The tale of the tape: measuring our problems
The Shameful State of the Union
We trim the below published on January 30, 2008 by CommonDreams.org.
by Robert WeissmanHere’s one thing everyone should be able to agree upon from George Bush’s State of the Union address: “We have unfinished business before us.”
1. The United States spends more than $700 billion a year on the military.
The 2008 appropriations bills include $506.9 billion for the Department of Defense and the nuclear weapons activities of the Department of Energy, plus an additional $189.4 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Other military funding is located in the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies.
Congress has approved nearly $700 billion to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is the appropriated amount. It doesn’t include costs to society -- loss of life, injuries, etc. The amount spent on war-fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq now exceeds the inflation-adjusted amount spent on the Vietnam War.
The United States accounts for roughly half of the world’s military expenditures.
Depending on how you count, more than half of all discretionary federal spending is now directed to the military.
2. Wealth is concentrating in the United States.
The richest 1% in the United States held over $2.5 trillion more in net worth than the entire bottom 90%.
In 1976, the top 1% of the population received 8.83% of national income. In 2005, they grabbed 21.93%.
3. Compensation for CEOs and Wall Street financiers.
The average CEO from a Fortune 500 company now makes 364 times an average worker’s pay. This is up from a 40-to-1 ratio in 1980.
Bonuses for those toiling on Wall Street totaled $33.2 billion in 2007, down just 2%. Overall compensation and benefits at seven of the Street’s biggest firms totaled $122 billion, up 10% since 2006 -- even though net overall revenue for these firms fell 6%.
But even the traditional investment banks can’t match the private equity and hedge fund managers, a few of whom manage to pull in more than $1 billion in a single year. Thanks to a tax loophole, their income tax rate is less than half of what a dentist making $200,000 a year pays.
4. Corporations are capturing more of the nation’s wealth.
Corporate profits amounted to 8% of GDP over the last decade, up from 6.5% in the early 1990s.
5. The housing meltdown is driving millions of families from their homes.
So far, 2.2 million subprime home loans made in recent years have already failed or will end in foreclosure. Homeowners will lose $164 billion from these foreclosures. Housing prices may deflate $2 trillion.
Editor’s note: Well, they did inflate more than that much, so why not fall back to normal?
6. The racial wealth divide remains a chasm.
At the rate the wealth divide closed between 1982 and 2004, it would take 594 more years for African Americans to achieve parity with whites. The subprime debacle is hitting minority communities disproportionately hard.
7. Women continue to be paid far less than men.
The ratio of the annual averages of women’s and men’s median weekly earnings was 80.8 for full-time workers in 2006. Progress in closing the gender wage gap has slowed considerably since 1990. The gender wage ratio for annual earnings increased by 11.4% points from 1980 to 1990, but added only 5.4 percentage points over the next 15 years.
8. More than one in six children live in poverty.
The official US poverty rate was 12.3% for 2006. The rate for children was 17.4%. The official poverty line is absurdly low.; the average poverty threshold for a family of four in 2006 was $20,614. For an individual, it was $10,294.
9. More than 45 million people in America do not have health insurance.
According to the Census Bureau, 47 million were uninsured in 2006, 15.8% of the population.
10. The US trade deficit is more than 5% of GDP.
The 2006 US trade deficit totaled $763.6 billion. The trade deficit will eventually have to be balanced -- sooner than later, it now seems. As the dollar continues to swoon, expect to see inflation and higher interest rates over the medium term. The real standard of living, in economic terms, will decline as a result.
11. US fuel efficiency is worse than it was two decades ago.
The average fuel economy of today’s US car and truck fleet is 25.3 miles per gallon, lower than the 25.9 mpg fleet average in 1987. Regulatory standards have not changed (though a modest increase is mandated by the energy bill passed in 2007), and more SUVs and light truck are on the road.
12. The nation’s infrastructure is crumbling.
About $1.6 trillion is needed over a five-year period to bring the nation’s infrastructure to good condition.
13. More than two million people in America are locked in prison.
At the end of 2006, 2,258,983 prisoners were held in Federal or State prisons or in local jails, an increase of 2.9% from 2005. The prison population has grown 3.4% annually since 1995. African-American males are imprisoned at a rate 6.5 times higher than white males, Latino males almost 3 times higher than whites.
If the United States is to see “real change” -- and actually strengthen the state of the Union -- there will have to be a reversal of present policies.
Editor’s note: Or a whole new direction.
Bush's State of the Union -- Vague and Sketchy
The Headless Horseman of the Apocalypse
How People Become Billionaires
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