The American State of Mind; Two Contrasting Perspectives

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America currently is afflicted with a systemic societal disease that is spreading across the body of this country. That societal disease of which I speak is the massive inequality of wealth and income that exists in America and has, in effect, created two separate and distinct societies within our nation.

America has now earned the dubious distinction of having the largest inequality of wealth and income among all the other 31 developed nations in the world. Here is an article that illustrates just how great this problem has become, its causes, and what must be done to bring its rampant growth under control. One of the most egregious conditions involved with this inequality is that the lion’s share of all new income, 90% or more, is going directly to the top 1% and the rest of America is being shut out.

For those who question and doubt the seriousness of this problem check out this article that goes into great detail about all the many things it is doing to damage this country and its people.

Economists who study these types of problems warn that this is a condition that, if allowed to continue to escalate, will eventually have devastating effects on the U.S. economy. One thing for sure; you can’t continue to lower the incomes and suck the lifeblood out of the American people and still expect them to continue buying the products and services that fuel this economy.

Here are words that describe the state of mind of the richest Americans who live in the minority of our society; that want for nothing and who strive to accumulate more wealth: comfortable, content, confident, optimistic, fulfilled, and relentless in their quest to improve their already high-level quality of life. It’s a very good state of mind, things are looking up, the future is bright, and the arrow of opportunity points straight up.

The ultra-rich in America have the best of the best. Their most difficult decisions involve choosing the gated community and the mansion in which to live, deciding whether to buy a Mercedes or a BMW, and which country club to join. These are, of course, very stressful, agonizing choices but somehow they find a way to manage.

Technically, these Americans at the top don’t have a worry in the world unless they develop a very serious medical condition; but if they do, they have access to the best doctors and hospitals and have no trouble paying the bills, no matter how large.

These wealthy Americans have a large problem with our government. They feel it is maintaining a giant welfare state in which millions of other Americans willingly accept welfare instead of making it on their own through honest work. But then they totally disregard the fact that Corporate America has eliminated millions of jobs and has thrown struggling Americans onto the rolls of Food Stamps, Medicaid and other social net programs.

If there is some fear and apprehension present in those at the top it would have to be from a recurring nightmare in which they have lost everything they possess and have to try to live like the rest of their fellow Americans, attempting to adapt to significantly lower lifestyles. They wake up in a sweat and then realize it was just a bad dream.

Now, in stark contrast to those at the top, here are words that best describe the state of mind of the vast majority of those who live in the “other” lower portions of the American society; many of which have seen their jobs disappear and their quality of life rapidly deteriorate: fear, apprehension, uncertainty, anger, frustration, a sense of foreboding, and hopelessness. These Americans no longer see great opportunities before them and it seems like life in this country has become the “survival of the fittest.”

A great many Americans who currently have jobs worry about whether they will be able to keep them; those unemployed or underemployed and forced to work for the minimum wage have no choice but to accept various forms of government aid. They fear that they will lose their homes and be unable to meet their mounting credit card bills. In the back of their minds they have this dread of becoming homeless. If I were to think of one word to describe the greatest concern that these Americans share it would be – survival.

Will they ever be able to retire and, if they do, how can they do it on a fixed income relying solely on Social Security because they have no savings? They think about the future and have no confidence that things will get any better and are, quite likely, to get a lot worse. They are watching their part of the American dream go down the tubes.

They see this government engaged in perpetual war; they see a Congress and its robotic politicians continue to appropriate hundreds of billions of dollars for the U.S. military empire but refuse to provide funding for the creation of badly needed new jobs; to repair our rotting national infrastructure and to raise the level of our declining system of education. They see politicians that no longer connect with the American people who they were elected to serve.

In this regard let’s talk about caste systems. India’s caste system has four main classes; in descending order: on the top rung are the religious community and its leaders, followed by all forms of government and public service, then those engaged in commercial activity, i.e., the business sector, then semi-skilled and unskilled laborers and, lastly, those who are referred to as “Pariah Harijans” or the outcasts, the untouchables.

India’s government, in years past, became well aware of the dangers involved with this rapidly growing inequity that was part of its caste system and it felt that if this situation were not dealt with that there was a great potential for a massive societal upheaval. And so it spent billions to turn it around; and though it is still a serious problem it is vastly improved, and the anger and frustration of the people have been significantly alleviated.

America has its own form of a caste system; Merriam-Webster defines it as “a division of society based on differences of wealth, inherited rank or privilege, profession, occupation, or race.” The American caste system is structured with the richest Americans and the masters of corporatism at the top, followed by those who run the government, then what’s left of the American worker and the battered middle class, and then those who are struggling to survive. And at the very bottom, where most Americans can’t even see, are the homeless and those who no longer have any hope of survival.

And, in contrast to India, the U.S. government is investing nothing to solve this problem and now ranks alongside nations such as Cameroon, Madagascar, Rwanda, Uganda, and Ecuador; not exactly nations considered to be the best of company. This dilemma should be recognized as a national emergency and should trigger high level, non-stop discussions to bring the situation under control.

Can that ever happen? Not as long as the Corporatists who run this government remain in control because they simply refuse to acknowledge it as a great problem that needs to be remedied. As far as they and their close associates at the top of the income spectrum are concerned they see no inequality issue and believe that this is exactly the way that things should be.

If this massive inequality between the rich and the rest of Americans worsens and most of the new income generated continues to flows up to the wealthy then, at some point in time, we are going to see a societal eruption take place in this country, the likes of which those who have facilitated this state of inequality could never imagine. And they will find that they will be caught in the middle of the turmoil and be unable to escape the aftershock.


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Michael Payne is an independent progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues; and especially with the great dangers involved with the proliferation of perpetual war, the associated defense industry, and the massive control that Corporate America holds over this government and our election process; all which are leading this nation down the road to eventual financial ruin if the conditions are not reversed. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois and a U.S. Army veteran.