Are we becoming a Third-World country?
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
To answer this question we have to examine the conditions that make a country a Third-World country. There are twelve that come to mind:
1. Extreme distortion in the distribution of wealth and lack of a middle class, with most of the wealth in the hands of a powerful few and the rest of the people living in poverty.
2. A high rate of unemployment.
3. Widespread corruption.
4. A deficient education system.
5. An excessive national debt.
6. A collapsing infrastructure.
7. Irresponsible exploitation of natural resources by foreign interests.
8. Excessive dominance by corporate interests.
9. A breakdown of law, allowing gangs and drug cartels to flourish.
10. Excessive dependence on imports for resources and manufactured goods.
12. Runaway inflation.
Now let’s look into how the United States stacks up in each of these categories.
The pyramiding of wealth in the U.S. into the hands of the few has never been greater. The per capita income of the top one percent is eighty times that of the lower half of our population, and just one-tenth of one percent possess as much wealth as the entire bottom half. The wealth created by the enormous gains in productivity of the past few decades has not been shared with the working classes, which is pushing a growing portion of the middle class toward the poverty level. The current high rate of unemployment is only making this bad situation worse for millions of Americans. The severe recession we are struggling to dig our way out came about as a result of a general collapse of morality which has become all too prevalent among both government and corporate officials, especially those running the finance industry, whose greed led to the current economic meltdown.
The sluggish economy is putting a financial strain on our education system. Both school boards and the state and federal governments which provide financial assistance are experiencing shortfalls in tax receipts which they are dealing with by downgrading the quality of the education for our children. A strong education system is essential to a strong economic future for our country; the opposite is equally true.
With regard to our national debt, a discussion is hardly necessary. Suffice it to say that it has increased by $12 trillion since 1980, equally under Democratic and Republican administrations, and is a major threat to our future as a nation. Unless we get serious about reining in budget deficits and paying down our national debt, the inevitable consequence will be inflation on a scale we have not known for over two centuries.
The colonial powers invested heavily in infrastructure in their colonies, but with the end of colonialism that infrastructure has largely been neglected and gone into decline. Past generations in our country dipped deep into their pockets to build the infrastructure we all depend on to make our lives comfortable. But we have failed to make adequate provision for the upkeep of that infrastructure. As a result we have created an enormous infrastructure “debt”, amounting to trillions of dollars of maintenance needs for our deteriorating highways and bridges and underground utilities – water main and sewer systems, which in many cities and villages are approaching or already exceed their useful life of 100-150 years. Canadian gold-mining companies and BP are examples of foreign corporations that have looted our resources and left devastation in their wake. And heavy lobbying and obscene campaign contributions by domestic corporations have all too often allowed them to pollute and rape the environment, enhancing their profits to the detriment of the quality of the environment, and the air we breathe and the water we drink. And our Supreme Court, in its ultimate wisdom, has granted corporations the power to control elections.
Gang and drug violence which is ravaging so many poor countries, is threatening to spill over the border from Mexico, compromising law and order and our security.
We are all well aware of our utter dependence on petroleum imports to keep our economy afloat. We are also becoming more dependent on foreign sources for a variety of critical minerals such as lithium for hybrid and electric car batteries, and rare-earth metals for computers. And all you have to do is go shopping for just about any manufactured products, and it becomes very obvious that very few of them are produced in this country any more.
Places like sub-Sahara Africa, Bangladesh, and especially Haiti, are examples of countries whose populations exceed the resources needed to support them. In those countries, the problem is not enough land to feed their burgeoning populations, leading to mass starvation. In this country, it is going to be increasingly difficult to meet the enormous demand of the fastest growing population in the industrialized world for energy and mineral resources needed to maintain anything like our current standard of living.
So, are we in danger of becoming a Third-World country? You be the judge.
– Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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