We are the world. Well, the Third World

Salon reports that judged by the statistics, America is a third-world country. Our infrastructure is deteriorating, students rank 30th in math and many countries outrank us in terms of infant health and life expectancy and other countries are now outsourcing jobs to us. We are, however, number one at incarcerating people!
Salon’s theory is that we can blame it on a vision of government that holds up low wages, low taxes, minimal government spending (except on defense of course), zero regulation and no worker rights as an ideal. The Nation notes the added effect of the sequester. Consider more examples of third-worldism.
•Philadelphia’s levels of prenatal care, maternal health and infant health are actually getting worse. A combination of growing poverty, multiple hospitals shuttering prenatal units and the surviving units clustering away from the poverty-level neighborhoods.
•Nevada’s solution to poor people with mental problems: ship them to other states.
•Our higher education is becoming increasingly business-like. As in, administrators get all the money.
•Despite the declining effectiveness of antibiotics, FDA still isn’t effectively regulating the use in livestock.
•Paul Ryan’s budget would slash funds for removing lead paint from buildings.
As Salon says, part of the problem is that even though trickle-down economics (cut taxes on the rich and the rising tide lifts all boats) doesn’t work and unlimited tax cuts don’t boost the economy, Republicans and a large chunk of Democrats still approach economics like those tactics are a proven model for success. And that we’ve gone from an America that loves to complain about taxes to one where they’re seen as an active evil that must be slashed over and over. Not merely because they’re unfair but because government shouldn’t spend money on anything, ever. Except to lock people up and kill all our enemies overseas (as I’ve said before, defense hawks are the real nanny-staters). They’re a bizarre combination of would-be military tyrants, anarchists and theocrats.
Ronald Reagan contributed to the problem immensely. The combination of his popularity with his government-is-always-the-problem and anti-tax, anti-spending rhetoric (even though he left office with a record deficit and very low popularity) made it look like that was the way to go. The default assumption for Democrats since then has been that the only way to win is to run to the right (though I’ve been told that thinking goes back much further).
Religion probably plays a part. When I was in my early twenties there was a belief on the religious right that education was the vanguard of a “secular humanist” conspiracy dedicated to brainwashing kids into accepting evolution and other ungodly ideas. It’s only intensified since. As Christianity’s grip on secular American power continues shrinking (even though it’s obviously still the strongest religion), the religious right is getting even more freaked out (right-winger Bryan Fischer, for example, has proclaimed that only Christianity gets the First Amendment protection. Not that this is a new idea on the right).
Race plays a role. As noted in a previous post (but I can’t quite find the link), the conviction among white conservatives is that when government spends money it’s giving “their” money to an undeserving, non-white “them.” Who are by definition lazy, whereas conservatives imagine they’ve earned it through hard work.
Another factor, I think, is the right-wing’s absolute commitment to their ideology. The real-world consequences don’t matter: What matters is that they stay absolutely true to their ideals. If that means people die for lack of medical care or women bear the children of rapists, so be it. Because freedom is on the march. It’s not a new thought: Libertarian pundit Tibor Machan, for instance, was always waffling about how we must never be pragmatic about the effect of going libertarian, no we must stand firm on our principles! Which I took to mean he knew damn well the effects suck.
I’d like to say Republican pols are genuinely regretful and horrified at the thought of people dying or starving because of their policies. But I’m not sure they are.

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Filed under economics, Politics

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