By Ray Williams
The United States has been a powerful leading force for democracy and world order since the Great Depression, but there are clear signs of America’s decline.
While many American leaders and the media have repeatedly asserted U.S. exceptionalism with such metaphors as “the shining city on the hill” (Ronald Reagan), “This is the greatest society in all of human history, the greatest country ever,” (Senator Marco Rubio), the reality of flaws and gradual decline of America have been ignored.
This article is not intended to be a biased bashing of the United States. I have no ax to grind. In fact, I and my family will be eternally grateful to U.S. military forces which liberated my family from a POW camp in Hong Kong where we were prisoners of the Japanese for four years during WWII. As much as I possibly could, wherever I describe American decline, I provide documented evidence or expert opinions.
I am personally a great believer in all the good that the U.S. has brought to the world, but in order to see a bright future for the country it’s necessary to view realistically and factually the current state of affairs for the U.S. And the current state of affairs is not good. Having recognized that rather than be in denial or base a perspective based on myths, is an important first step forward to making changes. Keep in mind that all great empires didn’t fall precipitously, then slowly eroded through time. But the signs are there.
The U.S.’s Great Leadership
In 1944, the United States gathered together convened 44 nations to develop structures for a a prosperous and peaceful post-war world. They created the International Monetary Fund, or IMF (for financial stability); the World Bank (for postwar reconstruction); and, somewhat later, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (for free trade), the predecessor of the World Trade Organization.
In 1945, the U.S. brought together representatives from 50 allied nations in drafting the charter for a new organization, the United Nations, dedicated to world order, avoidance of war, human rights, and ways to share economic prosperity. In the 17 years following, the U.S. led efforts to create organizations devoted to food (the Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO) and to public health (the World Health Organization, or WHO).
The U.S. led the recovery from the devastation of WWII by initiating the $13 billion Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of war-torn Europe, the U.S. also supplemented the U.N.’s work by providing billions of dollars in bilateral aid to fund reconstruction and economic development in nations old and new.
In the 1960’s President Kennedy established the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) that today has a budget of $27 billion and 4,000 employees who deliver humanitarian assistance worldwide by providing, for instance, $44 million in emergency relief for 700,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
Just months after its founding, the U.N. also formed its Human Rights Commission, chaired by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, to draft the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in Paris on December 10, 1948. And the U.S. led the Allies in convening tribunals at Nuremburg and Tokyo in 1945-1946 that tried their war crimes under international law. Three years later, the U.S. joined the international community in adopting the four modern Geneva conventions that laid down the laws of war for future conflicts to protect both captives and civilians.
During the 70 years that the U.S. led many of these international institutions, half the world won national independence, economic prosperity spread, poverty declined, hunger receded, diseases were defeated, world war was indeed avoided, and human rights advanced. Few empires in world history had presided over so much progress and prosperity for such a significant share of humanity.
Although overshadowed in recent years by its endless counterterror operations and its devastatingly destructive wars across the Greater Middle East and Africa, the United States has nonetheless had a profound and often positive impact upon the world.
Signs of American Decline
Although observers and critics have bemoaned American decline since its founding, much of that has been philosophical or political in nature. The clear indications of decline can be seen beginning with the enactment of Jim Crow laws after the Civil War. Although a robust economic society existed post WWII, significant data is now showing a clear picture of decline since the 1970s.
First and foremost, the U.S. Federal Government has been ineffective in dealing with the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. To this date, there has been no official investigation and public report by the Capitol Police, not even a press conference. Congress has failed to establish a 9/11 type commission to investigate what happened and take subsequent action. There was a clear breakdown in intelligence warnings by the FBI. There was clear breakdown in communication by the military, including allegations of both police and military collusion. There was clear indication that members of Congress and the Senate supported the insurrection and indeed voted to invalidate Joe Biden’s election, and no action was taken against them. There are clear indications that continuing plotting by far right militia type groups who threaten to take subsequent action. In all, how can this not be called both a threat to American democracy as well as a sign of its weakness?
Percentage of People Living Below Poverty Line: U.S. Ranks 35th best out of 157 countries. The number of children living in Poverty: OECD Rank = 34 out of 35. The United States ranks in 34th place out of 35 OECD countries for children living in poverty. An estimated 43.1 million Americans live in poverty according to the official measure. Poverty is much worse in the U.S. compared to countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand.
In terms of income inequality: U.S. is fourth worst according to the OECD The Gini coefficient (or index) is the most commonly used measure of income inequality. It ranges from 0 (a state of perfect equality) to 1 (where all wealth is held by one person, or a state of perfect inequality). Countries with the most serious problems of income inequality are Chile (Gini = .501), Mexico (.466), Turkey (.411), United States (.38), and Israel (.37).
The United States is #27 when it comes to median wealth per adult according to Global Wealth Databook Here is the list of the top countries by median wealth per adult: 1. Australia 2. Luxembourg 3. Japan. 5. Italy and Belgium 6. United Kingdom . 7. Iceland 8. Singapore 9. Switzerland 10. Denmark 11. Austria 12. Canada. 13. France 14. 15. Norway. 16. Finland. 17. New Zealand & Netherlands 18. Ireland 19. Qatar 20. Spain . 21. United Arab Emirates. 22. Taiwan 23. Germany 24. Sweden 25. Cyprus 26. Kuwait 27. United States.
Happiness: U.S. Ranks 17th out of 36 countries on Life Satisfaction according to a U.N. Report A major contributor to levels of happiness is income inequality according to most modern research. In terms of income equality in the OECD countries the Scandinavian countries, and Switzerland top the list, with Canada, and Australia close behind. The U.S. is ranked 17th.
GDP Per Capita: U.S. Ranks 8th out of 228 countries according to the CIA World Factbook. Gross domestic product (GDP) is a major measure of a country’s economic performance and is the value of all final goods and services produced in a country during the year. Per capita GDP is calculated by dividing GDP by the population. It is sometimes used as an measure of the standard of living of a country. According to the CIA World Factbook, Per Capita GDP for the United States is $65,254, ranking it 8th. Luxemburg is ranked #1 with a per capita GDP of $115,839.
The U.S. Ranked 33rd out of 145 countries in terms of a ranking of the healthiest countries according to Bloomberg. To identify the healthiest countries in the world, Bloomberg Rankings created health scores and health-risk scores for countries with populations of at least one million. Five year averages, when available, were used to mitigate some of the short-term year-over-year swings. In addition, the United States healthcare system has been declared a “mess” by the Institute of Medicine.
Health, Maternal Deaths: U.S. Ranks 60th out of 180 Countries. A recent report published in Lancet shows that the United States is now ranked 60th out of 180 countries in maternal deaths during pregnancy and birth; in 1990, the U.S. ranked 20th .
Prison Population Totals: U.S. ranked 1st out of 224 countries according to a report World Prison Brief by the Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research and University of London The United States of America locks up more people than any other country on the planet. Ironically, it is the so-called land of the free that houses the highest prison population per capita in the OECD. According to a U.S. Department of Justice report published in 2019, over 6.9 million people were at that time in prison, on probation, or on parole (released from prison with restrictions). That means roughly in every 32 adult Americans are under some sort of criminal justice system control. The majority of the 2.2 million people in the American correctional system, are black. The U.S. has more people incarcerated than the entire prison populations of England, Argentina, Canada, and six other countries combined. Since 1970, the detained population in the United States has increased by 700 percent. And as the Washington Post reported there are more Americans shipping off to prison than to four-year degree programs in some parts of the country. The United States is the only Western country that has capital punishment, and in 2019 executed 533 prisoners.
Stability of Nations: U.S. Ranks 20th out of 178 countries. According to the Fund Finland for Peace, ranking of the stability of countries, which considers various factors including income inequality, corruption, and factionalism to measure the stability of a nation. the U.S. ranks 20th out of 178 countries. Western European countries, New Zealand, Australia and Canada were ranked much more favorably.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit 2020 report, the U.S. was described as a flawed democracy ranking 25thamong countries. Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand and Canada took the top 5 rankings.
The US has fallen to a new low in a global ranking of political rights and civil liberties , according to a new report by Freedom House, a democracy watchdog group. The US scored 83 out of 100 possible points this year in Freedom House’s annual rankings of freedoms around the world, an 11-point drop from its ranking of 94 a decade ago. The US’s new ranking places it on par with countries like Panama, Romania and Croatia.
According to the 2020 Social Progress Index, the U.S. ranks 28th — having slipped from 19th in 2011. The U.S, Hungary and Brazil are the only ones in which people are worse off than when the index began in 2011. And the declines in Brazil and Hungary were smaller than the U.S.
The U.S. ranks 29th out of 36 western OECD countries on the Better Life Index. The Better Life Index consists of 11 topics (housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety, work-life balance). The United States ranks 29th out of 36 countries on work-life balance.
According to Reporters Without Borders, the United States ranks forty-seventh out of one hundred seventy-nine countries ranked for freedom of the press. The top ten countries for freedom of the press are:
- Cape Verde
- Canada and Denmark (tied)
The U.S. ranked 121st out of 163 countries in the 12th annual “Global Peace Index” an independent non-profit think tank based in Australia, which scored 163 independent states and territories according to their levels of peacefulness. While the U.S. essentially held its rank relative to other countries’ movements, its level of peacefulness declined to its lowest since 2011.
The U.S.’s status among developed nations in educational standards are low and dropping. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 32 million adults in the United States are illiterate, which is approximately 14 percent of our population. As for the adults who can read, 21 percent read at a 5th grade level, which is to say that they have probably never picked up a novel in their life.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranks the U.S. sixth (45.67%) for adult education level (ages 24-65), whereas Canada is ranked 1 (56.27). After leading the world for decades in 25-34 year category with university degrees, the U.S. is now in 12th place. The U.S. ranks 12th among developed countries in college graduation, and 79th in elementary-school enrollment. One of the biggest cross-national tests is the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which every three years measures reading ability, math and science literacy and other key skills among 15-year-olds in dozens of developed and developing countries.
Among the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sponsors the PISA initiative, the U.S. ranked 30th in math and 19th in science. A Marist poll released on July 4, 2011 showed that 42 percent of American adults are unaware that the U.S. declared its independence in 1776, and this figure increases to 69 percent for the under-30 age group. Twenty-five percent of Americans don’t know from which country the United States seceded. A poll taken in the Oklahoma public school system turned up the fact that 77 percent of the students didn’t know who George Washington was, and only 2.8% of the students actually passed the citizenship test. Along similar lines, the Goldwater Institute of Phoenix did the same survey and only 3.5% of students passed the civics test.
The Texas Board of Education recently voted to include a unit on Estee Lauder in the history curriculum, when they don’t have one on the first president. Nearly 30 percent of the American population thinks the sun revolves around the earth or is unsure of which revolves around which according to the National Science Foundation. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 68% of public school children in the U.S. do not read proficiently by the time they finish third grade. And the U.S. News & World reported that barely 50% of students are ready for college-level reading when they graduate. According to the National Research Council report, only 28% of high school science teachers consistently follow the National Research Council guidelines on teaching evolution, and 13% explicitly advocate creationism or “intelligent design.”
A poll released by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center found only 36% of Americans could name all three branches of the government and 35% couldn’t name any of them. It also found over 60% of Americans don’t know which political party controls the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. According to the National Endowment for the Arts report in 1982, 82% of college graduates read novels or poems for pleasure; in 2002 only 67% did. And more than 40% of Americans under 44 did not read a single book–fiction or nonfiction–over the course of a year. The percentage of 17 year-olds who don’t read outside of school has doubled between 1984-2004.
The U.S. has the highest obesity rates among all 27 OECD countries with a 37% percent obesity rate in 2020 according the Bloomberg Health Index.
U.S. water quality and infrastructure is poor. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that during the Flint water crisis in 2015, nearly 21 million Americans—about 6%—were getting water from systems that violated health standards. And looking back over time, the number of violations generally increased from 1982 to 2015—spiking in the years following the addition of a new regulation, the team reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2013, America received a “D” in the drinking-water category of the American Society for Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. The report found that most of the nation’s drinking-water infrastructure is “nearing the end of its useful life.” Replacing the nation’s pipes would cost more than $1 trillion. The country’s wastewater infrastructure also got a “D” grade. According to an article on patch.com, an analysis of federal data by the Environmental Working Group has shown that the water supply for 200 million Americans may contain toxic levels of chromium-6, aka hexavalent chromium, which may cause cancer.
The U.S. exercises little oversight over environmental damage by energy companies. According to Toxic Waters: How Offshore Fracking Pollutes the Gulf of Mexico, a new report (pdf) published Wednesday by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), fossil fuel extraction methods of fracking and acidizing have become increasingly common in offshore oil and gas production over the past decade, the U.S. government continues to allow oil and gas companies to discharge millions of gallons of hazardous waste into the Gulf of Mexico “without limit.” With no limits on toxic discharge, oil companies have dumped at least 66.3 million gallons of fracking fluids, containing many substances known to be toxic to both people and wildlife, into the Gulf from 2010 through 2020.
The U.S. ranks #1 of all Western countries in terms of violent crime. Hate crimes have seen an increase in cities across the USA. In California alone, the number spiked 44 percent between 2014 and 2017, up to 1,093 hate crimes last year, the state’s attorney general’s office reported last week. The total number of hate crimes in the 10 largest cities in America jumped in 2017, marking four straight years for an uptick in such incidents. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University found a 12.5 percent increase in incidents reported by police last year in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego and San Jose.
The US life expectancy is slipping further and further behind other high-income countries. According to the most recent comparative data of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, US life expectancy in 2017 (at 78.6 years) ranked 27th out of 35 OECD countries, which averaged 82.3 years and more than five years behind the leader, Japan (83.9 years), and roughly four years behind the next three countries, Spain (83.0), Switzerland (83.0) and Italy (82.6).
The U.S. lags behind other developed countries in retirement well-being. The Global Retirement Index, developed by Natixis Investment Managers and CoreData research, serves to provide insight into what influences a country’s ascent or decline in overall well-being in retirement. The study is a multifaceted index that focuses four thematic subindices: Material Wellbeing; Health; Quality of Life ; and Finances. The top 16 countries are from Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The U.S. was rated as #17.
Among wealthy democracies, the U.S. ranks 27th overall by the Environmental Performance Index in 2018. The Index, a collaborative effort by Yale and Columbia researchers and the World Economic Forum. Using 10 categories, they ranked the United States 27th. On air it ranks 10th and on water, 29th. Among wealthy democracies, the United States ranks toward the bottom, according to Zachary Wendling, principal investigator at the Environmental Performance Index.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) reports that the United States is the only nation among advanced economies that does not provide a legal guarantee of paid vacation. According to a report by the CEPR, European countries lead the world in guaranteeing paid leave for its workers. Among OECD countries, 16 of the 18 most generous governments when it comes to paid vacation are European.
According to the New York Times, “Studies show that the United States has among the highest rates of drug use in the world.” But even as restricting supply has failed to curb abuse, aggressive policing has led to thousands of young drug users filling American prisons, where they learn how to become real criminals. The Times article goes on to say ”In fact, nearly half of the 186,000 people serving time in federal prisons in the United States are incarcerated on drug related charges. Since the War on Drugs began more than 40 years ago, the U.S. government has spent more than $1 trillion on interdiction policies. Spending on the War on Drugs continues to cost U.S. taxpayers more than $51 billion annually. The unintended consequences of the War on Drugs do not affect all groups equally. In the United States, it is well documented that these policies disproportionately impact minority communities, particularly blacks and Hispanics.” A study by the Cato Institute concluded: “For more than 100 years, prohibition has been the primary policy in the United States with regard to illicit substances. As the data show, however, these policies fail on practically every measure. As a result of prohibition and the changes it induces in the market for drugs, increased disease, death, violence, and cartels are all expectable outcomes.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. has more mass shootings than any other country. In one study by Adam Lankford, it has been estimated that 31% of public mass shootings occur in the U.S., although it has only 5% of the world’s population. With respect to homicide rates, Canada has a 1.68 per 100,000 ratio, the U.K, 1.20 per 100,000 and the US 49.26 per 100,000.
According to a study by the Grant Thornton International Business. out of the 45 countries examined, the United States ranks in the bottom 10 for the percentage of women in senior management positions, occupying just 22 percent of senior roles. Since the end of World War II, 64 countries have had a female head of state, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Women’s Power Index, which ranks countries on their progress toward gender parity in political participation. According to a comparison by Pew, the U.S. ranks 33rd out of 49 high-income countries when it comes to women in the national legislature (27% of the House and Senate are women). When they expanded the comparison to 137 countries, the U.S. dropped to 83rd. In its 244 year history, the U.S. has never elected a woman as President. In contrast there are 29 countries currently serving as heads of state.
America’s infrastructure is crumbling. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the US a D grade for its roads and a “D,” and the cost for the cost of bringing all systems up to adequacy, at a cost estimated at $2.2 trillion. What’s more, the US Department of Transportation estimates it could cost as much as $1 trillion just to bring the current Interstate and highways system in the US up to date. Out of 138 economies worldwide, the US ranks 23rd when it comes to infrastructure competitiveness, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index. The U.S. has 614,387 bridges, almost 4 in 10 of which are 50 years or older . Nine per cent of these bridges were structurally deficient in 2016, and there were 188 million trips across a structurally deficient bridge each day .One out of every 5 miles of highway pavement is in poor condition.
The American healthcare system rated as poor. A report in JAMA (American Medical Association) published in March comparing U.S. statistics with those of the highest income countries (United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, Japan, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark) indicates that the American healthcare system fares quite poorly. The U.S. spends far more per capita on healthcare when compared to other countries, but has less in healthcare outcomes to show for it.
The U.S. is responsible for over 80% of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined.
The U.S. is ranked 4th out of 34 developed nations for the highest incidence rate of homicides committed with a firearm, according to Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data. According to the CDC gun deaths in the US have reached the highest level in nearly 40 years. There are more than 393 million guns in circulation in the United States — approximately 120.5 guns for every 100 people. An estimated 45 million Americans own handguns. 87% of the children killed in the 23 wealthiest nations were American. 80% of the gun deaths in the 23 wealthiest nations were American.
The U.S. ranks number 1 in the world in terms of guns owned per 100 people . Eleven of the 20 worst mass shootings in the advanced countries in the past 50 years took place in the United States. Two distinguished legal scholars, Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins, compared crime rates in the G-7 countries (Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States) between in their book, Crime Is Not The Problem: Lethal Violence In America Is. Bluntly, they stated their conclusion: “What is striking about the quantity of lethal violence in the United States is that it is a third-world phenomenon occurring in a first-world nation.” There are more than 393 million guns in circulation in the United States — approximately 120.5 guns for every 100 people. An estimated 45 million Americans own handguns.
According to data assembled by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIJP), about 85 people in the U.S. are killed every day in firearm-related incidents. Of the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the countries with the five highest homicide rates are, in order: Mexico (highest), Chile, Estonia, the United States and Turkey. The U.S. is ranked 4th out of 34 developed nations for the highest incidence rate of homicides committed with a firearm, according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data. Mexico, Turkey, Estonia are ranked ahead of the U.S. in incidence of homicides. A U.S. male aged 15–24 is 70 times more likely to be killed with a gun than their counterpart in the eight (G-8) largest industrialized nations in the world (United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, Italy, Russia).
On average in the U.S., 97,820 people are shot every year. One study found that nearly one-third of the world’s public mass shootings between 1966 and 2012 (90 of 292 incidents) occurred in the United States. Using a similar definition, The Washington Post records 163 mass shootings in the United States between 1967 and June 2019. 7 million children live with unlocked, loaded guns – 1 out of 3 homes with kids have guns. In 2015, 2,824 children (age 0 to 19 years) died by gunshot and an additional 13,723 were injured. The US has the highest per-capita gun ownership in the world with 120.5 firearms per 100 people; the second highest is Yemen with 52.8 firearms per 100 people. Since 1979 when gun death data were first collected by age, a shocking 119,079 children and teens have been killed by gun violence. That is more child and youth deaths in America than American battle deaths in World War I (53,402) or in Vietnam (47,434) or in the Korean War (33,739) or in the Iraq War (3,517). Where is the equivalent of the anti-war movement to protect children from pervasive gun violence in their own country?
In 2000, the costs of gun violence in the United States were estimated to be on the order of $100 billion per year, plus the costs associated with the gun violence avoidance and prevention behaviors. In 2010, gun violence cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $516 million in direct hospital costs. All 50 U.S. states allow for the Right-to-carry firearms, with forty-two states generally requiring a state-issued permit in order to carry concealed weapons in public and the remaining eight states generally allowing individuals to carry concealed weapons in public without a permit. Right-to-carry laws expanded in the 1990s as homicide rates from gun violence in the U.S. increased. At least eleven assassination attempts with firearms have been made on U.S. presidents (over one-fifth of all presidents); four were successful, three with handguns and one with a rifle.
The firearms industry created $31 billion in economic activity in 2011.Gun stores had revenue of about $11 billion, IBIS World said in its 2018 report. Gun and ammunition manufacturers had revenue of $17 billion, but the majority of that revenue comes from the defense side of the equation: arms sales to the U.S. and foreign governments.
The U.S. is developing a warrior culture in their police forces. Many police departments have developed a warrior persona and culture. Add to that the increasing militarization of police departments, and the problem becomes pervasive. Seth Stoughton is a professor of law at the University of South Carolina and a former police officer. He is co-author of Evaluating Police Uses of Force argues officers learn to treat every individual they interact with as a potential armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making. Every individual, every situation — no exceptions. Stoughton contends that counterintuitively, the warrior mentality also makes policing less safe for both officers and civilians.
The warrior mentality has so thoroughly been inserted into policing in America that, at some law enforcement agencies, it has become a point of professional pride to refer to the “police warrior.” Stoughton says: “Hesitation can be fatal. So officers are trained to shoot before a threat is fully realized, to not wait until the last minute because the last minute may be too late.” Dave Grossman’s “Bulletproof Mind” has been teaching law enforcement agencies across the United States militarized tactics in which officers are told to see themselves as “at war” on the streets.
Over the last three decades, the militarization of policing in America has grown exponentially, where local police take on the appearance, armament, and behavior of soldiers at war.
The Pentagon’s 1033 program, allows law enforcement agencies to purchase Department of Defense technology, so that American police have received a startling amount of heavy-duty, military-grade hardware. In fact, between 1998 and 2014, the dollar value of military hardware sent to police departments skyrocketed from $9.4 million to a startling $796.8 million.
The FBI has long been concerned about the infiltration of law enforcement by white supremacist groups and its impact on police abuse and tolerance of racism, the unredacted version of a previously circulated Congressional report reveals.
The US has not ratified any international human rights treaties since December 2002. It has not ratified the following treaties or conventions:
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
- Land Mine Ban Treaty.
- Convention on Cluster Munitions.
- Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- Civil Law Convention on Corruption.
- Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
- Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
- United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
- United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
- Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Occupational Safety and Health Convention.
- Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.
- Arms Trade Treaty.
- Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights—part of the International Bill of Human Rights.
- Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
- International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
- And voted at the U.N. against a resolution that condemns bigotry, and especially condemns Nazism and all forms of racism.
The United States is the world’s top exporter of arms. The United States was the largest exporter of major arms from 2015-2019, delivering 76 percent more arms than runner-up Russia, according to a new study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute think tank. The U.S. contributed about 35 percent of all the world’s arms exports during that five-year time period, With factors such as size and capabilities to its advantage, the US is home to some of the top arms manufacturing companies. The top two defense contractors in the US are ranked top in the world. They are Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing. Out of the nation’s known 98 clients, the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia in particular, are the biggest, accounting for 52% and 22.0% of U.S. arms exports, respectively. Exports to the region from the United States rose by 134% between 2009-13 and 2014-18.The sales generated from the exportation of arms from the US were $47.1 billion.
U.S. military action has killed thousands of civilians. According to a Department of Defense report , U.S. forces killed 23 civilians last year during military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. However, the true number of civilians killed by U.S. attacks in 2020 was far higher, according to organizations that monitor such casualties. The U.K.-based journalistic monitoring group Airwars, for example, reported between 34 and 36 civilian deaths caused by U.S.-led attacks on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria last year. Airwars also reported between seven and 13 civilians killed by U.S. forces in Somalia last year.
A December 2020 report by Neta C. Crawford of the Costs of War Project—a team of 50 scholars, legal experts, human rights practitioners, and physicians at Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs in Rhode Island—found that at least 83 civilians were killed. While the discrepancy between the number of civilian casualties in 2020 acknowledged by the United States and figures reported by independent monitors and media is stark, it was even greater in 2019. That year, the Pentagon claimed responsibility for 132 civilian deaths, while Airwars and the Costs of War Project reported more than 1,100 civilians killed by U.S.-led attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria alone. The administration of former President George W. Bushalso repeatedly came under fire for undercounting civilian casualties. As Gen. Tommy Franks infamously declared on the eve of the Iraq invasion, “We don’t do body counts.” While such an attitude makes it virtually impossible to tell exactly how many men, women, and children have been killed by U.S. forces over the past two decades of unending war, estimates range from around 500,000 to well over one million.
The U.S.’s Drone Warfare have been used for targeted assassinations as a form of war (without Congressional authorization) and resulted in large numbers of civilian casualties and the violation of other countries’ territorial boundaries. According to international law and the Geneva conventions, all parties to a conflict must distinguish between combatants and civilians – the latter being “protected persons”. at least two respected law professors, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin (at University of Minnesota Law School) and Philip Alston (Professor of Law at New York University Law School, and former UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, 2004-10) argued “one can reasonably take the position that the US government and its targeted killing programs breach international and human rights law standards.” The use of drones was supposed to both respect the law and protect the vulnerable. Yet in Iraq the methods that killed the most civilians per event were drone strikes. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a non-profit news organisation, estimates that since 2015, the US has conducted more than 14,000 drone strikes in Afghanistan alone.
Corruption in the U.S. has reached serious heights. The World Economic Forum’s “The Global Competitiveness Report on Corruption” shows corruption to be a rather pervasive problem in the U.S., compared to most other OECD countries (the higher the number the more corrupt):
- On “Diversion of Public Funds [due to corruption],” the U.S. ranks #34.
- On “Irregular Payments and Bribes” (which is perhaps an even better measure of lack of corruption) the U.S. is #42.
- On “Public Trust in Politicians,” the U.S. is #54.
- On “Judicial Independence,” the U.S. is #38.
- On “Favoritism in Decisions of Government Officials” (otherwise known as governmental “cronyism”), the U.S. is #59.
- On “Organized Crime,” the U.S. is #87.
- On “Ethical Behavior of Firms,” the U.S. is #29.
- On “Transparency of Governmental Policymaking,” the U.S. is #56.
- On “Property Rights” protection (the basic law-and-order measure), the U.S. is #42.
The U.S. ranked 17th out of 175 countries according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index .The United States was ranked #17 in 2014 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Denmark was #1 and viewed as the least corrupt country; Somalia and North Korea (rank tied at #174) were perceived as the most corrupt countries in the world.Corruption in the United States is a serious issue compared to other Western countries, according to a new global report released by Transparency International. In the annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), the United States fell to a low of 67out of a maximum possible score of 100, down from a high of 76 in 2015.
U.S. ranked low on Most Reputable Countries listing. According to the Forbes 2019 Most Reputable Countries ranking compiled by The Reputation Institute, showed the top countries in order as Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, New Zealand and Canada. The U.S. was listed as 36th .
U.S. scores low on the 2018 Best Countries rankings. According to with global marketing communications company Y&R’s brand strategy firm, BAV Group, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, ranked Switzerland No. 1 and Canada No. 2.The U.S. was ranked No. 8
The U.S. is the only UN State to not ratify The Convention on the Rights of the Child. On November 20, 1989, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, (CRC) a landmark treaty protecting children from neglect, abuse, and exploitation. It is the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. The United States signed this treaty in 1995. For the U.S. to be legally bound by its terms, the CRC must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the U.S. Senate and ratified by the President. To date, the U.S. Senate has not approved the Convention.
In violation of International Law, the U.S. engaged in torture of its prisoners, and confinement with no legal rights. The US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s published a report on the CIA and its detention and interrogation program. The report is the result of an investigation into six years of detention and “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA against suspected terrorists in secret sites around the world, as well as a well-known site, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The Senate Select Intelligence Committee spent more than five years analyzing approximately 6.3 million pages of documents, at a cost of $40 million. Among its conclusions were: “The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others…39 detainees were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques, which included sleep deprivation, waterboarding, prolonged standing, and exposure to cold.” In other words, torture.
Americans have lost trust in their leaders. Since the onset of the Great Recession in 2007-2008, the share of Americans who say they trust the federal government to do what is right either just about always or most of the time has hovered near 20%. The most recent polling data from May 2021 puts the approval rating of the United States Congress at 31 percent. This is slightly lower than the month previous, when the Congressional approval rating was at 33 percent. Congressional approval, particularly over the past few years, has not been high. Americans tend to see Congress as a group of ineffectual politicians who are out of touch with their constituents. Despite the current Congress having the largest number of women and being the most diverse Congress in American history, very little has been done to improve the opinion of Americans regarding the legislative branch. Americans tend not to have much confidence in institutions in the United States.
Anti-science, anti-expert and anti-intellectualism is growing in the U.S. The recent and ongoing virus pandemic has exposed a serious flaw in American democracy—the war against expertise and virulent anti-intellectualism. In politicians’ press conferences, major news outlets’ shows, and articles both in mainstream media and social media, the conclusions and perspectives of scientific experts on issues related to COVID-10 or climate change are not only challenged by commentators that have no scientific expertise nor can they provide any evidence for their claims. Worse, often an argumentative equivalency is presented to viewers and readers to show that opinions (often uniformed) are equal to and as important as expert views back by scientific evidence.
Tom Nichols is professor at the U.S. Naval War College and author of The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, argues“In the far less grand homes of ordinary American families, knowledge of every kind is also under attack. Parents argue with their child’s doctor over the safety of vaccines. Famous athletes speculate that the world might actually be flat. College administrators ponder dropping algebra from the curriculum because students keep failing it. This is all immensely dangerous, not only to the well-being of individual citizens, but to the survival of the United States as a republic.” Nicols goes on to say “A significant number of laypeople now believe, for no reason but self-affirmation, that they know better than experts in almost every field. They have come to this conclusion after being coddled in classrooms from kindergarten through college, continually assured by infotainment personalities in increasingly segmented media that popular views, no matter how nutty, are virtuous and right, and mesmerized by an internet that tells them exactly what they want to hear, no matter how ridiculous the question.”
A partisan divide persists. More Democrats (43%) than Republicans (27%) have “a great deal” of confidence in scientists – a difference of 16 percentage points. The gap between the two parties on this issue (including independents who identify with each party, respectively) was 11 percentage points in 2016 and has increased since then.
As Naomi Oreskes and Erik M Conway demonstrated in their 2010 book Merchants of Doubt, right wing think tanks, the fossil fuel industry, and other corporate interests that are intent on discrediting science have employed a strategy first used by the tobacco industry to try to confuse the public about the dangers of smoking. “Doubt is our product,” read an infamous memo written by a tobacco industry executive in 1969, “since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public.”
So now we have a culture in the U.S. that readily embraces “fake news” and “alternative facts,” echoes of the book by George Orwell, 1984.
The U.S. has expanded its military presence throughout the world. The U.S. currently has (depending on the source of information) somewhere between 800 and 1,000 military bases in over 50 countries, and still regards itself as the world’s police force. By 1970, the United States had more than one million soldiers in 30 countries; was a member of four regional defense alliances and an active participant in a fifth; had mutual defense treaties with 42 nations; and was furnishing military aid to nearly 100 nations. David Vine’s book Base Nation found 800 U.S. military bases located outside of the U.S., including 174 bases in Germany, 113 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea. The total cost: an estimated $100 billion a year. Vine shows how the overseas bases raise geopolitical tensions and provoke widespread antipathy toward the United States. They undermine American democratic ideals, pushing the United States into partnerships with dictators and perpetuating a system of second-class citizenship in territories such as Guam. According to The Huffington Post, “The 45 nations and territories with little or no democratic rule represent more than half of the roughly 80 countries now hosting U.S. bases. … Research by political scientist Kent Calder confirms what’s come to be known as the “dictatorship hypothesis”: The United States tends to support dictators [and other undemocratic regimes] in nations where it enjoys basing facilities.”
The U.S. has continuously been at war. America has been at war 93% of the time – 222 Out of 239 Years – since 1776 . Congress is the only part of the government that has the authority to declare war against another country. Yet, Congress has formally declared war only 11 times in U.S. history. The United States Congress has not formally declared war since World War II. All of the wars in the Middle East have been authorized using other means. Here’s a partial list of the countries in which the US has had military intervention in some form since WWII: Vietnam, Korea, Sudan, Liberia, Ethiopia, Chad, Afghanistan, Iraq, Uganda, Cuba, Nicaragua, Chile, Lebanon, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Angola, Poland, Grenada, Libya, Yemen, Congo, Zaire, Bolivia, Panama, Somalia, Columbia, Syria, Egypt, Thailand, Laos, Cyprus, Iran, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania. Despite its constitutional role to do so, Congress exercises little oversight over US military adventures, and much of this occurs in secret.
- According to a Pew Center study, the growth in income in recent decades has tilted to upper-income households. At the same time, the middle class, which once comprised the clear majority of Americans, is shrinking. Thus, a greater share of the nation’s aggregate income is now going to upper-income households and the share going to middle- and lower-income households is falling. The middle class has decreased from 61% in 1971 to 51% in 2019.
- The top 1% earns forty times more than the bottom 90%. The top 0.1% of income earners own as much wealth as the bottom 90% combined.
- Since 1990, CEO compensation has increased by 300%. For example, according to th Wall Street Journal, Larry Ellison, chief executive of Oracle Corp. received US$1.84-billion and Barry Diller, chief executive of Interactive/Expedia.com received US$1.14-billion, and the next six highly compensated CEOs received at least US$500-million in total pay. The average pay of chief executives at major corporations in the United States was US$15.7million in 2018.
- Some hedge fund managers made $4 billion annually, enough to pay the salaries of every public school teacher in New York City.
In their book, The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, Professors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett present data taken from multiple credible sources that show the gap between the poor and rich the greatest in the U.S. among all developed nations; child well-being is the worst in the U.S. among all developed nations; and levels of trust among people in the U.S. is among the worst of all developed nations.
In a report “Income and Wealth Inequality in America, 1949-2016,” for the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis, authors Moritz Kuhn Moritz Schularick and Ulrike I. Steins of the University of Bonn concluded “The historical data also reveal that no progress has been made in reducing income and wealth inequalities between black and white households over the past 70 years, and that close to half of all American households have less wealth today in real terms than the median household had in 1970.”
The U.S. EPA was corrupted by colluding with Dow Chemical to produce a flawed report on the deadly effect the pesticide chlorpyrifos. Ianne Sheppard, a professor and biostatistician at the University of Washington, looked at the original research that was the basis for the EPA paper and the safety thresholds that were calculated from it, she realized that the underlying data didn’t support its conclusion. “I tried to reproduce their analysis, and I couldn’t,” Sheppard said of the study, which was commissioned by Dow Chemical, the maker of chlorpyrifos, in the late 1960s. Between 1992 and 2017, chlorpyrifos was one of the most heavily used pesticides in the U.S., with some 450 million pounds of it sprayed on crops.
And those exposures to chlorpyrifos have since been found to increase the risk of a wide range of neurodevelopmental problems in children, including ADHD and other attention disorders, autism, tremors, and intelligence deficits, as well as memory and motor problems. Although the true toll of that brain damage is incalculable, pediatrician and environmental health researcher Leonardo Trasande estimates that exposure to organophosphate pesticides, the class to which chlorpyrifos belongs, caused children born in the U.S. in a single year — 2010 — to collectively lose 1.8 million IQ points, costing the country $44.7 billion in productivity, education, and health costs.
The growing concentration of wealth in fewer hands intensifies working-class suffering in the U.S. and poses a threat to society and democracy. According to Silver Spoon Oligarchs: How America’s 50 Largest Inherited-Wealth Dynasties Accelerate Inequality, a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) illustrates the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few people in America. Analyzing data from Forbes, IPS tracked the assets of the country’s 50 wealthiest families—”including the Waltons, the Kochs, the Mars family, and many others, some well-known and others relatively unknown”—from 1983 to 2020.
“By 2020, the 50 families had amassed $1.2 trillion in assets,” the researchers found. “By comparison, the bottom half of all U.S. households—an estimated 65 million families—shared a combined total wealth of just twice that, at $2.5 trillion.” The “staggering” fortunes of dynastic families, whose “wealth is becoming increasingly persistent,” increased at “10 times the rate of ordinary families,” IPS pointed out. “For the 27 families that were on both the Forbes 400 list in 1983 and the Forbes Billion-Dollar Dynasties list in 2020,” wrote the report’s authors, “their combined assets have grown by 1,007% over those 37 years. In contrast, between 1989 and 2019, the wealth of the typical family in the U.S. increased by 93 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.”
Moreover, “those at the very top are blowing away even their closest competition,” the report said. “The five wealthiest dynastic families in the U.S. have seen their wealth increase by a median 2,484% from 1983 to 2020.” According to IPS: In 1983, Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and his children were worth just $2.15 billion (or $5.6 billion in 2020 dollars). By the end of 2020, Walton’s descendants had a combined net worth of over $247 billion, an inflation-adjusted increase of 4,320%. The Mars candy dynasty has seen its wealth increase 3,517% over the past 37 years, from $2.6 billion in 1983 (in 2020 dollars) to $94 billion by 2020. The family has also spent large sums on public policy advocacy to change tax laws.
Cosmetics magnate Estée Lauder and her descendants have seen their wealth grow from just $1.6 billion in 1983 (in 2020 dollars) to $40 billion in 2020, according to the report. This is a growth rate of 2,465%. “Members of the Busch, Mars, Koch, and Walton families have together spent more than $120 million over the past 10 years lobbying for taxation, labor, and trade policies favorable to their interests and investments.”
A Pew Foundation study, reported in the New York Times, concluded, “The chance that children of the poor or middle class will climb up the income ladder, has not changed significantly over the last three decades.” The Times article estimates that the chances of a child of a state governor becoming a governor is 6000 times better than an ordinary citizen, and that the chances of a child of a U.S. Senator becoming a Senator is 8500 times better than a common citizen.
The myth of the self-made man fuels income inequality in the U.S. One of the persistent beliefs, which is more of a myth, is the belief in the “self-made man (or women)”—a belief that anyone, regardless of family background, ethnic origins, race or economic and social level, can become rich and famous. And, of course a few have, which are frequently featured by the media as typical examples. Yet, some of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in North America say there is no such thing as the “self-made man.” With more millionaires making, rather than inheriting, their wealth, there is a false belief that they made it on their own without help, says a reportpublished by the Boston-based non-profit United For a Fair Economy, The report says the myth of “self-made wealth is potentially destructive to the very infrastructure that enables wealth creation.”
Top U.S. income earners avoid paying taxes.The 55 U.S. corporations that paid no federal corporate income tax in 2019-2021 have spent a combined $450 million on political campaign contributions and lobbying—including for lower taxes—according to a report published by the progressive advocacy group Public Citizen. The report, entitled “The Price of Zero”, cites figures from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy showing that at least 55 U.S. corporations avoided paying any corporate income tax in 2020 on a combined pretax income of $40.5 billion. “Had these companies paid a tax rate of 21%—the current federal rate—they would have owed the federal government $8.5 billion,” the report notes, “Not only did these companies not pay taxes, but nearly all also got money back from the government, receiving $3.5 billion in tax rebates, bringing the total 2020 tax giveaways for these 55 companies to $12 billion.” Instead of paying taxes, the companies invested a combined $408 million in lobbying and $42 million in campaign contributions over the past three election cycles, according to data obtained from the Center for Responsive Politics.
Led by two IRS researchers as well as Daniel Reck of the London School of Economics and Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, the report finds that 6 percentage points of the richest households’ unreported income “correspond to undetected sophisticated evasion” such as offshoring, pass-through businesses, and other avoidance tactics. “From a policy perspective, our results highlight that there is substantial evasion at the top which requires administrative resources to detect and deter,” the authors write. “We estimate that 36% of federal income taxes unpaid are owed by the top 1% and that collecting all unpaid federal income tax from this group would increase federal revenues by about $175 billion annually.” “There has been much discussion in the United States about the fact that the audit rate at the top of the income distribution has declined,” the paper continues. “Our results suggest that such low audit rates are not optimal.”
A new report from the non-profit think tank Rand finds that wages for all Americans increased at around the same pace as the economy from 1947 to 1974. But since 1975, the bottom 90% of earners saw wages increase at a fraction of the pace of the richest Americans — even as the economy continued to grow.
The average wage of 44% of workers before the pandemic was just $18,000, according to the Brookings Institute and a typical worker can no longer afford to care for a family of four on a year’s salary. While a child born in 1945 had a 90% chance of making more than their parents, someone born in 1985 only has a 50% shot of faring better than them. It’s easier to achieve the American Dream in China, South Africa, and Brazil than it is in the US.
The U.S. ranks 27th in the World Economic Forum’s new Global Social Mobility Index. 17 of the top 20 most socially mobile societies are in Europe, led by Denmark and other Scandinavian countries.
The largest 500 companies in the U.S. shelter more than $2.1 trillion in off shore tax havens. A 2015 study conducted by the Citizens for Tax Justice and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund found that the largest 500 companies in the U.S. keep more than $2.1 trillion in tax havens. And according to the study, large multinational corporations often pay licensing fees and royalties to their offshore subsidiaries for logos and patents under the guise of a business expense, in order to legally transfer the money from the United States while using the payments as tax deductions.
Americans are not committed to the Democratic system
- Research conducted by Bright Line Watch, the group that organized the Yale conference on democracy, shows that Americans are not as committed to these norms as you might expect. Yascha Mounk, at Harvard University, summed it up: “If current trends continue for another 20 or 30 years, democracy will be toast.” In 1995, for example, one in 16 Americans supported Army rule; in 2014, that number increased to one in six. According to another survey cited at the Yale conference, 18 percent of Americans think a military-led government is a “fairly good” idea.
- Another startling finding reported in the New York Times, is that many Americans are open to “alternatives” to democracy. In 1995, writes Amanda Taub in the Times article, for example, “one in 16 Americans supported Army rule; in 2014, that number increased to one in six. According to another survey cited at the conference, 18 percent of Americans think a military-led government is a ‘fairly good’ idea.”
- A study by the Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning & Engagement at Tufts University has found that most states do not emphasize civic education, which includes learning about citizenship, government, law, current events and related topics.
- In their book, Remaking Partisan Politics through Authoritarian Sorting, by the political scientists Christopher Federico, Stanley Feldman and Christopher Weber found that in 1992, 62 percent of white voters who ranked highest on the authoritarian scale supported George H.W. Bush. In 2016, 86 percent of the most authoritarian white voters backed Trump, an increase of 24 percentage points, the authors report.
- Christopher Federico, writing with Christopher Johnston of Duke and Howard G. Lavine of the University of Minnesota, published Open versus Closed: Personality, Identity, and the Politics of Redistribution, which also explores the concept of authoritarian voting. They argue: “Over the last few decades, party allegiances have become increasingly tied to a core dimension of personality we call ‘openness.’ Citizens high in openness value independence, self-direction, and novelty, while those low in openness value social cohesion, certainty, and security. Individual differences in openness seem to underpin many social and cultural disputes, including debates over the value of racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity, law and order, and traditional values and social norms.”
- According to Freedom in the World 2021, the annual country-by-country assessment of political rights and civil liberties released by Freedom House, a non-profit organization providing research and policy resources for democracy, the United States experienced further democratic decline during the final year of the Trump presidency. The US score in Freedom in the World has dropped by 11 points over the past decade, and fell by three points in 2020 alone. The changes have moved the country out of a cohort that included other leading democracies, such as France and Germany, and brought it into the company of states with weaker democratic institutions, such as Romania and Panama.
- A study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page titled “Testing Theories of American Politics.“the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, finds that the U.S. is no longer a democracy, but instead an oligarchy: “Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.” They go on to say, “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened” by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead “the nearly total failure of ‘median voter’ and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”
- The U.S. ranking as a democracy is declining. The Democracy Index 2016, released in January 2017, lists the United States as a flawed democracy. The basis for the decline was not the 2016 presidential election. Instead, the report argues that Donald Trump benefited from a lack of popular trust in American government.
- Big money lobbies exert undue influence on Congress. In her book Corruption in America, the legal scholar Zephyr Teachout notes that “the institutions of the United States were explicitly designed to counter the myriad ways in which people might seek to sway political decisions for their own personal gain. Many forms of lobbying were banned throughout the 19th century. In Georgia, the state constitution at one time read that lobbying is declared to be a crime. In California, it was a felony. Over the course of the 20th century, lobbying gradually became acceptable. But even once the activity became normalized, businesses remained reluctant to exert their influence.”
- The book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, by journalist Jane Mayer, also clearly describes how the U.S. political system is dominated by wealthy corporations’ and individuals’ money, which implies that even the most modest attempts to tackle climate change, gun control, or other important social and economic issues, fail. The vast majority in the U.S. — 84% — believe money has too much influence in political campaigns, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll . The feeling cuts across party lines, with 80% of Republicans, 90% of Democrats and 84% of independents believing campaign cash plays too big a role.
- The American Electoral System Electing the President Favors Minority Rule. The U.S. Constitution was originally designed to have a decentralized small-state bias, but the effects have become more pronounced as the population discrepancy between the smallest states and the largest states has grown. “Given contemporary demography, a little bit less than 50 percent of the country lives in 40 of the 50 states,” Sanford Levinson, a constitutional law scholar at the University of Texas,” says, “roughly half the country gets 80 percent of the votes in the Senate, and the other half of the country gets 20 percent.” And the U.S. Senate has slipped further out of alignment with the American population over time, where for example a state like Wyoming with a population of 578,000 has the same number of Senators as the state of California, with a population of 39,000,000.
- The House of Representatives retains a rural bias. Republican voters are more efficiently distributed across the country than Democrats, who are concentrated in cities. That means that even when Democrats win 50 percent of voters nationwide, they invariably hold fewer than 50 percent of House seats, regardless of partisan gerrymandering.
- Research has also found that a significant rural bias in resources persists. You can see it in Homeland Security funding that gave Wyoming, for example,seven times as much money per capita as New York after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. You can see it in Alaska’s proposed “bridge to nowhere.”
- In an op-ed in the New York Times former President Jimmy Carter wrote that the United States violates at least 10 articles of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Carter believes that the American democracy has been transformed to an oligarchy. He criticized the Supreme Court’s vote in favor of Citizens United that has allowed unlimited funds to be spent in elections, and said: “It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. Senators and congress members. So, now we’ve just seen a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over. … At the present time the incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody that is already in Congress has a great deal more to sell.”
- University of Kentucky history department chair Ronald Formisamo’s latest book is titled: American Oligarchy: The Permanence of the Political Class. By Formisamo’s detailed account, U.S. politics and policy are under the control of a “permanent political class” – a ‘networked layer of high-income people’– including Congressional representatives (half of whom are millionaires), elected officials, campaign funders, lobbyists, consultants, appointed bureaucrats, pollsters, television celebrity journalists, university presidents, and executives at well-funded non-profit institutions.” This “permanent political class,” Formisamo warns, is taking the nation “beyond [mere] plutocracy” to “the hegemony of an aristocracy of inherited wealth.” It “drives economic and political inequality not only with the policies it has constructed over the past four decades, such as federal and state tax systems rigged to favor corporations and the wealthy; it also increases inequality by its self-dealing, acquisitive behavior as it enables, emulates, and enmeshes itself with the wealthiest One Percent and engages in the direct creation of inequality by channeling the flow of income and wealth to elites [while]… its self-aggrandizement creates a culture of corruption that infects the entire society and that induces many to abuse positions of power to emulate or rise into the One Percent …[and as it] contributes to continuing high levels of poverty and disadvantage for millions that exceed almost all advanced nations.”
- According a major bipartisan poll that commissioned by the George W. Bush Institute, the University of Pennsylvania’s Biden Center and Freedom House, which tracks the vitality of democracies around the world. The three groups have partnered to create the Democracy Project, with the goal of monitoring the health of the American system, 50% of Americans think the United States is in “real danger of becoming a non- democratic, authoritarian country.” A majority, 55 percent, see democracy as “weak” – and 68 percent believe it is “getting weaker.” Eighty per cent of Americans say they are either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the condition of democracy.
- According to Rebecca Henderson, a professor at Harvard University, in her article in the Harvard Business Review, “One of the first indications that a nation is becoming less democratic is that it becomes more polarized. We see this happening in the United States. Owing in large part to gerrymandering, upwards of 90% of U.S. representatives are reelected. The only real threat they face is from within their own party, a dynamic that drives them to take increasingly extreme positions. Few lawmakers have any incentive to compromise.”
- District Court Judge Lynn Adelman criticized the five conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court in an article published in the Harvard Law & Policy Review: “By now, it is a truism that Chief Justice John Roberts’ statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee that a Supreme Court justice’s role is the passive one of a neutral baseball ‘umpire who [merely] calls the balls and strikes’ was a masterpiece of disingenuousness. … Rather, the Court’s hard right majority is actively participating in undermining American democracy. Indeed, the Roberts Court has contributed to insuring that the political system in the United States pays little attention to ordinary Americans and responds only to the wishes of a relatively small number of powerful corporations and individuals. We are thus in a new and arguably dangerous phase in American history. Democracy is inherently fragile, and it is even more so when government eschews policies that benefit all classes of Americans. We desperately need public officials who will work to revitalize our democratic republic. Unfortunately, the conservative Justices on the Roberts Court are not among them.”
- Legal experts have noted that ‘the stark divisions in the’ U.S. Supreme Court’s “rulings did not bode well for faith in the rule of law and American democracy”– but, the conservative block’s ruling may have inadvertently performed an act of public service, educating the country’s citizens that the fundamental democratic right to vote is ‘everyone’s fight’ and motivating voters to step forward in the face of apparent ‘vote suppression’ political forces.”
The Future of the United States
Two recent books — All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the 21st Century and the Future of American Power, by Thomas J. Wright, a fellow at the Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institution, and In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, by Alfred McCoy, a legendary investigative journalist and a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison — offer a glimpse into what the future may look like for the U.S.
Wright sees the U.S. facing a threat to its world dominance system from a combination of newly emerging powers such as China and recent American mistakes, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. McCoy sees the decline of the U.S. empire as analogous to the series of events that led to the decline of the British and French empires before it. The first step, he says, is the loss of support from local elites in territories under imperial influence, a process that McCoy says is clearly underway for the U.S. in many critical regions of the world. In recent years, America has seen its ties strained with military partners such as Turkey, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, while major U.S. allies like Germany and South Korea have increasingly come to question America’s capacity to continue leading the imperial system that it created.
In an article in The Nation, Alfred McCoy argues that “the demise of the United States as a global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines,” suggesting it will be complete by 2025. The U.S. National Intelligence Council admitted in 2008 that America’s global power was declining. A Global Trends 2025 report said, “the transfer of global wealth and economic power is under way from West to East,” without precedent. Citing an opinion poll, McCoy reports that in August 2010, 65% of Americans believed the country was “in a state of decline.”
McCoy argues that a big contributor to the U.S.’s decline is militarism; specifically what he calls “micro-militarism,” which has plagued previous empires. These are foreign military adventures, which are not full blown “wars” that end up costing horrendous amounts of money or end in defeats. He says, as “allies worldwide begin to realign their politics to take cognizance of rising Asian powers, the cost of maintain 800 or more overseas military bases will simply become unsustainable, finally forcing a staged withdrawal on a still-unwilling Washington.”
In his book, America’s Engineered Decline, William Norman Grigg, editor of the New American contends that America’s decline has occurred because it is exhibiting the same characteristics of poverty, crime, and illiteracy and ill health that are found in third world countries. Grigg cites a quote by Mahatma Gandhi who said the roots of conflict and violence within a nation are “wealth without work, pleasure without conscious knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice and politics without principle.”
Gideon Rachman, writing in the prestigious journal, Foreign Policy, comments in the new economic and political order which is witnessing America’s decline: “Britain, France, Italy, even Germany–are slipping down the economic ranks. China, India, Brazil, are on the rise. They each have their own foreign-policy preferences which collectively constrain American’s ability to shape the world.” He concludes, “America will never again experience the global dominance it enjoyed in the 17 years between the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 and the financial crisis of 2008. Those days are over.”
Economists J. Bradford DeLong and Stephen Cohen of the University of California write in their new book, The End of Influence, “it [America’s influence] is gone and it is not likely to return in the foreseeable future…The American standard of living will decline relative to the rest of the industrialized and industrializing world…The United States will lose power and influence.”
James Fallows, writing in The Atlantic magazine, says, “our government is old and broken and dysfunctional and may even be beyond repair….it will make a difference if we improvise and strive to make the best of the path through our time –and our children’s, and their grandchildren’s rather than stay on the current path.”
Paul Kennedy argued in his 1987 book The Rise and Fall of Great Powers that America was entering a period of long-term relative decline. He was prescient in many ways, predicting China’s rise and the Soviet Union’s decline, but premature in predicting the weakening of America, which enjoyed a quarter-century of unchallenged dominance; the relative decline has only just begun.
Whatever the causes, the decline of America as a dominant world power, with serious internal economic and social issues, has already begun, and is not likely to be reversed, without substantial political, economic and social changes The current situation presents monumental challenges to political and social leaders to create the kind of country and culture that’s desired, a path that is unlikely given the wide divide in perspectives that currently exist.
The stability and influence of the American political system, ideology, and value concepts have been greatly affected in the 21 century, with the impact of two wars, high consumption, and the financial crisis. This has not only been reflected in aspects of the economy, but more importantly it is apparent in other areas such as the status, reputation, and influence of the United States in the world. The United States no longer has the overwhelming power and absolute ideological influence in the world that it enjoyed before the Iraq War. The influence of what can be called America’s self-defined ideology―democracy, freedom, and human rights―has greatly dropped around the world because of its military adventures.
The large currents of the past generation – deindustrialization, the flattening of average wages, the financialization of the economy, income inequality, the growth of information technology, the flood of money into Washington, the rise of the political right – all had their origins in the late 70s. The US became more entrepreneurial and less bureaucratic, more individualistic and less communitarian, more free and less equal, more tolerant and less fair. Banking and technology, concentrated on the coasts, turned into engines of wealth, replacing the world of stuff with the world of bits, but without creating broad prosperity, while the heartland hollowed out. The institutions that had been the foundation of middle class democracy, from public schools and secure jobs to flourishing newspapers and functioning legislatures, were set on the course of a long decline.
The decline has been happening for at least the last 30 years, but obscured and ignored by political leaders and mainstream media that continue to trumpet American exceptionalism and superiority over other nations. Other great nations and empires have risen and fell. Will this one too?