America's 1%:- Callous and Unfeeling
The callousness of U.S. political and business leaders is disturbing. It's hard to comprehend the thinking of people who cut funding for homeless and hungry children. Only two nations still refuse to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United States is one of them. The stale counter-argument that “It could be worse, just look at those poor workers in country X and Y. It may not be great here, but what the hell, we’re not so bad off, are we?” is just another ideological ploy to get working classes to accept their deteriorating conditions. It’s just another ideological tool to get folk to accept their reality as their fate. To make them believe that, as their living conditions are getting worse, it’s not really that bad. But it is….The freedom to vote carries little weight without economic freedom – the freedom to work and to have food, shelter, education, medical care and a decent retirement.
The US’s true ‘war budget’ is about $1 trillion a year, not the reported $650 billion or so for the Pentagon, which is stuffed away in dozens of corners in its annual economic budget. It has more than 1000 military bases worldwide. It is engaged constantly in more wars worldwide than any other country by far. And it spies every day on more of its, and rest of the world’s, citizens than all the ‘spooks’ in the rest of the world do combined.
According to a study from Princeton University, American democracy no longer exists. Using data from over 1,800 policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluded that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of – or even against – the will of the majority of voters. America's political system has transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where power is wielded by wealthy elites. Whether it be health care, food services or telecommunications, private equity firms rake in those big bucks by cutting corners on services, slashing jobs and wages. Far too many Americans have bought into the notion that capitalism comes at little or no cost, and thus the expenses of the many continue to benefit the few. Today’s privileged fraction; i.e., the global 1%, has the great fortune of experiencing life without the encumbrances of dire poverty, hunger, lack of rights, alienation, persecution, repression, etc., which plague billions of others crushed by capitalism and the global capitalist system. Moreover, if the plutocracy fancies that it can enjoy capitalism at little personal cost, then why should its privileged ranks consider alternatives that give credence to a thinker, like Karl Marx, or to his conception of a “new type of human being who needs his fellow-men,” for example? Why should the ruling elites fashion any “real constructive effort to create the social texture of future human relations,” as Marx states? The fact is that if capitalism’s overseers ably exact a profit from capitalism at seemingly little expense to themselves (whilst growing ever richer in the process), then rationally they should have no plans for undoing the economic system that empowers them thusly. “Saving capitalism from itself” is not the solution to US global parasitism, criminal wealth appropriation, and an utterly bankrupt profit system.
Income inequality in the US is also the most extreme among the advanced economies, and growing worse every year. CEOs of US corporations make around 400 times the average pay of the average worker in their company—the biggest gap in the industrial world. (In 1980 they made only 35 times).The wealthiest 1% households (investor class nearly all), gained no less than 95% of all the net income growth in the US since 2010, which compares to 65% during the George W. Bush years, 2001-2007, and to 45% during the Clinton years in the 1990s. Meanwhile, the median family income has been declining in the US at 1%-2% every year for the past decade.
US workers work the longest hours among the industrial economies, have the shorted annual paid vacations (on average 7 days paid a year), and face the prospect of poverty when they retire or can no longer work. Social security pensions average only $1,100 a month, private pensions (called 401k plans) average less than $50,000 total savings for those age 60 and approaching retirement, and more than half of US workers live pay check to pay check with no personal savings whatsoever. As 70 million ‘baby boomers’ born after 1945 start to retire, tens of millions of them face the prospect of a penniless, poverty-ridden retirement. No wonder the fastest growing segment of the US workforce is those aged 65-74, as many return to work just to make ends meet.
US workers may get only 6 months unemployment benefits, at less than one-third their pay, when they lose their jobs, compared to German workers, for example, who get up to two years in jobless benefits and job retraining to boot.
College students have become, in effect, indentured servants to the education establishment of overpaid administrators and bankers, owing more than $1.1 trillion in debt just to get a college education—more per capita higher education debt than any other country in the world. The cost of attending a four year college today is, on average, $30,000 to $60,000 a year for a four year undergraduate education. For those who can’t afford college there’s no meaningful job training programs available any longer. Meanwhile, 70% of college professors and instructors in the US are part time/temp workers, many of whom earn poverty wages and have no benefits.
The government pay roughly $153 billion each year to supplement (subsidize) employers who refuse to pay a livable wage, according to report published by the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Labor. 73 percent of those enrolled in the country's major public support programs are members of working families. The Berkeley study examined state spending for Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program and Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), and federal spending for those programs as well as food stamps (SNAP) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Adjusted for inflation, wage growth from 2003 to 2013 was either flat or negative for the entire bottom 70 percent of the wage distribution. Further, the number of non-elderly Americans who receive insurance benefits from an employer has fallen from 67 percent in 2003 to 58.4 percent in 2013. When companies pay too little for workers to provide for their families, workers rely on public assistance programs to meet their basic needs. The reliance on public assistance spans a diverse range of occupations, including fast-food workers (52%), childcare workers (46%), home care workers (48%), and even part-time college faculty (25%).
The United States has a large, parasitical for-profit health care system, dominated by multi-billion dollar profit making private health insurance companies that suck $1 trillion a year from the wallets of US consumers for pushing paper around, a vast network of ‘for profit’ hospital chains that suck another $900 billion a year, pharmaceutical drug companies that charge $94,000 for drugs to treat someone with hepatitis C (that’s $1,125 per pill) and charge patients $14,000 to $64,000 a month for cancer drugs, and it has the highest paid professional medical personnel in the world. The US spends more than $3 trillion a year, and rising, on health care. That’s about 18% of its $17.4 trillion annual GDP, or almost one dollar out of every five spent on everything is for healthcare. That’s the highest spending on healthcare in the industrial world. In return for that massive spending, it ranks 39th in infant mortality rates, 42nd in adult mortality, and 36th in life expectancy.
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