Having lived in the United States for 16 years now, and having been a great fan of this country for most of my life, it is with some sadness that I write these comments. But the fact of the matter is that the US in many aspects of life and structure is falling behind the rest of the world. It is not only plainly visible to most of us who live here, it has been falling on many of the global lists that track the performance of countries in a number of different areas. Whether it is poverty, education, healthcare or crime, the United States has been slipping down these global lists for several years now.
Of course, the main question is why is this happening? I will analyze a few reasons in this blog but there is one overall, overriding theme that appears everywhere – denial. In order to correct a problem it is important that we recognize the problem even exists. I can take healthcare as an example. I don’t know how many times I have watched politicians state categorically that the United States “has the best healthcare system in the world”.
I often get into heated debates when I even dare to criticize the US healthcare system with many of my American friends. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the United States as 37th on their last global list of healthcare systems worldwide and yet we outspend all other countries as a percentage of GDP by a wide margin. On top of that, there are more than 50 million Americans who don’t have economic access to “the best healthcare system in the world”.
Now if the same people would say that the US has the best “illnesscare” system in the world they could be right. France has consistently been number one on the said WHO study but their focus is on prevention, not cure. This is where the corporate world rears its ugly head here in the US. Through their lobbying and campaign financing efforts they make sure that the FDA keeps control. What people don’t realize is the FDA has no interest in curing anyone. It would put themselves out of business. I happen to know there are many cures in the natural healthcare field for many of the major diseases but the FDA would never approve them. Pharmaceutical companies would go broke!
This brings me to one of the main causes of America failing. Capitalism. I am not talking about the capitalism America was founded upon; I am talking about capitalism 2011. I was just reading a blog on the USA Today website about the demise of America and one blogger was praising American capitalism saying that the world still buys American products and quotes Apple as an example. What he failed to point out was that none of the Apple products are made in the US. In fact Apple provides employment for far more people overseas than it does at home. Why is this?
Well, Apple is a corporation that has to make a profit, not provide social justice. So if it can make an extra buck by moving production to China, it will, irregardless of the pain and suffering it causes here at home. That leads to thousands of unemployed workers, the demise of a community and the destruction of complete families. But that is not Apple’s problem. To make it even worse, Apple makes sure that the profits it makes through the same overseas operation, stays overseas and is not even exposed to US taxes. In fact, Apple is providing social justice and work to a bunch of people in China at the expense of the people it expects to buy its products here at home. I have often wondered why America doesn’t wake up to this development and boycott any such products that are supporting a communist regime and destroying its own society.
So how did we get here? It is capitalism taking its natural course. Shareholders pushing for higher profits and more control has led to massive consolidation in most industries, the suppression of workers’ income and massive layoffs if it is cheaper to produce products somewhere else. This has caused the collapse of the old mom-and-pop businesses, the original capitalism, the formation of quasi-monopolies and the concentration of power in corporate boardrooms that has led to rampant dishonesty and, according to many, totally illegal behavior.
“The quick buck” has replaced social responsibility. This culminated in the 2008 collapse of the finance community. Corporations chasing huge profits at the expense of citizens. To make things worse, the finance community got away with it and were even rewarded by the government bailing them out with billions of our (taxpayers) dollars. There have been many reports that some of the mortgage transactions of the last decade were bordering on the illegal and yet there has not been one case of prosecution since the collapse of the finance community.
This leads us to the root cause of our demise – the control corporations have over our politicians. The paradox is corporations cannot vote. Politicians are voted into Washington by the people and then they proceed to nurture the interests of the business community. In fact, in most cases their entire election campaign is funded by capitalism and to add insult to injury, these campaign contributions are tax deductible! This has to change. If the people don’t claim back their politicians from the influence of capitalism, they will be run over by the Porsches and Ferraris of the top 1% of the population who does not have their interests at heart.
We keep hearing now that the solution to our economic woes is for government to get out of the way and let Corporate America take over. If that happens, the wealth gap between the richest 1% and the other 99% will increase at an ever-faster rate and the little social justice that we still have will fade away. I have never seen a line item called “social justice” on any corporate profit and loss statement. In fact, the US is one of the very few countries where education and healthcare are huge businesses with huge lobbies.
Education should be an investment in a nation’s future not a P&L statement for private industry. When China rolls out its engineers from college they start with zero debt. Here in the US students enter the business world at least $25,000 behind the start line. How long do you think it is going to take before China becomes the knowledge powerhouse in the world with its scientists focusing on the job at hand and not on paying off a huge debt? It seems obvious to most of the people I talk to and yet politicians here are hell bent in cutting funding for education and college tuition fees have skyrocketed through the roof. What makes things worse is there is no end in sight and it will probably get even worse.
So what is the solution? Here is a list of ideas that could be implemented immediately if only the politicians had the guts to do it:
- Ban all corporate “contributions” to all political parties/candidates
- Introduce term limits to all people in office. Max term should be 8 years
- Outlaw the profession of lobbyist in politics
- Reintroduce the people’s right to form unions on their own terms
- Publicly fund all forms of education
- Tax all corporations on their world income, regardless where it is earned
- Repudiate the “super majority” rule in the Senate
- Make the forming of new political parties easier and less expensive
- Make Medicare available for everyone
- Force plaintiffs to pay opposing party costs should they lose the case
- Close down the IRS and introduce a simple, very progressive new flat tax
- Eliminate all tax loopholes
- Increase capital gains taxes to a flat rate of 25%
- Prosecute Wall Street executives for illegal practices during the past decade
- Change electoral process to include new elections only every four years
- Outlaw private gun ownership
- Provide all illegal immigrants a work permit for a monthly fee
- Enforce laws already on the books against corporation who hire illegal’s
- Cancel all of Congress’s fringe benefits and force politicians to use Medicare
- Force all politicians to just get standard social security
This is just a start. These steps could be introduced swiftly with an up-or-down vote in both Houses of Congress. No long debates. Some of these measures could be put on the ballot after this last election (2012) with a simple pass majority. They would help the citizens of America win back control of their own future and remove it from the grips of Corporate America and capitalism. It would force politicians to represent the people that voted them into office and not big business.