In nearly every country on Earth there is a sense of nationalistic pride that incites citizens to claim their nation is the best place to live, raise a family, and prosper during a long life. It is apparent that in many countries, the citizens have not ventured beyond their own national borders or understand that the conditions in their homeland may not be the best, or ideal, for contentment, good health, and a rewarding life. At one time, America was the shining light of the world where all things were possible and anyone willing to work hard and persevere could attain a good middle class lifestyle and indeed, people from all over the world aspired to emigrate and live in an exceptional nation. However, the notion that America is exceptional, or a nation of unending possibilities as the best place to live, is a lie according to a new quality-of-life index.
There are several reasons for America’s slide into mediocrity, but its degradation began during the 1980s when Reagan conservatives convinced an ignorant population that government was the enemy preventing the rich from collecting more wealth they would pass on to the masses creating a new American dream where every American had “the opportunity to get really, really rich.” The 1980s was the last time America was rated number one in the quality-of-life index, and after nearly 30 years of conservative assaults on government and perpetual gifts to the wealthy, the richest country in the history of the world is now rated number 16 among advanced nations as the best country to live.
According to the life satisfaction index, variables in estimating the quality-of-life are material wellbeing (wages), life expectancy at birth, quality of life, political freedoms (voting rights), job security, personal physical security (based on homicide rates), quality of community life, governance (measured by corruption), and gender equality. These variables can be distilled down to America’s miserable healthcare system, growing social and economic stratification, poverty during retirement, and workplace policies that reject maternal health, paid leave for parents or family sickness, and particularly that America has zero mandatory vacation hours. It is glaringly obvious that the very aspects that define quality of life have been assaulted by Republicans over the past thirty years as they have worked tirelessly to increase the share of wealth and contentment of the rich at the expense of the rest of the population.
After the New Deal, and particularly after World War II, the American dream meant earning a living wage with healthcare benefits that enabled every American to raise a family, buy a home, take an annual vacation, and have a reasonably comfortable retirement that epitomized union work the rest of industry kept pace with to be competitive. It was also during this time that the wealthy paid significantly higher tax rates and still increased their vast fortunes as corporations prospered beyond their wildest dreams. However, it was not enough and through a carefully crafted campaign, Republicans slowly chipped away at the public’s confidence that government looked out for the people until they had support to dismantle regulations and convince Americans that their well-being was inexorably linked to the wealthy’s prosperity. It was the beginning of the end of America’s supremacy in quality of life for its citizens, and is nearing the fulfillment of Ronald Reagan’s goal of destroying the American Dream, and conservatives are celebrating.
It does not take an astrophysicist to understand that over the past four years, Republicans have made the final assault on the American people to send the country toward the bottom of the best-place-to-live sweepstakes. The assault on unions, voting rights, regulations, wages, safety nets, pensions, and healthcare to benefit the wealthy is the purview of conservatives whose impetus is keeping the people scrambling to survive, as well as starving the government into extinction. One may be tempted to think Republicans labor under ideological misperceptions at good governance and economic policy, but they know what it takes to give every American an opportunity at a quality life and yet, they avoid it like plague. Last year when it was reported America was number two in the world in child poverty, it should have sent shockwaves through Republican ranks, but instead of appropriating more funds to increase assistance to low-income families and create jobs, Republicans took action to slash funding as they fought for more tax cuts for the rich and corporations.
When President Obama proposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (stimulus) replete with a huge array of tax breaks and spending projects aimed at spirited job creation and a swift revival of the U.S. economy, Republicans vigorously opposed it despite it saved the nation from a certain economic depression. In the current fiscal cliff negotiations, Republicans first inclination is Draconian cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and safety nets while ignoring defense cuts and holding out for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Republicans are not even giving the appearance of seriousness to help the people or the nation, and the prospect of inflicting more damage in the next session of Congress has inspired a sense of excitement among the GOP. Indeed, who can forget the apparent joy of Mitch McConnell at holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage during the debt ceiling fiasco last year, or Speaker of the House John Boehner’s cavalier “so be it” remark at killing over a million jobs from GOP spending cuts ravaging social programs that were deliberate ploys to damage the economy and cause undue harm to the American people.
Is America exceptional? No, not when millions of Americans are without even basic healthcare, work for minimum wages, struggle to feed and house their families, and fight for a decent retirement. In fact, it is a disgrace that in the richest country in the history of the world, Republicans freely give a few hundred wealthy families preferential treatment while the poor and elderly languish in near or certain poverty and the middle class slips quietly into obscurity. It is an exceptional country for the wealthy and corporations who, for thirty years, have paid for Republicans to eliminate regulations that guarantee the people have a decent quality of life, destroy union representation, and increase the number of hardworking Americans living in poverty.
Americans should be ashamed they were tricked thirty years ago into believing government was the enemy, and that turning over the nation’s wealth to the rich would magically transform every American into a millionaire or billionaire. It is true Republicans have made converting America from the best place to live and raise a family into a mediocre place to live, but they could not have had even a measure of success without voters’ support. What is troubling, however, is even though it appears the nation is finally realizing Republicans are on a tear to decimate the middle class and starve the poor and elderly, they still garnered 47% of the vote in the recent election. It informs that 47% of Americans are exceptionally stupid to support the party that took the best nation to live and raise a family into rank mediocrity and are doing their level best to transform the richest nation in the history of the world into a wasteland where the quality of life rivals a third world country.