June 28, 2018
“It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America.”
-Nikki Haley (1)
Nikki Haley released a ferocious rebuke of a UN report detailing poverty in the United States. As if she could will away or dismiss its findings simply by how angry she denounced it. The life expectancy in the United States sits at 78.6 years (2) whilst Cubans can expect to live to 79.5 according to the World Health Organisation(3). Cuba is of course a country that has been economically embargoed by the United States for over half a century. Nikki Haleys ferocious retort comes amid a United Nations report examining poverty in the United States. 40 million Americans live in poverty, 18.5 million americans live in extreme poverty and 5.3million live in “third world conditions of absolute poverty” (4).
“The Special Rapporteur wasted the UN’s time and resources, deflecting attention from the world’s worst human rights abusers and focusing instead on the wealthiest and freest country in the world.”
It probably needs repeating that the United States imprisons more people (both total and as a percentage of their population) than anywhere else on the planet. Americans are 5 percent of the population whilst having 25 percent of the worlds prisoners. This doublespeak has become the norm. The US ambassador can say straight faced the US is the “freest country in the world” whilst having the highest percentage of its population in prison. Significantly higher than Russia, China or Iran.(7)
This is a myth of American empire, that freedom only exists in the United States. And if freedom exists elsewhere then the US is the “freest”.
The UN report does indeed paint a bleak picture for the average man or woman in the US and it’s no surprise that Nikki Haley has reacted with such venom at this UN report.
Because this strikes at the heart of one of the other ‘myths of American empire’. That each successive generation will live better than the previous one which fuelled the idea of ‘American exceptionalism’. That their form of government and ideology was something to be celebrated and even lifted up as the ‘messianic nation’ (ie. exported across the globe). But the precise definition of a nation in decline is when the generation after you lives worse than the previous generation. So the US ruling elite, a ruling class that has been doing victory laps since Reagan in removing workers rights/protections and labour laws, is caught in a dichotomy. A contradiction where they still try to propagandise their population into the messianic nation worthy of justifying imperialism (“bringing democracy” or “humanitarian intervention”) whilst the working class of the United States slips further into poverty.
“The United States is a land of stark contrasts. It is one of the world’s wealthiest societies, a global leader in many areas, and a land of unsurpassed technological and other forms of innovation. Its corporations are global trendsetters, its civil society is vibrant and sophisticated and its higher education system leads the world. But its immense wealth and expertise stand in shocking contrast with the conditions in which vast numbers of its citizens live. About 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty.4 It has the highest youth poverty rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the highest infant mortality rates among comparable OECD States. Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, eradicable tropical diseases are increasingly prevalent, and it has the world’s highest incarceration rate, one of the lowest levels of voter registrations among OECD countries and the highest obesity levels in the developed world. 5. The United States has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries.5 The $1.5 trillion in tax cuts in December 2017 overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality. The consequences of neglecting poverty and promoting inequality are clear. The United States has one of the highest poverty and inequality levels among the OECD countries, and the Stanford Center on Inequality and Poverty ranks it 18th out of 21 wealthy countries in terms of labour markets, poverty rates, safety nets, wealth inequality and economic mobility. But in 2018 the United States had over 25 per cent of the world’s 2,208 billionaires. 6 There is thus a dramatic contrast between the immense wealth of the few and the squalor and deprivation in which vast numbers of Americans exist. For almost five decades the overall policy response has been neglectful at best, but the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship. 6. The visit of the Special Rapporteur coincided with the dramatic change of direction in relevant United States policies. The new policies: (a) provide unprecedentedly high tax breaks and financial windfalls to the very wealthy and the largest corporations; (b) pay for these partly by reducing welfare benefits for the poor; © undertake a radical programme of financial, environmental, health and safety deregulation that eliminates protections mainly benefiting the middle classes and the poor; (d) seek to add over 20 million poor and middle class persons to the ranks of those without health insurance; (e) restrict eligibility for many welfare benefits while increasing the obstacles required to be overcome by those eligible; (f) dramatically increase spending on defence, while rejecting requested improvements in key veterans’ benefits; (g) do not provide adequate additional funding to address an opioid crisis that is decimating parts of the country; and (h) make no effort to tackle the structural racism that keeps a large percentage of non-Whites 7 in poverty and near poverty”
Ultimately the empire “feeds off the republic” (to quote Michael Parenti). So when the US has spent an estimated either $3.6 trillion (based on a Brown University study) or $5.6 trillion (according to the associated press) on war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria(5). This money isn’t plucked from thin air. US tax payers have to pay that back and is the source of Americans increased poverty. The $2 trillion discrepancy between the associated press and the Brown university study is testament to the open corruption in military contracts. The money has been funnelled through so many private contractors looking to milk the tax payers for all their worth there’s a 2 trillion margin of error when estimating what has actually been spent.
Eisenhowers A Chance For Peace speech in 1953 seems more relevant than ever.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
The United States is currently at war with 7 different nations (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya) all the while leaving it’s citizens to the ravages of the free market: whether that’s the burgeoning opiod crisis, the children drinking lead contaminated water or the 40 million Americans in poverty.
Alexander Zinoviev berating Gorbachev and Yeltsin on TV in 1990. His errily prophetic vision of Russia came true. When capitalism was restored to Russia under Yeltsin in the 90s Russia experienced what economists would later call the “Russian Cross” whereby the death rate shot up and the birth rate slowed to a crawl (creating a cross on a graph). The return of capitalism meant a death spiral of every social ill; alcoholism, domestic abuse, drug abuse and homelessness. The return of orthodox Christianity to fill the power void. The wholesale sell off of public services that had once been owned by the collective people to the fortune 500.
The brilliant thinker and Soviet dissident who later came to regret being a tool for western interest spoke in a brilliantly prophetic interview in 1999 in which he asserted the end of communism in the east meant the end of democracy in the west. That the glue for any kind of pluralism in media/politics etc. came from the united front against communism to the east. Since the fall of communism he asserts a kind of democratic totalitarianism has arisen. And who can argue it hasn’t? Voter turnout is worse each year as people realise no party in a First Past the Post system will represent their interests. Princeton University long released a peer review paper that the United States is an oligarchy. That the average person in the US has little to no effect on the policies and laws that are ratified by the courts. That’s perhaps why 54 percent of citizens in democracies believe their voice doesn’t have an impact on political decisions, and 64 percent think their government doesn’t act in their interest.
“Q: Don’t you think that people can have their own opinions, and that they can vote and thus express themselves?
ANSWER. First of all, even now people don’t vote that often, and they will vote even less in the future. With regard to public opinion in the West it is shaped by the media. Suffice it to recall the universal approval of the war in Kosovo. Remember the Spanish war! Volunteers from all over the world traveled to that country to fight on one side or the other. Remember the war in Vietnam. But these days, people are so well shepherded that they react only the way that the purveyors of propaganda want them to.
Q: So, the role of Gorbachev was not positive?
A: I look at things from a slightly different angle. Contrary to common belief, Soviet communism did not collapse because of internal reasons. Its collapse is certainly the greatest victory in the history of the West. An unheard of victory which, let me say it again, can establish a unitary power monopoly on a planetary scale. The end of communism also signalized the end of democracy. The modern epoch is not only post-communist, it is also post-democratic! Today we are witnessing the establishment of democratic totalitarianism, or, if you will, totalitarian democracy.
Q: Does not it all sound a little absurd?
A: Not at all. Democracy requires pluralism and pluralism implies an existence of at least two more or less equal forces which oppose each other and at the same time influence each other. During the Cold War there was world democracy, global pluralism, with two opposing systems: capitalist and communist, plus other countries with an amorphous system which belonged to neither. Soviet totalitarianism was sensitive to Western criticism. In turn, the Soviet Union influenced the West, in particular through the latter’s own communist parties. Today we live in a world dominated by one single force, one ideology and one pro-globalization party. All of this together began to take shape during the Cold War, when superstructures gradually appeared in various forms: commercial, banking, political and media organizations. Despite their different fields of activity, what they had in common was essentially their transnational scope. With the collapse of communism they began to rule the world. Thus, Western countries ended up in the dominant position, but at the same time they are now in a subordinate position as they gradually lose their sovereignty to what I call the supra-society. The planet-wide supra-society consists of commercial and non-commercial organizations whose influence extends far beyond individual states. Like other countries, the Western countries are subordinated to these supranational structures. This is despite the fact that the sovereignty of states was also an integral part of pluralism and hence of democracy on a global scale. Today’s ruling supra-power suppresses sovereign states. The European integration unfolding in front of our very eyes is also leading to the disappearance of pluralism within this new conglomerate in favor of supranational power.
Q: But do not you think that France and Germany remain democracies?
A: Western countries got to know true democracy during the Cold War. Political parties had genuine ideological differences and different political programs. The media also differed from each other. All this had an impact on the lives of ordinary people contributing to the growth of their wealth. Now this has come to an end. A democratic and prosperous capitalism with socially oriented laws and job security was in many ways thanks to a fear of communism. After the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, a massive attack on the social rights of citizens was launched in the West. Today the socialists who are in power in most European countries are pursuing policies of dismantling the social security system, destroying everything that was socialist in the capitalist countries. There is no longer a political force in the West capable of protecting ordinary citizens. The existence of political parties is a mere formality. They will differ less and less as time goes on. The war in the Balkans was anything but democratic. Nevertheless, the war was perpetrated by the socialists who historically have been against these kinds of ventures. Environmentalists, who are in power in some countries, welcomed the environmental catastrophe caused by the NATO bombings. They even dared to claim that bombs containing depleted uranium are not dangerous for the environment, even though soldiers loading them wear special protective overalls. Thus, democracy is gradually disappearing from the social structure of the West. Totalitarianism is spreading everywhere because the supranational structure imposes its laws on individual states. This undemocratic superstructure gives orders, imposes sanctions, organizes embargos, drops bombs, causes hunger. Even Clinton obeys it. Financial totalitarianism has subjugated political power. Emotions and compassion are alien to cold financial totalitarianism. Compared with financial dictatorship, political dictatorship is humane. Resistance was possible inside the most brutal dictatorships. Rebellion against banks is impossible.
Q: What about a revolution?
A: Democratic totalitarianism and financial dictatorship rule out the possibility of social revolution.
A: Because they combine omnipotent military power with a financial stranglehold. All revolutions received support from outside. From now on this is impossible because there are no sovereign states, nor will there be. Moreover, at the lowest level the working class has been replaced with the unemployed class. What do the unemployed want? Jobs. Therefore, they are in a less advantageous position than the working class of the past.
Q: Would it be correct to say that the intensifying radicalization in the West will lead to its own destruction?
A: Nazism was destroyed during total war. The Soviet system was young and strong. It would have continued to thrive, had it not been destroyed by outside forces. Social systems do not destroy themselves. They can only be destroyed by an external force. It’s like a ball rolling on a surface: only the presence of an external obstacle could break its movement. I can prove it like a theorem. Today, we are dominated by a country with enormous economic and military superiority. The new emerging world order is drawn to unipolarity. If the supranational government manages to achieve this by eliminating all external enemies, then a unified social system can survive until the end of time. Only a person can die from their illness. But a group of people, even a small group, would try to survive through reproduction. Now imagine a social system comprising billions of people! Its capacity to anticipate and prevent self-destructive phenomena will be limitless. In the foreseeable future, the process of erasing differences across the world cannot be stopped, since democratic totalitarianism is the last phase of the development of Western society, which began with the Renaissance.” (6)
In a world where capitalist-liberalism is disintegrating right before our eyes; where ‘human rights’ are justified in bombing the poorest people on earth, that “humanitarian intervention” is used straight faced by world leaders and their sycophantic media cheerleaders in the mainstream media and a world where most of humanity only has debt peonage and decreased living standards to look forward to.
It certainly does look like humanity has been nailed to an iron cross.
The world is in desperate need of a liberating ideology, in which true media and political pluralism can thrive instead of the circus currently on offer. One where we’re not in thrall to capital or beholden to the fortune 500 who rule every aspect of our lives.
R S Ahthion is a geopolitical analyst living in the UK. The author’s work focuses on questions of social and international justice whose work has appeared in The Greanville Post. Never fails to be disgusted by capitalism. Spends his free time writing fiction, studying history, politics, ideology and philosophy.
(4) United Nations Generaly Assembly, 4 May 2018 http://undocs.org/A/HRC/38/33/ADD.1
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