Look at the Stats — America Resembles a Broken Banana Republic

 by CJ Werleman, AlterNet, December 9, 2013

Last week, President Obama gave one of the most important speeches of his presidency when he spoke about the rapidly growing deficit of opportunity in this country. It was the president’s most focused and deliberate address on income inequality to date, but for many it wasn’t nearly alarmist enough, for it didn’t recognize how far this nation has fallen. It’s time we call it what it is: we’ve become a third-world nation.

America has become a RINO: rich in name only. By every measure, we look like a broken banana republic. Not a single U.S. city is included in the world’s top 10 most livable cities. Only one U.S. airport makes the list of the top 100 in the world. Our roads, schools and bridges are falling apart, and our trains—none of them high-speed—are running off their tracks. Our high school students are rated 30th in math, and some 30 countries have longer life expectancy and lower rates of infant mortality. The only things America is number one in these days are the number of incarcerated citizens per capita and adult onset diabetes.

Three decades of trickledown economics; the monopolization, privatization and deregulation of industry; and the destruction of labor protection has resulted in 50 million Americans living in abject poverty, while 400 individuals own more than one-half of the nation’s wealth. As the four Walmart heirs enjoy a higher net worth than the bottom 40 percent, our nation’s sense of food insecurity is more on par with developing countries like Indonesia and Tanzania than with OECD nations like Australia and Canada. In fact, the percentage of Americans who say they could not afford the food needed to feed their families at some point in the last year is three times that of Germany, more than twice than Italy and Canada.

The destruction of labor has been so comprehensive that first-world nations now offshore their jobs to the U.S. In other words, we’ve become the new India. Foreign companies now see us as the world’s cheap labor force, and we have the non-unionized South to thank for that. Chuck Thompson, author of Better off Without Em, writes, “Like Mexico, the South has spent the past four decades systematically siphoning auto jobs from Michigan and the Midwest by keeping worker’s salaries low and inhibiting their right to organize by rendering their unions toothless.” Average wages for autoworkers in the South are up to 30 percent lower than in Michigan.

In Sweden, the minimum wage is $19 per hour and workers enjoy a minimum of five weeks paid vacation every year. In the U.S. the minimum wage is a tick above $7 per hour and workers can expect no more than 12 days of annual vacation. So guess what? IKEA has set up a factory in Virginia. Volkswagen has set up in Tennessee, and the likes of Hyundai, KIA, BMW, Honda, and Toyota have all set up in the South to take advantage of the world’s latest cheap labor source. Moreover, the profits of these foreign companies goes toward stimulating their economies instead of ours.

So, it’s amusing when Republicans blame Detroit’s bankruptcy on liberal policies because nothing could be further from the truth. Detroit is bankrupt thanks to the Republican business model that has turned the entire South into a third-world banana republic. A business model that the rest of the country is forced to compete with i.e. lower wages, low corporate tax rates, low property taxes, and low environmental and labor protection, which results in a migration of industry and jobs from the northern states, which means a shrinking of the tax revenue base in cities like Detroit. Since 2000, the population of Detroit has fallen 20% and property tax revenue has plummeted 26%. Take this as an illustration of how we are in a never-ending death spiral race to the bottom.

Obama’s speech clearly depicted an America losing touch with its ideals. Not only is the middle-class fast becoming the working poor, but upward mobility is becoming almost impossible to attain. At a time when America should be investing in its own future, it is dealing with a sequestration that was never meant to have happened. It happened because the GOP congress would rather destroy the economy than see a black president succeed. Also, raising revenues runs against the GOP’s fundamental pro-corporate strategy of “starving the beast” i.e. starving the federal government of the revenues it needs so it can use deficits as an excuse to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare and replace them with for-profit alternatives.

Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford of the National Priorities Project [3] write:

“Robust public investment had been a key to US prosperity in the previous century. It was then considered a basic part of the social contract as well as of Economics 101. As just about everyone knew in those days, citizens paid taxes to fund worthy initiatives that the private sector wouldn’t adequately or efficiently supply. Roadways and scientific research were examples. In the post–World War II years, the country invested great sums of money in its interstate highways and what were widely considered the best education systems in the world, while research in well-funded government labs led to inventions like the Internet. The resulting world-class infrastructure, educated workforce, and technological revolution fed a robust private sector.”

America is in urgent need of significant investment. We need to, as Obama said, “not be stuck in a stale debate from two years ago or three years ago. A relentlessly growing deficit of opportunity is a bigger threat to our future than our rapidly shrinking fiscal deficit.”

That’s one part of the solution. The other part is a rejection of the Republican Party business model. A higher minimum wage; higher taxes on corporations and the rich; and a greater percentage of the labor force protected by collective bargaining will help restore the America whose middle-class was once the envy of the world, and whose people were among the happiest and healthiest on the planet.

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Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/economy/america-rich-name-only-look-stats-we-resemble-broken-banana-state

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[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/cj-werleman
[3] http://nationalpriorities.org/
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/wealth
[5] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

The Middle Class Faces Extinction—So Does the American Dream

Stewart Lansley, Los Angeles Review of Books, Alternet.org,  June 3, 2013

This article first appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books

Excerpt

Inequality is now one of the biggest political and economic challenges facing the United States…The return of inequality to levels last seen in the 1920s has had a profound effect on American society, its values, and its economy….One of the most significant effects…has been the capping of opportunities and the emergence of downward mobility amongst the middle classes, a process that began well before the recession. Around 100 million Americans — a third of the population — live below or fractionally above the poverty level. A quarter of the American workforce end up in low-paid jobs, the highest rate across rich nations, while the wealthiest 400 Americans have the same combined wealth as the poorest half — over 150 million people…The nation is at last waking up to what has been reality for years — the vaunted American Dream (the ability of citizens to go from rags to riches, and one of the country’s most enduring values) is increasingly a myth…The stagnating incomes of the bulk of Americans, along with the shrinking of the middle, are the mirror image of the rise of the plutocracy and the return of the gilded age…the long wage squeeze and the growing concentration of income at the top led to record corporate surpluses and an explosion of personal fortunes…the effect was the upward redistribution of existing wealth and the fueling of the bubbles — in property and business — that eventually brought the global economy to its knees. That inequality is also acting as a profound drag on the prospects of recovery…But unless Obama can find a way of breaking the firewalls created by the new plutocrats to protect their wealth from economic collapse and political interference, the likelihood is that the American middle class will go on shrinking, the American dream will further erode, and the nation’s economy will continue to stumble from crisis to crisis.

Full text

Inequality is now one of the biggest political and economic challenges facing the United States. Not that long ago, the gap between rich and poor barely registered on the political Richter scale. Now the growing income divide, an issue that dominated the presidential election debate, has turned into one of the hottest topics of the age.

Postwar American history divides into two halves. For the first three decades, those on middle and low incomes did well out of rising prosperity and inequality fell. In the second half, roughly from the mid–1970s, this process went into reverse. Set on apparent autopilot, the gains from growth were heavily colonized by the superrich, leaving the bulk of the workforce with little better than stagnant incomes.

The return of inequality to levels last seen in the 1920s has had a profound effect on American society, its values, and its economy. The United States led the world in the building of a majority middle class. As early as 1956, the celebrated sociologist, C. Wright Mills, wrote that American society had become “less a pyramid with a flat base than a fat diamond with a bulging middle.”

That bulge has been on a diet. The chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers — Professor Alan Krueger — has shown how the size of the American middle class (households with annual incomes within 50 percent of the midpoint of the income distribution) has been heading backwards from a peak of more than a half in the late 1970s to 40 percent now. The “diamond” has gone. The social shape of America now looks more like a contorted “hourglass” with a pronounced bulge at the top, a long thin stem in the middle, and a fat bulge at the bottom.

One of the most significant effects of America’s hourglass society has been the capping of opportunities and the emergence of downward mobility amongst the middle classes, a process that began well before the recession. Around 100 million Americans — a third of the population — live below or fractionally above the poverty level. A quarter of the American workforce end up in low-paid jobs, the highest rate across rich nations, while the wealthiest 400 Americans have the same combined wealth as the poorest half — over 150 million people.

With a growing percentage of the current generation facing a lower living standard than their parents, more and more US citizens express a “fear of falling,” worried about a further loss of livelihood and their relative income status. The nation is at last waking up to what has been reality for years — the vaunted American Dream (the ability of citizens to go from rags to riches, and one of the country’s most enduring values) is increasingly a myth.

In a poll conducted for The Washington Post before the 2012 presidential election, respondents were asked which was the bigger worry: “unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy” or “over-regulation of the free market that interferes with growth and prosperity.” They chose unfairness by a margin of 52–37 percent. The mostly pro-self-reliant American public are perhaps coming to recognize that their much-heralded virtues of hard work and self-help are no longer an effective means to economic advancement.

The most damaging impact of growing inequality has been on the American — and global — economy. It has been one of the central rules of market economics that inequality is good for growth and stability. The idea was enshrined in the postwar writings of the New Right critics of the model of managed capitalism that emerged after the war. “Inequality of wealth and incomes is the cause of the masses’ well being, not the cause of anybody’s distress” wrote the Austrian-American economist Ludwig von Mises, one of the leading prophets of the superiority of markets, in 1955.

It was a theory that gained traction during the global economic crisis of the 1970s and with the publication in 1975 of a highly influential book, Equality and Efficiency: The Big Tradeoff, by the late American mainstream economist Arthur Okun. This theory — that you can have either more equal societies or more economically successful ones, but not both — has been used to justify the growth of inequality in the United States, a trend that has since spread to a majority of the rich world. One of the telling by-products of the current economic crisis is that this theory is now being challenged. It is now being increasingly argued that the levels of income concentration in recent times have had a significant negative effect on the economy, bringing slower growth and greater turbulence and contributing to both the 2008 crash and the lack of a sustained recovery.

Perhaps the most significant convert to these ideas is President Obama. A year ago, he remarked, “When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, it drags down the entire economy from top to bottom.” Addressing delegates at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos in January 2013, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, endorsed this view, “I believe that the economics profession and the policy community have downplayed inequality for too long […] [A] more equal distribution of income allows for more economic stability, more sustained economic growth.”

This view goes against the grain of the economic orthodoxy of the last 30 years. As the Chicago economist Robert E. Lucas, Nobel prizewinner and one of the principal architects of the pro-market, self-regulating school that has dominated economic strategy in the Anglo-Saxon world, declared in 2003, “Of the tendencies that are harmful to sound economics, the most poisonous is to focus on questions of distribution.”

A growing body of evidence and opinion now holds that this idea is wrong. In fact, the “distribution question” — how the cake is divided, between wages and profits on the one hand, and between the top and bottom on the other — is critical to economic health. Over the last 30 years, the rich world, led by the United States, has steered a growing share of national output first to profits and ultimately to the top one percent. Across the 34 richest nations in the world, the share going to wages has fallen from over 66 percent in 1990 to less than 62 percent today. The result is a growing detachment of living standards from output. The stagnating incomes of the bulk of Americans, along with the shrinking of the middle, are the mirror image of the rise of the plutocracy and the return of the gilded age.

This decoupling of wages from output creates a critical structural fault that ultimately brings self-destruction. First, a growing pay-output gap sucks consumer lifeblood out of economies. To fill this growing demand gap, levels of personal debt were allowed to explode. In the US, the level of outstanding personal debt rose almost threefold in the decade from 1997 to $14.4 trillion. This helped to fuel a domestic boom from the mid-1990s, but one that was never going to be sustainable.

Secondly, the long wage squeeze and the growing concentration of income at the top led to record corporate surpluses and an explosion of personal fortunes. Instead of being used to create new wealth via an investment and entrepreneurial boom (as predicted by market theorists), these massive cash surpluses were used to finance a wave of speculative financial activity and asset restructuring. The effect was the upward redistribution of existing wealth and the fueling of the bubbles — in property and business — that eventually brought the global economy to its knees. That inequality is also acting as a profound drag on the prospects of recovery.

A central feature of the President’s annual State of the Union address on February 11 was its call to “grow the economy from the middle out,” to “reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.” In his call for more active government to reduce inequality — from a 25 percent hike in the minimum wage to higher taxes on the rich — Obama was adding some meat to his earlier call “to restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share.” Yet, despite a succession of lofty speeches, the best evidence is that since 2008, growth has continued to be very unevenly shared. The economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty have shown that over nine tenths of growth in 2010 was captured by the top one percent. This is in stark contrast to the 1930s, when the big gainers from recovery were most ordinary Americans and the big losers were the superrich.

Obama’s program for change fails to match the radicalism of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s or that of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty three decades later. Of course, creating a more equal America is hardly a cakewalk. The United States has rarely been more divided on the politics of change. Before Congressman Paul Ryan became Mitt Romney’s controversial running mate, he had blasted Obama’s proposed (and modest) tax measures on the rich as “class warfare.” Other global leaders seem equally disempowered in the face of the might of a global billionaire class determined to preserve its privileges, muscle, and wealth.

But unless Obama can find a way of breaking the firewalls created by the new plutocrats to protect their wealth from economic collapse and political interference, the likelihood is that the American middle class will go on shrinking, the American dream will further erode, and the nation’s economy will continue to stumble from crisis to crisis.

See more stories tagged with:

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american dream [5],

economy [6],

state of the union [7],

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Alan Krueger [10],

depression [11],

poverty [12]


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/economy/income-inequality-defers-american-dream

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[1] http://lareviewofbooks.org/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/stewart-lansley
[3] http://lareviewofbooks.org/article.php?id=1657&fulltext=1
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/income-inequality-0
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/american-dream
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/economy-0
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/state-union
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/obama-0
[9] http://www.alternet.org/tags/council-economic-advisers
[10] http://www.alternet.org/tags/alan-krueger
[11] http://www.alternet.org/tags/depression
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/poverty-0
[13] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

Global Austerity ‘An Unethical Experimentation On Human Beings’ – Paul Krugman

The Huffington Post  |  By Bonnie Kavoussi Posted: 02/08/2013

Paul Krugman doesn’t just think austerity is bad economic policy; the Nobel Prize-winning economist says it’s just plain wrong.

“We’ve basically had an unethical experimentation on human beings going on across the world right now,” Krugman told HuffPost Live on Friday. “All these countries are pursuing austerity policies, and in doing so, they are giving us evidence on what actually happens when you do those policies.”

Several European countries — including Great Britain, Greece, Spain and Italy — have slashed their budgets in recent years. Those countries have seen high unemployment rates and stagnant economies.

“It’s been a disaster,” Krugman said of austerity in Great Britain. “They have gone back into recession.”

The U.S. has also pursued austerity, albeit to a smaller extent. The U.S. government has cut 719,000 jobs since President Barack Obama took office. And the unemployment rate still is far higher than before the recession.

You can watch the whole segment here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/08/paul-krugman-austerity_n_2648039.html

Ayn Rand’s Gospel of Selfishness and Billionaire Empowerment Is Plaguing America

Thomhartmann.com / By Thom Hartmann [1], Sam Sacks [2]  February 7, 2013

Thirty years after her death, Ayn Rand’s philosophy of selfishness and billionaire empowerment rules the world. It’s a remarkable achievement for an ideology that was pushed to the fringes for most of her life, and ridiculed on national television in a notorious interview with Mike Wallace.

But, it’s happened. And today, the United States and other independent governments around the world are crumbling while Ayn Rand’s billionaires are taking over.

With each new so-called Free Trade agreement – especially the very secretive Trans Pacific Partnership, which has less to do with trade and more to do with a new law of global governance for transnational corporations – Ayn Rand’s reviled “state” (or what we would call our democracy, the United States of America) is losing its power to billionaires and transnational corporations.

Ayn Rand hated governments and democracy. She considered them systems of mob rule. She grew up in Russia, and as a child watched the Bolsheviks confiscate her father’s pharmacy during the Russian Revolution. Likely suffering from PTSD from that incident, Ayn Rand devoted her future writings to evil government, including the “evil” of its functions like taxation, regulation, and providing social services to the poor and sick.

She divided the world into makers and takers (or what she called “looters”).

On one side are the billionaires and the industrialists. People like Dagny Taggert, a railroad tycoon, and Hank Rearden, a steel magnate. Both were fictional characters in her book Atlas Shrugged, but both have real-world counterparts in the form of the Koch Brothers, the Waltons, and Sheldon Adelson. According to Rand, they are the “Atlases” holding up the world.

So, in Atlas Shrugged, when the billionaires, tired of paying taxes and complying with government regulation, go on strike, Ayn Rand writes that the American economy promptly collapsed.

On the other side are the “looters,” or everyone else who isn’t as rich or privileged, or who believed in a democratic government to provide basic services, empower labor unions, and regulate the economy. They are the leeches on society according to Rand (and according to Mitt Romney with his 47% comments). And, as she told Mike Wallace in in 1959, they do not even “deserve love.”

To our Founding Fathers, looking out for the general welfare of the population was an explicit role of the government, one of its most important and the reason this nation was created when we separated from Britain.

But to Ayn Rand, a government that taxed billionaires to help pay for healthcare and education for impoverished children was not just unwise economically, it was also immoral.

Nature abhors a vacuum – both in the wild and in politics.  So, when people, organized in the form of a government, are removed from power, then money organized in the form of corporations and billionaires moves into the vacuum to take power – which is exactly what’s happening today, worldwide.

In the thirty years after her death, the United States crept closer and closer to Ayn Rand’s utopia. Reagan dramatically slashed taxes on the rich and went after labor unions. Clinton deregulated financial markets for the rich, ended welfare as we know it, and committed our nation to one globalist corporate free trade agreement after another.

And, under Bush and Obama, we’ve seen the rapid privatization of our commons, the further erosion of social safety nets, and more losses of national sovereignty with more so-called free trade agreements.

In Europe, we’re seeing sovereign governments neutered by Conservative technocrats. According to Ayn Rand, the rich can never be asked to sacrifice. So instead, it’s working people across the Eurozone who have to pay for the bad investments that the banksters made in the run-up to the global financial collapse.

As we saw in Greece in 2011 with the deposing of Prime Minister George Papandreou, and all across the state of Michigan over the last few years with financial managers laws, when democratic governments are unwilling to do the bidding of the rich, they’re immediately replaced by corporate lackeys who will.

The Taggerts and the Reardens are holding the reins of government today.

Which explains why Corporate America paid an average tax rate of just 12% in 2011 – the lowest rate in 40 years. It explains why 400 billionaires in America now own more wealth than 150 million other Americans combined. And it explains why fewer impoverished Americans are getting less federal assistance than at any time in the last half-century.

Ayn Rand envisioned a world without governments – a world where the super-rich are free to do as they wish.

We tried that during the so-called Gilded Age of the late 19th Century – before Ayn Rand was alive. If she’d watched the ruthlessness of the Robber Barons like she did the Bolsheviks, she may have reached different conclusions.

She may have realized that American Presidents like Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower were right when they made sure that wealth was more evenly distributed and the Billionaire Class was held in check.

Or she may have come to understand that corporations and billionaires owe their wealth to the state and not the other way around. Without favorable patent and copyright laws, a court system, an educated workforce, and an infrastructure to move goods about the country, then no one would be able to get rich in America.  We’d be like the Libertarian paradise of Somalia.

As Harry Moser, the founder of the Reshoring Initiative,argued [3] in The Economist, “Corporations are not created by the shareholders or the management. Rather they are created by the state. They are granted important privileges by the state (limited liability, eternal life, etc). They are granted these privileges because the state expects them to do something beneficial for the society that makes the grant. They may well provide benefits to other societies, but their main purpose is to provide benefits to the societies (not to the shareholders, not to management, but to the societies) that create them.”

Sadly, this understanding of how democratic republics work – and why – has been lost this generation.

And Ayn Rand’s disciples are making sure the next generation never finds it again.

Idaho State Senator John Goedde, who chairs that state Senate’s Education Committee, introduced a bill this week that would require all students to read Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged” before they can graduate. Goedde explained that the book made his son a Republican and that it “certainly gives one a sense of personal responsibility.”

Between stupidity like this, and the re-birth of Ayn Rand through corporate-funded think tanks and Hollywood movies, the Billionaire Class wants to make sure the next generation buys into a toxic ideology that’s quite literally destroying the world as we know it.

They don’t want the 21st Century to be “America’s Century.” They want it to be the “Billionaire’s Century.” And if they succeed, then the middle class in America – and through most of the developed world – will go extinct.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/economy/ayn-rands-gospel-selfishness-and-billionaire-empowerment-plaguing-america

America Is Far from #1

AlterNet [1] / By Eric Zuesse [2] February 7, 2013

Excerpt

“The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013,” [3] by the World Economic Forum, is the latest annual ranking of 144 countries, on a wide range of factors related to global economic competitiveness…Gross Domestic Product is the only factor where the U.S. ranks as #1…Health Care has the U.S. ranking #34 on “Life Expectancy,” and #41 on “Infant Mortality.” Education in the U.S. is also mediocre….The U.S, overall, is very far from being #1 – not really in contention, at all, for the top spot. The rankings suggest instead that this nation is sinking toward the Third World…

Full text

“The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013,” [3] by the World Economic Forum, is the latest annual ranking of 144 countries, on a wide range of factors related to global economic competitiveness.

On each of their many rankings, #1 represents the best nation, and #144 represents the worst nation.

Gross Domestic Product is the only factor where the U.S. ranks as #1, which we do both on “GDP” and on “GDP as a Share of World GDP.”

Health Care has the U.S. ranking #34 on “Life Expectancy,” and #41 on “Infant Mortality.”

Education in the U.S. is also mediocre. On “Quality of Primary Education,” we are #38. On “Primary Education Enrollment Rate,” we are #58. On “Quality of the Educational System,” we are #28. On “Quality of Math and Science Education,” we are #47. On “Quality of Scientific Research Institutions,” we are #6. On “PCT [Patent Cooperation Treaty] Patent Applications [per-capita],” we are #12. On “Firm-Level Technology Absorption” (which is an indicator of business-acceptance of inventions), we are #14.

Trust is likewise only moderately high in the U.S. We rank #10 on “Willingness to Delegate Authority,” #42 on “Cooperation in Labor-Management Relations,” and #18 in “Degree of Customer Orientation” of firms.

Corruption is apparently a rather pervasive problem in the U.S.

On “Diversion of Public Funds [due to corruption],” the U.S. ranks #34. On “Public Trust in Politicians,” we are #54. On “Irregular Payments and Bribes,” we are #42. On “Judicial Independence,” we are #38. On “Favoritism in Decisions of Government Officials” (otherwise known as governmental cronyism), we are #59.

On “Organized Crime,” we are #87. On “Ethical Behavior of Firms,” we are #29. On “Reliability of Police Services,” we are #30. On “Transparency of Governmental Policymaking,” we are #56. On “Efficiency of Legal Framework in Challenging Regulations,” we are #37. On “Efficiency of Legal Framework in Settling Disputes,” we are #35. On “Burden of Government Regulation,” we are #76. On “Wastefulness of Government Spending,” we are also #76. On “Property Rights” protection (the basic law-and-order measure), we are #42.

Investors find somewhat shaky ground in the U.S.

On “Strength of Investor Protection,” we are #5. On “Protection of Minority Shareholders’ Interests,” we are #33. On “Efficacy of Corporate Boards,” we are #23. On “Reliance on Professional Management,” we are #19. On “Strength of Auditing and Reporting Standards,” we are #37. On “Venture Capital Availability,” we are #10. On “Intellectual Property Protection,” we are #29. On “Soundness of Banks,” we are #80. On “Regulation of Securities Exchanges,” we are #39. On “Country Credit Rating,” we are #11. On “Government Debt [as a % of GDP],” we are #136. On “Effectiveness of Anti-Monopoly Policy,” we are #17. On “Extent of Market Dominance,” we are #9.

Technology is moderately good here. The U.S. ranks #14 on “Availability of Latest Technologies,” #24 on “Internet Access in Schools,” #20 on “Internet Users [%],” #33 on “Internet Bandwidth [per user],” and #8 on “Mobile Broadband Subscriptions [%].”

Infrastructure is fairly good in the U.S. We rank #25 on “Quality of Overall Infrastructure,” #33 on “Quality of Electricity Supply,” #30 on “Quality of Air Transport Infrastructure,” #19 on “Quality of Port Infrastructure,” and #20 on “Quality of Roads.”

Taxes also definitely don’t qualify as being good in the U.S. We rank #69 on “Extent and Effect of Taxation,” in which the “Effect” that’s considered is reducing the “incentives to work or invest.” We are #103 on “Total Tax Rate,” #47 on “Number of Procedures Required to Start a Business” (which is an indirect tax), and #50 on “Prevalence of Trade Barriers” (both tariff and non-tariff).

The U.S, overall, is very far from being #1 – not really in contention, at all, for the top spot. The rankings suggest instead that this nation is sinking toward the Third World. The nations that stand high on most of these lists are Finland, Switzerland, Singapore, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Japan, Canada, Qatar, Netherlands, Iceland, Ireland, and Hong Kong.

The nations that generally rank in the bottom half of these rankings are the ones that are typically cited as being “Third World,” or poor.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/america-far-1

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/eric-zuesse
[3] http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GlobalCompetitivenessReport_2012-13.pdf
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/united-states
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/ranking
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/global-competitiveness-report
[7] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Economic Decline

** America’s Tragic Decline by by Amy Goodman and Barbara Ehrenreich Democracy Now!, August 8, 2011

** Plutonomy and the Precariat  On the History of the U.S. Economy in Decline by Noam Chomsky, HuffingtonPost.com, May 9, 2012

** Third World America: Is Anyone Listening? by Jeremy Rifkin, author of  ‘The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis” – Huffington Post, September 9, 2010

** We’re No. 1(1)! by Thomas Friedman, New York Times, September 11, 2010  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/12/opinion/12friedman.html?th&emc=th