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SPG
Sep 17, 2004, 01:34 AM
I've been paying attention since the 2000 elections and this has been one of the most disturbing observations, that the US is rapidly moving towards being a third world country. How? A vast income gap, corruption, inequality, lack of services, and an underdeveloped economy. Except for the last one we're on our way...

A vast gap in the incomes of the wealthiest and the rest of us.
Tax cuts that go disproportionately to the wealthiest 1%
Abolishing the estate tax that only affected the very wealthiest.
Shifting the tax burden to payrolls and state sales taxes, again not the rich.
Real wages are falling, while corporate profits soar.

Corruption
Enron, friends of the bushes.
Halliburton, Run by the VP wins a lot of no bid contracts that they then cheat on.
Burning our own CIA agents for political revenge.Valerie Plame.
War without justification.

Lack of services
Health insurance only for those with money.
Education costs soar, limiting advancement to those who are already wealthy.

This is by no means all of it, but I get the distinct impression that the republicans would be perfectly happy living in a USA where the poor paid taxes and the rich didn't. Where only those with money would have access to services, Health Savings Accounts anyone?
I don't have anything against the wealthy, but why should the least able to pay have to pay for those most able to pay? Tax cuts sound nice, but unless the government also stops spending, a tax cut is just a tax shift. This administration hasn't cut spending, in fact they've spent more than any before, so when these taxes get cut from the billionaires, who pays?

Desertrat
Sep 17, 2004, 01:19 PM
Tax cuts benefit those who pay taxes. One can play with the numbers regarding the highest incomes vs. the more middle class incomes, but those in poverty don't pay income taxes.

I haven't worked for a salary since 1979. I've had fat years and lean years, but overall I've been fat and sassy. My income tax commonly no more than a few hundred dollars, because of the way I've structured my economic world. Thus, the tax cuts do nothing for me. I think I got a check for $8.00, is all. So? :)

Whence cometh the poverty-stricken? What is a common denominator among them? It can't be basic education, for we all have twelve free years to learn how to read, write and do arithmetic. So we're told, anyway. And if it's "problems" in the public system, how is it that so many graduates of public schools successfully graduate from college? Not all grads come from the ranks of Privilege...

It can't be from intelligence, per se, or a lack thereof. I've read letters in the Mensa magazine about instances of homelessness among members.

Poverty can't be from a lack of government spending; we've laid out some five trillion dollars in our efforts of a War on Poverty since LBJ instituted this effort.

From my observations--and I live in an area where some 60% or more have incomes which place them into the Poverty category--I could raise the issue of thought patterns and personal judgements: A "cultural" issue. Some of the folks just exercise bad judgements in their spending patterns, and they're always in trouble about money. Others are wiser and while poor, subsist with an apparent air of contentment.

I note that if one makes no real effort to learn while in public school, one exits with no marketable skills. Could this be contributive? If a child's parents don't exercise influence as to the benefits of education, what does one expect of that child?

As far as Enrons and suchlike, they have zilch to do with what "just folks" do with their lives. The economic fate of 290 or so million people doesn't depend on any one or two giant corporations, no matter how crooked they may be.

'Rat

Ugg
Sep 17, 2004, 04:40 PM
Whence cometh the poverty-stricken? What is a common denominator among them? It can't be basic education, for we all have twelve free years to learn how to read, write and do arithmetic. So we're told, anyway. And if it's "problems" in the public system, how is it that so many graduates of public schools successfully graduate from college? Not all grads come from the ranks of Privilege...

It can't be from intelligence, per se, or a lack thereof. I've read letters in the Mensa magazine about instances of homelessness among members.

Poverty can't be from a lack of government spending; we've laid out some five trillion dollars in our efforts of a War on Poverty since LBJ instituted this effort.

From my observations--and I live in an area where some 60% or more have incomes which place them into the Poverty category--I could raise the issue of thought patterns and personal judgements: A "cultural" issue. Some of the folks just exercise bad judgements in their spending patterns, and they're always in trouble about money. Others are wiser and while poor, subsist with an apparent air of contentment.

I note that if one makes no real effort to learn while in public school, one exits with no marketable skills. Could this be contributive? If a child's parents don't exercise influence as to the benefits of education, what does one expect of that child?
'Rat

Ah, 'Rat, we all know you're from the "just pulled yourself up by your bootstraps" school of thought but how real is that?

There's a term floating around called "cultural capital". This means that each of us is not only a product of our own unique genetic and individual makeup but a product of the larger community we grew up in. This includes but is not limited to, parents, relatives, teachers, schoolboards, governments, social policies etc. It's all fine and dandy to talk about those who have pulled themselves up more or less on their own, but if we look at two very prominent people, namely Clinton and Powell, who have done exactly that, then we see some underlying causes.

They each had parents who supported them in their efforts and pushed them to succeed and they did despite phenomenal hurdles. Individual effort can only get one so far without support from within and without the family. They also had free or very inexpensive education and happen to be a part of that huge demographic called the boomers who set out to remake the world. No generation before or since has had the opportunities that they (you?) had.

Without this cultural capital, one wonders just how far you or Clinton and Powell would have gone?

Social policies since WWII have been disastrous to the family and it's only the strongest that have thrived, when coupled with the mercenary tactics of many corporations and the huge numbers of transient workers that they've created it's even more surprising that the family is as intact as it currently is.

When making money takes precedence over quality of life then children will always be the first to suffer. There is no single solution but I would recommend that you spend a few days looking at the education policies of Great Britain. Tony, despite his poodle status has made some remarkable changes in the educational climate. Diet is one of them, inner city schools is another and some serious progress has been made.

It's not merely a matter of money, anyone with any sense knows that but government policy can have a huge effect without throwing bucketloads of money at a problem. The problem in the US is that the PACs have too great of an influence on that policy and by the time it reaches those it's meant to serve it either smells like the new medicare benefit or it's so tangled with red tape like no child left behind that it ends up doing the opposite of what it set out to accomplish.

Yes, personal initiative is the single most important aspect of individual success. But it can only go so far when the corporations and the governemnt's policies destroy the family. Raising a child isn't something that can be accomplished by that vaunted wild west sense of individuality coupled with the 50s fiction of a nuclear family. It does take a village...

takao
Sep 17, 2004, 05:06 PM
I've been paying attention since the 2000 elections and this has been one of the most disturbing observations, that the US is rapidly moving towards being a third world country. How? A vast income gap, corruption, inequality, lack of services, and an underdeveloped economy. Except for the last one we're on our way...

well if the US keeps the current course for another few years _then_ it's getting interesting... don't underestimate the power of 'the people' combined with the power of 'time' .... no one knows where it will go, but there are more radical times on it's way in the US

Desertrat
Sep 17, 2004, 05:19 PM
"Without this cultural capital, one wonders just how far you or Clinton and Powell would have gone?"

That's my point. Question: How do you inculcate cultural capital where there is none?

"It's not merely a matter of money, anyone with any sense knows that but government policy can have a huge effect without throwing bucketloads of money at a problem. The problem in the US is that the PACs have too great of an influence on that policy and by the time it reaches those it's meant to serve it either smells like the new medicare benefit or it's so tangled with red tape like no child left behind that it ends up doing the opposite of what it set out to accomplish."

1. Gimme a "for instance" of government policy, please?
2. Has not the primary liberal Democrat history since the beginning of the "War on Poverty" been that of calling for ever more money?
3. Are not the new medicare benefit or the no-child-left-behind stuff anything more than efforts to buy votes? While sounding good in the "Look at us! We're DOING SOMETHING for YOU!"?

Regardless, are we to forever blame "society" for the irresponsibility shown by those who make bad decisions?

The over-arching question, it seems to me, is how do we somehow inculcate the idea that we're individually responsible for the consequences of our decisions and actions?

Separate but allied: After the Watts riots, some 40 years ago, many corporations around the LA basin worked hard to make jobs available to the people from Watts. One of the first problems was location/transportation. No bus service worth noticing, and commutes ran up to two hours each way.

The next problem was that few "Wattsians" had ever had to be anywhere on time, every day. Tardiness was a large problem. The idea of 8-5, five days a week was foreign.

The next problem was the lack of understanding that you were supposed to show up on Monday morning, even if you had money left over from the previous week's paycheck. Many wouldn't come back to work until they were broke.

Now, to me, this is all part of the "cultural capital" problem: How do you change it?

I dunno. Apparently, nobody else does, either. But without this change I saee no way to reduce the numbers of the truly poverty-stricken.

'Rat

takao
Sep 17, 2004, 06:19 PM
The next problem was that few "Wattsians" had ever had to be anywhere on time, every day. Tardiness was a large problem. The idea of 8-5, five days a week was foreign.

The next problem was the lack of understanding that you were supposed to show up on Monday morning, even if you had money left over from the previous week's paycheck. Many wouldn't come back to work until they were broke.
thanks for that desertrat ..personally i never heard about both things (i didn't know such people existed ... especially the second one)
i would be quite happy to get a 8-6 job, 6 days a week job (i would dance in circles about a 9-6 or 8-5 job 5 day job...) once i finish university .. but perhaps untill then all jobs are already outsourced to romania...who knows ;)


Now, to me, this is all part of the "cultural capital" problem: How do you change it?

no one knows ... but the bigger the income gap,the bigger the dangers of radicalism ... that's for sure...

Ugg
Sep 17, 2004, 06:52 PM
Separate but allied: After the Watts riots, some 40 years ago, many corporations around the LA basin worked hard to make jobs available to the people from Watts. One of the first problems was location/transportation. No bus service worth noticing, and commutes ran up to two hours each way.

The next problem was that few "Wattsians" had ever had to be anywhere on time, every day. Tardiness was a large problem. The idea of 8-5, five days a week was foreign.

The next problem was the lack of understanding that you were supposed to show up on Monday morning, even if you had money left over from the previous week's paycheck. Many wouldn't come back to work until they were broke.

Now, to me, this is all part of the "cultural capital" problem: How do you change it?

I dunno. Apparently, nobody else does, either. But without this change I saee no way to reduce the numbers of the truly poverty-stricken.

'Rat

That is a very good point. I remember reading a number of years back about a project in the Deep South to lift people out of poverty. The main business was that of dress making. None of the women had ever had a job although many were in their 30s and 40s. In many cases it was necessary to go to the woman's house, help her get ready for work in appropriate clothing, help feed the kids get them off to school and then give the woman a ride to work. Then after work was done, to return them home and help them talk to their kids about their school day help with laundry, housekeeping etc. It took a number of months in some cases but it did work and more importantly the results were long lasting. I wish I could remember where I read it as it would be interesting to read how well it has done.

This may be an extreme case but extreme cases call for extreme intervention. It's not something that can be achieved overnight and in order for it to work there has to be a non-partisan commitment to it. Seeing as how the conservative deep south is a net consumer of federal dollars while the net contributors of federal dollars are the more liberal states, we have to recognize that politics do play a role.

What is your recommendation? Cut them all off? Clinton's welfare overhaul did make a difference in some states, mostly those that heavily invested in training programs similar to the one that I mentioned. It sort of belies your claim that Democrats are solely responsible for the welfare state doesn't it?!?!? Especially since the most conservative states suck in the majority of welfare dollars and corporate welfare is a champion of the "conservative" republicans.

Head start is one program that has undoubtedly made a huge difference in this country, it has made that difference by heavily investing in children who might not have had a chance. Many colleges have mentoring programs for poor kids in order ameliorate the heavy attrition rate of those without cultural capital. Programs like these, whether funded by the govt. or volunteer based do make a difference. Smaller class sizes are undoubtedly the most important thing we can give children. Smaller schools, more emphasis on community. Busing IMO really messed up a lot of communities.

There is no single solution but change can occur if there is a large enough commitment. The Republicans via gw & co. only want to return to the 50s carrot and stick approach and that does not work. I know it sounds trite but lots of love and attention when they are young is the best guarantee that kids are going to succeed in life, if it's denied them, then we as a society have failed.

Thomas Veil
Sep 17, 2004, 09:27 PM
I haven't thought of the U.S. so much becoming a Third World country as basically regressing back to the 19th century, when people worked long hours at menial jobs for meager pay, with little or no benefits at all.

The Industrial Age raised us out of all that. A lot of our parents or grandparents made a decent wage working at the same one or two companies all their lives, and got good benefits besides.

We really do resemble the former more than the latter. It's a shame we've frittered it all away.

Desertrat
Sep 17, 2004, 11:24 PM
TV, since the beginning of the 1980s, folks have been writing and yakking about how the world is changing. The very nature of work is changing. It seems to me that everybody happily accepts all this changing, as long as nothing really changes that affects them.

Hey, we no longer have buggy whip factories! Wow!

We no longer have linotype operators to help publish newspapers! Wow!

While we no longer do as much heavy industrial manufacturing as in the past, what is done takes fewer people. Is that bad?

Is the concept of "re-training" foolish? What if you were a 35-year-old linotype operator in 1963? Learning that there would be no more work in that field in just a very few more years?

Clinton spoke of the need for more and better education and training. Bush speaks of the same. I agree with both of them. Are we all three nuts for believing this?

There's more to "service" than flipping burgers. But butt-sitting and whining ain't the answer. An ambitious guy can make a pretty good living, given some decent smarts and a willingness to get his hands dirty.

'Rat

Thomas Veil
Sep 18, 2004, 12:52 AM
I think I managed to make my point without whining or sarcasm. And while I won't comment on whether you're a "nut", I do think both Clinton and Bush have sold out a lot of us to the corporations that so richly fund their campaigns and then take our jobs overseas.

I am so sick of hearing that "the world is changing" excuse...as if we as a nation have absolutely no control over our destiny. We can punish other countries for dumping; we can punish corporations for evading their fair share of taxes and for building up shareholder value by shipping jobs overseas.

It's not a matter of people having to learn new technology. Few people have problems with that. Hell, my job was completely changed by the computer age...and I changed along with it.

It's about being forced to invest your retirement income in Enron and then seeing your whole nestegg -- phttt! -- vanish overnight...or having your medical benefits cut, an inch at a time...or seeing your entire job exported to India.

And I guess neither I nor anybody around me is very ambitious. I've been underemployed for a long time now, and the jobs just aren't there. A co-worker has the same problem. My neighborhood has a number of steelworkers, computer programmers, maintenance men and medical salespeople who have lost their jobs.

The idea of retraining would be valid but for two important points: first, thanks to my two part-time jobs, I make "too much" to qualify for government-assisted training (and my colleague, who has a daughter to raise, is outright filing for bankruptcy); and second, even if I had the money for retraining, I just don't believe the jobs are there. I've heard too many stories about people going back to school, coming out with a new degree, and still not finding jobs. When companies start hiring again, with real jobs, then I'll believe it. But I'm not about to take out an education loan or something -- assuming I could even qualify for it with my income -- and then find I can't pay it back.

Desertrat
Sep 19, 2004, 10:56 AM
TV, I keep running across the "new idea" types, where I'd never thought about the particular sort of work. I get a severe case of the "Wow!" at some of them.

For instance, a "growth industry" around south Georgia is yard maintenance. Guys are getting the latest equipment and zipping around town hustling work. In talking to a few of them, they're grossing as much as $100k a year, in an area where the cost of living is much lower than most places. Net, I'm guessing, is around $40k after taxes and operating expenses. One guy has some 20 employees, keeping the grounds nice on 1,500 acres of the Miller Brewing Company "plantation" around its brewery. It's a million dollars a year deal.

There's a helluva need for a do-it-yourselfers to help old folks who are in those in-between years: Retired and almost "wo'-out", but not yet ready to go to a retirement home. They need somebody to fix little stuff around the house. Many can afford a relatively high fee for a couple of hours of work, but don't need a real contractor type to do the jobs.

A guy with a backhoe/loader and a dumptruck could come to my poor, benighted little area and make $25/hr above expenses. We have an extremely low cost of living, here. Heck, I paid for my 'hoe and truck from "selling work", back when the population was a fourth of today's, and it was poorer, then.

Look for a demand, and then try to fill it. That's what entrepreneuring is all about. It's fun, too, when you're your own boss--although the hours can be long. Me, I just like the freedom. :)

'Rat

mactastic
Sep 19, 2004, 11:09 AM
You need a house? I'll fill that need. Although I'm still learning the trade. The learning curve is pretty steep. I'm not quite ready to strike out on my own just yet. I'm pretty sure houses won't go the way of the buggy whip anytime soon.

pseudobrit
Sep 19, 2004, 07:15 PM
For instance, a "growth industry" around south Georgia is yard maintenance. Guys are getting the latest equipment and zipping around town hustling work.

So when all the middle class manufacturing jobs are gone, we'll all be able to live comfortably by mowing each others' lawns?

diamond geezer
Sep 19, 2004, 11:53 PM
I think this is relevant:

Bloated, blue-collar Americans - gorged on diets of fries and burgers, but denied their share of US riches - are bringing the nation's steady rise in life expectancy to a grinding halt.
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Twenty years ago, the US, the richest nation on the planet, led the world's longevity league. Today, American women rank only 19th, while males can manage only 28th place, alongside men from Brunei.
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These startling figures are blamed by researchers on two key factors: obesity, and inequality of health care. A man born in a poor area of Washington can have a life expectancy that is 40 years less than a woman in a prosperous neighbourhood only a few blocks away, for example.
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'A look at the Americans' health reveals astonishing inequalities in our society,' state Professor Lawrence Jacobs of Minnesota University and Professor James Morone, of Brown University, Rhode Island, in the journal American Prospect .
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Their paper is one of a recent swathe of studies that have uncovered a shocking truth: America, once the home of the world's best-fed, longest-lived people, is now a divided nation made up of a rich elite and a large underclass of poor, ill-fed, often obese, men and women who are dying early.
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In another newly published paper, statisticians at Boston College reveal that in France, Japan and Switzerland, men and women aged 65 now live several years longer than they do in the US. Indeed, America only just scrapes above Mexico and most East European nations.
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This decline is astonishing given America's wealth. Not only is it Earth's richest nation, it devotes more gross domestic product - 13 per cent - to health care than any other developed nation. Switzerland comes next with 10 per cent; Britain spends 7 per cent. As the Boston group - Alicia Munnell, Robert Hatch and James Lee - point out: 'The richer a country is, the more resources it can dedicate to education, medical and other goods and services associated with great longevity.' The result in every other developed country has been an unbroken rise in life expectancy since 1960.
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But this formula no longer applies to America, where life expectancy's rise has slowed but not yet stopped, because resources are now so unevenly distributed. When the Boston College group compared men and women in America's top 10 per cent wage bracket with those in the bottom ten per cent, they found the former group earned 17 times more than the latter. In Japan, Switzerland and Norway, this ratio is only five-to-one.
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Jacobs and Morone state: 'Check-ups, screenings and vaccinations save lives, improve well-being, and are shockingly uneven [in America]. Well-insured people get assigned hospital beds; the uninsured get patched up and sent back to the streets.' For poor Americans, health service provision is little better than that in third world nations. 'People die younger in Harlem than in Bangladesh,' report Jacobs and Morone.
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Consumption of alcohol, tobacco and food can also have a huge impact on life expectancy. The first two factors are not involved with America's longevity crisis. Smoking and drinking are modest compared with Europe. Food consumption is a different matter, however, for the US has experienced an explosion in obesity rates in the past 20 years. As a result, 34 per cent of all women in the US are obese compared with 4 per cent in Japan. For men, the figures are 28 and 2 per cent respectively.
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'US obesity rates jumped in the 1980s and 1990s, and the vast majority of the population affected by obesity had not yet reached age 65 by 2000,' state the Boston group. 'As the large baby boom cohort begins to turn 65 in coming years, a stronger connection between obesity rates and life expectancy may emerge.'
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In other words, as the nation's middle-aged fatties reach retirement age, more and more will start to die out. Life expectancy in the US could then actually go into decline.
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Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004 http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1307954,00.html