For quality of life, U.S. often dead last

The title of this "rave" is the title of an op/ed piece by Edward Renner that appeared in the St. Pete Times on 30 November 2011. Again, I agree with much of what is in this piece. Most Americans do not travel throughout the world and would not know the facts that he gives. Most Americans live in a "bubble" in which they think that everything is the best and everything is exceptional (see my last rave) in the US. Nothing is farther from the truth. To show you this, Renner begins with the following "true" and "false" quiz. Why not take it yourself?

Answer "true" or "false" for each of the following:

The United States is among the top half of the other rich, developed, market democracies of the world — such as France, Germany, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, etc.

1. With the lowest incidence of mental illness.

2. With the lowest incidence of drug use.

3. With the lowest infant mortality rate.

4. With the lowest rates of obesity.

5. With the lowest rates of teenage pregnancies.

6. With the lowest rates of homicide.

7. With the lowest rates of people in prison.

8. With the highest level of social mobility (the opportunity for children to do better economically than their parents).

9. With the highest rate of national income spent on foreign aid.

10. With the highest UNICEF Index on the well-being of children.

11. With the highest level of life expectancy.

12. With the highest levels of math and literacy scores of 15-year-olds.

Lets see how you did on the quiz. Renner states the following: "Not only is the correct answer to each of the questions "false," but on the first eight questions the United States is dead last. On the combined index of the number of social and health problems, the United States is last. The common factor accounting for the quality of life in these countries is the disparity of wealth and income within the nation."

Renner points out that "of all the nations, the United States has by far the largest degree of income inequality between the rich and the poor (the Gini coefficient)," and this is the heart of the poor quality of life for the bulk of Americans. He then concludes that "countries with higher levels of health and happiness, and fewer social problems, have:

1. A steeper progressive tax system.

2. A higher maximum marginal tax rate.

3. Government-sponsored universal health care.

4. A government-sponsored social safety net.

5. Government regulation that balances the competing forces of corporate power with the general welfare.

6. A willingness to limit standing military capacity, and the use of armed force only as an intervention of last, rather than first, resort."

Knowing this, is it possible that our dysfunctional government will address the problems to bring the US people up to the standards of the people who live in the countries with higher health and happiness and fewer social problems? The answer is emphatically, "NO!" Americans would like to think of what they were a half century ago and not do anything to create a smaller gap between the rich and poor. They would rather come into your home and tell you: who you should marry, what you can smoke or not smoke, if you can terminate a pregnancy caused by incest, that the earth is 6 thousand years old, and the evolution of living things is a myth.


The Myth of American Exceptionalism

My thoughts for years parallel those expressed in Stephen M. Walt's article on The Myth of American Exceptionalsim that appeared in the St. Pete Times and on his blog, http://www.foreignpolicy.com. My thoughts were the result of being a professor for 45 years and my extensive travels throughout the world. You can read his excellent article by following the above link. I am only going to give my supporting comments below.

So what are these myths?

Myth 1: There Is Something Exceptional About American Exceptionalism.

Walt points out that all nations that have become powerful have claimed being exceptional. It is the product of success. He points out that the US is no different from the claims of the British, French, and Soviet empires. This means that America's claim is just the norm for a world power.

Myth 2: The United States Behaves Better Than Other Nations Do.

Walt states: "Declarations of American exceptionalism rest on the belief that the United States is a uniquely virtuous nation, one that loves peace, nurtures liberty, respects human rights, and embraces the rule of law. Americans like to think their country behaves much better than other states do, and certainly better than other great powers."

I agree with him that this is totally a myth when you consider what Americans did to the indigenous people of North America upon their arrival from Europe. Americans then waged war on Mexico to fill out the western part of the US. We then killed untold thousands in our wars which claimed even more territory and influence. Yes, our leaders would have faced trials for war atrocities if the US had lost any of these wars. How can we say that the US behaves better than other nations when we dropped 6 million tons of bombs and countless tons of Agent Orange in Southeast Asia, mainly Vietnam, and killed millions for no really good reason.

Myth 3: America's Success Is Due to Its Special Genius.

Walt states: "The United States has enjoyed remarkable success, and Americans tend to portray their rise to world power as a direct result of the political foresight of the Founding Fathers, the virtues of the U.S. Constitution, the priority placed on individual liberty, and the creativity and hard work of the American people. In this narrative, the United States enjoys an exceptional global position today because it is, well, exceptional."

Yes, we do many things well, but as Walt states it is mainly due to "luck." We are lucky that we were isolated from the rest of the world, that America has great natural resources, and that the indigenous native population was unsophisticated and could not compete with the more technologically advanced European invaders. We are also lucky that people from other countries have wanted the American Dream. Much of our genius has come from first and second generation immigrants.

Myth 4: The United States Is Responsible for Most of the Good in the World.

Walt states: "Once again, there is something to this line of argument, just not enough to make it entirely accurate. The United States has made undeniable contributions to peace and stability in the world over the past century, including the Marshall Plan, the creation and management of the Bretton Woods system, its rhetorical support for the core principles of democracy and human rights, and its mostly stabilizing military presence in Europe and the Far East. But the belief that all good things flow from Washington's wisdom overstates the U.S. contribution by a wide margin."

You can read his thoughts, but I see this myth from a different viewpoint. As I travel the world I see people lined up at American restaurants like KFC when the food of the country is probably ten times better in taste and nutrition. We have contributed to the obesity of the world. This is not good. We have also projected a good image that is the envy of the world's poor. Today, such people do not have to come to the US to obtain what we have. Presently China is producing a society that has all of the good things of American society. While this is good for the Chinese, it leads to major pollution and political conflict. My point is that you cannot have good without bad, and that good can lead to bad.

Myth 5: God Is on Our Side.

You can read his comments on this myth. I will not comment because I refuse to waste time on anything that relates to the mythology of a supreme being!


Lower Taxes, Less Regulation

No, I have not lost my mind and become a Republican. "Lower taxes and less regulation" is the mantra of the irrational Republican party. This morning, as always, I was listening to NPR's Morning Edition when they presented a segment where they interviewed a political science professor (David Damore) at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas because of the Republican debate that took place in his city the night before. He begins by giving the following facts regarding the state of Nevada. Nevada has:

1. highest foreclosure rate in the US

2. highest bankruptcy rate in the US

3. highest unemployment rate in the US

4. lowest median income in the US

What is responsible for these less than stellar state statistics? You guessed it. Nevada has just about the lowest taxes and is the least regulated state for businesses. Business know this and he states that they have no incentive to move their businesses to Nevada which means things are somehow going to get worse.

I agree with David Damore. The Republicans preach lower taxes and less regulation as an answer to our economic ills when in fact it is exactly the opposite of what must be done to get this country back on an economically sound pathway to fiscal responsibility.


Global Warming Resulting in Climate Change

The following was just published:

ScienceDaily (2011-10-17) -- "Rising sea levels in the coming centuries is perhaps one of the most catastrophic consequences of rising temperatures. Massive economic costs, social consequences and forced migrations could result from global warming. But how frightening times are we facing? Researchers have now calculated the long-term outlook for rising sea levels in relation to the emission of greenhouse gases and pollution of the atmosphere using climate models and have some startling predictions."

The following graph summarizes the findings:

The graph shows how sea levels will change for four different pathways for human development and greenhouse gas pollution. The green, yellow and orange lines correspond to scenarios where it takes 10, 30, or 70 years before emissions are stabilized. The red line can be considered to represent business as usual where greenhouse gas emissions are increasing over time. (Credit: Aslak Grinsted)

Now let's discuss these findings. Of course most Americans do not have enough science and math knowledge to understand the above. I will not rant at this time on the huge percent of Americans who are totally and utterly scientific illiterate. So let me tell you what these scientists (these are the people who got As in science and math classes and who attended MIT and Cal Tech when you went to the local community college) found. If we continue to emit carbon dioxide at the same levels of today and do nothing to decrease the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, then the sea level will rise 1.1 m (43 in.) by 2100 and will rise 5.5 m (216 in or 18 ft) by 2500. So many of you would say so what? How many of you live at or below sea level? A large percent of the human population lives within 100 mi of the sea. Significant increases in the level of oceans will result in the largest human migration ever. Just visualize New York City under water. Now that is just a starter. I will not bore you and tell you the specifics of changing ocean currents and the total modifications of weather patterns.

We must do something today! Look at the plots when something is done to decrease greenhouse gases. Yes, the seas will rise but it will be far less than if we have business as usual. We must educate our scientific illiterate politicians who run this country and the many other countries who continue to rely on burning goo from the ground at phenomenal rates. They only seem to understand money. Well, the cost of a large rise in the sea will make the 2011 US debt number look like small change.


Tea Party Rant

I am really get sick of these idiotic tea party advocates. Do they live in some dream world where they can have their cake and eat it to? While they say they want to decrease government spending by decreasing and maybe eliminating programs such as Medicare and Social Security, I wonder how many of them send back their Social Security checks. How can they ask to have their insurance and utility rates decreased when they want to increase the regulation of these two industries. Are they insane to advocate the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency? If this would happen, they would be upset with breathing thick smog and drinking dirty water. Some even want to close the Department of Education. If this happens then they will be livid when the US will have to purchase its technology from China and other the developing nations.

What definitely bothers me is their call for deregulation of the free market, which is filled with mega greed and corruption. What was the principal cause of our economic downturn? It was the lack of oversight on the banking industry. Even today we have not prosecuted the crooks who raped our economy.

If these people dress up and pretend to be patriots you would think that they would like to open their checkbooks to pay for what they say makes America great. Instead they want to support trillionaires and any stupid organization that wants to come in your home to monitor what you do and with whom. If this is the land of the free, I do not see it. It is the land of the free to do what special interest groups will allow you to do. I saw more freedom in Malaysia (for tea baggers--this is an Islamic dictatorship occupying the Malay Peninsula in Asia). Essentially there are about 5-10 things you do not do; e. g., talk against the government, bring or use drugs, . . . If you do, they quickly execute you. Other than that they have freedom to gamble, be with the people they want, establish businesses that are successful as long as they do not break one of those 10 rules I mentioned. Do not get me wrong I would not fit into the society, but they are in many respects freer and happier than you! Also their food is much better!

In conclusion, I think that the tea party movement is the direct result of the Republicans education programs. By concentrating on fundamental skills and dropping history, geography, political science, social studies, and critical thinking from the curriculum, we now have a populace that can be swayed by the fictions of the Fox Network. They have no tools to evaluate their "beliefs." If they did, I do not think there would be a pack of tea baggers polluting our country.


Republicans Against Science

Again my rant revolves around one of Paul Krugman's editorials entitled Republicans Against Science. Look at his conclusion.

"Now, we don’t know who will win next year’s presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect."

The Republican party is now controlled by right-wing evangelicals who live in their own world, thousands of years in the past, not in the modern world. Thus they must disavow hundreds of years of solid scientific research to perpetuate their mythology. Evolution is a fact supported by tens of thousands of controlled experiments. Global warming is a fact also support by a lot of solid research. Nonetheless, some of the Republican presidential candidates, who believe in Noah's ark, causally dismiss what most educated people around the world have accepted without reservation. Think now of one of these "believers" running our country, possibly another pea brain from Texas. These individuals do not have the intellectual capacity to understand, much less solve, the complicated problems that face our nation in the future.

These same candidates have another major false belief. Many would like to take us back to the "quiet" 1950s. Maybe they see the US in 2011 as depicted on  Andy of Mayberry or Father Knows Best. Well, of course, they would like to return to the time when white men ruled this country. They do not remember the persecution of blacks, the treatment of women as second-class citizens, the widespread antisemitism, and the list goes on and on. If they were even slightly educated they would know that all societies, cultures, and governments that did not change with the times were doomed. Take a history course and see if my statement is correct.


The GOP Will Raise Taxes--on the Middle Class and Working Poor

I recommend that you read the entire op/ed piece by Harold Myerson of the Washington Post, but if you do not have time read his closing paragraph which sums up his thoughts accurately.

"Republicans like to complain that Democrats practice “class warfare” and “the politics of division,” as House GOP leader Eric Cantor argued on this page Monday. What the Republicans’ position on the payroll tax makes high-definitionally clear is their own class warfare on working- and middle-class Americans. Their double standard couldn’t be more obvious: Tax cuts for the wealthy are sacrosanct; tax cuts for everyone else don’t really matter. Norquist, Cantor, Ryan, Camp, the Journal editorialists and the whole Republican crew give hypocrisy a bad name."

This is where we are in the evolution of our country. GOP candidates talk about cuts to programs for the middle class and poor people. They also support, superstitiously, no new taxes. So what is the problem? The problem is the uneducated and uncaring Americans that vote for these people when it is not in their best interest. Education is the only way to produce a democracy that is fair to all of the people. Watching the movie Robin Hood last night I was thinking that nothing much has changed in the way the rich and powerful extort money out of the poor people, us. The main difference in the 12th century is the violence they used to obtain their wealth.


WorldClass Warfare

Before I rant, watch the videos of Jon Stewart's take on the Fox News attack on Warren Buffet.

Class Warfare

As you can see from these videos our government is leading us down and down with just about everything that they do. How can we be below Cameroon in income inequality? It is just a fact that the US is for and by the wealthy of this country. All of us poor people, those making below 10 million dollars a year, are just economic units that make great lives for the wealthy. They are the nobility and we are the serfs. Unfortunately, nothing is going to change. We of the US think we are so great, but we are little different from the other mega powers of history that fought wars so that the rich could get richer and the poor become poorer. Where is the patriotism of the noble class of the US? Why don't they want to pay the taxes of the 1990s, which is just a few percent more than they are paying today. It is not like the 80% rates they paid in the not too distant past!


Rich Perry can only be described as follows:

stupid, simple, slow, thick, dull, naive, dim, dense, dumb , deficient, crass, gullible, simple-minded, dozy , witless, stolid, dopey , moronic, obtuse, brainless, cretinous, unintelligent, half-witted, slow on the uptake, braindead, dumb-ass, doltish, slow-witted, woodenheaded

Before I continue watch the following:

I could have also included the clip on when he also tells us that he does not "believe" in evolution because it is only a theory.

What can I say? This man is uneducated and does not know what he does not know. I do not plan to tell you why global warming and evolution are facts (universally accepted truths). Most of you know that already. What is depressing is that a large percent of uneducated Americans (including many with college diplomas) will vote for this Bush II person. Just think of having another moronic Texas governor who will continue our crusade against Islam in the name of security for Americans. Possibly he will have a prayer meeting so that religious Americans can pray for a better economy. The result would be the same as his prayer meeting to bring rain to Texas.

Again it is my opinion that this is just another sign of the rapid decline of the US. Of the many great people in this country who could help turn this nation around we will have people like Rick Perry as potential presidents.


I agree with Warren Buffet to "Stop Codling the Super-Rich." This is the title of his NY Times editorial. Please read the following and ask yourself if you agree with the current tax code the taxes us poor folks at a higher rate than billionaires.

"Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent."

Those of you Republicans who vote to support the idea that the rich should be richer and you should be poorer are lacking in logic. Why do you accept this: (1) to prevent gays from marrying, (2) to buy as many 50 caliber rifles as you can afford, (3) to return the US to the white-male only society of the 1950s, (4) to make the US government a theocracy,  . . .