle to New York to Los Angeles – are rapidly moving towards a $15/hour minimum wage. Australia’s been at almost $16/hour for a while ($18 in major cities). Rates in Europe are often higher than here in the US, with healthcare and greater fringes thrown in as a bonus.
Liberals want higher taxes for the rich, more government subsidized education (including pre-school) and much lower charges for higher education and a whole different compensation/ healthcare package (free) for all of us. But words like “socialism” can tank a viable platform even though free public schools, Medicare and Social Security are about as socialist as you can get. And pure capitalism does not exist anywhere on earth.
We talk about a “free market” here in the United States, but with disguised farm subsidies (they call it “crop insurance”), tax breaks and loopholes, regulations exempting entire industries – from the hidden chemicals in fracking to the exemptions granted to the “too big to fail” financial sector – we are anything but a free market. If you’re at the top of the food chain, you get a whole lot more freedom than do the rest of us.
Most of the public tends to underestimate the extreme wealth inequality there is in the country. They still care about addressing it, however. A Pew Research Center poll in January 2014 found that 69% of Americans (and almost half of Republicans) believed the government should act ‘to reduce the gap between the rich and everyone else.’ A May 2015 Gallup data showed that a full 46% of Americans are ‘strong redistributionists’—they believe the distribution of wealth and income isn’t fair and that heavy taxes on the rich are the solution. Among liberals, moderates, and even conservatives, a full 85%, 67%, and 42% respectively believed wealth should be evenly distributed.”, September 12th.
Let look at the coming election. Security from threats like ISIS and income inequality are the only real issues that will really impact daily American lives. “Immigration reform” is the big distractor, the big red herring, the big “scapegoat” finder in the coming election. But it doesn’t create new jobs, doesn’t really improve crime statistics (immigrants have lower-than-average crime numbers), doesn’t open new opportunity doors and doesn’t make us safer. We do not have massive migration issues such as the one facing Europe. All of our border nations are friendly trading partners. Gay marriage and religious “rights” again have little impact on how you live your own life (unless you are a professional meddler in the lives of others). They may help define the rural vs urban values split that defines our contemporary political spectrum, but they are not the big bad issue dogs on the block. Time to get real and understand what is really at risk.
I’m Peter Dekom, and if you care about the survival of the United States as an on-going political unit, focus on the real issues in the coming election; it may be the most important election in recent American history.

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