by Paul Buchheit
The list doesn’t include our most grievous offenses, those of military and economic warfare against the rest of the world. Sinful enough is our behavior at home.1. Sin against children
Perhaps “sanctity of life” ends at birth. According to Census Bureau figures, one out of every five American children lives in poverty. For blacks and Hispanics, it’s one out of every three.
UNICEF has reported that the U.S. has a higher child poverty rate than every industrialized country except Romania. We are near the bottom in all measures of inequality that affect our children, including material well-being, health, and education.
2. Sin against the poor
The U.S. poverty rate grew from 11.3% to 15.0%, a 33% jump, in just 11 years. The impact was felt primarily by minorities and women. The median wealth for single black and Hispanic women is shockingly low, at just over $100 (compared to $41,500 for single white women).
Another shock. For every dollar of NON-HOME wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent.
Despite the continued economic assault on already-poor Americans, the number of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) cases has dropped by 60 percent over the last 16 years.
3. Sin against students
Students at all levels have been losing their nation’s support. States reduced their education budgets by $12.7 billion in 2012, and in 2013 the majority of states will be spending even less.
At higher educational levels, Americans are paying much more than students in other countries. Only 38% of college expenses come from public funding, compared to 70% across other OECD countries. While other nations continue to offer free tuition, with the recognition that education leads to long-term prosperity, the U.S. system has become more corporatized, to the point that expensive programs like nursing, engineering, and computer science have been eliminated to cut costs. The profit motive has blocked the path to academic excellence.
4. Sin against the middle class
The middle class is shrinking. In 2011, according to a Pew Research analysis, 51% of the nation’s households earned from two-thirds to double the national median income. In the 1970s it was 61%.
One-quarter of America’s workers are now making less than $22,000 a year, the poverty line for a family of four.
Thirty million Americans are making between $7.25 (minimum wage) and $10.00 per hour.
With the transition of middle-class workers to low-income status, entrepreneurship is disappearing. Innovation doesn’t come from the upper class. A recent study found that less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs came from very rich or very poor backgrounds. Small business creators come from the hard-working, risk-taking, nothing-to-lose middle of America, but their entrepreneurial numbers are down — over 50% since 1977.
5. Sin against the common good
A recent Tax Justice Network report placed total hidden offshore assets at somewhere between $21 trillion and $32 trillion. With about 40% of the world’s Ultra High Net Worth Individuals in the U.S., up to $12.8 trillion of untaxed revenue sits overseas. Based on a historical 6% rate of return, this is a tax loss of up to $300 billion per year, money that should be paying for the public needs of education and infrastructure.
Tax avoidance is so appealing that 1,700 Americans renounced their citizenships last year. Like Eduardo Saverin, who benefited from America’s research and technology and security to take billions from his 4% share in Facebook, and then skipped out on his tax bill.
Inexplicably, some have defended Saverin’s actions, apparently failing to recognize one’s obligation to pay for societal benefits. A Forbes writer said, “When individuals resist governmental hubris, we should exalt their actions.” The American Thinker blog argued that “the U.S. tax code is so oppressive that smart and successful people like Saverin are compelled to renounce citizenship in order to keep more of their own hard-earned wages.” Hard-earned, in truth, by the thousands of contributers to his social networking success.
6. Sin against nature
A number of studies show that investment in renewable energy will create many more jobs than the fossil fuel industry. And the investment will likely pay off. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory analysis determined that “renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today…is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050.”
But now the prospect of cheap natural gas is leading us back to a dirty form of energy independence, with a continuing reliance on fossil fuels, and on the fracking technology that despoils our land and pollutes our water. The national commitment and political will needed for the long-term health of our nation is more elusive than ever.
7. Sin against common sense
The deception began, at least in the modern age, with Milton Friedman, who said “The free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people…He moves fastest who moves alone.”
This unflagging adherence to free-enterprise individualism is consistent with Social Darwinism, the belief that survival of the fittest (richest) will somehow benefit society, and that the millions of people suffering from financial malfeasance are simply lacking the motivation to help themselves. Social Darwinism is a feel-good delusion for those at the top. Or, as described by John Kenneth Galbraith, a continuing “search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
A tenet of progressivism is that a strong society will create opportunities for a greater number of people, thereby leading to more instances of individual success. This is the common sense attitude suppressed by conservatives for over 30 years.
Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.