National exceptionalism is when citizens perceive that their home country is extraordinary, special, and the best place on the planet to live, and in many Americans’ minds is based on absolutist ideology and gross lack of knowledge of comparative circumstances. There may have been a time that America was exceptional over thirty years ago when white people had the opportunity to attain the American dream of a middle class income through hard work and perseverance, and could live out their golden years with the knowledge their children would at least accomplish as much as their parents. However, about thirty years ago a b-movie actor ushered in the era of America’s decline when his directors gave him a script to convince ignorant Americans that handing over the nation’s wealth and assets to the rich and their corporations was the key to success and the results have been that America is no longer exceptional, or even mediocre, and is rapidly deteriorating into inferior and second-rate status compared to the rest of the developed world.
It is true that America is the richest nation on Earth, has the most powerful military in the world, and is home to the most millionaires and billionaires of any country on the planet, but that is where the exceptionalism ends. In just about every other category, America is inferior and that is being extremely generous. However, there are millions of ignorant Americans arming themselves to maintain the status quo and prove their belief that the United States is number one and it is down to their ignorance and acceptance that if it is American, it is the best. Many Americans are led to believe the country’s storied “great middle class” is proof positive the nation is exceptional, but according to the “Global Wealth Databook 2012” the great middle class ranks 27th in the developed world behind poorer nations such as Spain, Ireland, France, and Cyprus. Even in countries struggling with double and triple-dip recessions, the middle class holds four times the wealth as the average middle class American who is watching what little they have left transferred to the richest one-percent due to thirty years of Republican policies.
Just a few of Republicans’ favorite policies that are creating a second-rate nation and a population of peasants are weak labor laws that give corporations and big business the ability to pay poverty wages without any benefits. In fact, the woefully inadequate poverty level minimum wage is 13th among developed nations, and in nearly every industrialized country, every job provides at least a month of guaranteed paid vacation and as many paid sick days as one needs to recover from illness or injury. Republicans are busy passing laws making it illegal to provide paid sick leave, suggest eliminating worker compensation rules for on-the-job injuries, and panting to abolish the pitiful minimum wage to put American labor on par with peasants in Communist China. The Republican House of Representative just passed legislation eliminating overtime pay, and ALEC’s Republican right-to-work states have more poverty-level residents while the states’ corporations haul in record profits.
America has the worst healthcare system in the world because few can afford it, and even if they can this country’s people have the worst health outcomes of “all other industrialized countries” on Earth. In the event of a serious health issue or injury, Americans are guaranteed to join the poverty ranks and it makes Republican and health insurance industry’s drive to destroy the Affordable Care Act all the more Draconian and informs keeping Americans sick and impoverished is their ultimate goal. In many Republican states, at the behest of the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, Medicaid expansion is out of the question and the GOP is desperate to make senior citizens’ Medicare a thing of the past regardless they paid into it their entire working lives.
In nearly every country on Earth a college education is virtually tuition-free and yet in America, Republicans decry spending on any education and are driving college students into life-long unsustainable debt to enrich the banking industry. In most Republican states, ALEC templates are diverting public school funds to the private religious schools to enrich corporations and create the next generation of ignorant Americans claiming the nation is exceptional as they reject established science to assist their precious oil industry decimate the environment.
America is at the end of its thirty year slide into second-rate status and it is all down to the Republican drive to give every last bit of wealth to the richest one-percent that controls the fate of this nation. It began with Reagan-Republican deregulation of the financial industry that gave Wall Street power to transfer wealth from the middle class into the wealthy’s coffers they hide offshore to avoid paying taxes. America’s social programs and safety nets are among the worst in the world, and instead of bolstering them to help Americans claw out of poverty, Republicans slash them to provide tax breaks for the rich and corporations. Last week House Republicans passed legislation to deregulate derivative trading again that resulted in the 2008 Great Recession killing tens-of-millions of Americans’ jobs, bankrupting retirement accounts, and causing millions of middle class Americans to lose their greatest assets; their homes.
America became an exceptional nation with the rise of the great middle class, and it is sliding into a nation of peasants as Republicans thirty year effort to destroy the middle class is reaching fruition. Nearly a quarter of America’s children are living in poverty, millions of Americans earn a pathetic minimum wage insufficient to put a roof over their heads, and the idea of ever achieving anything more is being thwarted by Republicans in all areas of government, but particularly the states. Right to work laws, banning minimum wage, eliminating healthcare, prohibiting paid sick leave, robbing food and housing assistance for seniors and the poor to provide more of the nation’s wealth for the rich and their corporations are all part of the Republicans’ three decade effort to destroy the middle class and still, Republicans have convinced a large segment of the population that America is number one. Well it is number one; number one in guns, number one in prison population, number one in billionaires and millionaires, number one in military might, and after thirty years of Republican economic policy and deregulation, it is the number one poverty creator and nothing whatsoever to be proud of or consider exceptional.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.