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A People’s State of the Nation

A People’s State of the Nation

James Gustave Speth

With Democratic candidates for president coming forward and progressives nationwide defining the agenda ahead, this is a good time to look hard at where we are as a country. Abraham Lincoln put it best: “If we could first know where we are… we could better judge what to do and how to do it.”


This tortoise government doesn’t act with urgency. Wish it would, especially with the dire ones.

We already knew this but the report makes it clear that our government does not represent the interests of the people.


Maybe America was the greatest only because after WW2, we were the only nation not bombed into dirt.Things were great back then and when other nations rebuilt and caught up—nothing changed for Americans. They were just so used to thinking that they had been number ONE until sometime in the 1970s. BUT, now other industrial nations have caught up, and American corporations have no interest in having America be number one in anything except job loss and pay.
I guess after WW 2 everyone was feeling patriotic and no one noticed that inch by inch the people were losing. Looking at the areas provided where America has plunged and seeing where America is----America is where it was back in the 1970s, except all the cars are falling apart and the wages have not moved since then and we’re in wars or wanna be wars in at least 10 other locations with 800 bases all over the planet-----and we are indeed the BULLY of the Western World. That is a sad state of affairs. : (


Thanks Stardust. I couldn’t have said it better. Most Americans vote for their pocketbooks not the common good. They see idealism as childish and immature. We really need to figure out a way to build bridges with fellow Americans and keep fascism at bay. My mind keeps coming back to climate change which will be the great equalizer. We are going to need our government to be fully functioning for it’s citizens so we better get moving and figure out a way to live with each other.


The main reason for U.S. decline has been the takeover of Corporate Greed, more interested in aggrandizing personal profits than socio-economic justice. Too many believe that “Individualism” means being out for oneself primarily, not for equal opportunity for everyone. Sam Adams, the “Father of Capitalism,” would have been appalled at the “Capitalist” agenda. He was for free enterprise for ALL—the “rising tide that lifts ALL boats,” and warned against “Cartels” of concentrated wealth. The answer is private enterprise where all who contribute Time and/or Money have a share in the profits—like Worker-Owned companies. We need to get back to these basics for a democratic economy to match a democratic government.

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Good to have all these stats paint a data based profile. These should be front and center in the media, as most of this is foreign to most people, who sincerely believe they live at the top of the world (same as most people in the Soviet Block believed for a long time).

Michael Moore’s film/documentary “Where to invade next” dealt with the essence of these issues, but when it was shown here in a highly educated college town, there were perhaps 4-5 in the audience. The rest were concentrated in the room next door enjoying a fairly banal fiction movie.

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Excellent collection of dismal facts. The U.S. per capita income is over $48,000, after paying federal taxes (disposable income). That comes to $192,000 for the “average” four person household (See BEA.gov, Table 2.1, 2018, Q4). The “average” household income is $140,000 – and that number seems unbelievable. The median income is around $61,000. The United Way charity released a detailed report, ALICE, showing that 40% of households cannot afford seven basics of life: food, housing, utilities, medical care, child care, phone, transportation. Some 34% cannot afford just four items: housing, food, utilities, medical says a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2017. The United Nations Human Development Index ADJUSTED FOR INEQUALITY places the US at 23rd, just ahead of Estonia, Poland, Slovakia, Estonia. This article is a great list, it should be on the front page of every newspaper. My blog Economics Without Greed, Part Two, http://benL88.blogspot.com

The mention of cars falling apart is interesting these days. Back in 1965 I was in a car accident. Young lady turned in front of me, her fault, and bent a fender, bumper, and knocked a bunch of rust off. As I watch car and truck accidents on youtube, from dozens to hundreds of plastic components are strewn about, and cars crunch up to the steering wheels.

The government learned one lesson from ww1 when they screwed the veterans out of the bonus promised them. After ww2 the G.I. Bill was put in place instead. But it took protests to set things on course for the next round.

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Sometime in the early '70s, we went from being citizens to being consumers! We were treated as perpetually turned up mouths waiting (consumer demand) for Corp to fill us with worthless stuff!

The Powell memo laid out the perfect control grid for corps to follow, allowing them to reform government and society to make us docile zombies. Control what people hear, see, and read and they will consume whatever they are given.

Well, we are mad as hell and we aren’t going to take this any more!

“A People’s State of the Nation” is a valuable addition to our understanding of current conditions in our wealthy country that is unable to provide health care, education, environmental protection, social support, etc., etc., to its people on a level of countries with far fewer resources. There is a very large piece of the picture that is missing here, however. That is, there are millions of people in rural and small-town America who have a perception of our country and its problems that is very different from the data provided by Professor Speth. J. Edwin Benton’s article “What happens to rural and small-town Trump voters after Trump is gone?” in salon.com March 30 notes that “Trump won the country’s small town and non-metropolitan areas by 63.2 percent to 31.3 percent, with his largest vote shares coming from the most rural areas.” Their concerns are

  1. repeal Obamacare,
  2. build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and deport around 11 million undocumented im-migrants already in the U.S.
  3. tax cuts for both businesses and individuals;
  4. significant reductions in the regulation of business and industry;
  5. import tariffs on foreign goods that compete unfairly with American-made products.
  6. appointing more conservative judges to the federal courts.
    Benton writes that “If one word can capture the sentiment of rural and small-town dwellers in recent years, it is “resentment.” These American citizens feel left behind. “They believe their communities are dying, the economy is leaving them behind, and that young people, money and their livelihoods are going somewhere else. They think that major decisions affecting their lives are being made far away in big cities. And perhaps most importantly, they feel that no one is listening to them or their ideas about things that are im-portant to them”, and “Trump promised a shift in the focus of the national government so that much more attention would be directed to rural areas and small towns and the challenges they faced.”
    He notes a survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the U of Chicago in November 2018 showing that “residents of small towns and rural areas are much more supportive of the Republican Party and its candidates than people in urban and suburban areas. In addition, the most ardent supporters of Republicans are among those small-town and rural dwellers who are white and male, have less than a college education and vote on a regular basis.”
    So, while a good study of the “People’s State of the Nation” may show that the US lags far behind other nations in economic well-being, gender and women’s issues, social well-being, environmental protection, child welfare and protection, health and health care – this is not what the rural and small-town voters of America are interested in. At the least, it is necessary for our leaders to help these voters to see that their true interests lie in these areas. Otherwise, the divide between Red and Blue areas of the country will continue to grow more bitter. We need to address the issues identified by Dr. Speth and his associates; and we also need to address the resentment and feeling of being left out of rural and small-town America. Certainly we can do this!

A people’s state of the union is not complete without direct democracy, to be followed by artificial intelligence taking over the jobs of politicians.

One comment points out that there was a brief moment after WWII when there was a spirit or opportunity. Unfortunately, the liberal left had a plateful of ideas and a lack of focus to be able to play the “long game”. The conservative economic right founded and well funded the Mont Pelerin Institute to advance its version of “free market” economics and established programs within academia as well as stand alone institutes to promote this agenda. The paradigmatic example was Buchanan’s Public Choice Theory which actually was awarded a Nobel Prize in economics. These and similar ideas were picked up by Koch and others (see efforts to "unKoch my campus as a point of reference). These are razor sharp efforts which started prior to WWII with results now being manifest in all the areas well defined in Gus’ lists which can be paralleled internationally.

The “Green New Deal” is another “big tent” which the liberal left can fill. but the “tent” does not have a sharp focus nor the level of funding and other assets that has staying power. In fact, much that is now in the tent is driven by a count-down panic that the planet will be crushed by the human environmental “foot print”. One can look to the “West Coast” billionaires with a liberal leaning. But here too many of these newly minted funds have their own agendas and there is no sense that they can coalesce nor whether they or the liberal left have the vision and sensibility to play a “long game”.