PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It goes far beyond Donald Trump. He's just simple-mindedly exacerbating a trend. Clear signs of deterioration have been building in our nation, some of them old and some more recent, all of them related to arrogance and greed at the highest levels. Beyond these failings there is one obvious way to begin to reverse the process.
DESTRUCTION OF FAMILIES: Losing Their Wealth, Taking Painkillers, and Dying
With American households in the bottom 90% losing an average of $17,000 in wealth in 2016, they have increasingly turned to painkillers. The U.S. consumes 80 percent of the world's opioids, with some states filling more prescriptions than there are people, and with the morbid result that drugs are now killingmore Americans than traffic accidents or gun violence.
DEGRADATION OF HUMAN HEALTH: Ignoring the Human Right to Health Care
A much-cited Princeton study concluded, "When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy." The best example today is health care, an essential human need that is simply disregarded by Congressional Republicans who are instead -- inexplicably, astonishingly -- proposing CUTS to Medicaid and a health plan acceptable to just 17 percent of the U.S. population.
DISDAIN FOR MINORITIES: School Choice is the New Means of Segregation
Neoliberal freedom in the late 18th century was proclaimed as the freedom to engage in the trade of black people. In a quieter, more insidious way, today's freedom of school choice is the freedom to move black children out of the lives of wealthier whites. Voucher programs in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan have allowed wealthier families to use public money for private (often religious) schools while leaving minority families with reduced funding in the public schools. Of the over 300 schools receiving voucher money in Indiana, only four do not have a religious affiliation. In Holland, Michigan the white enrollment has dropped by 60 percent, leaving a largely Hispanic school population, much of it consisting of the children of migrant farm workers. Meanwhile, the remains of public education are being starved. Schools are "literally crumbling" in New Jersey. Dozens of charter schools in Chicago are using public funding to open in the very neighborhoods that lost their public schools. The school week in Oklahoma is being cut from five days to four. Across the nation, tens of thousands of public school teachers have been forced to start GoFundMe sites to pay for classroom supplies.
DELUSION OF THE LEADERS: Disabled People Should Just Get a Job
Budget director Mike Mulvaney said the government would now "measure compassion...by the number of people we help get off of those [welfare] programs." But 75 percent of food stamp households include a child, an elderly individual, or an individual with a disability, and nearly three-quarters of enrollees in America’s major public support programs are members of working families. So the problem, according to the Washington Post, "isn't that poor people won't work -- it's that the work they do can't sustain them...Taxpayers are spending a lot of money subsidizing not people who won't work, but industries that don't pay their workers a living wage."
DECEIT OF NEOLIBERALISM: Trickle-Down Hasn't Worked in 40 Years
"If Kansas can continue to get the [tax] rate down to close to zero, we would expect to see some strong growth effects." These were the words of an advisor to Kansas governor Sam Brownback. Starting in 2010, Brownback implemented massive tax breaks for the state's 1% while cutting $200 million from the education budget, closing the office for Social & Rehabilitation Services, privatizing the delivery of Medicaid, and laying off 2,000 government employees. In the years to follow, job growth dropped to one-tenth of 1 percent. According to the Washington Post, "Growth rates lagged behind those in neighboring states and the nation as a whole. Deficits mounted to unsustainable levels. Services withered. Brownback had set in motion a vicious cycle.." And it's not just Kansas. Four of the five states that have enacted large personal income tax cuts since 2010 have experienced slower job growth than the rest of the nation. Evidence from the 1970s to the present confirms that there is no correlation between tax cuts and GDP growth, and that in fact, rather obviously, the cuts cause governments to lose revenue.
DERELICTION OF DUTY: Rejecting Tomorrow's Energy Sources
With the inevitable conversion to clean power, it is simple common sense for America's "exceptionalist" leaders to seek dominance in solar and wind technologies. But we're surrendering that role to China. As our president frets about coal mining jobs, the Chinese are beginning to utilize a massive solar array built, ironically, on the site of a former coal mining town. Tens of billions of energy dollars are being invested in the far east as our government and business leaders go backwards, even to the point of blaming wind and solar power for the financial difficulties facing the coal and nuclear industries.
DUMBNESS: Financing Our Own Assassins
That's the conclusion of Stephen Kinzer, who summarizes: "Saudi Arabia has used its wealth, much of which comes from the United States, to turn entire nations into hotbeds of radical Islam." It was reported in 2014 that ISIS has confiscated large numbers of weapons from Saudi Arabia. Now, if Trump gets his way, the Saudis could be making more of our weaponry available to the enemy.
Reversing the Process
There is an obvious way to reverse the deadly demise of our nation. While tolerating (but regulating!) capitalism, add a healthy share of socialism to care for children, the elderly, the disabled, the health-impaired, the jobless, the underemployed. Choose a compromise between capitalism and socialism. Accept the fact that 40 years of "winner-take-all" philosophy only works for the advantaged few, and that a working society needs cooperation among its members. Poverty and crime won't be resolved with more policing. Job opportunities are needed. A well-supported public education system is needed. An end to tax subsidies for the rich is needed.
But this will happen only if progressives can convince their fellow Americans that they have been cheated by neoliberalism....and that 'social' is not a dirty word.
Paul Buchheit is the author of "Disposable Americans" (2017). He is an advocate for social and economic justice. His essays, videos, and poems can be found at YouDeserveFacts.org.