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US Society: Decay from Within?

by Patrick Watts


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US Society could be described as a large group of people living together in an organized way, making decisions about how to do things and sharing the work that needs to be done. But does this description sound like an accurate representation of the US currently?


Are people actually living together in an organized way, making decisions about how to do things? Is it not the case that people are at loggerheads, manipulated into partisan feuds based on nonsensical, reductionist, tribalist arguments? Are all members of society really sharing the work that needs to be done? Staggering levels of inequality in the US would suggest not.


This inequality is underpinned by the greed of America’s oligarchical class, exemplified by government bailouts not being used to rebuild household finances or help struggling workers; instead, the money is used to fund share-buyback schemes and increase dividend distribution to shareholders.


US Society

As the 1 per cent get richer, the remaining 99 per cent are getting poorer. Social security and the welfare state has become a tribal issue, and the problems associated with structural inequality are dismissed as being due to “laziness” and a refusal to work. Some blamed an apparent labour shortage on the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the working motivations of the population, but the truth is more depressing: there is no shortage of workers, simply a shortage of jobs that pay living wages.


By almost every possible metric, the US is going backwards domestically and has become the only state in the G20 to have a declining life expectancy in many areas of the country.


Over the following weeks we will examine the causes, effects and dangers of this societal decay, illustrated first with the most basic metric possible…life expectancy.


Life Expectancy

Life expectancy, the simplest of statistics when examining and assessing the wellbeing of a modern state and its citizens, is also the starkest measure of an empire in decline.


Major wars aside, the average life expectancy of a citizen in a modern developed nation normally follows a rising trajectory. Healthcare improves, wages increase, and more people are lifted out of poverty and into a thriving middle class. They spend their money on products and services, they grow the economy, and they feel like they are living, not simply existing. In the US, however, this upward trend has hit the buffers and started to reverse, with life expectancy declining in many states. The reasons for this are myriad, including Covid, suicide, homicide, obesity and the opioid epidemic.


This declining life expectancy falls most heavily on the poorest in the country, with a substantial and widening gap between those in the top 5 per cent and those in the bottom 5 per cent in terms of household income. By 2014 the differing life expectancy for members of these groups at age 40 was a staggering 10 years – 89.4 and 79.7 years respectively. There is often a racial or ethnic dimension to this, with the non-white population impacted far more than their white counterparts.


The effect of Covid on life expectancy was significant: the largest decline since the Second World War was witnessed in 2020, and it was 8.5 times greater than the equivalent decline in similar peer countries.


The poorest are always hit the hardest by such plagues; they have less access to healthcare and are more likely to be working in conditions conducive to viral spread rather than safely working from home.


Given the seductive societal myths embodied in such concepts as “American exceptionalism” and “bootstrap success”, those who fall through the cracks in ever larger numbers are not sufficiently helped, but instead are written off as “not industrious enough” or “baskets of deplorables” by a sneering ruling class.


This is intrinsically linked to a weaponization of the term “socialism”. It is deliberately conflated with communism by those who do not wish for a more equitable society, and this pernicious effort endures because of the deeply rooted Cold War mentality within the national psyche. It is no surprise that generations who were born after the Cold War ended can see through this ruse and earnestly strive for a fairer, more equal society. This provides some comfort that change is possible, because if inequality continues to increase, the gap between rich and poor in life expectancy will continue to widen – and more citizens, especially non- white citizens, will be adversely affected.


Annual deaths from homicide, suicide, substance abuse and obesity add up to a sobering 450,000 Americans per year. This annual figure is half of the estimated 1 million deaths from Covid during the pandemic, another damning statistic that is world-leading in the worst sense.iv


This is to say nothing about the societal damage caused by every one of these deaths, as the lives ruined and trauma suffered does not simply end with the deceased. The ill effects spread through a society like ripples in a pond. With all these modern plagues attacking the American Empire fromwithin, there may end up being little need for an external antagonist to strike; America’s enemies can simply wait and watch. As with many empires before it, the greatest enemy of the American Empire is likely to be itself.

 

About the Author: British author Patrick Watts' new book, “The End of the American Empire,” warns that unless some of the issues that beset our country are resolved, the “American empire” will collapse. This is the first of a three-part series that Watts has prepared for Lean to the Left. Parts 2 and 3 will be published in the coming days. He appeared on the Lean to the Left podcast February 26 and that episode can be found here: Video; Audio. To find out more, head to www.patrickwattsbooks.com for links to his new book,“The End of the American Empire”, podcast discussions, and much more.

 


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Bob Gatty
Bob Gatty
6 days ago

Excellent commentary from across the pond. Thanks, Patrick!

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