American Exceptionalism’s Dark Side—Poverty and Despair in America

American Exceptionalism’s Dark Side—Poverty and Despair in America

America’s endless wars on humanity at home and abroad expose its imperial rage for unchallenged global dominance, no matter the human toll, exploiting its own people like others abroad.

Vast destruction and millions of casualties attest to its brutality, revealing its contempt for human and civil rights, world peace and rule of law principles.

Poverty, homelessness, hunger, unemployment, underemployment, and overall deprivation in America increase under either wing of its duopoly governance – while Wall Street, other corporate predators, and its privileged class never had things better.

UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston published a report on poverty, deprivation, and despair in America – a damning indictment of what he learned firsthand.

He visited California, Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, and Washington DC, meeting with experts, civil society groups, federal and state officials, along with impoverished and homeless Americans.

For countless millions of poor and neglected people, the nation is a wasteland of dystopian harshness, deprivation, and despair – the Constitution’s general welfare clause forgot, Alston, saying:

“My visit coincide(d) with a dramatic change of direction in US policies relating to inequality and extreme poverty.”

“The proposed tax reform package stakes out America’s bid to become the most unequal society in the world, and will greatly increase the already high levels of wealth and income inequality between the richest 1% and the poorest 50% of Americans.”

“The dramatic cuts in welfare, foreshadowed by the President and Speaker Ryan, and already beginning to be implemented by the administration, will essentially shred crucial dimensions of a safety net that is already full of holes.”

“It is against this background that my report is presented.”

The world’s richest country increasingly doesn’t give a damn about its poor and disadvantaged.

Alston witnessed deprivation and despair firsthand, meeting with “people barely surviving on Skid Row in Los Angeles.”

In San Francisco, he encountered a police officer “telling a group of homeless people to move on but having no answer when asked where they could move to.”

He discovered how “thousands of poor people get minor infraction notices which seem to be intentionally designed to quickly explode into unpayable debt, incarceration, and the replenishment of municipal coffers.”

He saw sewage-filled areas where state authorities don’t consider sanitation important in impoverished areas.

He saw toothless adults unable to afford proper dental care. He learned about deaths and diseases from “prescription and other drug addiction.”

He saw human despair in Puerto Rico, impoverished people, without electricity, running water, and other essentials in normal times, greatly exacerbated by Hurricane Maria over three months ago, many without enough food and other essentials for their families.

He saw positive and negative things, the latter outweighing the former. America’s wealth is enjoyed by its privileged class. Ordinary people struggle to get by.

US healthcare expenditures are double the average of other developed countries – its availability based on the ability to pay, notably to treat expensive illnesses and injuries.

US infant mortality is the highest among industrialized nations.

“Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich (country), and the ‘health gap between the US and its peer countries continues to grow,” Alston explained.

US inequality way exceeds the level in other developed nations. Its obesity is highest among rich countries.

It ranks 36th worldwide in access to clean water and sanitation. It has the world’s highest incarceration rate by far, exceeding China’s and India’s, both countries with four-times the US population.

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Its youth poverty exceeds other developed nations. America ranks last among the world’s most well-off countries in terms of labor rights, poverty, safety net protections, wealth, inequality and economic mobility.

Among 37 OECD nations, it ranks 35th in terms of poverty and inequality. The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality calls America “a clear and constant outlier in the child poverty league.”

Registered voters are lower than in other OECD countries as a percent of its eligible population. Participation in US elections is low – the farcical process failing to serve ordinary people equitably.

Enfranchisement affords no rights in America – money, power, and privilege alone served, ordinary people with no say over how they’re governed.

Alston: Republicans and Dems “reject the idea that economic and social rights are full-fledged human rights, despite their clear recognition…in key treaties that the US has ratified” – including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“(T)he United States is alone among developed countries in insisting that while human rights are of fundamental importance, they do not include rights that guard against dying of hunger, dying from a lack of access to affordable healthcare, or growing up in a context of total deprivation,” Alston added.

Poverty and deprivation in America are deep and growing. Michael Harrington’s “The Other America” (1962) got Jack Kennedy to investigate the problem.

Lyndon Johnson addressed it, saying his administration “here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.”

It was little more than a skirmish, way short of what was needed, yet a step in the right direction – long since abandoned since the neoliberal 90s, and post-9/11 war OF terror priorities, along with serving privileged US interests exclusively.

Undemocratic Dems under the Clintons and Obama, along with Bush/Cheney and Trump administrations declared war on social justice in America.

It’s been eroding toward elimination altogether – Washington’s bipartisan criminal class at war on its poor and disadvantaged citizens.

Growing millions are grievously harmed. Imperial and corporate priorities take precedence.

America’s deplorable state is unfit and unsafe to live in for most of its people – because of deep-seated corruption, rampant human and civil rights abuses, governance for its privileged class exclusively, and imperial madness.

Unprecedented in modern times. Privileged Americans never had it better. Ordinary ones face lump of coal harshness. Hard times keep getting harder.

Reflected in institutionalized inequality. Growing poverty. High unemployment. Multiples higher than phony Labor Department numbers. An epidemic of underemployment persists.

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Jobs paying poverty or sub-poverty wages. With few or no benefits.

Households need two or three to get by.

Growing millions face “one impossible choice after another,” according to Poverty USA. “(B)etween food and medicine(s), getting to work or paying the heating bill.”

Census data show around half the population living in poverty or bordering it. In the world’s richest country.

Affecting nearly 60% of children. America has a higher percentage of working poor than any other industrialized country.

Human suffering is real. Neoliberal harshness is official policy. Force-fed austerity reflects it. Social injustice is rife.

Bipartisan complicity supports it. Ordinary people are increasingly on their own out of luck.

America’s social contact is targeted for elimination. Disappearing when most needed. Monied interests alone are served.

Inequality is appalling. A race to the bottom persists. Class warfare defines it.

Most working Americans get by from paycheck to paycheck. One missed one away from possible homelessness, hunger, and despair.

Inflation-adjusted median household income keeps dropping. Americans have less to spend on increasingly more expensive goods and services.

People who eat. Drive cars. Pay rent. Service mortgages. Have medical expenses. Heat and/or air-condition residences.

Have children in college. Pay transportation costs. Know more about inflation than talking-head tout TV economists. The twelve days of Christmas now cost $27,673.

Shadowstats economist John Williams estimates real inflation at 9%. Based on 1980s calculation model.

Manipulated government data produce phony numbers. Across-the-board. Creating an illusion of prosperity.

Ignoring protracted Main Street Depression conditions. Growing human misery. Beautiful America exists for its privileged elites alone.

US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) data show over 600,000 homeless Americans on any given night. Including nearly 140,000 children. Over 57,000 veterans.

Living in cars. Parks. Bus or train stations. Under bridges. On city streets. In homeless shelters. Short-term transitional housing.

According to the National Center for Homeless Education, over one million homeless children attend public schools.

America’s hunger crisis is real. A daily reality for nearly 50 million people. Affecting around 13 million families. Mostly hardworking ones.

Not earning enough to live on. About 16 million children don’t get enough to eat. One in six Americans faces hunger.

So do one in five children. Missing meals is commonplace. Nutritious balanced diets for growing millions don’t exist. Belly-fillers substitute.

Food stamps provide a woefully inadequate $1.40 per person per meal.

Food banks supplement recipients when monthly benefits run out. Most often around 10 days or more before month’s end.

Vital benefits are being cut when most needed. US resources go to war-making. Corporate handouts.

Massive public and private corruption in high places take its toll.

Vital needs increasingly go begging.

Thirdworldizing America is official policy. Privileged interests alone benefit. Social inequality is institutionalized.

Millions struggle daily to pay rent. Service mortgages. Handle medical bills. Heat homes. Cover transportation costs. Manage increasingly more expensive daily expenses.

According to Saez and Zucman:

“Wealth inequality, it turns out, has followed a spectacular U-shape evolution over the past 100 years.”

“From the Great Depression in the 1930s through the late 1970s there was a substantial democratization of wealth.”

“The trend then inverted, with the share of total household wealth owned by the top 0.1 percent increasing to 22 percent in 2012 from 7 percent in the late 1970s.”

“The top 0.1 percent includes 160,000 families with total net assets of more than $20 million in 2012.”

The wealthiest 160,000 families own as much wealth as the poorest 145 million. It’s about 10 times as unequal as income.

Affected by taxes made less progressive for decades. Soaring stock market valuations. Lack of middle and low-income family savings. Stagnant wages.

A changing job market. Low wage/poor or no benefit part-time or temp ones replacing living wage/good benefit full-time jobs.

So-called economic recovery for most Americans is pure fantasy. Protracted Main Street Depression conditions persist.

Other studies show America’s top 1% has more wealth than the bottom 95%. The 400 richest families have as much as the bottom 50%.

In 1965, one in 50 Americans was on Medicaid. Today it’s one in six. In the 1970s, about one in 50 Americans were on food stamps. Now it’s one in five.

Highlights from the October 2017 Medicaid Report:

74,246,626 individuals were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP in the 51 states reporting October 2017 data. 68,284,283 individuals were enrolled in Medicaid and 5,962,343 individuals were enrolled in CHIP. Over 16.3 million additional individuals were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP in October 2017 as compared to the period prior to the start of the first Marketplace open enrollment period (July – Sept. 2013), in the 49 states that reported relevant data for both periods, representing nearly a 29 percent increase over the baseline period. (Connecticut and Maine aren’t included because they did not report data for both periods)”

Over half the population needs aid to survive. Increasingly eroding en route to eliminating it altogether.

Tens of millions of working age Americans wanting jobs can’t find them. Middle-income households are fast disappearing.

Poverty is a growth industry. So is human misery. America is banana republicanized. Unfit to live in for growing millions.

Democracy is pure fantasy. A facade masking New World Order harshness. Monied interests run things. Class war rages.

Inside the bubble it’s paradise. Outside its dystopian hell. America is venal. Corrupted. Depraved. Degenerate. Too broken to fix.

“The foul stench of corruption and hypocrisy that emanates from Washington is the smell of a dying country,” says Paul Craig Roberts.

Good tidings and cheer at Christmas and throughout the year are for America’s privileged alone. No joy to the world for most others.

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