The Constitution requires the president to “ . . . from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union. . . .” Regardless of what the framers of the constitution intended, this event has devolved into empty theatrics, worthless punditry and outright lies.
If American politics had any integrity the State of the Union address would give an honest accounting of what life is like in this county and present the means for making it truly just and equitable. Instead, it is used to masquerade drivel as accomplishment and reinforce the notion that a collapsing society is a thriving democracy.
The propaganda that we live in the greatest country on earth can easily be proven untrue with a little bit of easily accessible research. The state of the union is not very good for anyone except the ruling 1% and the most basic measures prove it.
The United States ranks 34th among the 35 richest nations in child well being, which is measured in health outcomes and percentages of children living in poverty. Most Americans would be shocked to learn that Ireland, Slovakia, Latvia, Poland and even crisis ridden Greece and Portugal take better care of their children.
Overall health care outcomes are no better, with the United States ranking at only 37 out of 191 countries. Cuba, which few Americans regard in any positive way, ranks just two steps behind at 39. Costa Ricans, Moroccans, Colombians, and Saudis all have access to better medical care. Most of the members of Congress sitting through the State of the Union address often brag that their constituents have the best health care in the world when those words are obvious lies.
“Most Americans would be shocked to learn that Ireland, Slovakia, Latvia, Poland and even crisis ridden Greece and Portugal take better care of their children.”
If America doesn’t take care of its children and can’t provide the best health care for anyone, does it lead in anything? It does in fact but none of these benchmarks are good for human beings. The United States still has the shameful distinction of incarcerating both a greater percentage of its population and the largest number of people than any other country on earth. The dictators we are taught to disdain and the leaders who are seen as enemies all keep fewer people in jail.
Consider that the Obama administration boasted when the president commuted the sentences of eight people who languished in prison under the old draconian crack cocaine laws. That is good news for those eight persons, but the Obama Justice Department also went to court to oppose efforts to remedy the sentences of 5,000 other people, formally making the case against giving them the chance to be re-sentenced.
The only other trend by which the United States bests every other nation is the amount spent on the military. The combined defense expenditures of the rest of the world total less than our military budget. Violence is the only arena in which America leads the way.
In 2014, a smaller percentage of working age people is now employed than at any time in the last three decades. Two-thirds of those who do have jobs exist without savings, living “from paycheck to paycheck.” The president makes a big show of raising the minimum wage for federal contractors when he and Democrats controlled Congress for two years but didn’t lift a finger to raise the minimum wage for everyone.
“The United States still has the shameful distinction of incarcerating both a greater percentage of its population and the largest number of people than any other country on earth.”
While economic security is a thing of the past for millions of people, the corporations that rule in this country act with complete impunity. The ironically named Freedom Industries poisoned the drinking water supply of more than 300,000 people in West Virginia. Freedom Industries immediately responded by filing for bankruptcy protection in order to escape the inevitable lawsuits. Then again, they need not have worried. Many West Virginians feared not for their health but for the health of the coal and chemical companies which control their state, in effect putting their very lives last on the agenda.
West Virginians may be a microcosm of all Americans who live in a constant state of delusion about themselves individually and about the crumbling “American way of life” many of them will still defend. That ignorance makes it easy for Barack Obama or any other president to make the case for killing people somewhere in the world, bailing out banks or cutting the already frayed safety net.
Presidents will come and go but the system persists. It makes a mockery of any effort to claim that the state of the union is good in any way, shape or form. The state of the union is rotten to the core.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.com.