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Tag Archives: American Exceptionalism

What Happened to That American Exceptionalism? There is None Anymore…

America has been on the decline since Raygun – despite on small moment of high achievement and expectations during the Clinton Administration.

The lang fall into mediocrity in America can be traced directly to the steps of the conservatives in America. Al most every country which is superior to the US in any category has a government and social system which conservatives would call “socialism”. Quite frankly – socialism is kicking our ass.

I am going to start with parts of an article in Fortune Magazine… 12 signs America is on the decline.

1. Median household income

Rank of U.S.: 27th out of 27 high-income countries

Americans may feel like global leaders, but Spain, Cyprus and Qatar all have higher median household incomes than America’s (about $54,000). So does much of Europe and the industrialized world. Per capita median income in the US ($18,700) is also relatively low–and unchanged since 2000. A middle-class Canadian’s income is now higher.

2. Education and skills

Rank of U.S.: 16th out of 23 countries

The US ranked near the bottom in a skills survey by theOrganization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which examined European and other developed nations. In its Skills Outlook 2013, the US placed 16th in adult literacy, 21st in adult numeracy out of 23, and 14th in problem-solving. Spots in prestigious US universities are highly sought-after. Yet higher education, once an effective way out of poverty in the US, isn’t anymore – at least not for lower-income and minority students. The authors quote studies showing, for example, that today 80% of white college students attend Barron’s Top 500 schools, while 75% of black and Latino students go to two-year junior colleges or open-admissions (not Top 500) schools. Poor students are also far less likely to complete a degree.

3. Internet speed and access

Rank of U.S.: 16th out of 34 countries

Broadband access has become essential for industry to grow and flourish. Yet in the US, penetration is low andspeed relatively slow versus wealthy nations—thought thecost of internet is among the highest ($0.04 per megabit per second in Japan, for example, versus $0.53 in the US). The problem may be too much concentration and too little competition in the industry, the authors suggest.

4. Health

Rank of U.S.: 33rd out of 145 countries

When it comes to its citizens’ health, in countries that are home to at least one million people, the US ranks below many other wealthy countries. More American women also are dying during pregnancy and childbirth, the authors note, quoting a Lancet study. For every 100,000 births in the United States, 18.5 women die. Saudi Arabia and Canada have half that maternal death rate.

5. People living below the poverty line

Rank of U.S.: 36th out of 162 countries, behind Morocco and Albania

Officially, 14.5% of Americans are impoverished — 45.3 million people–according to the latest US Census data.That’s a larger fraction of the population in poverty than Morocco and Albania (though how nations define poverty varies considerably). The elderly have Social Security, with its automatic cost-of-living adjustments, to thank, the authors say, for doing better: Few seniors (one in 10) are poor today versus 50 years ago (when it was one in three). Poverty is also down among African Americans. Now America’s poor are more often in their prime working years, or in households headed by single mothers.

6. Children in poverty

Rank of U.S.: 34th out of 35 countries surveyed

When UNICEF relative poverty – relative to the average in each society—the US ranked at the bottom, above only Romania, even as Americans are, on average, six times richer than Romanians. Children in all of Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan fare better.

7. Income inequality

Rank of U.S.: Fourth highest inequality in the world.

The authors argue that the most severe inequality can be found in Chile, Mexico, Turkey — and the US. Citing the Gini coefficient, a common inequality metric, and data from Wall Street Journal/Mercer Human Resource Consulting, they say this inequality slows economic growth, impedes youths’ opportunities, and ultimately threatens the nation’s future (an OECD video explains). Worsening income inequality is also evident in the ratio of averageCEO earnings to average workers’ pay. That ratio went from 24:1 in 1965 to 262:1 in 2005.

8. Prison population

Rank of U.S.: First out of 224 countries

More than 2.2 million Americans are in jail. Only China comes close, the authors write, with about 1.66 million.

9. Life satisfaction

Rank of U.S.: 17th out of 36 countries

The authors note Americans’ happiness score is only middling, according to the OECD Better Life Index. (The index measures how people evaluate their life as a whole rather than their current feelings.) People in New Zealand, Finland, and Israel rate higher in life satisfaction. A UN report had a similar finding.

10. Corruption

Rank of U.S.: 17th out of 175 countries.

Barbados and Luxembourg are ahead of the US when it comes to citizens’ perceptions of corruption. Americans view their country as “somewhat corrupt,” the authors note, according to Transparency International, a Berlin-based nonprofit. In a separate survey of American citizens, many said politicians don’t serve the majority’s interest, but are biased toward corporate lobbyists and the super-rich. “Special interest groups are gradually transforming the United States into an oligarchy,” the authors argue, “concerned only about the needs of the wealthy.”

11. Stability

Rank of U.S.: 20th out of 178 countries.

The Fragile States Index considers factors such as inequality, corruption, and factionalism. The US lags behind Portugal, Slovenia and Iceland.

12. Social progress index

Rank of U.S.: 16th out of 133 countries

A broad measure of social well-being, the index comprises 52 economic indicators such as access to clean water and air, access to advanced education, access to basic knowledge, and safety. Countries surpassing the US include Ireland, the UK, Iceland, and Canada.

“If America’s going to be great again, we’ve got to start fixing things,” Friedman said.

Just for the heck of it, I am going to add a couple more…

Economic Mobility

If you work hard you can achieve”…A poor kid has a better chance of achieving reaching the higher economic levels in other countries. The US lag is getting worse.

The following chart only compares the 27 industrialized countries. The US actually drops to 17th if you include Second World Countries.

Infant Mortality

Your baby has a 2.5 times greater chance of dying prenatal, or postnatal covering the first year of life than in Japan or Finland. For black mothers that is about 4 times greater.

The US ranks 27th of the 27 Industrialized Nations… Comparing it to all nations we are about 40th behind Cuba.

Suicide Rate

America is in the middle of the pack. However the rate of suicides in the US exceeds that of Libya, the Central African Republic, Brazil, and China to name a few. Mental health care in the US is seriously lacking.

Racial Discrimination and Violence Against Minorities (Ethnic or racial)

America is a sad 37th.

Educational Attainment

Guess what guys…America has dropped to 16th.

Face i…This country would be far better off deporting Republicans than Illegal Immigrants.

 

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How Slavery Built America

Saw this one on my Amazon Reading List, downloaded it – and have been reading through it the last week or so on my way to work on the subway.  Historian Edward Baptist’s treatise on how slavery made America has been greeted with both strong objection from the usual suspects as well as hailed for it’s detailed treatment of a complex historical subject, the ramifications of which still impact American Society today. What Baptist documents is what us students of American History have suspected for a very long time, but until this book – no one really documented it and brought it out front.

What Baptist succinctly points our and documents is the “capitalism” which grew this country from it’s founding in the early 1600’s to an industrial powerhouse owes it roots, and its foundation to slavery. Far from the oft repeated “land of economic opportunity”, slavery generated over half of this country’s economic might, and the worth  of slaves alone constituted over 1/6th of the total wealth of the nation prior to 1860. This one smacks the”Southern Myth” regurgitated by conservative right wingers dead between the eyes.

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

 

Part of a book review by the NY Times. Follow the link for the whole article.

A Brutal Process

‘The Half Has Never Been Told,’ by Edward E. Baptist

For residents of the world’s pre-­eminent capitalist nation, American historians have produced remarkably few studies of capitalism in the United States. This situation was exacerbated in the 1970s, when economic history began to migrate from history to economics departments, where it too often became an exercise in scouring the past for numerical data to plug into computerized models of the economy. Recently, however, the history of American capitalism has emerged as a thriving cottage industry. This new work portrays capitalism not as a given (something that “came in the first ships,” as the historian Carl Degler once wrote) but as a system that developed over time, has been constantly evolving and penetrates all aspects of society.

Slavery plays a crucial role in this literature. For decades, historians depicted the institution as unprofitable and on its way to extinction before the Civil War (a conflict that was therefore unnecessary). Recently, historians like Sven Beckert, Robin Blackburn and Walter Johnson have emphasized that cotton, the raw material of the early Industrial Revolution, was by far the most important commodity in 19th-century international trade and that capital accumulated through slave labor flowed into the coffers of Northern and British bankers, merchants and manufacturers. And far from being economically backward, slave owners pioneered advances in modern accounting and finance.

Edward E. Baptist situates “The Half Has Never Been Told” squarely within this context. Baptist, who teaches at Cornell University, is the author of a well-­regarded study of slavery in Florida. Now he expands his purview to the entire cotton kingdom, the heartland of 19th-­century American slavery. (Unfortunately, slavery in the Upper South, where cotton was not an economic staple, is barely discussed, even though as late as 1860 more slaves lived in Virginia than any other state.) In keeping with the approach of the new historians of capitalism, the book covers a great deal of ground — not only economic enterprise but religion, ideas of masculinity and gender, and national and Southern politics. Baptist’s work is a valuable addition to the growing literature on slavery and American development.

Where Baptist breaks new ground is in his emphasis on the centrality of the interstate trade in slaves to the regional and national economies and his treatment of the role of extreme violence in the workings of the slave system. After the legal importation of slaves from outside the country ended in 1808, the spread of slavery into the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico would not have been possible without the enormous uprooting of people from Maryland and Virginia. Almost one million slaves, Baptist estimates, were transported to the cotton fields from the Upper South in the decades before the Civil War.

The domestic slave trade was highly organized and economically efficient, relying on such modern technologies as the steamboat, railroad and telegraph. For African-Americans, its results were devastating. Since buyers preferred young workers “with no attachments,” the separation of husbands from wives and parents from children was intrinsic to its operation, not, as many historians have claimed, a regrettable side effect. Baptist shows how slaves struggled to recreate a sense of community in the face of this disaster.

The sellers of slaves, Baptist insists, were not generally paternalistic owners who fell on hard times and parted reluctantly with members of their metaphorical plantation “families,” but entrepreneurs who knew an opportunity for gain when they saw one. As for the slave traders — the middlemen — they excelled at maximizing profits. They not only emphasized the labor abilities of those for sale (reinforced by humiliating public inspections of their bodies), but appealed to buyers’ salacious fantasies. In the 1830s, the term “fancy girl” began to appear in slave-trade notices to describe young women who fetched high prices because of their physical attractiveness. “Slavery’s frontier,” Baptist writes, “was a white man’s sexual playground.”

The cotton kingdom that arose in the Deep South was incredibly brutal. Violence against Native Americans who originally owned the land, competing imperial powers like Spain and Britain and slave rebels solidified American control of the Gulf states. Violence, Baptist contends, explains the remarkable increase of labor productivity on cotton plantations. Without any technological innovations in cotton picking, output per hand rose dramatically between 1800 and 1860. Some economic historians have attributed this to incentives like money payments for good work and the opportunity to rise to skilled positions. Baptist rejects this explanation.

Planters called their method of labor control the “pushing system.” Each slave was assigned a daily picking quota, which increased steadily over time. Baptist, who feels that historians too often employ circumlocutions that obscure the horrors of slavery, prefers to call it “the ‘whipping-machine’ system.” In fact, the word we should really use, he insists, is “torture.” To make slaves work harder and harder, planters utilized not only incessant beating but forms of discipline familiar in our own time — sexual humiliation, bodily mutilation, even waterboarding. In the cotton kingdom, “white people inflicted torture far more often than in almost any human society that ever existed.” When Abraham Lincoln reminded Americans in his Second Inaugural Address of the 250 years of “blood drawn with the lash” that preceded the Civil War, he was making a similar point: Violence did not begin in the United States with the firing on Fort Sumter.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2014 in American Greed, Black History

 

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