The Irony of America
So many media pundits have already discredited the “American Dream.” So I won’t waste your time by telling you how the United States ranks near the bottom in upward social mobility, behind France, Canada, Australia, and even the United Kingdom.
The irony here is that in European countries such as France or the U.K. is that their citizens are largely pessimistic about becoming wealthy and moving up in social classes. Meanwhile, in the U.S., citizens are largely optimistic about some day becoming a billionaire, or millionaire.
Let me save you some hoping by telling you it probably won’t happen.
So what is the Global Social Mobility Index? It measures which countries give citizens better opportunities to succeed. Having quality healthcare, education, and social systems goes a long way to helping someone mobilize themselves from the bottom 20% of a social class to the top 20%.
Nordic countries like Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are ahead of most countries because they rank higher in quality education systems, social safety nets, inclusive institutions, and good job opportunities. 17 of the countries in the top 20 are in Europe.
In the United States, and other countries that aren’t near the top, citizens rely on a “birth lottery.” Where you start has a profound effect on where you end up. This is unfortunate for several reasons, but countries can increase the quality of life for citizens by making healthcare more affordable and providing quality education. The U.S. spends the most of any country globally on healthcare but ranks low in key areas including infant mortality, life expectancy, and rates of medical error.
The healthcare system is only a portion of the United States’ current failures. When Donald Trump first ran for president under the slogan Make America Great Again, it seemed that the metric for the question, “so what makes America great?” is that it’s a competition.
We need to be better than China. We just have to. In the 1970s and ‘80s it was Russia and the Soviet Union. We needed to be better than them. We needed to beat Russia to outer space. Then it was the moon.
The United States was not designed to be like Russia. It wasn’t designed to be like China. It’s not an autocracy, and even though Russia isn’t any longer, it was for a long time.
The country doesn’t need to spend trillions of dollars on military defense. For the entire history, political leaders have repeated “we need to do whatever it takes to keep citizens safe.” Whatever it takes.
400,000 dead in less than a single year. Suddenly, “whatever it takes” isn’t enough.
Donald Trump’s ineptitude and cautious approach to the COVID-19 was costly and ended up with hundreds of thousands dead. Even though Trump handled the pandemic poorly, any other president would’ve had some trouble in navigating it. But surely, 400,000 would not have died. That’s a well-known fact.
The irony in Donald Trump saying “nothing more could be done” is that preparation for such an outbreak has been something that so many have echoed throughout the last six months. So many have argued that “no one could have prepared for this.” Except hundreds of public health experts have predicted a virus such as this one for decades now. We had every opportunity to prepare and we didn’t.
This pandemic was inevitable and past presidents have known this. In 2005, George W. Bush launched a pandemic response team, saying “if we wait for a pandemic, it will be too late.” In 2014, Barack Obama asked Congress for $6.18 billion in emergency funding so the government could be better equipped to handle such a pandemic. Republican lawmakers denied funding.
Donald Trump argued, “We inherited a broken system,” but in the years before the pandemic, he disbanded Obama’s own response team, cut CDC staff operating in China by more than two-thirds, and ended a pandemic early-warning program.
Every obstacle Trump had was created by him.
The irony created here is that the United States always pretends to invest in middle-class interests. From lawmakers who say “I’m on your side” to Republican leaders who are only voted in for their stances on abortion and gun activism.
The election process has some faults. For one, the Electoral College needs to go. It’s no secret that a small state like Wyoming has 3x more voting power than larger states like California. Another frightening issue is that the Electoral College created “swing states” meaning candidates can blatantly ignore almost two-thirds of the entire country. In the last two months of the 2008 election, 32 states received zero campaign visits.
Even though more than 4 million California Republicans voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, 100-percent of the electoral votes went to Barack Obama. And despite the 3 million Texas Democrats who voted for Obama, every single electoral vote in the state went to Romney.
Republican lawmakers, along with Donald Trump, will argue that they want “free and fair” elections. The problem with this is it’s how fascism starts. Creating concern about the election process is not American, nor Democratic. Voter suppression is massive and the dismantling of it by Democratic organizers in Georgia is why it voted Democrat for the first time since 1992.
In December of 2019, a top Trump election adviser was caught telling fellow Republicans that the party has “traditionally” relied on voter suppression to win swing states — the same states that decide elections.
If the United States rules out voter suppression, eliminates big-money politics and insider trading, and institutes Senate and House term limits (I suggest three Senate terms of six years and seven House terms of two years), I’m not so sure that Republicans will win another U.S. election or control of either chamber of Congress.
It’s imperative that Congress work towards abolishing the undemocratic Electoral College and allow term limits for members who are serving. If Congresspeople weren’t so concerned with “political suicide” and re-election, maybe Donald Trump would actually get a rightfully deserved conviction in the Senate.