Tuesday, 19 November 2013

A Further Explanation Part 1

Last's week post failed to elaborate fully on my belief that indeed "Something is rotten in the state of America". This post shall point out some of the worst faults of the American Republic to-day and perhaps what can be done to correct this.

As noted in the video below, the United States' income inequality is severe with the top one percent of Americans owning some forty percent of the wealth and roughly a quarter of its income. Yet this was not always the case in the United States-even in 1915 the top one percent earned only about 18 percent of the total income. In between, income inequality was even less, in the process known as the "Great Compression" with it being well under 10 percent from the 1950s through the 1970s. Yet since then, an opposite trend, known as the "Great Divergence" has occurred, reversing any gains made in reducing income inequality in the last century and there is little sign that anything besides recessions and slowdowns of the economy will end this. As a result, today, the United States is one of the most unequal countries in the world, exceeding that of virtually every other developed nation including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Japan and even developing countries in Latin America such as Venezuela. In relation to this, the United States also has one of the lowest rates of social mobility among developed countries. According to Timothy Noah's exhaustive analysis of the potential causes of income inequality, the biggest factor is that of education (especially for secondary schools) which has failed to keep up with changing times and also with other countries, making college education far more valuable to employers and inflating their wages.

In relation to this is the woeful state of our politics. One of the fundamental problems causing the current state of political deadlock is the way both Presidential and Congressional elections occur. While the Electoral College (with a few exceptions) generally follows the popular will in determining who becomes President, it is undemocratic in the sense that large areas of the country  become marginalized when electing a President. As a result the Democratic leaning academics and college students of Austin, Texas or the GOP-leaning wealthy bourgeoisie that reside in coastal Newport Beach both end up casting votes for President that are worthless. At the same time, presidential candidates will essentially focus on a handful of states such as Ohio or Florida which effectively wield disproportionate power in presidential elections. The problems regarding Congressional elections can be separated to those in the Senate and the House. While other countries such as Canada or France have upper houses that look strong on paper and which are decided in a fairly undemocratic manner (such as Canada allocating them by province much as the US does by state), they usually defer to the will of the lower house. In the United States, on the other hand, the Senate has both de jure and de facto equal powers (with some exceptions in regards to treaties, Presidential appointments, and bills of revenue), when at the same time Senate seats are allocated disproportionately by state due to inequalities in state populations. Thus California has one Senator for over 18 million people while Wyoming has one Senator for roughly quarter of a million people. This, along with procedural rules regarding the filibuster, has led to a small minority of Senators representing a small minority of Americans to block or at least delay many pieces of legislation. While the House of Representatives is supposedly more democratic in character, it suffers from having its boundary lines drawn in most cases by partisan state legislatures (with some notable exceptions such as California) who draw boundaries designed to maximize the advantage for their party. As a result, the Republicans have a 12 to 4 advantage of House seats from Ohio, a 9 to 5 advantage in Michigan, and a 12 to 5 advantage in Pennsylvania despite all of them being states which President Obama won last year in the Presidential election. This factor along with variations in the concentrations of voter populations, indeed, led to the Republicans retaining a majority in the House despite the Democratic candidates receiving more votes. Finally the number of House seats has been set at 435 for about a century now, which means that each House member represents an average of 710,767 people. By way of comparison, the United Kingdom which has only a fifth of the population of the American Republican has some 650 seats in its House of Commons.

Needless to say, these are not all of America's problems. One must also discuss the state of our health care system, the lack of advanced infrastructure in both energy and transportation (such as high speed rail or nuclear power), the phenomenon of white flight, problems with our education system, and cultural degeneration. These problems and solutions to them will be discussed in future posts of this series to be entitled "There is Something Rotten...".

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