If Americans have been paying attention over the past few years, and there is no reason to think for a minute that they have, they may have noticed that their “exceptional” nation has not been the right kind of exceptional when compared to other developed and some still developing nations. Of course, whether one believes America is exceptional and a world leader depends on perspective. Conservatives are convinced that just being America makes this country exceptional regardless of the areas that the richest nation on Earth lags the rest of the developed nations on the planet. However, for Americans with a brain, and a conscience, the idea that a country awash in money cannot guarantee that all its citizens have adequate food, shelter, education, healthcare, and sanitation is frankly exceptionally pathetic. Sadly, Republicans regard those areas as just one of the primary reasons America’s “free enterprise” system makes the nation exceptional and a world leader.
In what is another damning report for the country, Republicans can rejoice that due to their adherence to unrestricted free enterprise policies benefitting the rich and corporations, America is rated number one in a category near and dear to their corporate hearts and bottom line. According to new research on America’s world-leading economic inequality, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that in 2014, the exceptionally rich United States has the distinction of the highest proportion of low-paying jobs among every developed nation in the world. The report is just in time for Republicans on the campaign trail to boast to their supporters that America is number one in having over a quarter of its workforce laboring for poverty wages.
The OECD report defines low-paying jobs as those whose annual earnings are below two-thirds of a nation’s median income. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics program, the median annual income in the richest nation on Earth was $35,080 in 2013. Under the OECD definition, over a quarter of Americans laboring at low-paying jobs earn less than about $23,390 annually. The federal poverty line for a family of four is $23,850 that means 26% of hardworking Americans live below the poverty line and cannot afford to adequately feed, house, or provide healthcare for their families.
It is important to note that these slave-wage earning Americans are not like Republican congressional representatives who need to be “brought into the mainstream of American society” and forced to abandon their thinking “that I really don’t have to work. I don’t really want to do this; I’d just rather sit around.” No, these are Americans that wake up every day, find their way to low-wage jobs, and put in a full day’s work and still live in poverty. They are also most likely Americans living in the “third world” former Confederacy where Republicans gleefully boast their preponderance of right to work for less jobs that dependable Republican voters boast make their states exceptional. They are also the voters who dutifully vote for Republicans who refuse to consider raising the pathetically low minimum wage while seeking new and better ways to slash food stamps and healthcare spending as a means of inculcating into their constituents minds the “culture and value of hard work.”
Perhaps this new “number one” designation will take some stress off Republicans who were disappointed that America is only number two in the world for the most children living in dire poverty behind Romania by a couple of tenths of one percent. However, it is unlikely that Republicans who are too lazy to work will tell voters on the campaign trail that the richest country on Earth has the highest percentage of low wage workers, or is second with the most children without enough food to eat. They will, however, tell voters that if they can gain control of the Senate and retain a majority in the House they will keep the minimum wage low, or eliminate it all together along with overtime pay as the best means of combating poverty. Sadly, most Republican voters will cheer wildly at the prospect of more Americans in poverty because as long as America still has the most powerful military, most guns in the population, most citizens in prison, most religious extremists, and a high incidence of homicides, many at the hands of law enforcement, then America is still exceptional.
Of course Republicans are not going to tell voters how their anti-worker policies are driving more hard-working Americans into poverty. However, there is no reason Democrats should keep quiet about yet another report that this country’s citizens work longer, harder, and are the most productive in the world and yet cannot escape poverty. While they are at it, Democrats should be informing voters why this exceptionally wealthy nation is behind every developed country on Earth; solely because Republicans cannot spend a penny to repair and rebuild the nation’s failing (number 25) infrastructure. Or why Republicans never claim America is broke when there is a war to fight, or when the oil industry needs billions in subsidies, churches need tax welfare, or corporations demand tax breaks for shipping Americans’ jobs overseas; not for lower wages because they have that here already. They refuse to pay taxes.
It is obvious that there is a large segment of the population that will support Republicans regardless what Democratic candidates tell them about why they toil for low wages that keep them mired in poverty, but they are a lost cause anyway. As long as Republicans frighten them with tales of ISIS or President Obama coming for their bibles, freedoms, and guns, or that it is un-American for a Black man to sit in the Oval Office, stupid conservatives will support them no matter how poor or hungry they are and will show up at the polls en masse. However, there are Americans that are unaware that the reason they cannot get ahead, or are falling deeper into poverty, is because Republicans are deliberately keeping them working for slave wages. Democrats have nothing to lose and maybe learning why they are poor will inspire some people to actually vote for their own best interests.
The mainstream conservative media will not report that America is number one with the highest percentage of low-wage workers, so it is left to Democrats on the campaign trail to tell the people why, and who is responsible for, over a quarter of the working population earning slave wages. It may prevent Republicans from gaining control of both chambers of Congress and accomplishing one of their long sought-after goals of eliminating the minimum wage to enrich corporations and cement America’s number one designation for a generation.
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.