There are at least three major American failures that are too entrenched in our society to undergo change with anything less than an FDR-type effort.
Corporations Continue to Ignore Their Responsibility to Education
The Wall Street Journal says, “Many workers who were laid off in recent decades…don’t have the skills to do today’s jobs. An Apple executive recently lamented, “The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need.”
But opportunities for young people have diminished as corporations have rejected their obligation to society. Public colleges and universities have suffered major cuts in funding over the last ten years, while the largest American corporations have avoided hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes by stashing their profits overseas.
Corporate leaders blame government, they blame society, they blame the poor for their own misfortunes. But they don’t acknowledge their responsibility to pay for the people and research provided by higher education, especially during the technological boom of the 1990s. Instead they seem to agree with Donald Trump about skipping out on taxes: “That makes me smart.” Higher education is one of the main victims of this narcissistic way of thinking.
The Rich Lack Incentive to Help Others: They Believe an “Invisible Hand” Will Do It
For every 100 American millionaires six years ago, there are now 140. As this richest 5% of America gets richer, many of them lose the sense of empathy that creates a strong society, and they become more convinced that the magic of the market will solve all the country’s problems.
What is the “invisible hand” incentive to take the place of FEMA? It was a very visible money-clutching hand after Hurricane Sandy, when private insurance companies manipulated the system to make hundreds of millions of dollars while devastated families got shortchanged on their policies. After home-destroying Oklahoma earthquakes in 2015, possibly caused by fracking, over 90 percent of claims were denied on the grounds that the quakes were human-made and not “acts of God,” while oil companies flipped the argument and called the earthquakes “natural disasters.”
Where is the invisible hand for clean water? Entire cities get poisoned when companies seek shortcuts in the name of profits. And for healthy food, which should be a society-uniting human rights concern, but was preempted by Big Ag companies who pushed Congress to the anti-labeling DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know).
The American super-rich apparently aren’t even willing to help their own descendants. The earth is on track to hit its highest temperature in 2 million years, yet not a single U.S. city is ranked among the world’s 20 most sustainable cities.
Too Many Americans Think They’re “Exceptional”
Are we better than everyone else? In 2014 Larry Wittner reviewed international comparisons in education, health, and child poverty and found that: (1) For education, according to a Program for International Student Assessment of 65 countries, 15-year-olds in the U.S. ranked 17th in reading and 21st in math; (2) For healthcare (including infant mortality and life expectancy), the Commonwealth Fund concluded that the U.S. was LAST among 11 advanced industrial countries, while the World Health Organization judged the U.S. healthcare system 30th in the world; and (3) For child poverty, a UN study of 35 economically advanced countries found the U.S. second to last.
“They are not very good at feeding their people, but they invest a huge amount in their weapons.” President Barack Obama said that, speaking about North Korea.
Obama also said, “The United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight.” Exceptionalism again. But it’s been reported that only about 10 percent of Afghan airstrikes killed the intended targets in a 5-month period, and that only about 12 percent of drone victims in Pakistan could be named as al Qaeda militants.
Our “standard-bearing” Air Force is dropping so many bombs on Muslim countries that companies like Boeing are gearing up for increased weaponry sales, as stock prices for weapons manufacturers keep surging.
Next up, very possibly, is Hillary, who promises to escalate in Syria.
One Way to Help America
Inequality has ripped us apart, not only economically, but also emotionally, as people further removed from the lives of others tend to distrust each other. Tragically, it may take a war or a natural disaster to reverse that.
But there’s another way, and it’s becoming increasingly important with the technological takeover of middle class jobs. We need a guaranteed income. It’s the one way we could immediately instill a degree of equality in America, while restoring some of the missing trust in each other. The new President would probably have to institute a financial transaction tax. He or she would have to create jobs in alternative energy infrastructure. It’s unlikely, but it’s doable. It may be the only way to help America.
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