by Zafar Bangash (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 26, No. 12, Rabi' al-Thani, 1418)
At US$7 trillion, America has the largest economy in the world (the world’s economy is put at $25 trillion). Currently the US also enjoys a robust job growth rate with unemployment put officially at a mere 5 percent, lowest of all the industrialised countries.
Yet there is something horribly wrong with the American system. The unemployment figure is a fraud. What it does not take into account is the fact that people who have not been looking for a job for six months are not included in this figure. Similarly, people working for a mere 20 hours a week are also excluded from this list.
The job creation rate which the Clinton administration is boasting about has other lacunae. Most new jobs are in the service industry rather than manufacuring. The difference is important. Service jobs pay $5 or $6 per hour, manufacturing twice as much. In fact, 10 years ago, most American workers earned $10-$12 per hour. America can hardly claim to have made progress.
There are other problems facing the self-proclaimed superpower for which it has no solutions. The horrendous crime rate is but one of them. A day after he returned from the G-7 plus one summit in Denver, Colorado, where he had touted America’s economy as a model to follow, US president Bill Clinton cut a sorry figure in a Los Angeles school ceremony.
At the June 23 unveiling of a private initiative providing $100 million worth of medical insurance to 50,000 uninsured children, Clinton admitted that millions of Americans were denied a share in the country’s prosperity pie. Even as president, he expressed his government’s helplessness in dealing with the socially marginalised.
At a US mayors’ conference in San Francisco the same day, his proposal to provide subsidised housing in inner cities to attract police officers to fight crime was a far cry from the ‘ambitious urban policy’ touted by the white house in advance of his appearance. Another proposal called for $200 per person subsidy for housing to revive urban decay.
Together, the measures would cost $675 million over a period of five years - a pittance by federal budget standards. This needs to be put into proper context. In the same five-year period, the US will spend $1.3 trillion on defence - 2,000 times more than would be spent on subsidised housing for inner cities.
More than 40 million Americans, 25 percent of them children, lack proper health insurance. ‘Our economy is the strongest in the world,’ boasted Clinton while addressing the Los Angeles school audience. ‘We have the lowest unemployment rate in 24 years... and we are still the only advanced industrial country in the world that does not provide health insurance for every single one of its working families.’ He admitted that ‘nearly one-sixth of (Americans) simply don’t have health insurance.’
Here is why. The day Clinton was lamenting the pathetic state of people’s health, the US house of representatives voted by 216-209 to provide more than $300 million to keep factory production lines open and thus preserve the possibility of buying nine more B-2 stealth bombers at a cost of $27 billion.
While planes and bombs may or may not help America flex its muscles around the world, they cannot provide security at home or abroad. During his June visit to US forces stationed in the Saudi desert, US defence secretary William Cohen was confronted by disgruntled and bored troops. They wanted to get the hell out of there. Cohen told them their presence was necessary to preserve the ‘American way of life.’ For the many homosexuals and lesbians in the US army, this must have sounded quite strange.
Socially, America is falling apart. For each marriage in America, there is one divorce, according to statistics by the National Parenting Association (NPA). In some states, the divorce rate is 60 percent. The number of illegitimate children is 38 percent and rising.
This lifestyle is deliberately promoted by government policy despite much drum-beating about returning to family values. Single mothers lose their child-support and welfare allowances if they get married. Some states in the US insist that mothers will get child allowance only if their children are fathered by different men. Not only is adultery the norm, even sleeping around is actively encourage by government policy.
Such behaviour is not confined to people at the lower end of the economic scale. Clinton’s moral guru, Dick Morris, had to resign in disgrace last August when it was discovered that he had been covorting with a Washington prostitute. And in June, general Joseph Ralston had to withdraw his name from nomination as chairman joint chiefs of staff, the highest post in the US military, because of his adulterous affair.
Clinton himself, however, is not above such extracurricular activity. The US supreme court rejected his plea from being sued by Paula Jones who claims the president had an affair with her while he was governor of Arkansas.
Even though Americans, and the west in general, insist that there is nothing wrong with such a lifestyle, evidence shows that it has serious consequences for the society at large. For instance, the NPA task force statistics reveal that in the period 1979 to 1987, 57,000 women a year were violently assaulted by their husbands. In the same period, 200,000 women a year were assaulted by their boyfriends and 216,000 by their ex-husbands (The Wall Street Journal, December 28, 1995).
Marriage breakdowns and single parenting (meaning single mothers bringing up children) have had an equally devastating impact on children’s lives. Since 1976, child abuse has soared 331 percent. Statistics also show that children from broken and violent homes commit a disproportionate number of crimes. Some 60 percent of the rapists, 72 percent of adolescent murderers and 70 percent of long-term prison inmates came from homes where the father was not present.
Building planes, missiles, bombs or more prisons is not the answer to America’s problems. It is a society at war with itself as well as with the world. It does not have the ability to fight a prolonged war. Its boys (and girls) love to indulge in turkey-shoot but when the going gets tough, they want to get the hell out of there.
America’s economic strength is a shell. It is maintained by exploiting the resources of others. It is, however, at the social level, that it is falling apart. Moral bankruptcy is a sure prescription for oblivion.
The writer is Editor, Crescent International.
Muslimedia - August 16-31, 1997