Tag Archives: United States

Is the United States a failed country?

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, July 4, 2016

That term “failed state” (I prefer “country”*) is often tossed around in news reports to describe other countries, the most dramatic of which are predominantly Muslim countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, and Pakistan (one of the three pieces of what was one country on independence from Britain).

Then there is Latin America, where two of many examples are Venezuela (an example of pure government incompetence leading to breakdown in vital services and widespread starvation) and Brazil (whose infrastructure and services are collapsing under corruption, impeachments, and the 2016 Olympics).

You know: countries with governments that can’t govern, countries riven by ethnic and ideological strife and about to fall apart, countries with leaders on the take and huge gaps between the wealthy and the impoverished, countries whose citizens can’t get along because they lack the long tradition of respectful democracy founded long ago in Europe, of which it is accepted wisdom that we are the greatest exemplar.

And Europe? Come to think of it, Germany was split in two states after World War II. Czechoslovakia split into two parts and Yugoslavia into, eventually, seven. The USSR collapsed into its 15 constituent republics. Belgium periodically looks like the Flemish and French speakers are breaking up. The UK again is threatened by possible Scottish independence and Spain by the long-standing Catalan and Basque independence movements. And Greece, the birthplace of democracy, has been undergoing a bit of turmoil itself recently….

continue reading at Politics: A View from West Chester

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We’re NOT Number 1: Guess Which Country Now Has a More Affluent Middle Class Than America?

By Lynn Stuart Parramore, AlterNet, 4/23/14

America’s rich are surging ahead, but the rest are falling behind. What happened?

Fancy living up in Canada? Granted, it’s a bit chilly. But the middle class up there has just blown by the U.S. as the world’s most affluent. America’s wealthy are leaping ahead of the rest of much of the globe, but the middle class is falling behind. So are the poor. That’s the sobering news from the latest research put out by LIS, a group based in Luxembourg and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

After taxes, the Canadian middle class now has a higher income than its American counterpart. And many European countries are closing in on us. Median incomes in Western European countries are still a bit lower than those of the U.S., but the gap in several countries, including the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain, is significantly smaller than it was a decade ago. However, if you take into account the cost of things like education, retirement and healthcare in America, those European countries’ middle classes are in much better shape than ours because the U.S. government does not provide as much for its citizens in these areas. So the income you get has to be saved for these items.

The report found also found that the median U.S. income, which stands at $18,700, has remained about the same since 2000. And it found that the poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.

So what does Canada have that the U.S. doesn’t have? Well, it has universal healthcare, for one thing. And more unions. And a better social safety net. Ditto with the European countries whose middle classes are better off than ours when you take into account government services.

The LIS researchers found that American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality. Our growth is on par with many other countries, but our middle class and poor aren’t really getting much out of it.

Things have been going downhill for the middle class since 1990, the report shows. Remember anything that got started in those years? Ah, yes! Deregulation….

continue reading at AlterNet

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More complaints about China

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 12/7/13

BEIJING, December 6 — A US diplomat who wished to remain unidentified followed up on Vice President Biden’s December 5 complaint that China is censoring journalists and the Vice President’s remark that “Innovation thrives where people breathe freely, speak freely, are able to challenge orthodoxy, where newspapers can report the truth without fear of consequences.”

In addition to making life difficult for journalists, the anonymous diplomat said, the Chinese political system is insufficiently representative, allowing wealthy insiders to exercise inordinate influence, even to the point of using their personal fortunes to influence legislation and running their own campaigns to gain public offices.

Furthermore, he said, while in office corrupt officials take jobs as lobbyists and steer lucrative contracts toward their own family members and friends, and after leaving office become lobbyists for influential firms.

He also touched on relations between demographic groups in China. “The Chinese do not give full educational and economic opportunities to minority groups, make it harder for certain groups to participate in political life, and allow women have less influence and pay than men. How can anyone in the world respect such a government?” he asked rhetorically.

“Such unfairness makes the Chinese Dream of leading a secure and dignified existence within a self-supporting family unit unattainable for many,” the diplomat added, “And this undemocratic truth is a threat to the very fabric of Chinese life and society.”

His far-ranging remarks also attacked China for exerting military power to attain its foreign policy objectives and further its economic interests. “They even fly aircraft into disputed air space and have a growing commercial and military presence in Asia and Africa. This is truly shocking to those of us who respect our neighbors and would never dream of invading and occupying other countries.”

“No wonder they don’t want journalists poking around in their business,” he concluded.

No Associated Press reporters contacted for this article would answer questions by email or phone, even anonymously, citing past government collection of AP reporters’ messages. One reporter, met in a parking garage, said “James Clapper is watching, but don’t quote me.” New York Times journalist James Risen and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger also declined to comment, citing the US and British government threats of prosecution and jail time against them.

Reporter Glenn Greenwald, who broke the Edward Snowden revelations, said he said only that he prefers to stay in Brazil for fear of arrest if he returns to the US. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the past two years, said: “I’d welcome a chance to visit Brazil, or Russia, or China.”

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