The past five years have witnessed relatively strong growth in the U.S. economy, but the fortunes of millions of Americans just get worse. The ratio of American wage expenditure to gross domestic product (GDP) has dropped to the lowest since records began in 1947. The average income of households consisted of members at working age has seen a continuous decline in the past five years, and is 17 percent less than five years ago (U.S. News & World Report, January 1, 2007). According to a national survey on the state of stress in America conducted in September 2007, money and work were the biggest stressors for almost three-quarters of Americans. Of the 1,848 adults polled, 51 percent worried about housing costs. Housing was a "very significant or somewhat significant" source of pressure for 61 percent of the residents in the West and 55 percent those in the East (USA Today, October 24, 2007). According to a latest report by the U.S. government, suicide rate among Americans aged 45-54 rose by about 20 percent from 1999 to 2004, the highest since records began 25 years ago (The Associated Press, December 14, 2007). Hungry and homeless people have increased significantly in American cities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a report released on November 14, 2007 that 35.52 million Americans, including 12.63 million children, went hungry in 2006, an increase of 390,000 from 2005. About 11 million people lived in "very low food security" (Over 30 Million Americans Faced Hunger in 2006, Reuters, November 15, 2007). Results of the 2007 Hunger and Homelessness Survey released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors showed that 16 of the 23 polled cities reported increased requests for emergency food assistance. Among 15 cities that provided data, the average increase was 12 percent. Detroit reported an increase of 35 percent. In 13 survey cities, 15 percent of households with children were not receiving emergency food assistance they requested. In 20 survey cities, 193,183 people applied for emergency shelter or transitional housing. The number of residents applying for government rent subsidies surged by 30 percent in Baltimore County in 2007 (More Seeking U.S. Rent Subsidy, The Baltimore Sun, December 17, 2007). It is estimated that 750,000 people are homeless on any given day in the United States (Care Critical for Homeless, The Washington Post, October 22, 2007). Los Angeles County has more than 73,000 homeless people (Dying Without Dignity: Homeless Deaths in Los Angeles County, Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness, December 27, 2007). Phoenix has 7,000 to 10,000 homeless people and another 3,000 who were not sheltered by the government (Rebelion, Spain, January 2, 2008). New Orleans has 12,000 homeless people (Katrina's Wrath Lingers for New Orleans Poor, USA Today, December 13, 2007). California has about 50,000 veterans living in streets (Sing Tao Daily San Francisco Edition, November 8, 2007). Health conditions of the homeless are worrying. Research shows one-third to half of the homeless have a chronic illness. The life expectancy for a homeless person ranges between 42 and 52 years (Care Critical for Homeless, The Washington Post, October 22, 2007). Among sexual offenders in many American cities, the homeless account for a high proportion. In Boston, nearly two-thirds of 136 high-risk sex offenders lack permanent addresses. In New York City, more than 100 sex offenders are registered at two homeless shelters (Many Sex Offenders Are Often Homeless, USA Today, November 19, 2007).
People without health insurance have been increasing in the United States. A Reuters report on September 20, 2007 quoted the U.S. Census Bureau as saying that 47 million people in the United States were not covered by health insurance. A U.S. family organization said nearly 90 million people below the age of 65 were not covered by health insurance at one point or throughout the period from 2006 to 2007. The number accounted for 34.7 percent of the population falling in that age (Reuters, September 20, 2007). More than 10 million young people age 19-29 were not covered either (Reuters, August 8, 2007). In Texas, the rate of uninsured people is 23.8 percent. In Arizona it is 20.6 percent. Florida 19.7 percent and Georgia 19 percent (Ming Pao San Francisco Edition, June 26, 2007). In 2006, health insurance premiums rose 7.7 percent from a year ago, hitting 11,480 U.S. dollars for a typical U.S. family plan offered by employers. The percentage of people covered by job-based health insurance fell 0.3 percentage points to 59.7 percent (Census: Health Benefits Scarcer, USA Today, August 28, 2007). Meanwhile, the number of people whose household incomes were above the poverty line but were unable to afford medical services rose from 4.2 percent of the total population in 1998 to 5.8 percent in 2006 (Ming Pao San Francisco Edition, June 26, 2007).
V. On Racial Discrimination
Racial discrimination is a deep-rooted social illness in the United States.
Black people and other minor ethnic groups live in the bottom of the American society. According to statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau in August 2007, median income of black households was 31,969 U.S. dollars in 2006, or 61 percent of that for non-Hispanic white households. Median income for Hispanic households stood at 37,781 U.S. dollars, 72 percent of that for non-Hispanic white households. The rates of blacks and Hispanics living in poverty and without health insurance are much higher than non-Hispanic whites. Poverty rate for blacks was 24.3 percent in 2006, while that for non-Hispanic Whites was 8.2 percent. The rate for Hispanics was 20.6 percent. In 2006, the percentage of blacks without health insurance rose to 20.5 percent, from 19 percent in 2005. The number and rate of uninsured Hispanics increased to 15.3 million and 34.1 percent, respectively. The ratewas 10.8 percent for whites (Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006, see Census Bureau website: www.census.gov). The prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS and other diseases are higher among blacks and Hispanics than among non-Hispanic whites. According to a Washington Post report, 80.7 percent of the 3,269 HIV/AIDS cases identified between 2001 and 2006 were among Blacks (Study Calls HIV in DC. A "Modern Epidemic",The Washington Post, November 26, 2007). The possibility for blacks to be infected of HIV/AIDS was seven times higher than thatof whites (National Urban League: The State of Black America 2007,www.nul.org). A report issued by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a think tank on minorities studies, indicated that white households that have reported higher social and economic status were twice that of black households, while black households that have reported lower income were twice that of white households (Washington Observer Weekly, November 30, 2006).
Ethnic minorities have been subject to racial discrimination in employment and workplace. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in November 2007, the unemployment rate for Black Americanswas 8.4 percent, twice that of non-Hispanic whites (4.2 percent). The unemployment rate for Hispanics was 5.7 percent. The jobless rates among blacks and Hispanics were much higher than that for non-Hispanic whites (The Employment Situation: November 2007, issued by the U.S. Department of Labor on December 7, 2007, see www.bls.gov). A poll conducted in 2007 by the Pew Research Center shows that 67 percent of black respondents believe that blacks still face discrimination when applying for a job (As Black Middle Class Rises, Underclass Falls Still Further, The Baltimore Sun, December 3, 2007). According to statistics issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, among the 75,768 charges it received in 2006, 27,328, or 35.9 percent of the total, were related to racial discrimination (Charges Statistics FY 1997 Through FY 2006, www.eeoc.gov/stats/charges.html). In 2007, U.S. sports wear company Nike reached a settlement in a class-action lawsuit, in which four former black employees of Nike's Chicago Niketown store filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the company, on behalf of the 400 current black employees, accusing a Niketown manager of using racial slurs to refer to black workers and customers, segregating them into low-pay jobs, making unfounded accusations of theft against black workers and directing store security to watch black employees and customers (ABC News, July 31, 2007). In March 2007, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Walgreen, the largest drugstore chain in the United States, alleging widespread racial bias against thousands of black employees. The company was accused of making decisions about employee assignment and promotion based on race (CBS, http://cbs2chicago.com). There is serious racial discrimination in the education sector of the United States. According to a media report, public schools tend to take tougher discipline sanctions on black students, and the rate of black students disciplined is much higher than that of white students. In New Jersey, African-American students are almost 60 times as likely as white students to be expelled for serious disciplinary infractions. In Minnesota, black students are suspended six times as often as whites. In Iowa, blacks make up just five percent of the total students in public schools, but account for 22 percent of those who get suspended (Chicago Tribune,September 25, 2007). On August 2, 2006, a black student at the Jena High School in Louisiana asked a school administrator if Blacks could sit under a tree that was traditionally reserved for the whites. He received a positive reply. But three white students hung nooses -- the notorious symbol of lynching in the racist south -- from the tree's branches the following day (The Associated Press, Jena, Louisiana State, September 20, 2007). According to a New York Times report on October 23, 2007, the black principal of a Brooklyn high school received a noose along with a letter containing racist words like "white power forever." A noose was also hung on the office door of a black professor in Columbia University. Macalester College, Trinity College and Whitman College all reported incidents in which students showed up at parties in racially offensive costumes. At one party in Macalester College, a student wore a blackface with a noose around his neck (The Associated Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota, February 11,2007). Nazi symbol swastika was also found on the campus of the Columbia University in 2007, apparently targeting American Jews, according to a report by the World Daily.
Racial discrimination in the U.S. judicial system is shocking. According to the 2007 annual report on the state of black America issued by the National Urban League (NUL), African Americans (especially males) are more likely than whites to be convicted and sentenced to longer terms. Blacks are seven times more likely than whites to be incarcerated (National Urban League: The State of Black America 2007, www.nul.org). Blacks are 10 times as likely to be imprisoned for drug offences as whites, even though both groups use and sell drugs at the same rate (Study Finds Racial Divide Across U.S. in Drug Arrests, The Washington Post, December 5, 2007). Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that as at yearend 2006, 815 of every 100,000 blacks were behind the bars. The rate was 283 per 100,000 for Hispanics and 170 for whites. Figures released by the U.S. Department of Justice in December 2007 shows that as at yearend 2006, there were 560,000 blacks in state and federal prisons, accounting for 37.5 percent of the total. Hispanics and Latinos totaled 308,000, accounting for 20.5 percent. Black men had an incarceration rate of 3,042 per 100,000, six times over that for the entire U.S. population (501 per 100,000). The incarceration rate for Hispanics was 1,261 per 100,000. Nearly eight percent of black men aged 30 to 34 were incarcerated as sentenced prisoners, compared with only 1.2 percent for white men of the same age group (Prisoners in 2006, issued by the U.S. Department of Justice on December 5, 2007, see www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs). In the United States, the percentage for young people serving life sentence is quite different for groups of different colors. The rate for young blacks sentenced to life imprisonment without parole was 10 times as young whites. It was 20 times in California (Los Angeles Times, November 19, 2007). American justice system practices double standards on blacks and whites. The Associated Press reported that in the "Jena Six" case, six black youths were arrested for beating a white classmate and five of them were indicted on charges of attempted murder, which aroused a 2,000-student protest in the town which has merely 3,000 residents (The Associated Press, Jena, Louisiana on September 20, 2007). Meanwhile, the two women teachers accused of having sex with six black male students were released on bail (The Associated Press, March 28, 2007).
In the United States, minorities are the main victims of hate and violent crimes and murders. According to a FBI report published in November 2007, there were 7,722 hate crimes in the country in 2006, up eight percent. Among them, 51.8 percent were motivated by racial bias. Hate crimes against Muslims increased 22 percent. Hate crimes against Hispanics went up 10 percent (FBI: Hate Crimes Escalate 8% in 2006, USA Today, November 20, 2007). In New York City, hate crimes increased by 20.9 percent year-on-year in 2007. Of the 512 hate crimes that occurred in Los Angeles County in 2006, 68 percent were caused by racial problems (The China Press, June 8, 2007). According to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Justice in August 2007, Blacks account for 13 percent of the U.S. population, but were victims in 15 percent of all nonfatal violent crimes and 49 percent of all homicides in 2005 (Black Victims of Violent Crime, http://www.ojb.usdoj.gov/bjs).
VI. On the Rights of Women and Children
The conditions of women and children in the United States are worrisome.
Women account for 51 percent of the U.S. population, but there are only 86 women serving in the 110th U.S. Congress. Women hold 16, or 16 percent of the 100 seats in the Senate and 70, or 16.1 percent of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. In December 2007, there were 76 women serving in statewide elective executive offices, accounting for 24.1 percent of the total. The proportion of women in state legislature is 23.5 percent. As of September 2007, of the 1,145 mayors of U.S. cities with populations over 30,000, 185, or 16.2 percent, were women (Women Serving in the 110th Congress 2007-09. Center For American Women and Politics, www.cawp.rutgers.edu).
Discrimination against women is pervasive in U.S. job market and workplaces. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said it received 23,247 charges on sex-based discrimination in 2006, accounting for 30.7 percent of the total discrimination charges (Charge Statistics FY 1997 Through FY 2006, www.eeoc.gov/stats/charges.html). According to media reports, as many as 1.6 million women could have joined the largest gender discrimination lawsuit in the U.S. history, in which retailer giant Wal-Mart is accused of discrimination against women in pay and promotions (Reuters, Los Angeles, February 6, 2007). The average income of women is less than that of men in America. Figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau in August 2007 shows that the median earnings of women aged 15 and older was 32,515 U.S. dollars in 2006, 77 percent of men's 42,261 U.S. dollars (Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006, issued by the U.S. Census Bureau, see www.census.gov).The poverty rate of women is higher. Statistics show that at the year end of 2006, more than 5.58 million single women above the age of 18 were living in poverty, accounting for 22.2 percent of women in that group. Some 4.1 million, or 28.3 percent of female-householder-with-no-husband-present families were living in poverty in 2006, much higher than the national family poverty rate of 9.8 percent (Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau). Colored women are more likely to fall prey to poverty and misery. A report issued by the American Center for Reproductive Rights shows the maternal death rate of the United States ranks the 30th in the world. The maternal death rate for black women is four times that of white women. The proportion of black women infected with AIDS and venereal diseases is 23 times and 18 times that of white women, respectively. Among all the impoverished women in America, African, Hispanic, Indian and Asian women account for 27 percent, 26 percent, 21 percent and 13 percent, respectively, compared to nine percent for white women.
American women are victims of domestic violence. According to information from the National Organization for Women, about 1,400 women are beaten to death every year by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States. It is estimated that two to four million women are battered each year. Women are 10 times more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate. Women who are separated, divorced or single, low-income women and African-American women are disproportionately victims of assault and rape. Domestic violence rates are five times higher among families below poverty levels. Statistics show that 37 percent of the women in the United States received emergency medical treatments because of domestic violence for at least once; 30 percent of pregnant women suffer attacks from their partners; 50 percent of American men frequently attack their women and children; 74 percent of career women suffer violence from their colleagues. According to a report by the Associated Press, domestic violence in the United States is spreading to workplaces. Yvette Cade was set on fire by her estranged husband at her job. She suffered third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body (The Associated Press, Washington, April 18, 2007). Women are frequently victims of sexual harassment at their workplaces and military barracks. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said it received 12,025 charges on sexual harassment in 2006, 84.6 percent of which were filed by women (Sexual Harassment Charges EEOC & FEPAs Combined: FY 1997-FY 2006,see www.eeoc.gov). The National Organization for Women said every year approximately 132,000 women reported that they had been victims of rape or attempted rape, and that two to six times that many women were raped, but did not report it. The U.S. department investigating military crimes received about 1,700 sexual harassment charges in 2004, including 1,305 rape charges. A survey by the University of California among 3,000 retired female soldiers shows 25 of them suffer from sequelae of sexual harassment experiences in the barracks (Latin American News Agency, Havana, February 10, 2007). The New York Times said in a report that many American women soldiers stationed in Iraq faced the dual strikes of trauma from sexual abuses by their own ranks and that from enemy fire in the battle field. Suzanne Swift was repeatedly sexually harassed and abused by her chain of commanders. As she tried to charge them, she received an order for redeployment together with the perpetrators (Latin American News Agency, Havana, February 10, 2007). Maricela Guzman was attacked and raped while on night watch duty during her Navy boot camp training. She tried to report the incident for four times, but no one paid attention, and the command even ordered her to do push-ups as punishment for her wrongfully treating the boss (Latin American News Agency, Havana, February 10, 2007). Abbie Pickett was just 19 years old when she was sexually assaulted during a humanitarian deployment to Nicaragua. She said she was too afraid to report the incident then because the perpetrator was an officer who ranked above her (New York Times, March 18, 2007).
Women inmates are increasing in American prisons and they are often subject to grave conditions. Figures released by the Department of Justice in December 2007 show that the number of female inmates in federal and state prisons increased by 4,872, or 4.5 percent in 2006 to reach 112,498. This is faster than the average growth rate of 2.9 percent from 2000 to 2005 (Prisoners in2006, issued by the Department of Justice on December 5, 2007, seewww.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs). Amnesty International said in a 2007 report that in American prisons, male watchers can do full body searches on female prisoners and watch them washing and changing clothes. In most states, male watchers are allowed to enter female cells without supervision. The living conditions of American children are of great concern. Houston Chronicle reported that a survey by the United Nations on 21 rich countries showed that though the United States was among the world's richest nations, it ranked only the 20th in the overall well-being of children. In the dimension of health and security, the United States was at the very bottom of the ranking. Statistics show that by the end of 2006, there were 12.8 million children under the age of 18 living in poverty in the United States, accounting for 17.4 percent of the country's children population. Children account for 35.2 percent of the impoverished population in the United States. The rate of impoverished children in female households with no husbands present is as high as 42.1 percent (Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006, issued by the U.S. Census Bureau in August 2007, see www.census.gov). More children are doing without medical insurance. By the end of 2006, some 8.7 million children under theage of 18 had no medical insurance in the United States, up by 11.7 percent from 2005. The rate of children without medical insurance reached 19.3 percent (Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau). More children are becoming homeless. According to a survey on hunger and homelessness in 23 American cities released in December 2007 by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, members of households with children made up 23 percent of the population who took up emergency shelter in 2007. Requests for emergency shelter from households with children increased in 10 cities (Mayors Examine Causes of Hunger, Homelessness, press release by the U.S. Conference of Mayors on December 17, 2007, www.usmayors.org). According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the infant mortality rate of the United State was seven in a thousand in 2004, and the mortality rate of black infants was 2.5 times that of whites (The Associated Press, November 10, 2007). The infant survival rate of the United States is lagging far behind other developed nations. A bill that would have expanded government-provided health insurance for children was vetoed by President George W. Bush in 2007 though 72 percent of the public supported the bill (Bush Vetoes Kids Health Insurance Bill, The Washington Post, December 13, 2007).
American juveniles often fall victims of abuses and crimes. According to a report on school crimes in the United States released by the Department of Justice in December 2007, 57 out of 1,000 American students above the age of 12 were victims of violence and property crimes in 2005. From July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006, there were 14 school-associated homicides involving school-aged children. In 2005, 25 percent of students were tempted to buy drugs in school in the 12 months prior to the survey; 24 percent of students said there were gangs at their schools (School Crime Rates Stable Children 50 Times More Likely to Be Murdered away from School Than at School, issued by the U.S. Department of Justice on December 2, 2007, see www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs). It is reported that in some middle schools in Baltimore many students go to school with weapons like knives. From the start of school through the end of October 2007, there were 216 incidents in city schools leading to arrests (Weapon Checks OK'd at Schools, The Baltimore Sun, December 11, 2007). Sexual violations are widespread in American schools. A national survey by the Associated Press in 2007 found that 2,570 educators were punished for sexual misconduct between 2001 and 2005. Eighty percent of the victims were students. A survey by the U.S. Congress shows that as many as 4.5 million students, out of roughly 50 million in American schools, are subject to sexual misconduct by an employee of a school sometime between kindergarten and 12th grade. An average of three sexual abuse cases take place in American schools every day (The Associated Press, Washington, October 21, 2007).American juveniles are ill-treated at boot camps. A report mandated by Congress said thousands of teenagers suffered terrible abuses at boot camps, some even lost their lives. Governmental investigator said boot camp abuses took many forms, including youth being forced to eat their own vomit, denied adequate food, being forced to lie in urine or feces, being kicked or beaten. A boy was forced to clean a toilet with his toothbrush and then brush his own teeth with it. Journal left by 16-year-old Aaron Bacon, who died from an untreated perforated ulcer, shows that he spent 14 of 20 days without any food but was forced to hike 13 to 16 kilometers every day. When he was given food, it consisted of undercooked lentils, lizards and scorpions. His father said that he had been beaten from head to toes during his month at the camp. Martin Lee Anderson, 14, died in a boot camp after guards choked him and forced him to inhale ammonia fumes (The Times, October 12,2007).
Millions of underage girls become sex slaves in the United States. Statistics from the Department of Justice show some 100,000 to three million American children under the age of 18 are involved in prostitution. A FBI report says as high as 40 percent of forced prostitutes are minors.