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Sunday, April 27, 2014
America: No Longer Number One
April 27, 2014: The Power Elite, the One Percent, and America’s Rank in the World:
No Longer #1
I heard the news today, oh boy. Well, actually, it was yesterday and has been digesting inside me ever since, like a doughnut sitting like a lump in my stomach Once again, statistics make the news yet no one really pays attention. It comes down to this: Americans have an image of themselves and their country that is utterly incorrect, even false. It comes from the idea that we are the richest nation in the world, which is true. But that wealth is not something distributed among all the plebeians who do the work. Again, the specter of The One Percent has loomed, this time on CNN with Warren Buffett commenting, “It is no great hardship being in the one percent.” His point was this: one percent of Americans control 95% of the wealth; the other 99% is left to share the remaining five percent of the wealth. This means that, in the most prosperous country in the world, the gulf between those who have so much and the rest of us keeps growing, and growing. It doesn’t have to be that way, Buffett observed, but usually it is.
Yet: a different statistic was linked to the report. According to the Social Progress Index, a new system that measures social progress on several fronts based less on money spent than on achievements reached, places the United States at sixteenth in the world, behind Ireland (which is still struggling to recover from the EU boom-bust of the past decade). In health and wellness, despite spending the most on healthcare, the US ranks an abysmal 70. On access to information, we rank 23. And in freedom of the press, at the grassroots level we rank 21 in the world, by the new yardsticks this organization is using. It comes down to this: we used to be number one, in many areas, but others have passed us and surpassed us; yet we still think we are number one – and we and those who govern us still tell us we’re number one. Add to that the non-movement of our basic wage index relative to overall growth: American workers get no more of the pie than ever. America may be wealthy, but the wealthy among us are not doing much to help the rest of us. These are the same people who want us to believe they have the best interests of their country at heart. They are the same people who have been fighting against raising the minimum wage (a move Buffett warns, logically, might create more problems than it solves if not balanced by other supportive measures). They are the same people who scream and rant against the Affordable Care Act, which is not only law, it has been upheld by the Supreme Court. Instead of fighting to overturn it, they should be working to improve it and to improve our overall health and welfare standings. If they really cared about the rest of us, apart from what we can do for them, the one percent would act in far-reaching ways that would one, ensure our happiness and productivity; and two, therefore ensure their wealth would continue to grow for their own children and grandchildren. But wealth has made them complacent. Worse, it has left them overly concerned with preserving what they have at whatever cost it takes. They live in a plastic bubble, isolated from the reality around them, and the rest of us seem fairly content with that system, for the present.
Other industrial nations seem to have found a better balance. But Americans are too busy making the tightropes for others to cross. Doubt everything. The Fortune 500, the Power Elite, the One Percent, The Billionaire Club, whatever you chose to call them, are going to lie to you. A lot. Doubt me – and do your homework.
I was born in Holland in 1950. My parents immigrated to the US when I was two. I have many close friends and family on both continents. My wife Diane and I have been happily married since 1974. I have four children and one grandchild (two more are on the way). I love writing and sharing what I wrote most of all..