can’t see the forest

Steve Lendman on the “Greatest Country on Earth”

Thanks to Ann at Reclaiming Space for pointing out this excellent post by Massachusetts businessman and activist Steve Lendman. I believe that Lendman’s frame of reference is a little narrow for my taste, but the article was more than worth the read for me and should be a real eye-opener to anyone who believes that America is somehow “the greatest country on Earth” (for any reason other than that he or she just wants it to be, that is.) As an American, I do believe that my people and my country have changed the face of the world for the better in some respects, for worse in others. I do believe that an enormous potential exists which is yet to be realized.

But before you wave your flag at me, or at anyone else, consider that:

— 47 million Americans can’t afford basic health insurance.

— Over 80 million in total have no health coverage during some portion of each year and most of them are employed.

— The Bush administration just proposed sweeping cuts in payments to pharmacies to reduce the Medicaid benefits 50 million poor in the country rely on, can’t afford to make up the difference for on their own, and may have to forego medications they vitally need if pharmacies won’t fill prescriptions at lower prices.

— The US ranks 41st in infant mortality, and the World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the country 37th in the world in “overall health performance” and 54th in the fairness of health care despite spending at a current level overall of around $2 trillion a year or about double the amount per capita of the OECD countries that deliver superior health care overall to their citizens as a national priority.

— Well over 12 millions Americans struggle daily to feed themselves, and many thousands across the country can’t afford housing and are forced to sleep on the streets including in winter cold.

— A just released December 14 US Conference of Mayors report said these conditions continue to worsen based on a survey of 23 cities showing 7% more requests for food aid in 2006 following a 12% jump in 2005 during a period of economic growth.

— The same report showed requests for shelter rose 9% in 2006 with requests from families with children rising 5%.

— Public education is deliberately being eroded with illiteracy in basic reading, math and computer skills shamefully high and rising.

— The US prison population is the highest in the world at 2.2 million and increasing by 1000 a week, half of those in it are black, and half of the total prison population is there for non-violent offenses half of which are drug-related. The US prison system is a shameful Gulag and an affront to humanity. The appalling conviction and sentencing of first-time drug offender Weldon Angelos is but one of countless examples. He was convicted of three sales of marijuana in 2004 while in possession of a gun unrelated to the sale. Under the insane federal mandatory sentencing laws, he was sentenced to five years for the first offense and 25 years each for the other two totaling 55 years in federal prison or a likely life sentence if he’s forced to serve it all because he possessed and sold a few “joints” of a substance less harmful than legal cigarettes that kill millions yearly while it’s not known marijuana ever killed anyone using it. Only in America.

— The true state of things overall is suppressed by the dominant corporate-controlled media (including the NPR and PBS parts of it) functioning as a national thought-control police controlling all mass communication and depriving the public of any real information vital to a healthy democracy and their welfare.

— Racial segregation is as great as in the 1960s, and the national sport almost is demonizing Muslims as “terrorists, radicals, extremists and Islamofascists” and impoverished “people the color of the earth” Mexicans and Latin Americans as “illegal immigrant invaders polluting” our white western European society and culture, mindless that they only come el norte in desperate search of work because of the devastating effects of NAFTA on their lives that destroyed their ability to support their families.

Data from the Oakland Institute think tank specializing in social, economic and environmental issues shows that heavily subsidized US corn exports to Mexico have tripled since NAFTA came into force forcing two million Mexican corn farmers out of business, something that was predicted in advance but allowed to happen anyway. It also led to suicides but at a rate nowhere near the level globalized trade US-style had on farmers in India where as many as 100,000 of them have taken their own lives because “New World Order” indebtedness caused them to lose their farms and then everything else.

— Childhood poverty in the US ranks 22nd and next to last among developed nations when there should be virtually none tolerated in the richest country in the world or toleration of any of the other listed abuses.

— An alarming number of high-paying and other jobs have been exported abroad in a process that’s gone on for decades but picked up in momentum since the 1980s and especially in recent years. Mckinsey Global Institute estimates the volume will grow 30 – 40% a year for the next five years. Forrester Research estimates 3.3 million white-collar jobs will be lost by 2015 with most affected areas in financial services and information technology, and University of California researchers estimate that “up to 14 million American jobs are at risk to outsourcing.”

It adds up to a nation in decline, losing its industrial base and becoming primarily a service-oriented economy mainly offering low-skill, low-pay jobs with the better, higher-paying ones growing scarcer, making a college degree in areas outside of critical skills almost worthless. Exporting jobs to low-wage countries is a boon for corporate bottom lines in an age of “globalized free trade” never characterized as fair for the harm it does to millions of wage earners at home or in the developing countries on the receiving end being exploited by capital that sucks out their wealth and impoverishes their people, many of whom work for near-slave-rate wages in a modern era of serfdom in countries around the world in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin and Central America.

— Worker outrage around the world in protest is growing in response to these abuses (unreported in the US) because most governments are doing little or nothing to ameliorate them. It showed up on November 22 in South Korea when over 200,000 workers belonging to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) staged a general strike protesting in 17 cities against the bilateral US-Korea Free Trade Agreement currently being negotiated that will do to their members and farmers what NAFTA did to Mexicans and India’s agricultural trade policies did to their small farmers. It continued on the streets in the days following and spilled over to the Big Sky Ski Resort in Big Sky, Montana where negotiations are being held in seclusion but are still unable to escape the daily protests held against them there.

— It happened as well in Cebu City, Philippines where President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (closely allied to the failed Bush agenda and elected through fraud) had to cancel two Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings in December attended by 19 countries including the US and Canada. It was an abrupt ending to the meeting held to ratify trade and security agreements because of the mass protests by workers, farmers and others against their harmful effects forcing thousands in the country to leave daily to go abroad for work paying enough to support their families at home.

— Workers almost everywhere have been harmed, including in the US, as union clout and worker rights here have declined in an age where the social contract government once had with its working people has been dismantled with less than 13% of the work force (the lowest in the industrialized world) unionized today compared to one-third of it in 1958. In an age of modern-day “robber barons,” the middle class bedrock of a democratic state is slowly disappearing as the nation moves closer to becoming a banana republic at a time when 51 of the world’s largest economies are corporate giants, most of them US-based.

The real bugger is: what to do about it? That begins with you and with me, and the vast majority of the action takes place nowhere near a voting booth.


6 Responses

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  1. servant said, on 1/2/07 at 9:16 am

    Thanks for the trackback to people’s geography. I came over here to see what you are writing about but I can’t see anything. Literally. faint white small type is just too tiny for these old eyes. I’ll cut and paste into a text editor to get a sample, but I urge you to accommodate those of us with poor eye sight. Thanks.

  2. Curt said, on 1/2/07 at 9:39 am

    Thanks for coming over, Servant. I apologize for the small type, and I’ll work on fixing it in the relatively near future.

    If you use Firefox, there is a function on the view menu that allows you to increase text size. I’m not sure how it works in the Microsoft or Apple browsers.

    Thanks again for coming by!

  3. peoplesgeography said, on 1/2/07 at 12:05 pm

    As Serv says, thanks for the trackback. I have the same problem, I’m always going to View – Text Size and increasing the font in the browser. Can’t go without my regular read here! Though of course for WP users we get to read it in the handy Friend Surfer feature.

    I’d like to heartily concur with your statement Curt that “I do believe that an enormous potential exists which is yet to be realized.” I am consistently amazed and impressed at the depth and breadth of talent and generosity of (extra)ordinary Americans. The USA does have a lot to offer in leadership, talent and innovation, and with all our current conundrums, conflicts and climate change concerns in the world, all that is needed now more than ever.

    And I do think this is a great opportunity – not for some anachronistic notion of ‘manifest destiny’ or a militaristic extension of Pax Americana into the 21st Century as guns eclipse butter in imperial overstretch, but an opportunity to change the nature of the game as we learn the need to live more sustainably on this fragile life-sustaining planet.

  4. Curtis said, on 1/2/07 at 12:26 pm

    Thoroughly agreed. Also, when I said that Mr. Lendman’s frame of reference is “narrow for my tastes,” I did not mean that as a general criticism so much as a statement in favor of the exploration of that which lies beyond Realpolitik, so to speak.

  5. servant said, on 1/2/07 at 1:07 pm

    Ah. I found the “No style” feature of Firefox. – now the lights came on. :P

    Sorry for the sad entrance Curtis, and thanks to Ann this great post. I use IE because I work with Microsoft programming tools that require it. Sometimes I’m too lazy to open another browser flavor, and other times there’s no memory left. Ann told me about your excellent peace credentials. I look forward to reading here.

  6. bhaskara said, on 1/3/07 at 12:15 am

    USA should for some time, focus in improving the conditions on deomstic front rather than trying to be a champion of causes and interfereing with other countries political systems, economic systems etc., and messing up their system in the process, iraq is one such glaring example.

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