By Marvin Ross
The other day, we posted a blog by Susan Inman critiquing Bernie Sander’s mental health platform but there is a bigger picture when it comes to the US. So much is wrong with that country that I am not sure it can be fixed without some very drastic changes.
I’m just reading Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by New York Times writer Nicholas Kristoff and journalist Sheryl Wudunn.
They begin by pointing out that the US, compared to other countries, ranks at:
#40 for child mortality
#50 for personal safety
#61 for high school enrollment
#25 in the overall well-being of its citizens
The US is one of only a very few countries that has regressed based on the Social Progress Index. The US spends more on health care than any other country but its outcomes are comparable to that of Ecuador. The school system is on par with Uzbekistan. The US working class has collapsed into unemployment, broken families, drugs, obesity and early death. Not a pretty picture.
Kristoff looks at some of the kids he grew up with in rural Oregon who died early from chronic medical conditions whose illnesses he says would have been well managed in Europe and Canada where there is universal health care.
And yet, many of these people support Trump. A woman in Oklahoma he interviewed had been saved from a very abusive husband by a social agency. She became a kindergarten teacher and was living happily with her son and voted for Trump. She was not pleased when the funding to her social agency was slashed but felt that maybe Trump was right to save tax money and plans to vote for him again.
Another was an old friend who had endured seven bouts of homelessness, voted for Trump and will vote for him again. He is opposed to any social safety net as he feels that recipients are irresponsible. His main love of Trump, however, is guns. He goes nowhere without a revolver on his hip and will not give that up.
I just watched the episode on Netflix’s documentary Dirty Money on Jared Kushner. A working class family in Baltimore being squeezed for every penny by their landlord (a Kushner company) with escalating dubious late fees and court costs. revealed they had voted Trump. They did look a little sheepish when told their landlord was Kushner but will they vote Trump again in 2020?
One of the most compelling comparisons between the US and Canada mentioned in the book was a study done on the reaction to the layoffs in the auto industry in 2008-09 between Detroit and Windsor. The two cities are across the river from each other and have large auto plants. Detroit workers were worse off partly because of a lack of a social safety net such as that in Canada. But in Windsor the Canadian government jumped in within 24 hours to try to ameliorate the impact of layoffs.
An action centre was established to help with job searches, retraining and obtaining benefits. A number of laid off workers wanted to enroll in nursing training but the program at the local college was full. The government encouraged the college to add more spaces so workers could train.
The attitude in the US is that outcomes are a reflection of the persons personal responsibility. If you lose your job and become poor, destitute and/or homeless, its your fault. There is little that society can or should do to help.
Reversing what is happening in the US is a gargantuan task and I doubt we will see any changes in the near future. The only candidate of the two still standing who puts forth a true reformist policy (mental health aside) is Sanders. His policies are similar to that of the NDP in Canada or leftish social democrat parties in Europe but to many Americans, he is scary and a threat. From what I’ve read, he is most popular among the young who are not frightened by the concept of social democracy and who realize they have little future in the new America. Should Biden win the nomination which is likely, they may not even bother to vote thus assuring the world of 4 more years of Trump.