Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Making America Great Again

What does that mean?
James Gustave Speth, professor at Vermont Law School, an environmental lawyer, advocate, and 
author of America the Possible: Roadmap to a New Economy from Yale University Press.
It may be difficult, but there are extraordinary opportunities ahead.

Today's exceptionalism is a mixed retelling of the story of superiority, of rationalizing unilateral actions in world governance and finance  by the last superpower.  To be fair, many who want to 'make America great again' are fondly remembering America's role in the 1950's and 60's when we produced half of the world's GDP, when industry and productivity made a way forward for so many. 

Let's look objectively at the facts we're grappling with.  The graphic (left) from 2012 (based on data compiled by James Gustave Speth) describes our place among the major OECD countries and remains reasonably accurate today.  Some updates --
  • Infant mortality: the U.S. is 56th down the world list, worse than Slovenia, Greece, Latvia, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Japan, Iceland, Norway, Cuba, Poland, etc.
  • Life expectancy: the U.S. is an unimpressive 42nd down the list.
  • Healthcare costs: in the U.S. we spend 2.5 times the OECD per person average and we're not healthier than they are.
  • Incarceration: while the United States represents only about 4.4 percent of the world's population, it houses around 22 percent of the world's prisoners.
  • Education: the U.S. is 29th down the list for quality of education (science and math scores for 15 year olds).  Post-secondary education costs have risen 800% over the last forty years while incomes for the bottom 90% have stagnated.  The average Class of 2016 graduate owes $37,172 in student debt; not a helpful starting point for their career.
  • Economic inequality: America is the richest and most unequal country.  The rich get richer reliably.  The middle and lower economic quintiles are in decline, and 20% of our children live in poverty.  The cultural norm of a traditional majority middle-class family has faded.

Times have changed; others have caught up and passed us by.  Samantha Powers, before she was U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., asserted that "we're neither the shining example, or even competent meddlers.  It's going to take a generation or so to reclaim American exceptionalism..."  A generation ... or do we perhaps need a better goal.

     What are the issues?

You might want to do your own inquiry into the nationpoverty, inequality, abusive economics, and perspective.

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