Darrell Berkheimer: What should America do to be great again?
June 8, 2018
I think nearly every one of us can now agree that America is not as great as it once was.
The United States is declining in both world image and importance, and that decline is continuing. It's a decline that's being accelerated by President Donald Trump and our Republican-controlled Congress, according to one of the latest reports prepared for the United Nations Human Rights Council.
But before examining how shameful the statistics are in that report, let's give some serious thought to Trump's election campaign slogan: "Make America Great Again."
Will our nation be great again by cutting taxes and making our corporations and wealthy elite even more wealthy? Is that what will make America great again?
All U.S. citizens should be disgusted that our Congress has allowed such situations to develop.
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Perhaps our first question should be: What made our country great in the first place? Then maybe we can ask: What will it take to make the U.S. top dog again?
Let's look back to analyze what really made America a superpower.
What was it that made America so great that people the world over sacrificed in every way possible to come here? Wasn't it the freedom and opportunities to live a better life? And the freedom to innovate?
And when many of our ancestors got here, what did they do? Didn't they sacrifice even more so their children and grandchildren could have an even better life?
Isn't that what really made our country great?
If that's true, then it's not just what we provide for those living now, but instead what we provide for the future — for our children, and the next generation after that.
If that's what makes a country great, then we in the United States are failing miserably.
The evidence lies in the many reports of our declining life expectancy, rising infant mortality rate, declining health care, declining middle class, rising inequality, and decline in affordable education and occupational training. Each of those situations has occurred while we watched political corruption and abuse of power continue to increase in the upper echelons of our federal and state governments.
And those sad world rankings are verified by the latest reports coming out of the Pew Research Center, Brookings Institute, United Nations Human Rights Council, World Health Organization and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Among the latest, and one of the most condemning reports, is one announced only a few days ago. It states poverty in the U.S. is extensive and growing worse under the Trump Administration.
The report notes that 41 million people in the U.S. now live in poverty. That's 12.5 percent — or one out of every eight of our estimated 327 million people.
And the report adds that children account for one out of every three in poverty. So now our United States has the highest youth poverty rate among industrialized countries.
The report says our U.S. citizens "live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies." It adds that we have the highest incarceration rate and that more than a half-million of our people are homeless. (And another news item noted approximately 10 percent of them — an estimated 58,000 — are in the Los Angeles metro area.)
The U.N. report was prepared by Philip Alston, an Australian who is the United Nations human rights investigator and a law professor at New York University. He is scheduled to deliver the report later this month to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
The report calls for U.S. authorities to provide solid social protection and address underlying problems, rather than "punishing and imprisoning the poor."
The most shameful of the statistics refer to our racial discrimination. Alston reported African Americans are 2.5 times more likely than whites to live in poverty, and that their unemployment rate is more than double.
The report notes President Trump's tax reform has awarded "financial windfalls" to the mega-rich and large companies, further increasing inequality. It says that "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."
The conclusions and statistics cited by the report are appalling. And I thought it a bit unusual that the apparent first announcement of the report came through Reuters, the international news service with headquarters in London, UK.
All U.S. citizens should be disgusted that our Congress has allowed such situations to develop. And it cannot all be blamed on only Republicans in Congress. In addition, the blame must be shared by those citizens throughout our nation who fail to vote.
But to return to the original issue: Can we, will we, take the right actions to make America great again?
And what do these most recent actions under Trump portend for our country's future?
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He is the author of five books available through Amazon. Contact him at email@example.com.