"We have to figure out what kind of people are we going to be and what policies will help us be our best selves."
Instead of peddling American exceptionalism, defenders of the status quo should study these 5 great American hypocrisies.
By Paul Buchheit
American ‘exceptionalism’ exists in the minds of super-patriots who are more than willing to overlook their own faults as they place themselves above other people. The only question may be which of their self-serving hypocrisies is most outrageous and destructive.
1. Corporations Hoarding $2 Trillion in Profits, Asking Taxpayers to Pay Their Employees’ Wages
Citizens for Tax Justice just reported that Fortune 500 companies are holding over $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore for tax purposes, with estimated taxes due of over $600 billion. But high-profile businessmen Peter Georgescu and Warren Buffett both recently recommended that government subsidies be used to increase worker wages, and Marco Rubio agreed, suggesting that government should pay the sick leave for corporate employees.
Georgescu proclaimed: “This country has given me remarkable opportunities..” In return, he concludes, taxpayers should “provide tax incentives to business.”
2. Mourning American Lives, But Not Foreign Lives
Two days after President Obama expressed grief and anger about the Oregon school shootings, a hospital in Afghanistan was bombed by the U.S., killing 22 people. Our government admitted its mistake. But we haven’t apologized for funding Saudi Arabia’s attacks in Yemen, which are killing hundreds of civilians. Or for our drone strikes in Pakistan, which led one 13-year-old to say, “I no longer love blue skies…The drones do not fly when the skies are gray.”
Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman assured us that “If necessary, the President would implement changes that would make tragedies like this one less likely to occur in the future.” But these are empty words. Professor Marc Herold’s research has shown that “as the U.S. bombs get smarter, civilian casualties increase.” The military is encouraged to “drop bombs on sites which previously might not have been hit for fear of causing widespread civilian deaths.”
3. Caring About Unborn Children, But Not Living Children
The anti-abortion element keeps attacking Planned Parenthood, even though the long-successful and essential organization saves women’s lives through breast cancer screenings, and reduces abortions by providing contraceptive services.
Little mention is made of the 65% rise in homeless children in less than ten years. Or of the fact that only the United States and South Sudan have failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It’s a curious phenomenon that a safe and secure fetus garners more attention than a child exposed to the harsh realities of the world outside.
4. Demanding Self-Reliance of People Who Can’t Find a Living-Wage Job
The Koch-funded Heritage Foundation proclaimed, “Helping the poor should mean promoting individual freedom through self-reliance..” The Cato Institute added, “SNAP helps breed dependency and undermines the work ethic.”
Here are the facts: Nearly two-thirds of all working-age poor are actually working, but unable to earn a living wage, forcing them to rely on food stamps, which only provide about $5 a day per person for meals. In addition, over 83 percent of all benefits going to low-income people are for the elderly, the disabled, or working households.
Black families have the least opportunities, and are most maligned. The Wall Street Journal blurted: “..Too few blacks…have taken advantage of the opportunities now available to them.” But a recent study found that job applicants were about 50 percent more likely to be called back if they had “white” names. A hiring analysis study found that white job applicants with criminal records were called back more often than blacks without criminal records. Over half of the black college graduates of recent years were underemployed in 2013, working in occupations that typically do not require a four-year college degree.
Perhaps worst of all, Congress vilifies the poor for laziness while doing little to provide employment opportunities. In 2011 Senate Republicans killed a proposed $447 billion jobs bill that would have added about two million jobs to the economy. Members of Congress filibustered Nancy Pelosi’s “Prevention of Outsourcing Act,” even as a million jobs were being outsourced, and they temporarily blocked the “Small Business Jobs Act.” In April, 2013 only one member of Congress bothered to show up for a hearing on unemployment. When asked what he would do to bring jobs to Kentucky, Mitch McConnell responded, “That is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet.”
5. Turning Away People Who Were Displaced by Our “Free Trade” Pacts
Many Americans have sympathized with Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant sentiments, despite his cruel assessment of Mexican people: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Apparently few Americans are aware of, or concerned about, the hardships faced by Mexican families since the beginnings of NAFTA. Subsidies to U.S. corn farmers led to lower prices and a tripling of corn exports to Mexico over the first ten years of the trade pact. Prices collapsed in Mexico. Corn that earned growers 2.00 pesos per kilogram in 1994 dropped to .50 pesos in 2001. Production became concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy landowners. Over 1.3 million jobs were lost in agriculture since 1994, while 500,000 manufacturing jobs were gained, most of them at lower wages than before NAFTA, and many of them in the crime-filled and disease-ridden maquiladora factory towns at the U.S. border.
Ana Luisa Cruz would leave her house in Ciudad Juarez at 5 AM to work at a maquiladora factory for $7.60 a day, which was not enough to pay for both food and school fees for her three younger children. Mexico’s wages fell further as factory jobs were lost to even lower-wage countries. For many like Ana Luisa, there was nothing else to do but seek work across the border, in the United States.
Banks get bailouts, but homeowners and students can’t declare bankruptcy. Drug companies increase prices by 5,000%, but Medicare is not allowed to negotiate for lower drug prices. Charter schools are public when the money is being passed out, but private when we want to look at their books.
The list goes on and on.
Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.