Fixing America In 500 Words Or Less


Chapter 67

WHERE IS THE GREAT
AMERICAN DREAM?


       Today, there is a lot of talk about the wonders of science and technology, with little mention of any downside.  The same science used to create medicine and jumbo jets has also resulted in nuclear and bio weapons and, has left our planet polluted possibly beyond repair.  A science that produced the world wide web and remote controlled devices, has created an alternate reality where people interact face-to-face, less and less.

       Modern technology is making us more introverted, self-engaged and lost within our own “virtual” existence.  This can be dangerous on many levels, creating a social environment with less and less love and feeling for each other. It seems like American society is becoming less and less friendly; a society where everybody talks and nobody listens.

       I was raised in working-class neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area, where the majority of families were supported by a single wage-earner's income.  Yet I never once heard of a child without access to health, dental and optical care.  Out of 3800 mostly working class students in my high school, I never heard of a single one who was either hungry or homeless.

       The term “homeless” was essentially off the public radar in Southern California until after I graduated from high school in 1968.  I don't recall this word being mentioned in any media or in any conversation during my entire childhood. “Poverty” referred to people living on Indian reservations, in Appalachia, Central and South America and especially Africa.  There was virtually no conception of poverty within our own blue-collar environment.

       As children, we interacted with a large group of other kids outside for hours nearly every day.  We often played after dark and in local parks without parental supervision or fear of abduction.  We learned to interact with each other on a face-to-face peer basis and experienced a healthy childhood reality.

       Kids today often spend a lot of time alone or with one or two close friends, interacting with computers, movies, television, computer games, texting and talking on cellphones.  Rather than interacting in real life situations, our children are growing up in a virtual world of digital unreality.

       Many studies indicate obesity, suicide, attention deficit disorder and other serious problems are on the rise. ¹  Every year brings more media reports of growing school and public space violence.  Our nation is artificially divided by a profit-driven media into “red” and “blue” sides, even though the vast majority of us share common complaints about corrupt leaders and concerns of our children's future.

       Today, many Americans working two or more jobs don't earn nearly enough to provide what working-class citizens once took for granted. Meanwhile, American cities are “dealing” with growing poverty by arresting and criminalizing the poor.  Apparently, we incarcerate a greater percentage of our population than any other nation on earth. ²

       Albert Einstein reportedly said: “It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.” ³   “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?”
4   Where is the great American dream? 5-6



NOTES:

1. NY Times; Obesity Rates for Americans in General Keep Rising.  Obesity rates among American children have leveled off and actually slightly declined in the past couple of years, but are still triple the rate of children only a generation earlier.  A recent leveling off can be attributed to significant efforts to improve nutrition quality at school, requiring fast food restaurants to divulge calorie and health information, public pressure for better quality restaurant and grocery store food and better public education aimed at children's health.  This does not mean there is no longer an obesity epidemic among America's children but rather, it is currently not growing measurably worse than it was in 2011.  Based on 2013 statistics compared to obesity rates of 1980, Obesity Rates Have Tripled Among Children Ages 2-19.

NY Times; American Suicide Rates Sharply On the Rise.  Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-24 year old Americans and Suicide Rates for Children 5-14 Have Doubled in Past 20 Years.  According to the National Association of School Psychologists: "Of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Wyoming has the highest percentage of homes with guns (63%), the highest suicide rate (23 per 100,000), and the highest percentage of students carrying a gun to school (11%).  Conversely, Massachusetts ranks 48th (out of 51) in terms of percentage of homes with firearms (13%), has one the lowest suicide rates (9 per 100,000), and the lowest reported percentage of students who acknowledged bringing a gun to school (2.5%)."

Some of the rise in the diagnosis of attention deficit disorder and other related problems can be attributed to profitability in psychiatric and other medical professions and in particular the obscene profits added to the bulging coffers of pharmaceutical companies.  However, this is unlikely the only reason for significant increases in such problems:  NY Times; ADHD Diagnosis on the Rise.

2. The incarceration rate per 100,000 population in the United States is significantly higher than in Cuba, Rwanda, Russia, and all other nations on earth except three, while two of these are lower and statistics for North Korea are unclear but may be lower.  The rate for China is over 4 times as low and the rate for Bolivia over 6 times as low:  Nation Incarceration Rates Per 100,000 Population.

3. From Princeton University Press: The Ultimate Quotable Einstein; Alice Calaprice.  After WWII, Albert Einstein became a leading advocate for peace.  He is reported to have said this after the detonation of the atomic bomb.  It is more than fair to say that with today's U.S. and global nuclear arsenal and growing economic disparity, which historically leads to anarchy, revolution and protracted violence, that Einstein would likely stand by these words today.

4. From Mrs. Robinson; Paul Simon.  There was a lot of talk about peace and love in 1968 when the song "Mrs. Robinson", performed by Simon and Garfunkel, was released.  But in reality there was very little love and no peace.  Some historians say that 1968, with the escalating Vietnam War, growing crises in our streets and the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, may have been the overall worst single year in American history.  In spite of our many problems at the time, 1968 ended with the lowest unemployment rate in 15 years at 3.3%.  It is fair to say that from this year forward, our society has gradually spiraled out of moral, economic and constitutional control, where today the gap between the wealthy and poor is higher than ever and is steadily growing worse.  And, while expensive foreign wars, racism and poverty continue to be significant American problems, the current Supreme Court has ruled corporations are somehow entitled to the same rights as people, which ultimately may prove to be an as bad or worse decision than the infamous 1857 "Dred Scott" ruling of a previous constitutionally perverted and crassly anti-human rights highest court.

5. For many today among the working class and poor, the American dream is becoming more and more, an American nightmare, where often hard-working citizens working two and more jobs can't afford basic necessities like rent, utilities, health care, clothing and proper nutrition. In spite of the crass lies of politicians, conservative pundits and many American economists who either do or should know better, raising taxes on the wealthy does not hurt job growth. Rather, taxing the wealthy 91% under Eisenhower and Kennedy achieved the exact opposite, causing the wealthy to invest in job creating enterprises in order to avoid paying the high tax rate.  This served to lift all boats, created millions of well-paying jobs, greatly stimulated the economy by putting more money into consumer's pockets and strengthened the bargaining power of unions and consequently, significantly improved the living standard of the majority of American citizens.  It even helped the wealthy to greatly increase their wealth as investments in job creating enterprises increased in value.  Nobody has to take anyone's word for this, you can study American history for yourself, something right-wing politicians, pundits and conservative economists have in large numbers, apparently failed to do.

6. Consider that the foundation of what is called "the American Dream" is to own a home. Then consider today, millions of Americans are either homeless, living with relatives or couch surfing with friends, unable to even afford to rent a small apartment with the meager wages they earn.  Then consider the following information below, clearly demonstrating it costs taxpayers far more to not house than to house the same homeless American.  And then consider that many American city, county, state and federal officials not only refuse to help low income Americans, they continue to pass legislation and otherwise make decisions that makes their economic and other reality far worse in every way:

Studies conducted by Philip Mangano, former National Homeless Policy Czar under both presidents Bush and Obama, reveal that it costs taxpayers on national, state and local taxation levels, far more to not house a homeless person than to house the same homeless person.  Costs for arresting and jailing America's poor, as well as costs for hospitalization, medical expenses, shelters, social workers and other taxpayer supported services, can range from $35,000 to well over $150,000 annually per homeless individual, while costs to house the same individual range from $13,000 to $25,000 annually.  Many homeless people are employed, receive social security or some other income and, when cities charge them 30 percent of their income for housing, annual savings to taxpayers can be considerably more. Link to Philip Mangano Interview.

According to a Los Angeles study, it costs taxpayers in Los Angeles $605 per month to house homeless veterans, while it costs the same taxpayers $2,900 per month in law enforcement, jail, court, health care and other costs to not house them: Link to Los Angeles County Comparative Cost Analysis.  Phoenix, Arizona has dramatically reduced the number and taxpayer costs of homeless veterans by housing rather than arresting them: Link to NY Times Arizona Article.  After conducting studies clearly demonstrating it is statistically far less expensive to house than to not house homeless people, the State of Utah is no on course to virtually eliminate homelessness entirely by 2015: Link to Utah Article.

In Florida it cost the taxpayers of Osceola County over 5 million dollars to repeatedly arrest and jail 37 homeless people over a period of ten years, not including police, court and health costs, while it would have cost only about 3.5 million to house them instead, including rent and utilities: Link to Florida Article.  According to a study conducted by the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, "Florida residents pay $31,065 per chronically homeless person every year they live on the streets", while it would cost the same Florida taxpayers only "$10,051 per homeless person to give them a permanent place to live and services like job training and health care", representing a 68% savings in taxpayer dollars: Link to Florida Commission on Homelessness study.  According to the Denver Business Journal, it costs $50,000 annually to not house the homeless, far more than it would cost to house the same homeless individuals: Denver Study.

The United States loses many billions if not trillions of dollars in lost productivity annually due to the simple fact that people without adequate health care, when they contract contagious diseases, still have to go to work, take public transportation, still attend public gatherings and events, still eat and shop in public establishments and, their children still attend public schools.  Obviously, people who are sick are not going to be as productive as people who are healthy and quite obviously, untreated contagious diseases get spread around to others, whether they have health care or not who in return, will spread such diseases around to even more people.  Nobody wants common colds, flues and other communicable diseases, regardless of how good of quality our health care may be.

Modern antibiotics may not cure common diseases, but they very much serve to keep them in check and, people who can't afford to go to the doctor and obtain medicine are obviously ticking time bombs endangering the health and welfare of us all.  It is quite literally insane for a modern nation to not insure that everyone within it's borders has access to affordable quality health care.  People without adequate rest, shelter and nutrition sleeping under bridges and otherwise out in the open, are going to get sick much more easily and frequently than people with adequate resources and, they are going to be less physically able to be productive citizens.  Disease knows no economic, political or other boundaries and, many once mighty nations have fallen due in large part due to human disease turning into plague.

In many nations with universal and considerable better health care than the majority receive in the United States, like Japan for example, the average citizen pays about the same and many pay even less taxes than average citizens in the United States and yet, they receive much better government-paid benefits back in return.  Some Europeans pay higher taxes, but they receive much better benefits like free child care and guaranteed lengthy paid vacations, along with universal and better quality health care back in return, thus at the bottom line they pay less out of pocket than our citizens.  U.S. citizens are taxed much more than many realize when federal income taxes and social security, workers compensation, state, county, local, sales, gasoline and other taxes and fees are combined.  While not covering nearly adequately the vast disparity between what U.S. citizens receive compared to what citizens in other nations receive for their tax dollars, the Article Linked Here provides some good examples.

One of the main reasons we receive a lot less benefits back from our government for taxes paid in, is because private health insurance companies are quite literally, sucking trillions of dollars out of our economy, meanwhile providing no legitimate necessary function in return. Instead of having a relatively simple organized universal health care system, our U.S. system is a great mass of bloated, redundant and often indecipherable confusion, which drains immeasurable employee hours and immeasurable dollars from hospitals and other actual medical providers in paperwork alone, while providing our citizens on average, with less quality health care than thirty-six nations above our global ranking of #37 in the world, including some of what are traditionally considered to be "third-world" nations.  Many U.S. citizens have horror stories of being put on hold for long periods of time when trying to deal with private insurance companies--horror stories of often very sick people who are recovering from serious operations and illnesses, who are mentally and emotionally run through the wringer by private insurance companies reluctant to pay their end of the bargain.

The other main reason we receive far less bang for our tax dollar buck is that the United States spends a far greater percentage of GDP on military appropriations than any other nation on earth.  And to add insult to injury, unlike nations with taxpayer supported health care systems, in the United States corporations and other companies spend trillions of dollars insuring their workers, which results in much higher prices for goods and services than consumers otherwise would pay.  There is no free ride for health care; somebody is going to pay dearly for what companies compensate their workers and, that "somebody" is every U.S. consumer.

To compare, the United States currently spends about 16% of GDP on health care, while the next highest nation France, spends about 11% and, every other nation on earth spends less than France, even though 36 nations have better quality health care than we receive in the United States.  And unlike here where many millions of citizens have no health coverage and many more have inadequate coverage, in nations with universal health care, all citizens are covered.  See also, Should We Care if Everyone has Health Care?.

Link here for Homeless Statistics.  For related information, see Can We Afford to House the Homeless? also, Is Music City Becoming the Meanest City in America? and Why Are There Homeless Veterans in America?.




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Copyright © August 20th, 2003 by Richard Aberdeen.
Copyright © Jaunary 7th, 2014 by Richard Aberdeen.
Copyright © February 1st, 2014 by Freedom Tracks Records.

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