Here’s some sobering news on the “we’re number one” front. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that ever since I was a child I heard or thought or was told that the United States was the richest country in the world. As you get older, of course, things get more complicated.
I earn my living by piecing together on line teaching jobs, none of which provide either a pension or health care. Those are things every other industrial or post industrial country provides its citizens as a matter of course.
In Europe, the work week has been getting shorter and most people have four week vacations. Here we all work an increasingly longer week and if you are a professional, and feel secure, you might take two weeks off.
We are working more, millions have no insurance, our vacations are miserly, and we get paid less and less. Most frightening, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. The federal minimum wage has not been raised in almost a decade. It’s getting harder and harder to say we are the best or the richest.
A few facts on the United States:
- In 2004 the top 5% received about 21% of all income, more than all of the families in the bottom 40% combined (they received just under 14%). In fact, since 2000, the top fifth receive just under half of all income.
- 84.2% of all capital income is received by the upper fifth, with 55.3% received by the top 1% and 36.6% by the top 0.1% alone.
- Tax cuts introduced by the Bush administration and legislated since 2001, were larger (in terms of reduced tax liability) at the top. The 2.9% cut for the top 1% is almost five times the size of the cut for the bottom fifth. In dollar terms, the tax cuts reduce tax payments at the low end by only $63, the middle by $665, and so on, up to the top value of over $44,000 for the top 1%.
- While the United States spends more on health care than other OECD countries, about 16 percent or 45.8 million people in the United States did not have any form of health insurance coverage in 2004. Ireland, Austria, and Finland spend about half of what the United States spend, as a percentage of GDP, yet cover 99- 100 percent of their respective populations.
- Norway was the only country with higher per capita income than the United States in 2004.
Also, Norway is a beautiful country!