All men are not created equal...
As the US wages war against the "terrorists" in Iraq, our ruling plutocrats tell us that we are spreading the hallowed (and hollow) American ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice. Yet Americans live in one of the most economically unjust nations in the world. While it is true that there are more overtly oppressive governments, and there are nations where poverty is far more wide-spread and devastating, it is a perversity that the wealthiest society in the history of humanity allows some of its people to suffer in poverty. Yes, the economic injustice and disparity in the US is overwhelming.
Despite the obscene wealth available to America, we still have homelessness. According to an Urban Institute study in 2000, 3.5 million people, of whom 1.35 million are children, are likely to experience homelessness each year. While one can argue that this only represents 1% of the population, I argue that this is 1% too many. America has enough resources that one individual, Bill Gates, has made a scandalous $300.00 per second in his ascendancy to the largest fortune in the world. Gates' net worth is 800,000 times that of someone with a net worth of $70,000. While an elite few like Gates experience the American Dream on steroids, 3.5 million live the American Nightmare while eating from garbage cans and using newspapers for insulation to fend off the cold. Our plutocracy's answer to human suffering is to decrease funding for social welfare programs, lower taxes on the wealthy, and increase military spending.
American poverty also manifests itself in less extreme ways than homelessness. In 2002, only 89% of Americans were food secure. This means that 11% of the populace did not have access to the food necessary to lead an active, healthy life. In the same year, 3.5% of Americans lived went through periods where they went hungry. How twisted is that? The US farm economy perpetually struggles with over-production, yet over 12 million human beings suffered from hunger in 2002. This is the justice we are spreading in Iraq, or so the rationalization for the invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation goes.
Somebody needs to prop them up....
US Census figures for 2003 reveal the huge burden many Americans bear to sustain the ruling plutocracy. According to standards devised by our "benevolent leaders", the poverty level for a family of four is a paltry $18,660.00 per year, while a single person 65 years or older has to make less than $9,573.00 to be considered poverty-stricken. Those determining the poverty thresholds are out of touch with reality if they believe a family of four making $20,000 or even $25,000.00 is not experiencing poverty. Even applying their distorted standards, 12.5% of the US population lived in poverty in 2003, increasing from 12.1% in 2002. Of non-Hispanic whites, who comprise most of the ruling plutocracy, only 8.2% experienced poverty. Blacks and Hispanics did not fare so well in the land of plenty. Coming in at 24.4% and 22.5% respectively, somehow many of them missed the plethora of opportunities to "get ahead". Perhaps the saddest census figure is that 12.9 million (17.6%) of US children lived in poverty in 2003.
In his second inauguration speech, Bush made one of his many bold promises to the rest of the world:
"Start on this journey of progress and justice and America will walk at your side."
When will Mr. Bush explain to those 12.9 million children why the plutocrats who rule America have not begun their journey of progress and justice? More importantly, when will he end the hypocrisy and start America on that journey?
Health is a privilege of wealth
Floating on a sea of money, the good ship America still cannot manage to provide adequate health care coverage to 45 million (16.5%) of its people. Children fared a little better than the general population. A "mere" 11.4% were uninsured in 2004. Uninsured Americans face bankruptcy and financial ruin when they encounter a major health problem, or in many cases, they ignore such problems and neglect their health. A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 66% of uninsured women in America passed on preventative care, buying prescription drugs, or seeking necessary medical care to avoid the cost. Oozing wealth from its cracking foundation, the US still manages to qualify as only industrialized country that does not provide its citizens with universal healthcare. Perhaps even more surprising is that the quality of US healthcare was 35th out of 181 nations rated by the World Health Organization in 2000. America was two slots above Cuba. Don't look now America, but Fidel Castro is gaining on you.
The Bible tells me so...
Apparently, many of our so-called Christian leaders did not read their Bibles very thoroughly:
"Shame on you! you who make unjust laws and publish burdensome decrees, depriving the poor of justice, robbing the weakest of my people of their rights, despoiling the widow and plundering the orphan. What will you do when called to account, when ruin from afar confronts you? To whom will you flee for help?"-- Isaiah 10:1-3
Where is our devout Evangelistic president when we need him to balance the economic injustices wrought by the ruling plutocracy? He is making unjust laws and publishing burdensome decrees, of course. Under Bush, the shameful wealth gap in America has widened to a chasm. Ten European countries, Australia and Canada share their wealth more evenly than the land of opportunity. In 1980, there were 574,000 millionaires in the United States. By the middle of 2003, there were 3.8 million. (The wealthiest 20% of Americans now possess 83% of our country's wealth). During that same time span, CEO salaries skyrocketed. In 1980, CEO salaries were 42 times that of the average American employee. In 2003, CEOs made a stratospheric 411 times more than their typical employee. Japan, a stalwart titan of capitalism like the US, only rewards its CEOs at a rate of 11 times that of their "underlings". What did Bush say about a journey involving justice?