Beaten-down Americans are ignored by our neoliberal system of economics and government. A social democracy would help to restrain runaway capitalism by focusing on the needs of all citizens rather than just the money-makers. But unless our next president is Bernie Sanders, struggling Americans will continue to be ignored, as they have been since the Reagan years.
In particular, these four Americans should be clamoring for a change from a market-based to a people-based system:
1. The Children's Advocate
There's something terribly wrong with a society that allows a hedge fund manager to make a billion dollars while 16 million children are living on food stamps, and then House Republicans respond by attempting to cut back on lunches for over 3 million kids.
The ugliness of inequality is most apparent in the suffering of our children. For every THREE homeless children in 2006 there are now FIVE. Almost 40% of black children live in poverty. Yet spending on children's programs recently declined for the first time in nearly 20 years, and states are spending less on schools than they did before the recession.
We seem powerless in our capitalist society to keep a privileged, business-savvy, very lucky man—whose industry lost money last year—from taking billions of dollars amidst cutbacks to the life-sustaining needs of society. And to add insult by claiming that his profits are a special type of income that should be taxed at a lesser rate.
2. The African-American
Our capitalist 'ethic' blames poor minority individuals for their own misfortunes. But living-wage jobs aren't available for many of them. Over half of the black college graduates of recent years were underemployed in 2013, working in occupations that typically do not require a four-year college degree. Some of the reasons are insidious. A recent study found that job applicants were about 50 percent more likely to be called back if they had "white" names. Another hiring analysis found that white job applicants with criminal records were called back more often than blacks without criminal records.
As a result, white kids who drop out of high school have more wealth on average than black college graduates.
3. The Sick or Disabled American
People without emergency funds (up to two-thirds of us!) are risking their lives by living in this country. Over 40 percent of sick Americans skip doctor's visits and/or medication purchases because of excessive costs. In part because of our failing market-driven healthcare system, low-income Americans are living 10 to 15 fewer years than those at the other end of the income scale.
Perversely, it's even worse for the terminally ill cancer patient, who on average has to pay over $120,000 a year for the medication needed to stay alive.
As the damning evidence accumulates for the life-shortening effects of our private health care system, more and more studies are pointing toward the value of a single-payer solution. Life expectancy in the U.S. is dropping for middle-aged people, but not for older Americans, whose lives are prolonged by Medicare.
4. The Consumer
Because of our poorly regulated "take what you can get" capitalist system, consumers are frequently victimized by product markups of 1,000% or more, by which a $10 item is sold for $100 or more.
- Hospitals: In an analysis of 50 hospitals (49 for-profit) with the highest charge-to-cost ratios in 2012, the average markup was 1,000 percent.
- Drug Companies: The price of cancer drugs increased 5- to 10-fold over 15 years.
- Colleges: Tuition has increased by over 1,000 percent since 1978 as revenue-deprived states have slashed higher education funding.
- Payday Lenders: Payday lenders charge annualized interest rates up to 1,000 percent or more.
- Water Bottlers - A 100,000% Markup!: According to the EPA, the average cost to treat, filter and deliver tap water is 0.2 cents per gallon, or about 750-2,700 times less expensive than bottled water.
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For consumers, and for children, minorities, the sick and disabled, and all victims of severe inequality, a continuation of Reagan/Clinton capitalism will lead to little improvement. The quality of a nation is measured by how well it treats its most vulnerable citizens. For troubled Americans, only a blend of democracy and socialism will improve the quality of life.