uring my early years at an elementary school in Westbury, New York I made the mistake of asking my teacher when the United States would lose its power like every other nation in history lost theirs.
I clearly remember the silence of my teacher and all of my peers. We had just won the Great War and were in the process of defeating a new evil called the Soviet Union when I had the audacity of asking when America, the greatest nation this world has ever seen, would fall into mediocrity. For weeks I was sneered at by my friends and was ignored by most of my teachers. How dare I ask a question concerning my future and the future of everyone I have ever known?
I then decided to make up for my mistake by taking every opportunity to display my love of country by drawing more American Flags that I could during every opportunity I had. Needless to say I made up for my curiosity concerning history and onward I roamed to my future. But, I never forgot my question even though none was brave enough to answer it. It finally happened.
The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction. We are no longer the most affluent in the world. The middle class of The United States of America has received considerably smaller raises than other advanced industrialized nations. Middle class incomes in Canada are higher. The United States still has easily the world’s most prosperous major economy but most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.
he struggles of the poor are even starker than those of the middle class. The poor in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and the Netherlands make significantly more than the poor of our own nation. Even though the United States has maintained its lead as the world’s richest nation, the rich are getting richer while those who are not so rich are becoming poorer. The average is the highest in the world but this distribution of wealth is literally imploding all of our futures.
Lets talk about some hard data. Being a chemistry teacher I am very comfortable working with numbers. In 2010, the median per capita income was $18,700, which means about $75,000, for a family of four after taxes. This is up 20% since 1980 but the problem is that this has virtually not changed since 2000, after inflation. Compared to other nations, the Netherlands, Canada, and Great Britain rose over 14% between 2000 and 2010. It is also an established fact that pay in several other European nations and Canada have risen faster since 2010, than it has in the United States.
Being a teacher of over three decades I am embarrassed to report the following: People of our nation between the ages of 55 and 65 have literacy, numeracy, and technology skills that are above average relative to the rest of the industrialized world. Those Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 rank well behind their counterparts in most of the industrialized world. Why do we continue to follow failed policies of standardized tests instead of concentrating on having our children be able to compete in, what is in fact, a globalized economy.
Companies in our nation have got to stop distributing a smaller share of their profits to the middle class and poor when compared to what they give to their top executives. These same top executives make substantially more money in the United States than in other nations throughout the world. This is made even worse by the fact that rich Americans pay lower taxes than the rich in may other nations and the US does not redistribute as much income to the poor. The inequality in disposable income is highest in our own nation.
o, why do we care? The comparison with the Roman Empire is frightening. The lower and middle classes were once the driving force in Rome’s economy. As Rome began its descent, the nation had become a nation of the haves and the have-nots and the rich and the poor. Taxation was not equally administered. Parts of the Roman Empire were taxed while other parts were not. The rich aristocrats began to take over the rule of Rome, to become greedier.
Today, we also have the rich, the middle and lower classes. Taxation is not evenly distributed or fair as the middle class bears most of the burden of running the government and paying for it’s debts and other fiscal obligations. This will cause a sort of class war in America. During my early years at an elementary school in Westbury, New York I made the mistake of asking my teacher when the United States would lose its power like every other nation in history lost theirs.
I ask this same question some 50 years later in full knowledge that my colleagues will respond the same way they did in the past but I love my nation too much to remain silent.
By destroying our own middle class we are following the history of failed great civilizations.
By Jim Fabiano.
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and writer living in York, Maine, USA
e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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