American Exceptionalism is Dead

Having the mightiest military, more powerful than the world has ever seen, doesn't make America exceptional. An ever expanding middle-class, equal opportunity for all, fairness in the political process and worker's rights was what had also made America exceptional since World War II—when the rising tide of capitalism had once lifted all boats. Now it just lifts the biggest yachts.

American Exceptionalism is Dead

American exceptionalism is what the political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset called "the first new nation"—a country that developed a uniquely American ideology called "Americanism"—based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, republicanism, populism and laissez-faire.

However, many people argue that the United States has retained the European-class inequities, race-based inequalities, imperialism and war.

What had once made America exceptional, has seen that beacon of light extinguished by corporate greed—as we've witnessed since the 1970s—since the long decline of the middle-class, stagnant wages, the war on labor unions and the ever-increasing money in politics that's been corrupting the political process and limiting our representation in democracy.

Over the past 40 years the meaning of  "American Exceptionalism" has since changed.

Now we have (once again) record inequality, not seen since the Roaring Twenties—with 50% of all wage earners taking home less than $28,000 a year, a decline in unionization (peaking in 1979), poverty at 16%, and over 40 million Americans out of work. A Government Accountability Office report said there were about 42.6 million "contingent workers" — meaning temporary workers (temps), direct-hire temps, on-call workers, day laborers, contract company workers, independent contractors, self-employed workers, and standard part-time workers.

There is nothing "exceptional" about that. Where are all the full-time jobs that paid a living wage, offered healthcare, paid vacations and sick days? America is not making progress, we're regressing. A recent Rasmussen poll notes that 63% of voters now think the country is headed down the wrong track.

Corporations have been making records profits and CEOs have been raking in multi-million-dollar salaries, year after year, with little of the rewards for all the increases in productivity trickling down to the 99% for the past 40 years.

America isn't the richest country in the world, only 0.01% of it's citizens are the richest in the world. Most Americans don't live in an "exceptional" country, only 0.01% of its citizens enjoy America's "exceptionalism". Just to say that living in America might be better than most other countries, doesn't make her "exceptional"—not without fairness and justice for all. Not without more egalitarianism.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently pontificated: "You want income equality? That’s mediocrity. I don’t think the American people want income equality. What they want is income opportunity."

While discussing Christie's comments on a Fox News segment today, one pundit quipped [paraphrased]: "If the man on the street is making $50,000 a year and someone else is making $5 million, what's the problem? It would be a pretty boring country if we all drove the same car...we'd be a mediocre country."

Are these people really so out of touch with reality? That's just the point: If most people earned $50,000 a year, there wouldn't be a problem. The problem is, 77% of all wage earners earn less than $50,000 a year—and 40% earn less than $20,000 a year; while some CEOs aren't just making $5 million a year, there raking in over $96 million a year in annual salaries. (The AFL-CIO's top 100 list is here.)

And if you count those who are cashing in on investment income, we're talking billions:

  • Mark Zuckerberg profited nearly $2.3 billion on his share options when Facebook went public
  • Richard Kinder received just $1 in wages but more than $1.1 billion in restricted stock profits.
  • Mel Karmazin (Sirius XM Radio) had share options worth $244 million.

And it's true—they all pay a lower tax rate than Warren Buffett's secretary (and a lower tax rate than the man on the street). Someone with an income of over $36,250 a year (or more) is taxed at least 25% — and pays Social Security taxes on 100% of their income up to $113,700. While the aforementioned upper-income earners only pays a 23.8% tax on capital gains and pays no Social Security tax at all on capital gains. So why does the media consistently ignore this fact? (Read Taxes: How Congress Lets the Rich Pay Less).

Somewhere along the way—since the 1970's maybe—our political and corporate leaders have lost their moral compass. There are very few real patriots in the halls of Congress or in the corporate boardrooms these days (some are not only tax dodgers, but they are draft dodgers as well). Most of the American workers (the people that gave them their power and created their wealth) have been squeezed to the point where they are barely holding on anymore—even with multiple household incomes and/or government subsidies, they can barely sustain themselves any longer.

Rather than give their employees a small raise, the big corporations have been spending billions of dollars buying out their supposed "competitors" (Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion).

And earlier, Verizon bought out Vodafone's 45% interest in Verizon Wireless for $130 billion. Here are a few more examples:

  • AOL acquires Time Warner, 2000, $186.2 billion.
  • Time Warner bought AOL for $164 billion, renamed AOL Time Warner
  • Pfizer acquires Warner-Lambert, 1999, $87.3 billion.
  • AT&T acquires BellSouth, 2006, $83.1 billion.
  • Exxon acquires Mobil, 1998, $80.3 billion.
  • Comcast acquires AT&T Broadband, 2001, $76.1 billion.
  • Bell Atlantic acquires GTE, 1998, $71.1 billion.
  • Citicorp merges with Travelers Group, 1998, $69.9 billion.
  • SBC Communications acquires Ameritech, 1998, $68.2 billion.
  • Pfizer acquires Pharmacia, 2003, $64.3 billion.
  • Pfizer acquires Wyeth, 2009, $64.2 billion
  • Yahoo! bought out Broadcast.com for $6 billion in 1999
  • @Home bought out Excite for $7 billion
  • AT&T bought out T-Mobile for $39 billion
  • Express Scripts bought out Medco for $29 billion

But these wealthy "job creators"—the multi-billionaires—can't find any old rusty quarters buried beneath their mattresses to give to their hard-working and over-worked employees (so that maybe they too might have a better life). Instead they say, "We have to be globally competitive", all while milking us out over every damn penny they can squeeze out of our own torn and worn out mattresses. Now many once-middle-class workers have become "used to haves".

Or, if these huge corporations aren't buying out other companies, they're buying back their outstanding company shares to increase the value of the CEO's stock options. Over the past year Apple bought back $40 billion is stock to help with Mister Tim Cook's multi-million-dollar pay package—no doubt, a reward for displacing American workers with H-1B visas.

Many investors believe that stock buybacks are a waste of shareholders' money. Investors would rather that companies "show them the money" by paying better dividends. So it seems that these big companies are not only stiffing their employees, but they have also been screwing their investors too—as well as the government by dodging corporate taxes. (New Study: Corporate Welfare Makes the Rich Lazy — even though some billionaires claim they work harder than everybody else).

In 2012-2013 (as of April of last year), here are some other stock buybacks:

  • Home Depot bought back $17 billion in outstanding company shares
  • AT&T bought back $11 billion in outstanding company shares
  • GE bought back $10 billion in outstanding company shares
  • PepsiCo bought back $10 billion in outstanding company shares
  • United Parcel Service bought back $10 billion in outstanding company shares
  • American Express bought back $9.9 billion in outstanding company shares
  • 3M bought back $7.5 billion in outstanding company shares
  • United Technologies bought back $5.4 in outstanding company shares
  • Texas Instruments bought back $5 billion in outstanding company shares
  • Lowe’s Cos. bought back $5 billion in outstanding company shares
  • Qualcomm bought back $5 billion in outstanding company shares
  • Bank of America bought back $5 billion in outstanding company shares

Naturally, there were many more buyouts and stock buybacks, but you get the general idea.

And all while our "captains of industry" and our "pillars of the community" are doing this, they are also giving millions of dollars every year to politicians and superPACs to usurp democracy—to weaken labor laws and dodge taxes (rather than give their employees a fair share of the American pie).

Pretty soon we'll have one corporation running the entire damn country!

We lose $450 billion a year from tax evasion alone. Multi-national corporations (and ultra-wealthy individuals) have been addicted to hoarding trillions of dollars in offshore tax havens.

But yet, they whine and complain about taxes like greedy and unethical spoiled brats who refuse to share their toys with the neighbor's kids—paying record low "EFFECTIVE" tax rates on their capital gains and corporate earnings.

And while they bitterly complain about taxes, they're also paying their "think tanks" to wage their class war by spreading their propaganda—such as claiming America has the highest tax rates in the world. But if the tax rate was 100%, and they only paid 1% (because of the loopholes they bribed from Congress), what difference does it matter what the "statutory" tax rates actually are if they aren't obligated to pay them?

Then our esteemed top 0.01% will also spend millions of dollars every year to bust labor unions as they bicker like cheap bastards over raising the minimum wage, keeping millions of American workers on food stamps. And they also believe that only THEY should be entitled to afford access to good healthcare.

Rather than create jobs, the "job creators" have paid themselves millions of dollars every year by manipulating the market and their stocks, while also killing the economy for everybody else.

Capitalism has failed in America starting in 1979, with the decline of unions, the offshoring of jobs, dirty money in politics and congressional corruption. America really is in decline—as inequality is at record levels—as it has been, for decades. Just look across the nation at all the shuttered factories, the crumbling infrastructure and the abandoned ghost towns (Detroit is on the way, and now their are stealing our pensions too.).

They call this "creative destruction", but it's really been the destruction of America's Exceptionalism.

An excellent article on this subject is in the National Journal and argues that most Americans used to have much more faith in capitalism; but when you just look at young people today, American Exceptionalism is basically gone.

"Where Gingrich and company go wrong is in claiming that the Obama presidency is the cause of this decline. It's actually the result. Ironically, the people most responsible for eroding American exceptionalism are the very conservatives who most fear its demise."

Reagaonomics? Trickle-down? Starve the beast? But the article goes on to argue that it's the belief in limited government and free enterprise that we lost, and that too many people have less religious affiliation, and that's another reason why we are in decline. But the article also goes on to note:

"Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, George W. Bush in the 2000s—pushed many of the policies that have boosted inequality [and] decades of conservative policy have contributed to America's relative lack of economic mobility...Since the 1970s, the conservative movement has used the myth of a classless America to redistribute wealth upward, thus hardening class divisions, at least relative to other nations. It's no surprise that the young, having no memory of the more equal, more mobile America of popular legend."

Fifty percent of Americans over 65 believe America stands above all others as the greatest nation on earth—but only 27 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 believe that.

Thirty years ago, a vast majority of Americans identified as members of the middle class. But since 1988, the percentage of Americans who call themselves members of the “have-nots” has doubled. Today’s young people are more likely to believe success is a matter of luck, not effort, as it once was in earlier generations.

If American Exceptionalism isn't already dead, then it has been dying a very slow and painful slow death for the past 40 years. Meanwhile, Shanghai, China has done exceptionally well over the past 40 years.

Shanghai, China - 1987 and 2014

Below are related links about the people who destroyed this economy for the 99% — many, by offshoring jobs to China.

 

Meta: 

Comments

Manifesto!

Words out of my mouth. The government still relies on citizen loyalty and many still give it, but considering how this is now corporate America, I wonder how long it will take to erode. People believe God,family, country as the three great loyalties and their identities are wrapped in these.

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There needs to be some clarification.

While I agree with much of what the article says I strongly disagree that conservatives or conservative policies are to blame. Just look at Ronald Reagan as an example! President Reagan was a strong conservative and his policies benefited all Americans. Poverty decreased and the middle-class was strengthened and Reagan's policies resulted in the greatest period of wealth and economic expansion the world has ever known.  Lower taxes and less government intrusion created greater economic incentives, which result in more jobs and more business oportunities and a lifting of all boats in the grand scheme of things. Contrast that with Barack Obama's liberal policies that are recking havoc throughout that nation.

As far as unions go, years ago unions were seen as a benefit to workers and society and the country itself. But things have changed a lot during the last 50 years. Union members now demand exorbitant salaries and ridiculous benefits and it is one of the reasons why America is going bankrupt in my opinion. Unions have become corrupt entities and in many cases they are now a liability to a once functioning economy. Unions also donate huge sums of money to the Democrat Party in an attempt to gain power and influence over the political process. Progressive Democrats have controlled Washington D.C. since January 2007 and the economy and the country itself have gone downhill ever since. Obviously the unions and the Democrat Party itself bears much of the responsibility for the myriad of problems afflicting the nation. Put two and two together and it spells disaster. Democrats and the unions have conspired together and as a result they have pummeled the economy and have harmed the middle-class and it's high time the American people wake up and come to their senses.

I am all for decent wages earned through hard work. But there comes a point of diminishing returns that ends up being bad for both the economy and the country. And today's unions are a prime example of that reality. I am adamantly opposed to government overreach that harms the economy and that oppresses the citizenry and I am also opposed to union cronies that try to buy elections. Liberal policies don't work and evidence abounds to prove my point.

Take a gander at Wisconsin where Gov. Scott Walker has reined in the unions and now the state has turned around economically for the better. Large deficits have been replaced with surpluses in Wisconsin and in other states where conservative Republican governors hold power. On the other hand liberal policies are ruining the economy and the country too for that matter. As an example look at California. California is being run into the ground by liberal Governor Jerry Brown. California has the highest overall taxes and it has the highest poverty rate with some of the highest electricity rates and also some of the highest gas and diesel prices, high unemployment and with some of the highest property taxes in the nation which is leading millions of people into rental apartments just in order to survive. California is drowning in debt even though the latest tax hike momentarily plugged the dam from bursting outright. Feeling his oats (after raking Californians over the coals with recent higher taxes) Governor Jerry Brown is now determined to build a $78 billion dollar high-speed train to nowhere, which will further erode the economy.  Another state bleeding massive amounts of red ink is New York which is run by uber liberal Andrew Cuomo. People are fleeing New York in droves as a result of extremely high taxes and other onerous regulations which have harmed New York's economy and ruined the state in general. Furthermore, the state of Illinois is also broke and destitute and it too is being run into the ground by a progressive liberal Governor named Pat Quinn. And then are cities such as Detroit where Democrats have been in control since 1961 and have turned the city into a veritable train wreck that recently went bankrupt. Need I say more?

Conservatives aren't the problem and most assuredly conservative policies aren't the problem either. Facts are stubborn things. Just look at the facts and the evidence that surrounds them. Liberal policies are mostly to blame and liberalism itself is irresponsible and untenable in my opinion. Progressive liberals are basically socialists and socialism is tied to Marxist ideology and also communism. That is the main reason why America is declining under what is a socialist Obama administration. That is also why the U.S. economy is teetering on the brink of what could be a depression even as the national debt continues to rise exponentially under Barack Obama's presidency. Need I say more? If Barack Obama continues down the same wrong path then America will likely end up like Venezuela under Nicolas Maduro. Not a pretty picture I dare say. Lay the blame where the blame is due. Conservativism has the winning argument and conservatives in general want what's best for the nation and the citizenry. Nuff said.

    

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I didn't blame the conservatives...

I was quoting a conservative who blamed the conservatives. Personally, I think both parties let us down over the last 30 years, so there's plenty of blame to go around—but too many examples to list as a comment right now though ;)

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Some fascinating insights of the top 0.01%

One venture capitalist gives us some fascinating insights about those in the very top 0.01% of the income ladder. Here are some excerpts and a link to the video of the full interview below:

"Ultimately, this is not about money—it's about status, privileges and power. For a subset of these people, the most important thing in the world is status, privilege and power. They have sacrificed everything for it. This is my world—I know a lot of these folks—and a lot of these folks are border-line sociopathic people, and they don't care about other people."

http://youtu.be/80IUcRjIK5U

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Author misses the point

Author misses the point completely. The military isn't super-duper powerful, rather it is as weak as many that have been seen before. Sure, the military could blow the world up if it wanted to, if that's what the author is measuring but the military alone can't solve any problem. Iraq, Afghanistan have been disasterous while our miitary "strength" could do nothing about it. It sure gets a lot of people (and companies) rich at the cost of everything else, though.
(Couldn't have had a financial crisis without wars by the way)
Capitalism, unfortunately, is the problem. Capitalists are always trying to cut their costs and increase their profits, they have built in unemployment, falling wages, rising economic disparity. It's a feature, not a flaw, just like having a super powerful overpriced military (like so many other states have had at various times in world history.)

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Soon one rich guy will control all our food

The owner of Albertsons supermarket chains announced that it has agreed to acquire all outstanding shares of Safeway Inc. for about $9.0 billion in cash and stock.
 
"Stephen Feinberg, co-founder and CEO of Cerberus Capital Management [the private equity firm] has succeeded in putting together one of the largest acquisition deals in the history of the retail industry in America with the merger of the Safeway chain with the Albertsons retailing group which they control."
 
Dan Quayle, former Vice President of the United States, joined Cerberus in 1999 and is chairman of the company's Global Investments Division.
 
Stephen Feinberg once said, “If anyone at Cerberus has his picture in the paper and a picture of his apartment, we will do more than fire that person. We will kill him. The jail sentence will be worth it.”
 
Soon, outside of retail outlets like Walmart, Feinberg will own all the supermarkets in America. Soon, one private equity firm or corporation will own everything—and the top 1% of the 1% of the 1% will rule the world.
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Re: AOL Time-Warner

It would appear that your top two examples are the same, single event:

1) AOL acquires Time Warner, 2000, $186.2 billion.

2) Time Warner bought AOL for $164 billion, renamed AOL Time Warner

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