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By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
One of five US kids in poverty. Infant mortality ranks somewhere near 17th in the world. We spend nearly 16% of our GDP on healthcare and our results are lower than most of the rest of the developed world and some countries mired in grinding proverty.
Our infant mortality is lower than Turkey and half of Mexico’s but higher than any country in Central and Western Europe or the rest of he industrialized world. It is double that of Slovenia and Korea, France, Finland and Germany, to name but a very few. They nearly all have longer lives and those that still trail our expected 78.1 years are catching up or passing our stagnant rate of improvement.
Health is not the only place we are falling behind.
The gap between the rich and poor is widening to the point where nearly 80 percent of the wealth of the US is controlled by that famous 1%.
As was cited in the most recent presidential campaign, nearly half of Americans do not pay federal tax. Freeloaders or victims?
Famously, GE and other large companies pay no taxes, either. They enjoy liberal (yes, liberal) laws that shelter their income from taxes.
When was the last time you found a congressman knocking on your door, dying to learn your feelings on legislation? They do, however, make the rounds of company owners where they ask “what can I do for your industry,” and then leave with a $2,000 check. They then write laws or insert lines in laws that help the GEs shelter income.
In fact, many companies, thanks to their friends in Congress, shift other costs of doing business quietly to you. The likes of I&M spew soot and acid rain downwind and lobby hard to protect their god-given right to pollute. You pay for it through remediation and your higher healthcare costs, or early death.
Remember when cigarette companies hired actors, dressed them in white and lied that they were real doctors who, of course, said there was no danger in smoking. Other companies are doing the same today with other self-inflicted hazards. Perhaps that explains our infant mortality and lagging increase in life-expectancy.
Recent studies show that the US, the self-anointed land of opportunity, offers less upwardly mobile than most European countries.
The wage for most Americans has diminished since the 1980s, not increased. Right-to-work and “at-will” employment shift power from the employees to the distant board room. Perhaps that explains the falling wages and the growing income gap.
Cities and states offer large tax incentives that undermine funds available for schools and libraries to companies in exchange for jobs or new investment. Those cities and town do not know if jobs were created, have been caught lying about the results, and the investment in equipment often throws workers into that 50% who pay no taxes because they no longer have jobs.
Sure, states offers “job retraining” but the funds are often insufficient and the cost of education is increasingly beyond the reach of most American families.
Many young adults leave college $20,000 to $40,000 in debt, a life-long burden, and one that can not be discharged in bankruptcy court while companies can unload pensions (they call them legacy costs….) and abrogate contracts, not to mention stiff suppliers. Meanwhile, there has been a 75% increase in compensation for presidents of the largest colleges in the country over the past decade. The highest paid public servant in most states is a college coach.
Meanwhile, on Wall Street, insider trading has long been the norm. They have turned investing into gambling. And worse, recent report noted that 100 officials in rating agencies had quietly accepted jobs in the very companies they were to have been objectively rating.
No one on Wall Street was jailed over the recent Wall Street leverage crash that caused hundreds of thousands of average Americans to lose homes, file bankruptcy and find themselves among those 50 % who pay no federal taxes. Instead, the Wall Streeters got a bailout.
No one on Wall Street went to jail for undermining the American dream of home ownership because they had paid Congress to write laws that made their dangerous behavior legal. Congressmen make the rounds, collect their campaign checks and write helpful legislation. Wonder why GE pays nothing? Wonder why Goldman got off scot-free? Wonder why they are all so angry with Obama…slowly, the prosecutions have begun and the fines have been levied.
With life-time pensions and other benefits Congress has insulated themselves from the lives of average Americans. Much too often Congressmen move from legislating on drugs or banking or the military to working for Lilly, Chase or Boeing. Congress is a training ground and stepping stone to riches.
This all may go a bit in explaining why there is a Tea Party and an Occupy Wall Street; they may be the right wing and the left wing, but they are of the same angry and frustrated bird that knows something is terribly wrong.