A symbol emblematic of American decline: a section of the Minneapolis Bridge which collapsed several years ago.
We now have abundant evidence this country is in a phase of accelerating decline, and it's no "myth" pushed by naysayers, 'American haters", commies, or the extreme Left. It's now documented beyond any shadow of a doubt based on the release of the of the Social Progress Index (SPI).
Recall, four years ago I made the strong case the county is in massive decline -
from its crumbling infrastructure, to the capture of most jobs by the financial sector (noted as the first hallmark of decline by Kevin Phillips in his book, Arrogant Capital) and the military overstretch driving the penchant to interfere across the globe as 'world cop' - squandering ever more precious resources that could have been used for domestic reconstruction, investment. As I observed:
"the first major marker for decline is in the natural and wealth capital squandered on weapons which can only be used for total annihilation. If never used, these weapons must be destroyed. So no use, no effect, no purpose….all the monetary and resource investment wasted."
Well, now comes the SPI. A new way to look at the success of countries, the SPI studies 132 nations and evaluates 54 social and environmental indicators for each country that matter to real people. Rather than measuring a country’s success by its per capita GDP, the index is based on an array of data reflecting suicide, ecosystem sustainability, property rights, access to healthcare and education, gender equality, attitudes toward immigrants and minorities, religious freedom, nutrition, infrastructure and more.
In a way it echoes the indices used by Michael Parenti in his book, America Besieged, to show the country's social welfare and economic indicators disclose it's not the "land of opportunity" portrayed by the Neoliberal elites and political class. In his chapter 'Hidden Holocaust, USA' , Parenti demolishes the myth that the country is on an ever upward path - and instead we have an insidious, media-inserted embolism of false consciousness and delusion mind-fucking the majority. He cites a typical year’s statistics to start, showing how these vary little year to year in the US of A:
Amongst the items noted then (ibid., pp. 3-6):
- 27,000 commit suicide each year
-23,000 murdered each year
-5.5 million arrested each year
- 25 million seek mental health assistance
-6.5 million use crack, speed, heroin, PCP or some other hard drug on a regular basis each year
- 37 million use emotion-controlling or numbing drugs, to face reality. Their own false optimism and delusions aren't enough to get them through the day
- 1.3 million suffer permanent kidney damage from treatments received at hospitals each year
-80 million go to some type of psychological counselor each year
- Up to 4 million women are beaten, battered
- More than 30,000 children are left permanently disabled each year from neglect and battering
- One woman is raped every 45 seconds throughout the year (700,000 in all a year)
-14,000 are killed on the job each year
- 60,000 are killed directly by toxic, environmental pollutants each year, 300,000 more get cancer from environmental toxins each year and die
- 5 million workers injured seriously on the job each year
Is this a country on a path of higher evolution or societal advance? Hardly! Now, the SPI stats confirm it. The results also confirm eco-economist Herman Daly's assertion that GDP is a poor barometer to measure national health. Thus, while the U.S. sports the second highest per capita GDP of $45,336, it ranks in an underperforming 16th place overall. It gets worse. The U.S. ranks 70th in health, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, 39th in basic education, 34th in access to water and sanitation and 31st in personal safety.
In other words, we're bordering on the conditions of a third world country. Allow a few more years of mass fracking to continue, despoiling our water sources (especially out here in the drought prone West) and we will likely join the likes of Malawi and Mauritania.
More surprising is the fact the U.S. ranks a disappointing 23rd in access to the Internet. “It’s astonishing that for a country that has Silicon Valley, lack of access to information is a red flag,” notes Michael Green, executive director of the Social Progress Imperative, which oversees the index.
How is this even possible? Well, because of the rank inequality fostered and the bulk of societal and tax benefits accruing mainly to the wealthiest - who are able to exploit all sorts of machinations and devices to lower their tax bills while the hoi polloi are left out there hanging in the breeze. The evidence is there for all to see. We the citizens have allowed Neoliberal corporatists and their whores to hijack the entire Republican Party, and some parts of the Democratic Party (e.g. in 'Fix the Debt'). This influence has bought corporations and the rich a rigged tax code that has redistributed wealth from the middle class to the rich over the course of the past three decades. This lack of shared prosperity and opportunity, coupled with too many "wars" of choice, has retarded our social progress.
Interestingly, there are several indices in which the U.S. excels, for those yammering to be No. 1 in something: the U.S. remains in first place for the number of incarcerated citizens per capita, adult onset diabetes and for believing in angels. Can anyone say 'Pathetic'?
More interesting, evidence is there (in the SPI) that GDP is possibly anti-correlated to social health. New Zealand is ranked in first place in social progress, but it ranks only 25th on GDP per capita, which means the island of the long white cloud is doing a far better job than America when it comes to meeting the need of its people. How can this be? Well, plausibly because its tax system is more equitable, and also because it doesn't squander resources on a massive military prompted to interfere around the world by a bunch of half-cocked neocons.
Referring to the SPI findings, a salon.com scribe notes:
"America’s rapid descent into impoverished nation status is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate capitalism. By every measure, we look like a broken banana republic. Not a single U.S. city is included in the world’s top 10 most livable cities. Only one U.S. airport makes the list of the top 100 in the world. Our roads, schools and bridges are falling apart, and our trains — none of them high-speed — are running off their tracks."
In terms of the reference to a "banana republic" recall I had made that connection in an earlier blog post:
As I noted therein:
What would show we aren't a banana republic? Well, significant non-military investment across the board: from development of alternative energy sources - including solar, geothermal, wind, to massive infrastructure repair. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates at least $2.2 trillion needs to be spent to even get most of our bridges, water mains, sewer systems to a passable grade C+ standard. That requires a massive increase in TAXES.
This pell-mell rush to the bottom, by the way, isn't solely because of a tax code that has starved the federal government of revenues to invest in public infrastructure, and other domestic needs - but also because excess revenues (58 percent of annual budget spending each year) are being diverted to military -national security bullshit. This is also why author Chris Hedges' portents of our future may well turn out to be true.
In The World As It Is, Hedges writes:
“Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods, and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty.”
Another hint that more militarist spending is the path to destitution and fascism: those nations ranked highest in social progress are doing the complete opposite to what the US of A is. They’re investing in schools rather than drones and F-35 fighters jets at $150m each. They’re expanding collective bargaining laws rather than busting unions and using a giant volunteer military as a controlled, default national jobs program. They’re providing their citizens with universal healthcare and education rather than selling these basic human rights to the highest bidder, usually defense contractors - such as those at Lockheed pushing for NATO expansion to Russia's doorstep.
The following words of Hedges may well be the ones to take most to heart and use to lead the charge for a different future than the one the Neoliberals and Neocons have on offer:
"Those who care about the plight of the working class and the poor must begin to mobilize quickly, or we will lose our last opportunity to save our embattled democracy. The most important struggle will be to wrest the organs of communication from corporations that use mass media to demonize movements of social change and empower proto-fascist movements such as the Christian Right,”