Mak­ing Amer­ica Poor Again

Trillions - - In This Issue -

Since the 1970s, most Amer­i­cans have been get­ting poorer while the richer have been get­ter richer.

While the U.S. is still one of the world's wealth­i­est na­tions, it is now to the point where the U.S. has the in­come in­equal­ity of a highly cor­rupt third world coun­try, with the top 1% own­ing 40% of the wealth.

Don­ald Trump was elected par­tially based on his prom­ise to make Amer­ica great again, in­crease the num­ber of good jobs and raise the qual­ity of life. But, since tak­ing of­fice his de­ci­sions have so far had the op­po­site ef­fect and could have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences for the Amer­i­can peo­ple far into the fu­ture.

With Trump's rad­i­cal re­struc­tur­ing of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, de­fund­ing of crit­i­cal so­cial sup­port sys­tems, shred­ding of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions, con­fronta­tional for­eign pol­icy, in­creased bud­get deficit, in­crease in mil­i­tary spend­ing and ris­ing in­ter­est rates, Amer­i­cans are fac­ing a greater po­ten­tial for poverty now than at any time since the Great De­pres­sion that started in 1929.

While the tem­po­rary re­duc­tion in in­come tax for most work­ers start­ing in 2018 will mean they will get to keep a bit more of their hard-earned wages on pay­day, it is ac­com­pa­nied by deep cuts in the ser­vices their taxes pay for and will ul­ti­mately re­sult in higher lo­cal and state taxes and much higher med­i­cal ex­penses. So, tak­ing home a lit­tle more ev­ery week or two won't mat­ter be­cause the cost of liv­ing in other ar­eas will in­crease vastly more. The money saved by cut­ting gov­ern­ment ser­vices will be given to the rich and cor­po­ra­tions.

Poverty is a com­plex is­sue and there are dif­fer­ent types of poverty, yet, the U.S. Cen­sus only tracks poverty by house­hold in­come and its method­ol­ogy has never pro­vided a truly ac­cu­rate or use­ful mea­sure of true poverty, just as the of­fi­cial un­em­ploy­ment rate paints a false per­cep­tion of em­ploy­ment by ig­nor­ing the peo­ple who are no longer draw­ing un­em­ploy­ment com­pen­sa­tion or those who are un­der-em­ployed and un­able to find full-time work.

Ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial U.S. Cen­sus fig­ures on poverty, in 2016 there were 40.6 mil­lion peo­ple in poverty, 2.5 mil­lion fewer than in 2015 and 6.0 mil­lion fewer than in 2014. While these fig­ures don't tell the whole story, they do show a con­tin­ued strength­en­ing of the U.S. econ­omy af­ter the mas­sive sub-prime mort­gage bank fraud that caused what is called the Great Re­ces­sion.

The eco­nomic gains of the last few years are about to be re­versed as Trumpo­nomics un­der­mines most com­po­nents of the U.S. econ­omy.

To bet­ter un­der­stand poverty and how poverty rates will change in the fu­ture one has to look at the dif­fer­ent types of poverty and the fu­ture im­pact of cur­rent and planned pol­icy changes.

Child Poverty

The United States has the high­est rate of child poverty of any other de­vel­oped na­tion. It also has some of the high­est rates of kids who are chron­i­cally ill, obese, ne­glected, abused and miss­ing. Many claim that child poverty is now worse than it was in the Great De­pres­sion.

Poverty can cause se­vere dam­age to chil­dren and in­creases their chances of be­ing poor as adults and con­tin­u­ing the cy­cle of poverty with their chil­dren.

Poverty can pro­duce low self-es­teem in kids and lead to drug use, teen preg­nancy and crime.

Kids who have to work to help sup­port their fam­i­lies have less time for study­ing and self-de­vel­op­ment and are less likely to get higher pay­ing jobs later.

While the new tax bill in­creases the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000, Don­ald Trump and Repub­li­can law­mak­ers are slash­ing fund­ing across the board for pro­grams that re­duce child poverty and make it more sur­viv­able. This is al­ready throw­ing more chil­dren into poverty and those al­ready in poverty into more des­per­ate cir­cum­stances.

The long-term con­se­quences of in­creas­ing the num­ber of poor kids and wors­en­ing the con­di­tions for those al­ready poor will be se­vere and very long-term.

Hous­ing Poverty

One of the big causes of poverty in many re­gions is the high cost of hous­ing. Most met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas have se­vere short­ages of af­ford­able hous­ing and peo­ple are forced to take in ever more room­mates to cope with ris­ing hous­ing costs or spend hours com­mut­ing from more af­ford­able ar­eas. There has also been a huge in­crease in the num­ber of work­ing home­less, peo­ple who have jobs but can't af­ford to rent or buy a home.

Ac­cord­ing to a new re­port by the Na­tional Law Cen­ter on Home­less­ness & Poverty, home­less en­camp­ments and other makeshift shel­ters in­creased by 1,342% be­tween 2007 and 2017. Two-thirds of the in­crease oc­curred af­ter the Great Re­ces­sion was de­clared over.

Trump was elected par­tially on his prom­ise to “re­build” the coun­try’s in­ner cities and ad­dress their “un­ac­cept­able” con­di­tions. But he is do­ing the op­po­site and wants to slash $6.2 bil­lion from the bud­get of the al­ready un­der­funded Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment (HUD) and elim­i­nate many im­por­tant pro­grams.

Trump's ac­tions will worsen the hous­ing cri­sis plagu- ing many Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties and greatly in­crease home­less­ness.

Some states and cities are step­ping up and in­creas­ing the num­ber of af­ford­able hous­ing units and in­creas­ing fund­ing for emer­gency hous­ing but with­out at least some fed­eral fund­ing, their ef­forts will be grossly in­suf­fi­cient.

The New York City Hous­ing Au­thor­ity alone has a $17 bil­lion back­log of crit­i­cal re­pairs to its build­ings. With de­creased fed­eral fund­ing, the abysmal state of af­ford­able hous­ing in New York City will plum­met even fur­ther.

As fed­eral fund­ing is cut for other lo­cal pro­grams such as schools, roads, health, nu­tri­tion, etc. prop­erty taxes will go up and up to help cover the short­fall and hous­ing costs will in­crease even more, plung­ing more peo­ple into poverty.

Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion Poverty

Don­ald Trump has re­peat­edly stated that he loves the poorly ed­u­cated. He loves them be­cause they were the ones who sup­ported him dur­ing his cam­paign and con­tinue to sup­port him no mat­ter how much he hurts them.

Amer­ica is full of the poorly ed­u­cated who are prod­ucts of Amer­ica's mostly abysmal pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and a de­lib­er­ate full-spec­trum dumb­ing-down of Amer­i­cans that started af­ter WW II when the oli­garchs fig­ured out that dumb peo­ple were easier to con­trol and ex­ploit.

While there are many ex­cep­tions, decades of lib­eral ed­u­ca­tion poli­cies have re­sulted in schools that can do more harm than good and have con­trib­uted to the rapid cog­ni­tive, moral and cul­tural de­cline that plagues the coun­try.

The so­lu­tion to the ed­u­ca­tion cri­sis that Trump and the oli­garchy have been push­ing is to fur­ther cut fund­ing to pub­lic schools and re­place them with pri­vate char­ter schools, paid for with de­creased pub­lic funds.

At present there are more than 5,000 pub­lic char­ter schools across the coun­try and while some of them are ex­cel­lent, the re­sults over­all have not been pos­i­tive.

Be­cause teacher pay tends to be lower at char­ter schools, many of the schools have dif­fi­culty at­tract­ing good teach­ers.

Then there is the profit in­cen­tive. While such schools were gen­er­ally sup­posed to be non-profit, many in­vestors use them as profit cen­ters. Money is of­ten

skimmed off in higher build­ing rents or out­side man­age­ment fees.

Another prob­lem with char­ter schools is that many of them are re­li­gious and put more em­pha­sis on re­li­gious in­doc­tri­na­tion than es­sen­tial ed­u­ca­tion. Trump gave con­trol of the Dept. of Ed­u­ca­tion to ma­jor cam­paign con­trib­u­tor Betsy Devos, who told an in­ter­viewer that she wanted to "help ad­vance God's king­dom" through the school sys­tem.

Given her fam­ily's ac­tiv­i­ties, her God's King­dom could be a pretty bru­tal place. Her brother is Erik Prince, the founder and head of the crim­i­nal cor­po­ra­tion formerly called Black­wa­ter, a pri­vate mer­ce­nary army cum death squad ser­vice. Betsy mar­ried into the bil­lion­aire Devos fam­ily, which founded and owns the cor­po­rate crim­i­nal cult called Amway.

Amway is es­sen­tially a gi­ant pyra­mid scheme that uses mind con­trol tech­niques and fraud to ex­tract money from re­cruits. The com­pany has been the tar­get of count­less law suits and le­gal ac­tions by state and fed­eral au­thor­i­ties, yet some­how stays in busi­ness and main­tains its crim­i­nal busi­ness model.

Devos has so far in­di­cated that she sup­ports cor­po­rate fraud in ed­u­ca­tion by freez­ing the Obama era Bor­rower De­fense rule that pro­vides debt re­lief from stu­dents de­frauded by pri­vate col­leges. Eigh­teen at­tor­neys gen­eral have sued Devos for not en­forc­ing the rule.

Don­ald Trump is him­self guilty of ed­u­ca­tion fraud with his bo­gus Trump Univer­sity which was not a Univer­sity at all and didn't pro­vide much of any­thing to stu­dents who paid sub­stan­tial amounts to learn how make money in real es­tate. He is per­haps one of the worst peo­ple on Earth to fix Amer­ica's ed­u­ca­tion cri­sis and ap­pointed one of the least qual­i­fied peo­ple to run the Dept. of Ed­u­ca­tion.

Char­ter schools also dis­crim­i­nate and some kids are de­nied ad­mis­sion be­cause they don't meet the schools ad­mis­sion re­quire­ments for one rea­son or another. Of­ten those real rea­sons are eth­nic, gen­der or re­li­gious back­ground.

The big­gest prob­lem with pri­vate char­ter schools is that most of them are not re­ally ac­count­able to the peo­ple or to par­ents and the in­cen­tive for profit can end up cor­rupt­ing the mis­sion of the school.

The ac­tual so­lu­tions to the pub­lic school cri­sis are ob­vi­ous and in­clude:

1. Abol­ish or re­strict teacher's unions so that bad teach­ers can be re­placed and teacher costs & per­for­mance can be bet­ter man­aged. Schools must be run to pri­mar­ily ben­e­fit stu­dents, not teach­ers.

2. Pro­vide nu­tri­tious or­ganic meals and keep out all junk food. Stud­ies have con­sis­tently shown that ef­fec­tive learn­ing re­quires a healthy diet, yet, Trump is re­vers­ing hard-won gains to im­prove school lunches.

3. In­crease spend­ing on pub­lic schools by re­duc­ing the mil­i­tary bud­get. It is crim­i­nally in­sane that so much is spent on need­lessly en­rich­ing the war in­dus­try while ne­glect­ing the ed­u­ca­tion of Amer­ica's chil­dren.

4. Sup­port prob­lem kids in spe­cial­ized fa­cil­i­ties de­signed to help them. A very small per­cent­age of dis­rup­tive stu­dents ruin many schools and few teach­ers are trained to cope with chil­dren who suf­fer se­ri­ous psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems.

5. In­crease parental en­gage­ment and pro­vide men­tal health pro­grams for stu­dents, par­ents and en­tire fam­i­lies. Many learn­ing prob­lems are re­lated to a stu­dent's home life, not the school. All stu­dents should be taught ef­fec­tive emo­tional man­age­ment tech­niques such as EFT.

6. Adopt more ef­fec­tive teach­ing meth­ods and more re­al­is­tic cur­ricu­lum that will ac­tu­ally pre­pare stu­dents for life in the real world. Stu­dents learn in dif­fer­ent ways and one method is not suit­able for ev­ery stu­dent.

7. Ban cell-phones and Wifi from all schools. It is well-proven that mi­crowave ra­di­a­tion dis­rupts brain func­tion and can cause ex­treme mood swings. Chil­dren can't learn ef­fec­tively if their brains are be­ing mi­crowaved.

8. Re­duce the role of com­put­ers in schools. In­for­ma­tion does not equate knowl­edge and knowl­edge does not equate wis­dom or skill. Sit­ting in front of a screen also al­ters brain func­tion and ac­tu­ally makes learn­ing more dif­fi­cult. K-12 stu­dents need in­ter­ac­tive learn­ing away from elec­tronic en­train­ment. They need to ex­pe­ri­ence real things and in­ter­act with skilled ex­perts.

9. Root out school cor­rup­tion and pros­e­cute those who mis-al­lo­cate funds. The pro­cure­ment prac­tices of many Amer­i­can schools is not trans­par­ent or well-man­aged and vast sums are stolen or mis-used.

10. Give stu­dents a much greater voice in school man­age­ment and cur­ricu­lum. Chil­dren of­ten

know what and how they need to learn, while adults re­main clue­less.

11. Ex­pand vocational, tech­ni­cal and ap­pren­tice­ship pro­grams.

12. Dump the Com­mon Core stan­dards for one in which chil­dren are taught to be in­tel­li­gent, not to par­rot facts and fig­ures.

13. Re­place Betsy Devos as Sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion with some­one qual­i­fied for the po­si­tion.

It is un­likely that any of the above so­lu­tions could be im­ple­mented due to pol­i­tics, cul­tural bias and pow­er­ful spe­cial in­ter­est groups. The pub­lic school cri­sis will likely only worsen and con­tinue to foster greater poverty.

For­tu­nately, the pos­si­bil­ity of pri­vate char­ter schools gives par­ents the op­por­tu­nity to work to­gether to de­velop bet­ter schools on their own.

Stu­dent Debt & the Poverty of High Ed­u­ca­tion

While there are many ex­cep­tions, the U.S. gen­er­ally has one of the most ex­pen­sive and least ef­fec­tive ed­u­ca­tional sys­tems of all de­vel­oped na­tions. This in­cludes higher ed­u­ca­tion, which is glar­ingly ob­vi­ous from the mas­sive stu­dent debt and la­bor short­age.

Stu­dent loan debt is the sec­ond largest form of debt in the U.S. with 44 mil­lion Amer­i­cans ow­ing a to­tal of more than $1.3 tril­lion, equal to about 10.6% of all con­sumer debt.

All of that debt is big busi­ness and even when the prin­ci­pal is un­paid, many profit off of the var­i­ous fees.

Trump has said that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment should not profit from stu­dent loans, but it con­tin­ues to do so and pri­vate com­pa­nies stand to profit much more with pro­posed changes.

While it is true that hav­ing a col­lege de­gree sig­nif­i­cantly in­creases a per­son's chance of get­ting a job, the be­lief that an ex­pen­sive Univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion will re­sult in a well-pay­ing job is be­com­ing ob­so­lete, but con­tin­ues to be widely pro­moted be­cause it is such a prof­itable racket. And higher ed­u­ca­tion is a very prof­itable racket. Col­lege en­dow­ments have amassed more than $500 bil­lion na­tion­wide, with much of it hid­den off­shore. Some Univer­sity deans are paid mil­lions each year. The same in­sti­tu­tions with tens of bil­lions hid­den away are the ones rais­ing tu­ition, seek­ing gov­ern­ment grants and do­na­tions from alumni and cor­po­ra­tions. The greed of Ivy League uni­ver­si­ties knows no bounds.

The astro­nom­i­cal out­stand­ing stu­dent loan debt clear- ly shows that spend­ing big bucks to go to a Univer­sity does not usu­ally re­sult in a good job. If it did then more stu­dents would be able to re­pay their loans and the un­paid bal­ance would not be so in­cred­i­bly high. It if it had been true even 20 years ago, the stu­dent's par­ents would have had good jobs and been able to pay for their chil­dren's col­lege ed­u­ca­tion and the debt would not be so high.

While there are hordes of Univer­sity grad­u­ates with use­less de­grees look­ing for a de­cent job, there is also a se­vere short­age of skilled la­bor in many trades that pay very well.

In fact, the sin­gle great­est need for most Amer­i­can busi­nesses is more and bet­ter work­ers. There are at least 6 mil­lion un­filled jobs wait­ing for the qual­i­fied work­ers who won't be com­ing out of the Univer­sity sys­tem.

Most em­ploy­ers care far less about a col­lege de­gree than they do about rel­e­vant work ex­pe­ri­ence and job skills.

The mis­match be­tween col­lege grad­u­ate skills and avail­able jobs is not just the re­spon­si­bil­ity of ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions. It is also the re­spon­si­bil­ity of stu­dents who al­low them­selves into be­ing dumbed down and think­ing that a de­gree in gen­der stud­ies or 17th cen­tury French po­etry is go­ing to get them a good job and think­ing that they may not ac­tu­ally have to work hard at a real job to earn a liv­ing.

With the vast amount of free on­line ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­rial avail­able, there is sim­ply no rea­son for most peo­ple to at­tend a Univer­sity to ac­quire the knowl­edge they need for a well-pay­ing job.

The failed Univer­sity sys­tem con­trib­utes greatly to poverty in Amer­ica. Not just from the vast stu­dent debt load but also be­cause busi­nesses can't find re­li­able peo­ple to fill va­cant po­si­tions. The chronic short­age of skilled la­bor weak­ens the en­tire U.S. econ­omy and more com­pa­nies are forced out of busi­ness or to out­source or move their oper­a­tions to another coun­try with more avail­able skilled work­ers.

The Repub­li­can's 542-page PROS­PER higher ed­u­ca­tion bill re­leased on De­cem­ber 1 rec­og­nizes many of the prob­lems and has some pos­i­tive changes but could also make the stu­dent loan debt prob­lem worse in the short-term. By the time the bill be­comes law no doubt there will be a num­ber of changes in­tended to fur­ther en­rich the oli­garchs at the ex­pense of the peo­ple.

Many Euro­pean coun­tries of­fer their cit­i­zens free higher ed­u­ca­tion, as do ex­tremely poor coun­tries like Cuba

and Bhutan. So, why don't more Amer­i­can states pro­vide at least a more af­ford­able and rel­e­vant higher ed­u­ca­tion?

While Betsy Devos is un­qual­i­fied for her po­si­tion she is also serv­ing to dis­rupt a bro­ken sys­tem that would not be fixed un­der lib­eral lead­er­ship. By fur­ther smash­ing some­thing al­ready bro­ken per­haps some­thing bet­ter can built in its place, if enough peo­ple have the courage and wis­dom to build some­thing bet­ter to ed­u­cate their chil­dren.

Wage Poverty

Poverty in the U.S. is not just about high hous­ing and ed­u­ca­tion costs but is pri­mar­ily caused by low wages. The fed­eral min­i­mum wage has been stuck at a ridicu­lously low $7.25/hour since 2009. To keep up with in­fla­tion, the rate should have been $19.33/hr for 2017.

29 states have man­dated a min­i­mum wage higher than the fed­eral min­i­mum but only up to $11/hr.

While only a small per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans are ac­tu­ally paid the fed­eral min­i­mum wage, many more are still paid a low wage that they can't live com­fort­ably on.

Over the last cou­ple of decades, tril­lions of dol­lars in wealth have been taken from work­ers and trans­ferred to the very rich.

The Wal-mart fam­ily did not all be­come multi-bil­lion­aires by pay­ing fair wages or from sell­ing qual­ity prod-ucts at a fair price. They be­came enor­mously wealthy by driv­ing smaller stores out of busi­ness with predato-ry pric­ing and then em­ploy­ing the dis­placed work­ers at a lower wage and giv­ing them only ran­dom part-time work to keep them poor, des­per­ate and on pub­lic as-sis­tance. At the same time they squeezed sup­pli­ers to pro­vide ever cheaper prod­ucts so the sup­pli­ers could not af­ford to pay their work­ers a liv­ing wage ei­ther.

Ama­zon's Jeff Be­zos did not be­come the world rich-est man by pay­ing his work­ers a fair wage. The wages work­ers should have been paid ended up in his greedy pocket.

The Amer­i­can sys­tem of cap­i­tal­ism en­sures that the man­age­ment of pub­licly traded com­pa­nies pur­sue prof­its at any al­most any price. If they don't then they are re­placed with some­one who will. This ul­ti­mately leads to crim­i­nal mega-cor­po­ra­tions with the power to prey upon work­ers and cus­tomers and con­trol reg­u­la­tors.

The in­evitable out­come of un­bri­dled cap­i­tal­ism over time is an oli­garchy that be­comes in­creas­ingly op-pres­sive. The­o­ret­i­cally, the ex­cesses of cor­po­ra­tions would be man­aged by ef­fec­tive reg­u­la­tion, but we are way past that point and cor­po­ra­tions now con­trol gov­ern­ment to serve their needs.

Once upon a time la­bor unions also served to keep wages in line with cor­po­rate prof­its but the inherent cor­rup­tion in unions has ren­dered many of them ob­so­lete and im­po­tent.

One by one, fed­eral agen­cies are be­ing given over to pow­er­ful cor­po­rate in­ter­ests while laws are be­ing rewrit­ten to cre­ate a fas­cist cor­po­rate po­lice state that will fur­ther prey upon the Amer­i­can peo­ple and en­sure that they are fur­ther im­pov­er­ished and dis-em­pow­ered through wage poverty.

In­tel­lec­tual, Moral & Cul­tural Poverty

While the wealthy have prob­a­bly al­ways looked down on the poor and feared the un­washed masses, it was the eu­gen­ics move­ment of the 1800s that laid the foun­da­tion for the de­lib­er­ate dumb­ing down of Amer­i­cans. But it was not un­til af­ter the for­ma­tion of the CIA un­der the di­rec­tion of the Rock­e­fellers that the dumb­ing down be­came in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized and it was not un­til the 1950s that re­search into mass and in­di­vid­ual con­trol was con­ducted and tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped to carry out the dumb­ing down and con­trol.

And while there is cer­tainly some de­gree of con­spir­acy by the wealthy to carry out the dumb­ing down, much of it is also just a by-prod­uct of rapid in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion and cap­i­tal­ism.

Con­tam­i­na­tion of Wa­ter, Food & Air

Our wa­ter, food and air have been poi­soned with po­tent neu­ro­tox­ins that are well-known to re­duce IQ.

Flu­o­ride is added to wa­ter and tooth­paste even though it ac­tu­ally does noth­ing for den­tal health and dozens of stud­ies have clearly shown that it re­duces IQ and causes a wide range of se­ri­ous health prob­lems. Flu­o­ride ac­cu­mu­lates in the body and coats the pineal gland, which is the seat of in­tu­ition and our pri­mary B.S. de­tec­tor. Flu­o­ride is the pri­mary ac­tive in­gre­di­ent in most pyscho-ac­tive phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

Mer­cury has been spewed into the air by coal fired power plants and garbage in­cin­er­a­tors to the point where there is no part of North Amer­ica which has not been con­tam­i­nated. Mer­cury is in our food, wa­ter and air. If that were not enough it is placed into our mouths by den­tists to slowly poi­son our brains and re­duce our abil­ity to think. A sin­gle mol­e­cule of mer­cury in the brain can kill count­less neu­rons.

Our food is laced with dioxin, PCBS and dozens of dif-

fer­ent kinds of toxic pes­ti­cides and her­bi­cides that are well known to com­pro­mise our health and rad­i­cally al­ter the hu­man mi­cro-biome (gut bac­te­ria). One re­sult of this mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the mi­cro­biome is brain-fog and the in­abil­ity to think clearly. Another is the epi­demic of cancer and other dis­eases.

In­flu­ence of Elec­tronic Me­dia

A 2015 study found that Amer­i­cans watch more tele­vi­sion than any­one else on Earth, with the av­er­age Amer­i­can watch­ing 282 min­utes of broad­cast TV each day - or four hours and 42 min­utes. Since 2015 view­ing has con­tin­ued to shift away from con­ven­tional TVS to smart phones.

For chil­dren, the sit­u­a­tion is even worse. Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Academy of Fam­ily Physi­cians, chil­dren and ado­les­cents in the U.S. spend an av­er­age of about seven and a half hours a day en­gaged with var­i­ous forms of en­ter­tain­ment me­dia, such as tele­vi­sion, video games, the In­ter­net, and recorded mu­sic. The time spent be­ing en­ter­tained sur­passes all other ac­tiv­i­ties ex­cept sleep and dis­places vi­tal learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences gained in play, sports, do­ing house­hold chores and from so­cial­iz­ing with peers or fam­ily.

While dig­i­tal me­dia can be an im­por­tant learn­ing tool, screen time also al­ters brain func­tion and too much pre­vents the brain from ever de­vel­op­ing nor­mally.

While tex­ting and tweet­ing can be a use­ful form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion it can't take the place of face to face in­ter­ac­tions with in­di­vid­ual hu­mans and leads to the se­vere deficits in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and so­cial skills prom­i­nent in the cur­rent younger gen­er­a­tion. A sur­pris­ing num­ber of young adults lack the abil­ity to write a co­her­ent let­ter, en­gage in a mean­ing­ful face to face con­ver­sa­tion or sim­ply read a printed book.

The con­tent of me­dia is also a big fac­tor in the in­tel­lec­tual de­cay of Amer­ica. A typ­i­cal Amer­i­can child will view more than 200,000 acts of vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing more than 16,000 mur­ders be­fore age 18. Those who play vi­o­lent video games will com­mit hun­dreds of thou­sands of sim­u­lated acts of vi­o­lence, mostly killing op­pos­ing char­ac­ters.

It is mo­ronic to think that vir­tual acts of vi­o­lence do not lead to real acts of vi­o­lence. The U.S. mil­i­tary uses vi­o­lent video games to help train and con­di­tion sol­diers to kill and then ex­tends the vir­tual bat­tle­field into the real world.

And the prob­lem with me­dia is not just vi­o­lence, it is also the cru­elty and sex­ual promis­cu­ity. A wide range of TV shows and movies por­tray cru­elty as hu­mor­ous and en­joy­able and il­licit sex as the ul­ti­mate plea­sure.

Pornog­ra­phy is now widely avail­able to most chil­dren and this has led to the early sex­u­al­iza­tion of chil­dren who lack the emo­tional ma­tu­rity and self-con­trol to man­age their sex­u­al­ity or re­spon­si­bly en­gage in an in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship. While in­creased sex­ual ac­tiv­ity in chil­dren has not yet re­sulted in a higher num­ber of preg­nan­cies, it is re­sult­ing in a sub­stan­tial in­crease in the num­ber of in­fec­tions of sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­ease (STD).

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol (CDC), the an­nual es­ti­mated cost of treat­ing STDS in the U.S. rose to nearly $16 bil­lion dol­lars last year. With Trump slash­ing spend­ing on so­cial pro­grams and health care, es­pe­cially for chil­dren, STDS will con­tinue to in­crease and fur­ther im­pov­er­ish the coun­try.

Most STDS can be cured with enough treat­ment, but what can't be eas­ily cured is the dam­age caused by the early sex­u­al­iza­tion of chil­dren.

An in­creas­ing num­ber of chil­dren are be­ing pros­e­cuted for dis­tribut­ing porno­graphic pic­tures of them­selves or their part­ners. Be­ing a reg­is­tered child pornog­ra­phy sex of­fender ru­ins their chances of suc­cess in life as an adult.

It may seem old fash­ioned to some, but a healthy so­ci­ety re­ally needs a tra­di­tional fam­ily unit of a mother and fa­ther who care for each other and their chil­dren, and an in­creas­ing num­ber of Amer­i­cans are sim­ply too dam­aged by dig­i­tal me­dia to fill the role of an ef­fec­tive par­ent or sus­tain a healthy long-term re­la­tion­ship.

With­out the pri­mary so­cial unit of a func­tional fam­ily, the coun­try has an in­creas­ingly bleak fu­ture.

The dam­age from me­dia also ren­ders many Amer­i­cans un­fit for em­ploy­ment. Be­ing en­ter­tained by dig­i­tal me­dia in­stead of en­gag­ing in mean­ing­ful ac­tiv­ity robs peo­ple of the learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences they need to be func­tional adults with a ba­sic level of com­mon sense and the cog­ni­tive foun­da­tion nec­es­sary to learn es­sen­tial job skills.

This can be seen by the mil­lions of young white males who have dis­con­nected from so­ci­ety and who would rather live in their par­ent's base­ment, play video games and watch porn than get a job, have their own home, find a mate and raise a fam­ily.

Health Poverty

Amer­i­cans are al­ready the least healthy and have the most ex­pen­sive and the worst health care sys­tem of de­vel­oped na­tions, but it is about to get much, much worse.

Trump and his gang are de­fund­ing fed­eral spend­ing

on health­care, health re­search and pro­tec­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment so that the money can given to the oli­garchy.

An in­creas­ingly toxic en­vi­ron­ment and food sup­ply means more ill­ness, a less pro­duc­tive work­force and more pres­sure on a deeply flawed health care sys­tem. Ul­ti­mately it could mean a health care sys­tem that ex­ists only for the rich, while ev­ery­one else has to make due with­out any mean­ing­ful health care.

But, it doesn't have to be this way. The U.S. has a GDP of more than $57k per per­son, Cuba has a GDP of about $6K per per­son. Yet with about 1/10 the fi­nan­cial re­sources per capita of the U.S., Cuba is able to pro­vide high qual­ity FREE health­care to ev­ery cit­i­zen. Even very poor Bhutan is able to pro­vide ev­ery cit­i­zen with free health­care, and it has a GDP per capita of only $2.8K!

Canada, with a GDP of $42k is also able to pro­vide free health care to ev­ery cit­i­zen and le­gal im­mi­grant, even those on tem­po­rary work per­mits.

And guess what, poor lit­tle Bhutan and Cuba also pro­vide their cit­i­zens with free higher ed­u­ca­tion.

You might think that the com­par­i­son is un­fair be­cause Cuba has a so­cial­ist dic­ta­tor­ship and its cit­i­zens pay for the free health care and ed­u­ca­tion with a loss of free­dom and lack of con­sumer goods. But, Bhutan is not a so­cial­ist coun­try and has plenty of free­dom and con­sumer gad­gets. It is the same with the many Euro­pean coun­tries who pro­vide their cit­i­zens with free health care and ed­u­ca­tion.

Debt Poverty

"The US gov­ern­ment has a tech­nol­ogy called a print­ing press (or today its elec­tronic equiv­a­lent), that al­lows it to pro­duce as many US dol­lars as it wishes at no cost," - Ben Ber­nanke, Novem­ber 2002 When the Amer­i­can oli­garchy forced the coun­try to em­brace glob­al­ism to boost the prof­its of their multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions, it was the be­gin­ning of the end of Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ing as pro­duc­tion in­evitably shifted to low and no-wage de­vel­op­ing na­tions. With­out well-pay­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs the Amer­i­can mid­dle class started its down­ward spiral. But se­vere poverty in Amer­ica has been mostly fore­stalled since the 1980s by debt fu­eled gov­ern­ment spend­ing and con­sumer debt. With the de­cline in real wages came easy credit that has en­abled many Amer­i­cans to live be­yond their means, for awhile.

Econ­o­mists mea­sure debt as a per­cent­age of Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct (GDP) and in 2016 the U.S. debt was 106.10% of GDP. This com­pares to an all time high of 118.90% in 1946 af­ter WW II and a record low of 31.70% in 1981.

In times of ul­tra-low or zero in­ter­est rates, debt can rise with­out it im­pos­ing too great of a bur­den. How­ever, when debt is very high and in­ter­est rates in­crease it can have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences.

Af­ter the sub-prime mort­gage scam made tril­lions of dol­lars dis­ap­pear and the Great Re­ces­sion started in 2008, the Fed­eral Re­serve slashed in­ter­est rates to 0.25% and start­ing pumping money into the econ­omy by buy­ing junk mort­gages and bonds in a process it called Quan­ti­ta­tive Eas­ing (QE). And it worked, the banksters who caused the re­ces­sion were made even richer but the coun­try did mostly pull out of the re­ces­sion. In 2015 the Fed ended QE and raised in­ter­est rates to 0.50%.

The Fed in­ter­est rate is now 1.5% and is ex­pected to in­crease to 2% in 2018, 2.5% in 2019 and 3% in 2020. How­ever, as the rate in­creases so will the cost for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and con­sumers to bor­row money and ser­vice ex­ist­ing debt that is on an ad­justable or vari­able in­ter­est rate.

Ac­cord­ing t o the U.S. Trea­sury, in fis­cal year 2017 the fed­eral gov­ern­ment spent $458 bil­lion on debt in­ter-est, com­pared to $214 bil­lion in 1988. But, it is im­port-ant to keep in mind that much of that 2017 in­ter­est was at an ex­tremely low rate com­pared to 1988. If in-ter­est rates dou­ble in the next two years as ex­pected, the cost of new debt will sky­rocket and be­cause the U.S. must bor­row new money at higher rates to pay the lower in­ter­est on old debt even debt at a low rate will in­crease in cost.

In con­trast to the $458 bil­lion spent on debt in­ter­est, the U.S. has bud­geted only $193.1 bil­lion for the Dept. of Ed­u­ca­tion for FY 2018, down sig­nif­i­cantly from 2017.

Had the U.S. fed­eral gov­ern­ment been run in­tel­li­gently for the last 30 years with a bal­anced bud­get, there would be an ex­tra $458 bil­lion avail­able in 2018 for ed­u­ca­tion, health care and in­fra­struc­ture, just from debt ser­vic­ing.

Trump had long promised to get fed­eral spend­ing un­der con­trol and re­duce the bud­get deficit from the $666 bil­lion of 2017 but in re­al­ity the bud­get deficit is now pro­jected to ex­ceed $1 tril­lion in FY 2018 while fed­eral spend­ing on es­sen­tial so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­grams is slashed. The money from de­funded fed­eral pro­grams is be­ing redi­rected to pay for tax cuts to the wealthy and cor­po­ra­tions while taxes for the work­ing

class will ac­tu­ally in­crease when all fac­tors are taken into ac­count. Even the mod­est cut in fed­eral in­come taxes for most Amer­i­cans is only tem­po­rary.

This means that the safety nets that had shielded tens of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans from the worst ef­fects of poverty will be pulled out from un­der them and mil­lions more will be pushed down into poverty as hun­dreds of bil­lions are pulled out of the econ­omy, state and lo­cal taxes in­crease to com­pen­sate for fed­eral cuts and in­ter­est rates con­tinue to climb.

Be­cause most Amer­i­cans live from pay­check to pay­check and can't han­dle even a mod­est in­crease in their cost of liv­ing, vast num­bers of Amer­i­cans will be pushed off the cliff.

As more Amer­i­cans grow poorer, the rich will be­come even more wealthy and pow­er­ful and will con­sol­i­date their con­trol over fed­eral and state agen­cies and fur­ther loot the coun­try.

Is There a So­lu­tion?

An in­creas­ing num­ber of Amer­i­cans are wak­ing up to the fact that the cap­i­tal­ist model has failed them and their coun­try has been hi­jacked by an in­creas­ingly pow­er­ful oli­garchy that is in fact their great­est en­emy. But, it is too late. The oli­garchy is now so pow­er­ful and deeply en­trenched into the fab­ric of Amer­i­can so­ci­ety that there is lit­tle or no hope for a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion. There are sim­ply not enough Amer­i­cans in­tel­li­gent enough to sup­port a func­tional democ­racy. Far too many can­not grasp what has hap­pened and will con­tinue to sup­port their own im­pov­er­ish­ment and ero­sion of their Con­sti­tu­tional rights be­cause their po­lit­i­cal lead­ers ut­ter the right sim­plis­tic sound bites and tweets.

In the ab­sence of hope for pos­i­tive change, an in­creas­ing num­ber of Amer­i­cans are sim­ply mov­ing to another coun­try and a record num­ber are re­nounc­ing their U.S. cit­i­zen­ship. But most Amer­i­cans lack the fi­nan­cial re­sources to move away and/or don't want to leave be­hind friends and fam­ily.

A few peo­ple move to in­ten­tional com­mu­ni­ties where res­i­dents share a com­mon phi­los­o­phy or ide­ol­ogy. Some of the com­mu­ni­ties are eco-vil­lages and some are re­li­gious in na­ture.

While com­mu­nal liv­ing can cer­tainly re­duce the cost of liv­ing and pro­vide a more so­cially en­rich­ing en­vi­ron­ment, most such com­mu­ni­ties also of­fer lim­ited fi­nan­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties and may re­strict the ex­pres­sion of diver­gent views. A suc­cess­ful com­mu­nity re­quires in­tel­li­gent, hard work­ing peo­ple with in­tegrity—some­thing in short sup­ply.

Another Per­spec­tive It is easy to fo­cus on the neg­a­tive and high­light what is wrong, but the re­al­ity is that Amer­ica is still one of the wealth­i­est na­tions, and for now, things re­ally aren't that bad for most Amer­i­cans in most re­gions and the U.S. is still a land of op­por­tu­nity for those who are will­ing to take risks and work hard. Many im­mi­grants suc­ceed while some na­tive-born Amer­i­cans with the same or more op­por­tu­nity lan­guish in poverty. This is be­cause the im­mi­grants have a dif­fer­ent men­tal out­look and come from a place far worse than the U.S. where op­por­tu­nity is non-ex­is­tent or very lim­ited. Poverty is also rel­a­tive. Be­ing poor in Amer­ica would be a big step up for the poor in many de­vel­op­ing na­tions. While it is in­deed very dif­fi­cult to crawl one's way up from the very bot­tom and the sys­tem is of­ten de­signed to keep the poor trapped in poverty, it is also true that hard work, in­tegrity, re­li­a­bil­ity and ba­sic work skills are in high de­mand and re­warded. Busi­ness is about fill­ing needs and there are many needs that need to be filled by those with the skills to do so. Ac­quir­ing the needed skills is of­ten not so dif­fi­cult. There is a video on just about ev­ery­thing on YouTube and other web sites. Many busi­nesses are more than will­ing to take on an in­tern or ap­pren­tice that is ea­ger to learn and work hard. The world is chang­ing very rapidly and needs peo­ple who can adapt to the changes and fill the needs that are emerg­ing.

Photo by Lu­dovic Ber­tran, cc

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