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.
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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
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
Effective Tax Rate for all Publicly Traded Corporations
Effective Tax Rate for Largest (Multinational) Corporations
All other Corporate Welfare Data (on US Tax Payments for Corporations)
The top 10% of America controls 71.5% of US Wealth – The Bottom 50% control 2.5%
The gap between the top 1% and everyone else hasn’t been this bad since the Roaring Twenties
The American Dream? Can you Pull Yourself Up by Your Bootstraps? Not Usually, No.
The Gap Between Richest and Poorest Dramatically Widens in the Post-Reagan Era
Defense Spending – Global Comparisons
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