Perry says: America

Perry Lundon
Local Columnist

The United States of America is a dichotomy of epic proportions. We are living during a time when these contrasts are so vivid and yet so ominous. It is very much the tale of two countries all rolled into a singular country trying to maintain its place or status in the world and succeeding at some things but increasingly failing at more.

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The US is currently the richest nation on the planet. Timely and wise decision making, something currently in short supply, will determine if the US retains this position or begins to fall behind China, India and perhaps a few other nations. The US has the most billionaires of any country although China, with 1,444,200,000 people (626 billionaires & 5,279 millionaires) versus the US with 333,000,000 (724 billionaires and 56,084 millionaires), is quickly catching up by creating more billionaires each year. When there are more than four times the population of the US, China continues to improve their economic wellbeing and at some point, they could usurp the US as the richest nation on the planet. Having the most billionaires does not translate into an overall economic vitality that benefits all US citizens. The US has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world that seems to be getting worse every year.

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The following countries have hourly minimum wages higher than the US: Luxembourg ($13.78/hr.), Australia ($12.14/hr.), France ($11.66/hr.), New Zealand ($11.20/hr.), Germany ($$10.87/hr.), Netherlands ($10.44/hr.), Belgium ($10.36/hr.), United Kingdom ($10.34/hr.), Ireland ($9.62/hr.), Canada ($9.52/hr.) and Israel ($7.94/hr.). I believe that all these countries have some form of universal health care where citizens pay nominal fees to meet their health care needs and a few other factors that better support the overall development of their country and all their citizens. We spend the most on our security and defense by a wide margin and invest less in the development of our country and all our citizens.

It is my opinion, had the US minimum wage maintained the purchasing power of minimum wage, that peaked in 1968. the US minimum wage would be about $13.00 per hour and many societal issues and problems would be much better today. Our current high level of income inequality and societal dysfunction could have been avoided, to what degree is unknown. The Social Security Trust fand Medicare would be much better funded. There would be much less poverty in the country. More families would have been able to afford their own home and benefit from this important home ownership method of wealth creation. Tax revenues would be higher, providing the IRS is funded adequately to reasonably enforce the tax code. Higher tax revenues could have resulted in universal health care, lower crime rates, better funding for education and generally a more enlightened and less greed-centric society over the past 50+ years. The strategic decisions, yes it was many deliberate political decisions over time, in aid of the owner class to keep wages and benefits low can be directly linked to many of the societal problems and issues we confront today and into the future.

The post-secondary education system in the US is a mess. Colleges and universities have become overly bureaucratic with ever expanding management levels that push up the costs of attending these institutions of higher learning. Many states have reduced the amount of funding provided for post-secondary education in the name of tax cutting that has shifted the burden more toward higher costs and fees for those seeking a post-secondary education. It is not uncommon for college graduates to leave or graduate from a college or university with tens of thousands in loan debt. That was simply not the case 40+ years ago. Most of our economic competitors in the world have some level of post-secondary subsidization that allows graduates to leave their post-secondary education with little or no debt.

The residents of the United States historically can be the most giving and responsive people on the planet. The current society is becoming a racist, tribal, gullible, and willfully ignorant populous that is untrustworthy and unreliable. During the past several decades the US responded to crises throughout the world in a quick and decisive manner because we came together to act like the nation our forefathers envisioned. Our forefathers were gravely concerned that we would be incapable of maintaining and improving upon their concept of self-governance. That the by and for the people portion of the constitution, that ultimately leads to the forming of a more perfect Union would possibly break under persistent pressure from untrustworthy political leaders. The last several years have shown their concern to be valid. We have risen to the occasion in the past to uphold the fundamentals of democracy and save their grand experiment in self-governance. I am unsure given our evolving tribalistic society that often live in two inconsistent environments in a highly politically charged country that the demise of our forefather’s vision is forthcoming. Unless our political, corporate, and civic leaders truly work in good faith to preserve what was once the greatest democracy in the history of the world it could soon end.

The truth is that history is filled with empires, and yes, the US was seen as a global empire by many, that vanished for various reasons. We appear to be at a critical tipping point where billionaire backed forces, represent a minority of the population, are doing great damage to what once made our democracy great and inspiring. Regardless of what transpires over the next few years our government will always be presented as a democracy even if the voting is corrupted by that billionaire backed minority retaining political power or our current fragile election process lingers on. Hopefully some wise and visionary political leadership will correct our drift toward the void of self-destruction and the ending of the American dream envisioned by the societal champions of our past.