You probably know as well as I do that America’s sun is setting, that China’s is rising, and that a changing world means changing times for everyone. But even so, I was surprised to read today that Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa are joining China in discussions about rescuing Europe from its current financial crisis while the once-mighty United States wrestles with its own economic problems.
The news left me wondering whether America’s decline is inevitable.
I want to think that the United States can reverse its apparent downward spiral. Americans are a surprising people. They’ve defied probability in the past, and they could do it again.
But prevailing trends paint a pessimistic picture.
The U.S. Census Bureau has just released a survey showing that one in six Americans now lives in poverty – the highest number ever reported. The survey also showed that real median household incomes dropped 2.3 percent in 2010 from the year before and are now at the lowest level in 14 years .
Meanwhile, the richest 20 percent of the U.S. population enjoys 84 percent of the nation’s wealth. The wealthiest 400 American families have the same net worth as the entire lower half of the population.
To me, that says America is becoming a Third World country. The yawning gap between rich and poor reminds me of Haiti when I was there, back in the Fifties, before the upper class was driven out or slaughtered, before the entire house of cards came tumbling down and wretchedness became universal.
And I fear that could be America’s destiny, unless the dangerous trends that prevail today are checked.
Sadly, I don’t see that happening.
Politics reflects the mood of the nation, and that mood is not conducive to a renaissance. What I see is an acceptance of defeat – economic and social defeat.
And in defeat, ugliness of all kinds rises to the surface. People cheer executions, as they did at one recent Republican candidates’ debate, and call for the death of the poor and improvident, as they did at another.
In defeat, people cut off their noses to spite their faces, as New York progressive did in the recent special election for Anthony Wiener’s House seat. To “send the president a message,” they voted for a Republican jackass, whose claim to fame was putting that monstrous Jerry Springer show on TV, or stayed home – which amounted to the same thing.
In defeat, it’s every man for himself, a nasty rat race, where we claw and bite each other in a desperate stampede of self preservation.
What horrifies me most is the way today’s Republicans embrace the stampede.
They blame the poor for the nation’s troubles. Take away the social safety net, they yell, increase taxes on low-income earners, let the profiteers and polluters have free rein…
Today’s Republicans seem bent on fulfilling the Biblical prophecy:
To him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away.
That’s the way it was in the Third World when I lived there.
It’s too bad so many American voters don’t know what it’s like to live in the Third World.