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Activism, Politics, Religion

Decline of a Nation and Facts

What is the most non-talked about reality in the United States of America today? The fact that we no longer lead the world in almost any indicator.  The United States is no longer the best place for an average person to live.  Our health care lags behind our peers, so does our educational system.

When I was a Christian, I received training about the nature of the devil from several different churches.  In each one, the message was exactly the same:  The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing people he doesn’t exist. The implication was clear.  If you don’t believe evil exists, you won’t recognize its hand in your life.  Belief in the devil is crucial to recognizing reality for what it is — a literal battle between spiritual forces of good and evil.

While it’s true that the devil really doesn’t exist — at least not as a real entity — the warning contained in that little truism deserves some attention.  In order to anticipate and prevent the coming of evil, we must know that it is a real threat.  We must know the facts.  And Americans, sadly, do not appear to know the facts.

Propaganda control has always been the greatest tool for those who would do great harm to many people.  One of the first signs that propaganda has been successful is when citizens stop arguing over the interpretation of facts and begin arguing over what the facts are.

As I write this entry, I’m feeling a sense of ennui and futility that I haven’t experienced in a long time.  Of the 19 industrialized powerhouse first world countries in the world, the United States is the only one in which there is a public and political debate about the reality of evolution.  Evolution is not a debatable topic.  It is a fact, and yet the propaganda system in America, led mostly by fundamentalist Christians and the politicians who are using them, has succeeded in obfuscating and misleading nearly 40% of the population into believing a debate exists.

Does President Obama have a U.S. birth certificate?  Is the U.S. healthcare system already largely socialized?  Do other industrialized countries have better or worse healthcare than us?  Does abstinence education work or not?  How many nations in history have made healthcare systems comparable to the United States’ model work successfully?

These questions all have real answers, and shockingly, they’re not very hard to find.  Anyone with a computer and a few hours of time could answer all of them with near scientific certainty.  And yet, the nature of the facts themselves is so muddled in the media and on Capitol Hill that no meaningful debate about the implications of these facts can even take place.

And we need to argue about the implications.  What does it mean that the U.S. has the worst income inequality in the First World?  What does it mean that we have the highest child and elderly poverty rate, or the least leisure time, or the highest infant mortality rate?  (Those are all real, verifiable, objective truths, by the way.  Look it up.)  What does it mean that our median per capita income is second in the world, but only if you include the top 1% of earners?  What are the implications of the statistical plummet to the lowest median income when we remove that 1%?

Did you know that the median wealth of an American black woman is 5 dollars?  Is that not the most shocking thing you’ve heard in a while? But more shocking is this —Why aren’t we hearing this? Last time I turned on FOX News, I was told that liberals are destroying all the things that make America the best country in the world.  The lie could hardly be more blatant.  In many, many ways, the United States is one of the worst modern countries in the world right now.  These are the facts.

The truth is that the rich and powerful really are saving their own skins with the shirts off our backs.  They have no intention of helping America regain its power.  They are not interested in improving things for the poor.  I mean, for crying out loud — There’s still a debate all over the air-waves about whether we even need health care reform!  How much more ludicrous can you get?  We have the worst healthcare system in the First World, and that is a hard fact.  How can we even debate the fact that we need reform?  What we need desperately right now is constructive debate over how we can reform the healthcare system, and what results we want to achieve, and how we can use empirical data from other countries to make informed, rational decisions about what will work and what will not.  The changes recently instituted by the Obama administration might help, but they will not take us to the top.  Much more work needs to be done, and we will need facts to figure it all out.

But that’s not going to happen, because we live in a country where facts are not as important as ideologies.  Never mind that the statistics say abstinence doesn’t work.  We’re going to spend millions on peddling it because that’s what our religion says.  Forget the proof for WMDs.  We’re going to spend enough money to give free education, healthcare, and lunch to every child in America, but we’re going to spend it on dropping bombs on a country that didn’t attack us.  And for Pete’s sake, don’t worry too much that every powerful First World Country in the world has strong social welfare and public support for the poor.  The American Creed says every man for himself, and the facts be damned.

I don’t think I can belabor this point enough — at least 7o% of Americans subscribe to the belief that some things are true despite being in opposition to the empirical facts.  A huge percentage of Americans distrust scientists whenever they disagree with a religious tenet.

This isn’t just about religion.  It’s about a country that’s already dropped to the bottom and still has plenty of room to free-fall.  It’s about the potential for totalitarianism.  It’s about 1% of the population having enough money to finance nearly all the social reform that we as a country need.  It’s about Exxon Mobile making 37.3 billion dollars profit in 2008, from 313 billion in total sales, and paying exactly nothing in taxes.  These are facts, ladies and gentlemen, and they don’t go away because the media doesn’t report them.

So who is going to do something about it?  Who is going to report them?  Is it even possible to change enough minds in America to facilitate any change at all?  Or is this the time when the smartest Americans start jumping ship and working towards residential visas in other countries?

I honestly don’t know.  But I am pointing these things out to show that my battle — and your battle, whether you join it or not — is not just against “religion.”  It’s about ideology over fact, emotion over reason, and the erosion of our belief in the ability of science to answer questions more neutrally than politicians.

Here are the facts.  They are not up for debate, but we absolutely must debate what they mean and how we can solve the problems they represent.

the-last-two-decades-were-great-except-for-american-workers.jpg

but-savings-rates-are-sinking.jpg

poor-americans-have-a-slim-chance-of-rising-to-the-upper-middle-class.jpg

dddw[1]

country-distribution-2008[1]

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Wealth Distribution:                               http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

Household Income Inequality:     http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/tabfig/08/SWA06_Tab8.16.jpg

Poverty Rates:                           http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/tabfig/08/SWA06_Tab8.17.jpg

Child Poverty Rates:                       http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/tabfig/08/SWA06_Fig8G.jpg

Social Expenditure vs. Child Poverty:http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/tabfig/08/SWA06_Fig8H.jpg

Infant Mortality Rates Per 1,000 Live Births:                    http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/tabfig/08/SWA06_Fig8K.jpg

Public / Private Expenditures on Health Care:http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/tabfig/08/SWA06_Fig8I.jpg

% of Foreign and US Corporations Paying Zero US Taxes
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08957.pdf

Effective Tax Rate for all Publicly Traded Corporations
http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0419/p16s03-cogn.html

Effective Tax Rate for Largest (Multinational) Corporations
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08950.pdf

All other Corporate Welfare Data (on US Tax Payments for Corporations)
http://www.forbes.com/2010/04/01/ge-exxon-walmart-business-washington-corporate-taxes.html

The top 10% of America controls 71.5% of US Wealth – The Bottom 50% control 2.5%
http://extremeinequality.org/

The gap between the top 1% and everyone else hasn’t been this bad since the Roaring Twenties
http://www.thenation.com/special/images/extreme_inequalitychart.jpg

The American Dream?  Can you Pull Yourself Up by Your Bootstraps?  Not Usually, No.
http://emlab.berkeley.edu/users/webfac/dromer/e291_f07/Saez.pdf

The Gap Between Richest and Poorest Dramatically Widens in the Post-Reagan Era
http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

Defense Spending – Global Comparisons
http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending#USMilitarySpending

Median Income of Black Women in the United States:http://uspoverty.change.org/blog/view/the_median_net_wealth_of_black_women_is_5US

U.S. Incarceration Rates:                                     http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/23/us/23prison.html?_r=1

Additional statistical information, and excerpts of full SWA report:http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/

Number of Homeless Americans
http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/How_Many.html

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Discussion

12 thoughts on “Decline of a Nation and Facts

  1. Hamby wrote me a nice personal note:

    “I just wrote a post about people like you, PG. It’s honestly pretty scary that such a simple concept is still being debated. It’s sad when armchair philosophers genuinely believe they get to tell hundreds of thousands of scientists that they’re wrong. Talk about arrogant!”

    Anyway, check this out. It’s about you.

    Funny little bigotted Atheist. You assume anyone who disagrees with an Atheist must be a funadmentalist Christian. As a theist, this new post is totally irrelevent to me. The funny thing is that your entire blog “DNA is not a code” is you trying to tell hundreds and thousands of scientists that they were wrong.

    BTW, arnt you simply pushing a liberal Agenda and propaganda? …….ooops!

    .

    Posted by PG | April 27, 2010, 4:36 pm
  2. PG, the reason I called you an armchair philosopher is that you’ve consistently demonstrated a complete inability to understand how it is accurate to call DNA a code, as many scientists do, and still completely inaccurate to equate a code with design. THAT is where you miss the point completely. You’re yelling and screaming that DNA is not a code, and everybody else is saying, “No, PG, DNA is not the kind of code you want it to be to make your intelligent design argument work.”

    I’m sorry, kiddo, but he who cannot understand equivocation cannot make pronouncements about the philosophy of science.

    Posted by hambydammit | April 27, 2010, 5:46 pm
  3. Here’s another statistic for you, Hamby: 65% of all deaths that occur each year, right now, are attributable to either parasitic infection or heart disease.

    And how many people are out actively trying to retard medical science with woo woo junk, on top of all the other myriad problems (…problems that are getting exponentially more severe as time drags us relentlessly forward)? Well, about 60-ish percent of North Americans state that they prefer ‘alternative’ medicine to the stuff that actually works.

    These people vote. They share the road with you. They raise children.

    If the modern citizen is so gullible that they will readily expose themselves to the most likely & miserable causes of premature death that exist, we’re in for some rough times.

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | April 27, 2010, 11:22 pm
  4. …Oh. My. Fucking. Teapot.

    Hamby, click on the ‘possibly related posts’ link. Want a textbook example of the type of ignorance this article is dealing with? Want a compelling reason to mash your head against a solid surface until blissful oblivion finally takes you? Set your eyes to the task of digesting the text that lies there.

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | April 27, 2010, 11:35 pm
  5. I agree with all of your points… but what about this?

    “at least 7o% of Americans subscribe to the belief that some things are true despite being in opposition to the empirical facts.”

    Is this really true? Somehow I find this a bit unbelievable. I don’t think THIS many distrust scientists – even for believers of a higher being.

    Posted by Karen | April 28, 2010, 9:07 am
  6. Karen, the thing is, belief in a higher being IS belief in something despite opposition to the empirical facts. I’ll admit to some extrapolation in suggesting that all believers have actively decided to adopt this worldview, but the reality is that American Christianity is overwhelmingly founded on the notion of faith as a virtue. Even very liberal churches still fall back in the end on the idea that “some things, you just have to believe.”

    Have you read my article about the “myth” of moderate religion? Here’s the salient passage:

    Moderate Christianity is deceptively alluring because of its seemingly scientific basis. Most educated Christians have no problem admitting that there’s something to evolutionary science, and they have no problem admitting that the earth is very old, and that dinosaurs once roamed about. In fact, if you get a good Moderate Christian into a theological discussion, they will almost inevitably tell you that they believe questions are good, and that any thinking person ought to question what they believe.
    Forgive me, but the devil is in the details, and they’re missing a very, very important detail. The admission that questions ought to be asked makes it seductively simple to believe that moderate Christianity is ok, and doesn’t hurt anyone. Maybe it’s even helpful in some way. The problem, and the main point of this essay, is that questioning is not ok for moderate Christians. I can prove it. Next time you’re talking to a moderate, try getting them onto the nature of god. If you’re any good at debate, you can quickly steer them to one of the half dozen paradoxes inherent in god belief. Once you get them there, note how quickly they will revert to the position, “There are some things you just have to take on faith.” If you press them into explaining why, they will get defensive. They will probably end the discussion very quickly.

    So to answer your question simply, yes, it’s really true that anyone who believes you need faith to believe in god is subscribing to a faith-based worldview. There is something of an asterisk beside many of them, in that some of them are smart enough to throw in the caveat that faith only applies to belief in God. But I think you’d find that this is a very small {EDIT: minority}. Most moderate Christians believe at some level in things like miracles.

    Posted by hambydammit | April 28, 2010, 4:59 pm
  7. Hamby…I think it’s because as soon as anything is reported on the USA that is negative, people take it personally and call it Anti-American……Or they blame Bush or Obama. Even in Canada anything reported that shines USA in a bad light is looked down upon and criticized. I know there is Americans that want to know this but ….the whole “someone else will fix it” kind of attitude seems to prevail in Canada too.

    Posted by Jessica Anderson | April 29, 2010, 10:11 am
  8. While visiting my dad this last summer, he showed me “The Great Global Warming Swindle.” Normally a rational person, my father has bought into the whole global warming denialism.

    This is precisely because he believes science works. He bought the lies in the movie because they were backed with “evidence.” Never mind that we are at a local solar minimum, while average temperatures are still rising. Never mind that every claim made in the movie has been rebutted. His distrust of government has alloyed his ability to distinguish truth from lies.

    I’m not sure it takes a distrust of science to believe in patently false things. It takes a distrust of scientists, or at least a distrust of the politics of science. I’ve noticed a lot of effort is put into creating a perceived schism. The creationists/AGW deniers/healthcare reform opponents/etc have all gone to great lengths to assume at least a veneer of scientific credibility. Meanwhile, the other half of their attack is spent sowing distrust of the scientific community. This wouldn’t be necessary if people didn’t have some sort of respect for science.

    <geek>It’s like the novel “Spock Must Die,” in which it was impossible to distinguish between the real Spock and the fake Spock. When presented with two equally-scientific options, how is one to choose the good option from the evil option? Most people simply don’t have the background necessary to distinguish one from the other.</geek>

    (I’m giving some HTML a shot here. I hope it works.)

    Posted by nigelTheBold | April 29, 2010, 1:36 pm
  9. I think nigelTheBold has a great point. A lot of people don’t realize they are rejecting science, they actually think they have good scientific reasons for their beliefs. Of course that’s how pseudoscience works, it shields its own lies with the authority of a scientific-seeming veneer.

    Posted by Eshto | April 29, 2010, 1:44 pm
  10. (I’m giving some HTML a shot here. I hope it works.)

    It did work. The “geek” html reduced my attraction to you by 15%

    Posted by Cpt_pineapple | April 29, 2010, 4:31 pm
  11. Eshto, you make a very good point, which I failed to articulate clearly. I don’t believe 70% of Americans have actively decided to be anti-science. I think a combination of ignorance of critical thinking/scientific method and the oft-mentioned propaganda campaign against science combine to facilitate pseudoscience and quackery in people who *believe* themselves to be rational, but who are in fact eschewing logic and science in an external objective sense.

    Posted by hambydammit | April 29, 2010, 4:59 pm

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