This blog will chronicle my comments and other critical articles, cartoons and videos. Time has come for us to put America first and Party 2nd. This page will have the good, bad and ugly of Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians alike, but will always offer pluralistic solutions effective June 8, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

Six ways America is like a third-world country | Outsider President

The following two articles will take some thinking while reading.....it's understanding America and how it functions. Every now and then we run into some well researched pieces, these two are! I believe a few things that have gone awry will be back on track if the Tea Party Republicans lose out in 2014 Mid-term elections, it seems every Republican is frightened to stand his or her ground. Republicans have become a joke - not a day passes without some Republican saying stupidest of things. There are a few sane voices, but not enough, the cowards are subdued to take the beating from the extreme right wingers.

We need more moderate Republicans and Democrats and not the ultra right and left in either party. I invite men and women to focus on moderate candidates based on their voting records or their statements. If they are bigots towards one, they will be with you as well. Term limits for congress is the way to go, no one should make a career out of it, but should go there to serve one or two terms and get the hell out of there and let others serve. The shorter the term, the lesser the people will spend on them, as they will be out and we will preserve our democracy.

There is one man in India who is worth studying! He is for serving the nation and does not care to be elected but he is standing his ground - thank God for Arvind Kejriwal, he will fix the nation. I have been watching him, he is consistent in his faith in people and the goodness, he probably will become our 2nd Gandhi - liberating India from corrupt politicians.
Satyameva Jayate
Truth ultimately triumphs.

Mike Ghouse 

Six Ways America Is Like a Third-World Country

Our society lags behind the rest of the developed world in education, health care, violence and more

The U.S. imprisons a higer percentage of our population than countries like Russia, China and Iran.
Michael Criswell/Getty Images
March 5, 2014 12:00 PM ET
Although the U.S. is one of the richest societies in history, it still lags behind other developed nations in many important indicators of human development – key factors like how we educate our children, how we treat our prisoners, how we take care of the sick and more. In some instances, the U.S.'s performance is downright abysmal, far below foreign countries that are snidely looked-down-upon as "third world." Here are six of the most egregious examples that show how far we still have to go:
1. Criminal Justice
We all know the U.S. criminal justice system is flawed, but few are likely aware of just how bad it is compared to the rest of the world. The International Center for Prison Studies estimates that America imprisons 716 people per 100,000 citizens (of any age). That's significantly worse than Russia (484 prisoners per 100,000 citizens), China (121) and Iran (284). The only country that incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than we do is North Korea. The U.S. is also the only developed country that executes prisoners – and our death penalty has a serious race problem: 42 percent of those on death row are black, compared to less than 15 percent of the overall population.
Over two and a half million American children have a parent behind bars. A whopping 60 percent of those incarcerated in U.S. prisons are non-violent offenders, many of them in prison for drug charges (overwhelmingly African-Americans). Even while our crime rate has fallen, our incarcerated population has climbed. As of 2011, an estimated 217,000 American prisoners were raped each year ­– that's 600 new victims every day, a truly horrifying number. In 2010, the Department of Justice released a report about abuse in juvenile detention centers. The report found that 12.1 percent of all youth held in juvenile detention reported sexual violence; youth held for between seven and 12 months had a victimization rate of 14.2 percent.
2. Gun Violence
The U.S. leads the developed world in firearm-related murders, and the difference isn't a slight gap – more like a chasm. According to United Nations data, the U.S. has 20 times more murders than the developed world average. Our murder rate also dwarfs many developing nations, like Iraq, which has a murder rate less than half ours. More than half of the most deadly mass shootings documented in the past 50 years around the world occurred in the United States, and 73 percent of the killers in the U.S. obtained their weapons legally. Another study finds that the U.S. has one of the highest proportion of suicides committed with a gun. Gun violence varies across the U.S., but some cities like New Orleans and Detroit rival the most violent Latin American countries, where gun violence is highest in the world.
3. Healthcare
A study last year found that in many American counties, especially in the deep South, life expectancy is lower than in Algeria, Nicaragua or Bangladesh. The U.S. is the only developed country that does not guarantee health care to its citizens; even after the Affordable Care Act, millions of poor Americans will remain uninsured because governors, mainly Republicans, have refused to expand Medicaid, which provides health insurance for low-income Americans. Although the federal government will pay for the expansion, many governors cited cost, even though the expansion would actually save money. America is unique among developed countries in that tens of thousands of poor Americans die because they lack health insurance, even while we spend more than twice as much of our GDP on healthcare than the average for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a collection of rich world countries. The U.S. has an infant mortality rate that dwarfs comparable nations, as well as the highest teenage-pregnancy rate in the developed world, largely because of the politically-motivated unavailability of contraception in many areas.
4. Education
The U.S. is among only three nations in the world that does not guarantee paid maternal leave (the other two are Papua New Guinea and Swaziland). This means many poor American mothers must choose between raising their children and keeping their jobs. The U.S. education system is plagued with structural racial biases, like the fact that schools are funded at the local, rather than national level. That means that schools attended by poor black people get far less funding than the schools attended by wealthier students. The Department of Education has confirmed that schools with high concentrations of poor students have lower levels of funding. It's no wonder America has one of the highest achievement gaps between high income and low income students, as measured by the OECD. Schools today are actually more racially segregated than they were in the 1970s. Our higher education system is unique among developed nations in that is funded almost entirely privately, by debt. Students in the average OECD country can expect about 70 percent of their college tuition to be publicly funded; in the United States, only about 40 percent of the cost of education is publicly-funded. That's one reason the U.S. has the highest tuition costs of any OECD country.
5. Inequality
By almost every measure, the U.S. tops out OECD countries in terms of income inequality, largely because America has the stingiest welfare state of any developed country. This inequality has deep and profound effects on American society. For instance, although the U.S. justifies its rampant inequality on the premise of upward mobility, many parts of the United States have abysmal levels of social mobility, where children born in the poorest quintile have a less than 3 percent chance of reaching the top quintile. Inequality harms our democracy, because the wealthy exert an outsized political influence. Sheldon Adelson, for instance, spent more to influence the 2012 election than the residents of 12 states combined. Inequality also tears at the social fabric, with a large body of research showing that inequality correlates with low levels of social trust. In their book The Spirit Level, Richard Pickett and Kate Wilkinson show that a wide variety of social indicators, including health and well-being are intimately tied to inequality.
6. Infrastructure
The United States infrastructure is slowly crumbling apart and is in desperate need for repair. One study estimates that our infrastructure system needs a $3.6 trillion investment over the next six years. In New York City, the development of Second Avenue subway line was first delayed by the outbreak of World War II; it's still not finished. In South Dakota, Alaska and Pennsylvania, water is still transported via century-old wooden pipes. Some 45 percent of Americans lack access to public transit. Large portions of U.S. wastewater capacity are more than half a century old and in Detroit, some of the sewer lines date back to the mid-19th century. One in nine U.S. bridges (or 66,405 bridges) are considered "structurally deficient," according to the National Bridge Inventory. All of this means that the U.S. has fallen rapidly in international rankings of infrastructure.
America is a great country, and it does many things well. But it has vast blind spots. The fact that nearly 6 million Americans, or 2.5 percent of the voting-age population, cannot vote because they have a felony on record means that politicians can lock up more and more citizens without fear of losing their seat. Our ideas of meritocracy and upward mobility blind us to the realities of class and inequality. Our healthcare system provides good care to some, but it comes at a cost – millions of people without health insurance. If we don't critically examine these flaws, how can we ever hope to progress as a society?
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President Obama's proven reliability as outsider president extraordinaire - putting a disarming smiley face on capitalism's depredations - is his administration's economic significance.


Enough time has elapsed in Obama's presidency to assess its economic meanings. His administration's actions and omissions tell a clear story. On one hand, Obama continued the economic program imposed on all presidents since World War II. On the other, Obama had the hardest time doing so and is likely the last to do it in the manner of those other presidents. History provides our context for assessing Obama's economic significance.

The US economy's defining moment across the past century was the 1930s eruption of an organized, self-conscious working class into politics. Massive union organizing drives by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) allied with massive popular mobilizations by socialist and communist parties. That labor-radical coalition forced huge concessions - the New Deal - from business and the wealthy. They were taxed and regulated to enable major gains for middle- and lower-income citizens. Those gains included establishing Social Security, unemployment compensation, minimum wage, and millions of federal jobs. 

Labor-radical explosion from below reversed income and wealth inequalities deepened by capitalism's development after the Civil War to the 1929 crash. Haunting the historic changes across the 1930s were plausible intimations (by socialists) and occasional threats (by communists) of revolution. Labor-radical pressures generated President Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous 1944 proposals for a 100 percent top income tax rate and for a Second Bill of Rights. 

When war ended and FDR died, reactionaries mobilized to roll back the New Deal and all it represented. Business, the rich and other right-wing social forces organized a conservative coalition to cut regulations, cut taxes or shift them to others, and reduce government services (other than military). Economic history since 1945 charts the reversal of the New Deal domestically alongside developing a global pax Americana. 

The domestic campaign largely succeeded despite occasional missteps. Government policies conformed because of (1) financial levers worked by business and the rich, and (2) voting blocs managed by conservative religious and other organizations. The money interest focused chiefly on undoing the New Deal. Social conservatives pushed state favoritism for their institutions and beliefs.

The conservative coalition's program destroyed the labor-radical coalition. Communists were redefined from radical activists into Moscow's agents. Socialists were rendered indistinguishable from - or dupes of - successfully demonized communists. Labor unions were harassed, often split, pressured to purge their leftist allies and members, and hobbled legally.

Beginning with President Harry Truman, successive presidents played their assigned roles. To assist in rolling back the New Deal, they would reduce taxes and regulations on business and the rich while tilting government supports more toward them. They often actively pursued anti-communist, anti-socialist and anti-union campaigns. Sometimes (more before 1980, less thereafter) they interrupted the conservative program by accommodating some resistance to the rollback, some demands for progressive regulations, etc. Most Republicans enthusiastically pushed the program. Many Democrats did so hesitantly while advocating (and sometimes delivering) accommodations of mass demands. Truman's administration subsidized and shored up capitalism, worried that troops returning from war would be unemployed and slide with the economy back into depression. Truman prioritized anti-communism and punched down unions via the Taft-Hartley Act. Republican Eisenhower, the kindly grandpa, softened its veneer but sustained the program. 

By 1960, relentless retreat from New Deal commitments had built pressures for something "really different." Americans began to grasp and resent that their "middle class" status was fading. Because equally relentless anti-communism had made criticism of business (let alone capitalism) dangerous, anger focused on government and taxes. Seeing opportunity, the conservative coalition redoubled attacks on the state: tax-and-spend enemies of the "middle-class" wasted money on undeserving welfare recipients who refused work. Buried were the facts that taxes had been shifted since 1945 from corporations and the richest individuals onto lower and especially middle-income Americans. 

Such anti-government winds led presidential aspirants increasingly to posture as "outsiders" who would correct Washington's misbehaviors. John F. Kennedy was younger than previous presidential types and Catholic, someone different who at least verbally respected New Deal ideals. Outsider statuses were claimed by Jimmy Carter as farmer and Southerner, Ronald Reagan as actor and Californian, Bill Clinton as Arkansan and George Bush 2 as a Texas cowboy. 

As these presidents advanced the conservative coalition agenda, mass resentment accumulated. Widening income and wealth inequalities generated their usual political and cultural consequences. In 2007-08, their usual economic consequence, a major crisis, arrived. Massive unemployment, home foreclosures, and so on - combined with the long-standing New Deal rollback - required a president with extra outsider dimensions. 

Barrack Obama fit better than Hillary Clinton. Could he reliably further the conservative coalition's basic agenda while also symbolizing some link to the New Deal ethos (his vague "community organizer" past)? More importantly, by symbolizing a kind of social arrival/acceptance of African-Americans generally, might he neutralize likely popular oppositions to the next steps in rolling back the New Deal? Capitalism's crisis since 2007 could have been blamed on the conservative coalition and the system itself. The economically worst-victimized - especially African-Americans - might well have revitalized a new labor-radical coalition, absorbing the mass energies visible in the Occupy movements. 
The new, young, different African-American president deflected, deterred and at least delayed all that. Obama's proven reliability as outsider president extraordinaire is his administration's economic significance. 

Yet continuing crisis makes ever more Americans shed lingering illusions and hopes for better economic futures. So-called "recovery" affects only a small minority. Most people and many businesses face deteriorating jobs and lives. As the most outside of outsider presidents, Obama presided over the awakening of millions to economic declines they find oppressive and unjust. They are not buying the outsider president strategy any more. The outsider mask has lost further political usefulness for the conservative coalition. 

That coalition likely will turn next to types like Wisconsin's Scott Walker and their Koch-type backers. They believe they have the resources, political connections, and accumulated public relations to win – openly and explicitly - against the New Deal's remaining supporters and beneficiaries. The conservative coalition wants to reconstitute the broad contours of the pre-1929 domestic US economy while sustaining the global pax Americana (given US-based corporations' growing dependence on foreign workers and markets). 

Obama's economic significance lies in his being the latest and most outsider of postwar presidents serving the conservative agenda and likely the last. Overusing the outsider gambit leads to popular disillusionment, disbelief and disinterest in outsider claims. Much the same happened to the anti-communism crusades. 
The crisis since 2007 exposes capitalism's instability and injustices. It revives interest in the New Deal's labor-radical coalition and its policy alternatives. Previously effective ways of stifling criticism of capitalism no longer work. The criticisms and critics are finding ways to organize effectively. Meanwhile, the conservative coalition has removed its mask. Sharpening social conflicts loom.

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