1-18: Most Americans Continue to Struggle

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece.]

Paul Buchheit has a book coming out in March. If you want to purchase Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income (Critical Interventions), however, you may also want to save up first—hardcover retails at $119, paperback goes for $37.95. The author blogged yesterday what might be considered a tantalizing preview with disturbing and discouraging statistics from the year that was.

“How American Life Continued to Deteriorate in 2016”

But, that cannot be, one might argue. We are the greatest nation on earth, after all, the greatest that ever was, for goodness’ sakes.

The reality of the disposable American has been building up in recent years, and new evidence keeps pouring in. Now the potential exists for greater suffering under the rule of a billionaire Cabinet that is far, far removed from average workers and renters and homeowners.

First the “Upside” — 5% of Us Are Millionaires

Small consolation.

Depending on the source, America has anywhere from 7 million to 13.5 million millionaires — about 5% of U.S. adults, and about a 40% increase in just six years. At the other end, 90% of us have gained NOTHING since 1997, and at least half of us NOTHING since 1980.

New Evidence of an Overall Collapse

Recent studies show America at or near the bottom among developed countries in disposable income, poverty, income and wealth inequality, safety net provisions, employment, economic mobility, life expectancy, infant mortality, and the well-being of children. We’ve run the table. The better part of America is equivalent to a third-world country.

Impossible!

Neglecting the Most Vulnerable among Us

We have fallen far as a nation when a half-million of our children under the age of four are taking anxiety drugs, and when the great majority of American families have to spend over 10% of their income just to send their four-year-olds to pre-school. And the “American Dream” for our kids? According to one careful study, they only have about half the chance that they had fifty years ago.

So much for my generation paving the way for a better place for our progeny.

Racist Gap-Widening

Today just 100 individuals own as much wealth as the entire Black population of America.

You might want to read that sentence again to have it sink in.

Even a middle-aged African-American with a graduate degree has only about the same odds of becoming a millionaire as a white person with a high school diploma. The common misperception is that Black youths turn to drugs at a disproportionate rate. Not true. According to the American Journal of Public Health, “drug-use disorders were most prevalent among non-Hispanic Whites, followed by Hispanics, then African Americans.” Yet “racial/ethnic minorities are disproportionately incarcerated, especially for drug crimes.”

Finding a Stable Job is Becoming Impossible for Much of America

We keep hearing about the drop in the unemployment rate. But with nearly two out of every five American adults not even in the labor force,  the unemployment rate is more like 30%. Partly explaining our employment frustration is a Princeton study which concluded that only 6% of the ten million new jobs created in the past decade were traditional full-time positions, while 94% of them were temporary or contract-based.

How do those workers obtain insurance?

Americans: Sick and Dying, and Killing Themselves

Harvard researcher Dr. Samuel Dickman said, “We spend more on medical care than in any other country, and those dollars are increasingly concentrated on the wealthy.” Less fortunate Americans are 15 pounds heavier than in the 1990s, dying from alcoholism at a record rate, and struggling with mental health problems for which treatment facilities have been continually cut, leaving many mentally ill people in jails rather than in psychiatric hospitals.

The Unkindest Cut of All:

Finally, most disturbingly, we’re living in an era of suicide in America, in parallel with our era of inequality. Suicide is at its highest level in 30 years. It’s especially high for veterans. War is traumatic and depressing, but so is a return to a deteriorating nation.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

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