Facts Every American Should Know
I was not born here. The bright lights of freedom and human dignity that shined all over the world drew me to America. Now, and for the last fifty some years, I am a proud American. Nowadays however, I can see my great America is in decline economically, politically and in international standing. Hopefully, this is only temporary. We ought to understand the issues underlying our decline and take steps to counter it. If we choose to ignore it, and do nothing, we would become a third world country in no time at all.
In fact, we are already on our way to becoming a third world country. We do have small pockets of obscene wealth amid rampant poverty. Our infrastructure is ailing and our public services are deteriorating. Our police is militarized and we have intrusive internal security that spy on us. We are experiencing serious political gridlock and spend too much on the military. We are struggling to educate our children in the midst of rampant gun violence.
Our answer lies in better education and greater awareness. We must educate ourselves about the issues driving our decline to better able to address them. Here are some of the key issues:
We need to seriously address the unsustainable wealth inequality that is at the core of most of our problems. This should be done through progressive taxation, limits on executive pay and effective taxation on inheritances.
1. The unequal distribution of wealth in the United States is reaching unprecedented levels. It is twice that of countries like Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The unequal distribution of wealth is reducing our life expectancy, increasing infant mortality, homicides, the size of the imprisoned population, teenage births, obesity, mental illness, including drug abuse, alcoholism, and is also inhibiting social mobility. The old idiom that the rich are the engines of growth and greater employment has been repeatedly disproven. The rich nowadays rent their money and whenever they build factories they do it mostly in countries where labor is cheaper. Some of the ultra rich are even parking their accumulated wealth as art, rare coins, precious metals, such as gold, and jewelry in fancy storage facilities in many of the European and Asian busiest airfreight hubs. They are not investing it in our economy.
2. The disappearing middle class is subsidizing the rich through favorable tax rates for investment income; tax breaks for carried interest, corporate tax deals, and huge agri-business subsidies and capped payroll taxes. The bottom quintile of income recipients pays a 7.3 percent FICA rate, while the top 1 percent of earners pays a rate of just 0.9 percent. If we divided all the income earned in America in 2012 and distributed it equally to all Americans, everyone would earn about $41,000. A family of four would earn $164,000. Clearly, Americans do make enough money to satisfy everyone yet it is clearly unfairly distributed.
3. In the wake of the global economic crisis, most Americans can barely pay their bills and have significantly "downsized" their lifestyles. In the meantime, the salaries of corporate CEO's have risen more than 370% over the last two decades.
4. The economy recovered after the crisis for only for the 7% of Americans who had substantial holdings of stocks and bonds. The other 93% of the Americans are still suffering from depressed home values, debt, and un- or underemployment. Meanwhile, one out of four corporations in America is not paying a nickel in federal income taxes.
5. Wealth is correlated to longevity: The longest-living 10th of Americans tend to be the wealthiest. The bottom 10th live about as long as the average person in Mexico or in Argentina.
6. Research has cast new light on racial differences in longevity. In the United States, whites live five years longer than African-Americans. Socioeconomic and demographic factors, rather than genetics, accounted for 70-80 percent of the difference. The single greatest contributor is income.
7. As income disparities increased, class mobility declined. Now you have a better chance of living the American dream in Canada or in Western Europe rather than in the United States.
8. An American billionaire is more likely to have inherited his or her wealth than is a billionaire from any other country.
9. If you are poor in America you live a life akin to slavery. You lack healthcare, good education, or enough money to even buy food.
10. The deterioration of the nation's public transportation, health care, education, social services, public utilities, bridges and roads, is part of the relentless seizing and harvesting of public resources and programs by corporations run by the rich and mainly for the rich.