Cross-posted, with permission, from Reader Supported News
US President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry
(image by YouTube)
In Chapter 7 of the Book of Matthew, during Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks directly to hypocrites who judge the actions of others while being oblivious to their own faults.
"How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."
-- Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 4 and 5
Our political leadership should take some cues from this passage as we approach a solution to deal with the turmoil of Russia's intrusion into Ukraine, Iraq's impending downfall that came as a direct result of our past meddlings, and other foreign policy crises to come. We look tremendously foolish to the rest of the world when we try to dictate how other countries should behave, considering the vast number of critical problems the US faces internally.
Here are a few logs the US should take out of its own eye before telling Iraq and Russia how to handle the specks in theirs.
1. We have the worst health care system in the developed world.
A recent study showed that of the top Western industrialized nations, the United States has the worst health care system. That's no surprise, considering that only in the US is it acceptable for the illness and injury of citizens to be a commodity from which others can profit. To put this into perspective, the average hip replacement in the US costs $40,364. In Spain, that same operation costs $7,731. This means one can fly to Spain, live in Madrid for two years, learn Spanish, run with the bulls, get trampled, get their hip replaced again, and fly back to the US while still coming out ahead. Britain's National Health Services came out on top of the survey, as citizens who are critically ill or injured can get life-saving medical treatment and be sent home just as a result of paying taxes.
2. We intentionally saddle college students with a lifetime of debt servitude.
The student debt bubble has now surpassed the $1.2 trillion mark, which is even more than America's accumulated credit card debt. This is a direct result of states investing less in public higher education and making students pay for the bulk of their education. And because wages are already so low, student loans are, in many cases, used for basic survival rather than tuition payments. The average amount of debt each college graduate owes is just under $30,000. This means that even if a student manages to secure a job in an economy where there at least two applicants for every job opening, it will take years of consistent payments for that graduate to be in the black again.
To contrast, most other developed Western nations allow students to go to college for little to no cost of their own, seeing the education of a citizen as an investment in the country's well-being. When Quebec proposed a tuition increase from $2,200 to $3,800 over a six-year period, hundreds of thousands of students took to the streets in protest.
3. We effectively have an oligarchy, where the rich can buy their own politicians.
The idea of the US invading Iraq to "spread democracy" is laughable, considering the complete absence of democracy in our own country. In a country of 310,000,000 people, we have a body of a little over 500 people making decisions on the behalf of all of us. Most of those few hundred people are millionaires. And most of the time, these millionaires who supposedly represent us spend more time -- roughly 30 to 70 percent of it -- with other millionaires, courting donations for their next re-election campaign, than they do listening and responding to the needs of their constituents.
One study from Princeton University concluded that the US government in its current form has more in common with an oligarchy -- where a small number of wealthy people run the government -- than a democracy. Another study found that members of Congress were more free to schedule meetings with people who identified as donors than with people who identified as constituents. It isn't hard to see why there's such an uptick of "insurgents" in Iraq who don't want to see the US spread what we call "democracy" in their country.
4. We punish poor people for enduring the circumstances we forced them into.
In Detroit, Dan Gilbert, the billionaire owner of Quicken Loans, became known as "Subprime Dan" when he made a killing before the burst of the housing bubble by pressuring homeowners into risky subprime loans. Since the 2008 housing market crash, roughly 60,000 Detroit homeowners have been forced to vacate their homes, which has led to massive urban blight and enabled billionaires like Dan Gilbert to buy those homes for pennies on the dollar to gentrify and develop into housing that only the rich can afford.
Now, the few Detroiters who are still lucky to have a place to live are paying increasingly higher rates for water, and in the down economy of Detroit, many have fallen behind on water payments. The city of Detroit has responded by shutting off water for 150,000 households, and is doing so at a rapid rate of 1,500 to 3,000 houses per week. When Detroit raised $1 billion in bonds to pay for infrastructure like water in 2011, Detroit's unelected emergency manager Kevyn Orr, appointed by bank-friendly governor Rick Snyder, allowed big banks to take a big $537 million bite in interest payments. Even after the big industries made a profit by shipping jobs overseas, and the big banks made a profit by swindling people out of their homes, Detroit's corporate-owned government won't allow people owing as little as $150 in water payments to have access to a basic human right.
Another example: a poor single mother in New York had landed a job interview, but no babysitter for her two children, ages 6 and 2, was available during the time scheduled for the interview. She had no choice but to leave her two children in the car for 70 minutes. After the interview, she was arrested for alleged child endangerment. And just recently, child protective services took the two children away from their mother for this alleged endangerment. To sum it up, a woman doing everything she could to earn an income to support her family was punished to the point of having her family taken from her, simply because she couldn't find a babysitter for 70 minutes.