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Once upon a time not so very long ago and a place right close by, there was a land conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal. Now, reality is, this land was never really the shining city upon a hill as some folks liked to claim but even with all of its problems, it still managed to make the phrases “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free” enough substance to be a bit more than a slogan on a statue.
Now? Eh, not so much.
Back just a few decades ago, the US had the reputation for Social Mobility, helped greatly after WWII by the GI Bill. The basic access to a public education also helped this mobility (contrary to Rick Santorum’s belief.) Nowadays, this has “turned on its head” (via the New York Times):
WASHINGTON — Benjamin Franklin did it. Henry Ford did it. And American life is built on the faith that others can do it, too: rise from humble origins to economic heights. “Movin’ on up,” George Jefferson-style, is not only a sitcom song but a civil religion.
But many researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. The mobility gap has been widely discussed in academic circles, but a sour season of mass unemployment and street protests has moved the discussion toward center stage.
It is not just education and Social Mobility where the US has problems nowadays. The World Health Organization ranks the US Healthcare system 37th just behind Costa Rica and Dominica and just ahead of Cuba and Slovenia.
The US also has a much larger income inequality than most of hte rest of the so-called developed countries (via CNN):
The U.S. has a higher level of income inequality than Europe, as well as Canada, Australia and South Korea, according to data gathered by the World Bank.
And, while many nations have seen income inequality rise within their borders, the United States has experienced a more rapid increase in recent decades, widening the wealth gap even more.
USA! USA! USA!
I guess we shouldn’t worry too awfully much though. Just the last couple of days, Glenn Greenwald and Jim White at Emptywheel have both pointed out areas where the US is trend setting for other nations and blazing the trail for them to follow. First up is Glenn reporting on Israel following the US lead on the use of renditions while Marcy Jim White talks about the blind eye shown by Reuters and the NY Times towards Iran’s embrace of the Bush Doctrine.
So much for “Shining city on a hill,” “conceived in liberty…” and all those other noble sentiments we once learned were the hallmarks of life in the US.
And because I can:
Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor