Wednesday, April 20, 2011

America is Not A Third World Country--Yet (Froma Harrop) What distinguishes poor from rich nations is that the latter invest in health care, education and transportation. They regulate what may go into the environment. These things don’t come for free. They are paid for with taxes and, in some cases, higher prices. Republicans insist that we can’t afford these amenities — that government spending has become “unsustainable.” If we don’t do something radical, they say, America will go bankrupt. For them, ending Medicare as we know it is not too radical. Raising taxes from their lowest levels in decades is.


  1. Who says we are not a third world country? Seems to me we don't invest in the three things mentioned. Our education system stinks, no one likes it, most of our people don't have health care, and we're making it easier and easier for corporations to pollute our air and water. Oh yeah, we don't have a good nationwide transportation system in place either.
    So, again, who says we are not a third world country? Looks to me like we are.

  2. I think those are all good points Jacquie.

    It seems all the more unfortunate that many nations are third-world countries because they never lack natural resources or never developed a decent politcal system. We in America did have one, but so many are keen to chuck it aside forthe sake of greed and partisan politics.

    EX: We have a political party in the USA now who budget chairman in the House (Paul Ryan) proposes a budget-balancing program with 4.2 trillion $ (??!!) in tax cuts over the next decade for wealthy Americans who have already received two subtancial income tax cuts in first two George W Bush Years.

    Even though many polls show this is very unpopular, somehow lowering income tax rates from 35 to 25 percent from with two wars raging and a health care system that's full of holes makes sense to some.

    Making Medicare a voucher program makes sense to some. Partially privitizing Social Security--which is not a part ofthe deficit in any serious measure except to cover the losses to the Treasury by taking money out of it and stcking it in the General Fund, makes sense to some. Letting companies like BP and Deep Water Horizon walk away from the oil diaster they created in the Gulf of Mexico make sense tosome.

    It doesn't have to be this way, as Ms. Harrop's editorial points out.

  3. Another bit o' trivia: The 'happiest' countries on earth (as defined by low crime; high education rates; stability of economy and government, plus income/wealth distribution) are Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and a couple of the Scandinavian countries.

    America falls in the bottom quartile (that last word is one that 60% of Americans probably couldn't define).

    This isn't by accident. All of those countries are social-democracies.

    The thing which amazes me is America's complete failure to maintain its standards of education over the years - which has lead to most Americans not only being rank morons, but voting against their own interests by way of electing successive governments which have all but destroyed the country.

    Third world? We're not there yet - but only because we don't have dictatorsPresidents with gold plated toilets while the rest of the populace doesn't have running water or sewage-treatment.

    We're already a Fascist Plutonomy - there's no arguing that point....

  4. That's a seriously scarey thought! The worlds strongest military nation and a fascist one?!

  5. Yes, there was a recent set of articles in "Time" that pointed out that the Scandinavian countries, Canada and those "Down Under" nations are higher on the happiness scale.

    Social Democracy has almost always been anathema to Americans. Yet these nations have plurlaistic systems and conservative parties are part of the mainstream. Yet in the USA we hardly have that option, except for Bernie Sanders, Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, and few others. Not a political party by a long shot .

    It's not accident that the GOP wantsa to cut PELL grants to keep as many middle-clas and working class kids as possible out of higher education. The only "higher education" many conservatives approve of for the workoing class is the Armed Forces.

    I don't think we are at the Third World Level yet either Will. But I have been wondering if, counter-intuitively, its the large number of billion-dollar corporations that have traditionally had their headquarters here that actually makes it harder to make social progress in this country.

  6. Whatever it is labeled,the US military is too damn big, Jim.

    America spends about 45 percent of all the military spending in the world here, more I believe than the next dozen nations put together. It's estimated China spends about 1/8 of our Pentagon budget.

  7. CLearly that needs to stop, but the question is what happens when the spending is dramatically reduced?
    In the short term I suspect the political/economic situation will tank. If there is a brave and strong enough politician to do that I suspect he'd not be a two term leader!

  8. I think you hit the central problem, Jim ---to wean the American military-industrial off excessive military spending is hard when so much of theeconomy is tied to it and its so infused with economics and emotion. But many might be more open-minded about cancelling some weapons-systems as part of reducing the budget. President Obama will have to be willing to disengage the country from Afghanistan, but I suspect he's waiting for a second term.

    The short answer to your question I don't see a politican strong enough to do what needs to be done in this area. Others like the status quo just fine, sadly.

  9. They may like it but who will pay for it when the country is bankrupt?

    The news the other day that the US Government bonds may be downgraded from their triple A rating came as a huge shock, yet still the country seems to be sleepwalking toward the financial abyss. Clearly I don't leve your side of the pond, but the effect of America going effectively belly up truly scares me because the implications for the whole world is huge.

    Perhaps it's time for the rest of the world to step in and stabilise America much like the UN has sanctioned for other failed states?

  10. Tell me it's not true.

    (Seriously. I'd like someone to connect the dots in a plausible manner which reaches any other conclusion....)

  11. This was the person we hoped was embodied in Obama - the man who would, with the force of moral authority, roll back the attacks on our civil liberties and the Constitution; close the 'detention camps' at Gitmo and elsewhere, throw in a repeal of DADT for good measure, and begin the process of disassembling the Empire.

    Of course, Obama has failed in all of those, and he's now busily pandering to a group of people both in Congress and out who not only want him defeated, but dead.

    The lesson: He's a one-term president, anyway. If he had balls somewhere-north of the size of BB's, he'd say, "I'm gone anyway. I might as well go out standing up," and do these things. Instead, he's listening to the siren-song of the Second Term - a delusion if there ever was....

  12. LOL!!!!!

    If I'm right, he'll wait until Hell freezes over....

  13. Obama camein on such a wave of expectation. I suspect that everyone on the planet never really expected him to deliver on all of his promises. But to have failed so miserably will set back the course of liberal democracy world wide for decades I suspect!

  14. The problem in seeing the US as a 'third world' country so far as I see it Doug, is that there is an implied assumption that the 'first world' actually exists and that either term is meaningful. But the first world encompasses the third world and the 'second world' has effectively ceased to exist (unless you count North Korea, Cuba, Libya and countries in the Venezuelan Bolivarian revolutionary sphere of influence, of course).

    If use of force against other nations and also internal repression are measures to be taken into account, then it could be that the US is actually in the 'fourth world' ...or rather the fourth dimension in which Greater Bilderbergia exists as a spacetime continuum, but not much else from what I can easily grasp myself Doug.

    After all in physics, it is common to treat an extended object as a "particle" or "field" with its own unique (e.g. centre of mass) position at any given time, so that the world line of a particle or light beam is the path that this particle or beam takes in the spacetime and represents the history of the particle or beam.

    The worldline of the orbit of the Earth (in such a description) is depicted in two spatial dimensions x and y (the plane of the Earth's orbit) and a time dimension orthogonal to x and y.

    The orbit of the Earth is an ellipse in space alone, but its worldline is a helix in spacetime.

    Although spacetime is independent of any observer of course.... so who are we to say anyway?

  15. Sadly, this is what comes of putting so much faith in a leader--the sort of faith even the best politicans can usually only manage after they have left office. I have to say Obama has not been as bold as I expected in some areas, but he didn't control a majority in the Congress but for all of his first two years. All his political capital was used up getting a supermajority of sixty Senate votes (out of 100 solons) to support a modest health care plan that excluded a public option.

    It would seem that the public fell to the corporate siren song of "He's scary! He's a socialist! He'll take away Medicare! He'll pul the plug on grandmas life supports with federal Death Panels." (Ironically its the Republicans who now want to gut health care into an inadequate voucher program for all seniors before after 1955. The short-term memory of many voters astounds me.)

    To put it bluntly, Jim, we have a fickle electorate in this country, and its likely that Obama's major victory in the 2008 election was more due to the melting down of the major Wall Street banking firms. Once the big bankers got their money and it was clear the nation wasn't going into a Depression, the American Heartland voter returned to the center-right default voting mechanism that gave us Reagan and Bush in office for a total of sixteen years out of twenty four.

  16. It's difficult to grasp where you are here, AA, but I assume from my science scores in college that the fault is mine.

    I would put the orbit of the USA in its own planetary motion in a fourth dimension. This is not strictly true, but is the paradigm applied to a nation deemed "exceptional" by so many of its citizens that it literally feels the world can be run with America as its axis point.

    I thought a paradigm would be created in 2008, after Wall Street damn near burned the whole of the economy between two oceans, but I was wrong. It appears Obama is as much a victim of his expectations as anything his right-wing detractors said about him. And, as for right now, as Obama goes so goes any hope of breaking this "Planet America" idea that intoxicates the far right in this nation.

    The problem is the average elected politican is running with the idea that the USA will soon become like Rome at the time of Hadrian again, that our influence is somehow enough to hold down the globe--assuming we stop "wasting taxpayer money and shift our priorities" as one of the Tea Party saints say (i.e., cut domestic spending on ordinary people and make millionaires richer.)

    Many Americans understand that this is dangerous folly and immoral reverse class-warfare. The thing is groups of voters and thinkers in the Sensible Left are, as usual, unorganized. The Right is like a German watch of course, not missing a second.

  17. Bailout-backlash, I've heard it called. Very true.

    I'll take a semantics issue with you over the term 'center-right'. I'd posit that Obama is center-right; the rest is ultraRight, far Right, or Fascist. We have no genuine Left in this country any more.

    Take me. I'm now called a Liberal, when in reality I'm an Eisenhower/Goldwater conservative.

  18. Man, don't I know that, Will.

    I grew up a liberal back in the day in San Jose. My parents were proud JFK/RFK Democrats who remembered what kind of mess this country was in the 1930's, and saw what the conservatives did during the Red Scare of the 50's and how they played on racial fears of some southern nimrods in the 60's.

    This batch of ultra rightists conservatives are real bastards. Total damn sellouts and tools masquerading as populists. I'd love to have some old school Eisenhower GOP types in the Senate right now. We used to have Republicans in this state like Mark Hatfield and Tom McCall. Boy, that was a long time ago now.

  19. Sorry Doug as I am "handling" a headache from a tooth. But where does the question lay? I tend to think that America is certainly not at its best times economically, yet I don't know of any country right now that is. I would tend to think that this is a time of sustaining things rather than borrowing. Regulated economies perhaps are the manner to go right now. As I think that so many areas are being covered yet there is one basic factor and that is of economics. America is not a 3rd world country nor shall it be. Yet it's a time where there are so many issues being covered that what I have learned is it comes down to the basics. The only change (I could stand to be corrected) that Obama made was with health care. Aside of that what I tend to think is the area that renders the best is within a neutrality for a year yet there are many areas to consider. Up here we pay are one of the largest taxed countries within the world. Yet I don't think that the system here would work within America as when you look at the differences in population its apples to oranges.

    It's a good column I do find what Harppo said was something new that I have never heard before. Yet it is food for thought. But I don’t believe that America will ever become a third world country nor have I ever seen it that way.

  20. LOL! Indeed it is a long time ago Will.

  21. Well, first off sorry about your tooth problems, Jack ,and hope that pain stops soon.

    I agree Canada cannot be a model in always for the USA. But many countries other than Canada have a greater percentage of living standards geared to a utilitarian principle of creating health care based on need more than insurance coverage. This is because health care is not a commodity like an automobile or a restaurant. It is a need people have that literally is the difference between life and death. All nations have exceptional developments, but I feel too many in the USA are going backwards. And this is because of the power of money in the political system.

    No, we aren't a third world nation. But we are headed toward a society of haves and have nots like Brazil or El Salvador, and not toward Canada and Europe where we belong.

  22. No worries this had me thinking....if we look at that last ten years and the amount of big business hand outs and other areas of spending I do believe there is a time of money neutrality. Look at all the likes of the Enrons and such and I think this is what lead to this and perhaps right now some regulation is within an act of neutrality...Just my thoughts as this didn't happen from one part nor within one term.

  23. yes we are still the greatest--and no country is all perfect if you even look at the list astra but out look below the surface then say we are not still at the top
    yes we need to tweek a little here a lot there but if you look over all at the USA it is very good thank you--like I alway say we all talk about how bad we are but no one offers solutions except to throw the baby out with the bathwater sigh just my humble opinion

  24. I'm sorry, but I couldn't disagree more, Heidi. Like the countries Will mentioned...who aren't slopping at the trough like the majority of Americans are, we could do a whole damned lot better. That's the bottom line of this discourse, isn't it?

    Is it?

  25. Yes, Jack, its good to remember this is not the fault of one leader or one or two elections.

  26. I think its less importnat where we rank Heidi as to which way we are headed as a nation and how we balance the influence of greed on our politics with the tempering forces of government regulation and progressive democracy.

  27. I agree Lucija. We can do better. As I said to Heidi, what our policies and who our public leadership responds to are more important to me than some global ranking.

  28. The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Pub.L. 111-203, H.R. 4173) is a federal statute in the United States that was signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 21, 2010. The Act is a product of the financial regulatory reform agenda of the Democratically-controlled 111th United States Congress and the Obama administration.

    The law was initially proposed on December 2, 2009, in the House by Barney Frank, and in the Senate Banking Committee by Chairman Chris Dodd. Due to their involvement with the bill, the conference committee that reported on June 29, 2010,voted to name the bill after the two members of Congress.The Act, which was passed as a response to the late-2000s recession, is the most sweeping change to financial regulation in the United States since the Great Depression, and represents a significant change in the American financial regulatory environment affecting all Federal financial regulatory agencies and affecting almost every aspect of the nation's financial services industry.

    I think if we look at Major legislation signed, 15 in 2009, & 17 in 2010, we can see that Obama hasn't been sitting on his hands. I also think that 'some of us' ought to give him credit for that, who are instead, criticizing him to the hilt. (Not you, Doug.) Above is just one of those very important bills.

  29. I agree Lucija. As I noted earlier in another response, a lot of positive domestic efforts this Aministration has done will only be appreciated at a future time.

    It's a shame the damn banker lobbyists and politicians of both parties made re-regulation necessary.

  30. I understand that but that is what I was trying to say--also we all need to look deeper because greed is everywhere not just in america --sometimes we need to look deeper that is all--
    like in health insurance it is way to expensive all over the world and why GREED --

    I also feel total negativisum doesn't get one anywhere it only makes it worse
    the GOP is sick very sick and how do we combat that ?

  31. Hi, Heidi.
    I agree with your "I also feel total negativisum doesn't get one anywhere it only makes it worse"
    The difference that I see, is, we have to recognize negativism in order to combat it, but not to be negative ourselves.

    Yes...the GOP are pathological, they are sick. Americans voted them in, what could we have done about that? Whatever, if there was anything we could have done, it's too late now & they'll get bitten in the arse just like everyone else. However, Walker, Snyder, whomever...are violating the Constitution, & I'd like to see SOMEONE DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. This morning on the phone, a friend said, "Why doesn't Obama do something about what's happening in Michigan?" Good grief, as if there's no one else & he can be everywhere at once.


  32. Yes sorry Doug, my fault I got a bit carried away with the fourth dimension thing there and went a bit off track when it was the Fourth Reich I should have been talking about of course.

    Outside of the US though Obama's detractors are rarely from the political right, but they are far more likely to be of the political hard left.

    That is a thing about the contrary nature of US domestic politics which unlike anywhere else in the world makes the right wing red and the slightly less right wing blue...there is no identifiable left in mainstream US politics from the global perspective I don't think.

    From this point of view Obama is of the far right a representative of the proto-fascist spectrum that makes the US a one party state despite the illusion two party politics, like the UK all political power is in the hands of republicrat type consensus political actors, representing various vested interests, but never ever the population, nor any statistically significant section of it anyway, never the proverbial (wo)man in the street.

    In that sense the US (and the UK, especially England) is just like a Third World country with all power and wealth concentrated in the hands of a small and inevitably corrupt elite.

    So, to return to my original (and badly made) point Doug, I think we have to question the existence of the First World before we can decide whether America is part of the Third World....or could it be that - so far as the real unelected government of the US is concerned - we are all in the Third World now because unless we are extremely fortunate, or entirely corrupt ourselves it is actually the only world there is, thanks to the banksters et al [capone]?

  33. I wish we could find a way to get this thought through to people.

  34. I don't think there is any institutional Left in America as one would define it in the broader European sense, AA. Some of this comes out of a heartland backlash against the social upheavals of the 1960's and early 70's. That era has been lumped together by many revisionists as a time of iconoclastic turmoil--protest for the sake of protest.

    That was the tip of the iceberg in my opinion. Actually, for us old enough to remember (I was born in 1960) and having read later what we couldn't then understand fully --- it was an era when we were more joined with other grassroots movements of many other nations. 'American Exceptionalism' came back under Reagan and has not raelly left.

    There's a lot of other reasons for this misleading revisionism I'm couldn't do justice to here. Suffice to say I don't know of any other major country where such a sizable portion of the working and middle classes vote in the interests of plutocrats; a triumph of the political operators like "Bush's Brain" Karl Rove, and others that isolate anything not profit-oriented as somehow akin to embracing a command economy.

    I think Democrats as a party still have an image to uphold as to protecting social programs, but the New Democrats under Clinton embraced free-market and deregulation approaches. There is no social democrat challenge big enough to counteract this approach. The Republicans on the other hand seem vitalized by the radicals in their camp. We on the progressive side are offered compromises from the leadership. So your analysis is well founded.

  35. I think we educate those around us as best we can and hope people will vote their own interests when they see the mess that the far rightist end of the political spectrum has created Heidi. It is all about greed with most of them.