Again, this article is full of links to lots of brilliant articles that you’re welcome to explore! MM
Is it time to fix America?
Popular folk wisdom suggests… If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
So, more fitting, then… Is America “broke?”
Or, adjusted grammatically… Is America broken?
If you look at the evidence (which is what we’re going to do in this article and its linked references), America today would seem to be both (politically and socially) broken and (financially) “broke.”
… not just broke, but 16 TRILLION dollars in debt!
First, let’s get finances out of the way so we can get closer to the real problems and solutions. The sheer magnitude of the financial deficit is hard for the human mind to grasp… and you know what?… it’s probably not all that important anyway. Money is, after all, just a symbol… an illusion.
I mean, if rich people bought up all of society’s food and locked it up in their private warehouses, leaving poor people to starve… THAT would be a REAL problem. But as long as they just lock away trillions of dollars in private (domestic or off-shore) bank accounts, what harm are they REALLY doing?
Hoarding money, in and of itself, poses no real problems to society.
The fact is, in the past several years in America, the rich have grown richer, and the poor have grown poorer. The wealthiest 5 percent of Americans have made a whopping $25 trillion in the past five years, while the poor collectively have had to get by with less income and fewer jobs.
But that wealth gap here in the US, even though it’s wider than ever before in history, is not the crux of the problem. (I’ll talk about the real foundation of a healthy society in a moment.) It’s what people with a lot of money DO with their money that can strengthen or weaken society in big ways… and that boils down to the noble-savage leanings of us individual human beings.
On one hand you’ve got the Warren Buffetts and George Soroses who donate lots of money to help the less fortunate. Empathy and desire to be of service to those in need come from the noble side of human nature. If every rich person were like Buffett and Soros, society would be more inclined to flourish despite the rich-poor gap.
On the other hand, there are the David Kochs and the John Paulsons and the Jamie Dimons who donate lots of money to groups that protect and pander mostly to the rich. Fear and self-protection emerge from the savage side of human nature. If every rich person were driven by their savage inclinations, then the poor would be in dire straits. Government would have to step in with social programs, law enforcement, and other measures to protect society against famine and revolution.
The Foundation of a Healthy Society
The REAL issue is not the differences and the divides between the rich and the poor. The real issue is the living conditions of the less fortunate. Society can flourish as long as the poor, as well as the rich, have access to the basics of modern living… which include food, clothes, housing, education, health care, transportation, and communication.
If most everyone has access to these things, then society is healthy. If the less fortunate are blocked access to these things, whether by bad luck, bad choices, bad population trends, bad politics, or bad intentions of the rich… then we’ve got problems.
Currently the foundation of American society is crumbling… in the literal sense as well as the metaphorical sense.
The infrastructure of a society consists of its roads, bridges, buildings, water systems, energy grid, waste disposal, schools, and other material megastructures. On a scale of 1 (weak and dilapidated) to 10 (strong and vital), the US infrastructure dangles today between 2 and 3.
It’s probably not just a coincidence that the material foundation of US society—its infrastructure—is crumbling at the same time that its moral foundation is crumbling. It’s the moral foundation of a people that determines how well they are bound together with reasonable values, compatible goals, and effective programs that address the needs of all citizens.
Ill Winds in America
There’s disturbing evidence of ill winds blowing through the more savage quarters of the American rich… closing them off and insulating them from the greater needs of society. The items below include some links to brilliant and insightful articles….
- Wealthy Americans are buying political clout. SPN, the State Policy Network, is an umbrella group of 64 think tanks scattered through all 50 states, dedicated to the right-wing-rich agenda of cutting taxes, promoting global warming, promoting a weak and vulnerable work force, promoting lower wages for the poor, restricting voter rights, and lobbying for the tobacco industry. SPN network’s $83.2m annual support comes from the Koch brothers (those energy tycoons who promote climate change and fuel the tempest in the Tea Party); the tobacco company Philip Morris; the food giant Kraft; and the drug company GlaxoSmithKline… as well as Facebook, Microsoft, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and others.
- The rich are taking more and giving back less. They’re effecting the political system to lower their taxes, to protect their gains, and to insulate themselves more and more from the deprivation and suffering of the less fortunate.
- The poor are locked away in swelling prisons. While prison populations shrink and prisons are closed in some European countries (Sweden, for example), American prisons continue to be more and more overcrowded. Why? Largely because the rich have privatized and capitalized the justice system so that prisons here are now motivated by profit. The more poor people they can put away, the more money can be made from government subsidy. The US today has the largest per-capita prison population.
- Sales of armored vehicles and private fortresses are booming among the super-rich.
- Big business is becoming organized crime. In particular, Big Pharma operates more and more like a drug cartel: The pharmaceutical companies 1) kill people, 2) lie about what they do, 3) routinely break the law as a part of their business practices, and 4) protect their crooked road to riches by bribing and corrupting government agencies.
- WTF, Mr Obama? Even the President seems to be forsaking what many hoped would be his legacy as savior of a faltering America… by protecting the rich with crony capitalism, by high-tech spying reminiscent of Nazi Germany, and by persecuting whistleblowers committed to fighting an unjust system. Go figure.
So, yes, America needs fixing. But enough about the problems! Next article I plan to address solutions.
Other articles in the Fixing America series:
Northern Europe Does it Right
1 The Problems
2 Basic Income, One Solution
3 More Thoughts on Basic Income
4 Wrap-Up on Basic Income and Wealth Tax
5 Basic Income and the Fertility Rate
6 Restoring a Good Reputation
7 Contending with Savage Forces
8 Being a Noble Force
9. A Comprehensive Solution
10. Marching Toward the End Time
11. The Destructive 1 Percent
12. Overcoming America’s Oil Addiction