Is the U.S. One Step Away from Third-World Status?

“Of course not!” A diminishing majority still clinging to the American dream responds.
How can that possibly be true? We lead the world in science and technology, Reuters tells us, based on a report issued by the RAND Corporation.

What Reuters doesn’t tell readers is that the RAND report, requested by the Pentagon, is the product of a think tank whose board of trustees represents the best of corporate media, Wall Street, corporate law firms, heads of medical, defense, and real estate giants – and the auto industry. And a professor or two to make it look legit. Oh, and don’t forget Frank Carlucci, who was simultaneously on the RAND board and head of the Carlyle Group (investments, defense) immediately before 9/11.



What’s not to trust? It isn’t like the real estate industry is the source of the biggest meltdown in U.S. financial history (with the collusion of the Street and the Fed), right? And who doesn’t trust Big Pharma, which is raping Medicare to the tune of one hundred billion dollars a year, or Big Auto, with its campaign to put every American in a gas-guzzling SUV while the average European car gets 50 miles per gallon? And not trusting the defense industry – represented by the likes of Halliburton and KBR – well, that’s just irrational.

Get ready for a reality check, fellow Americans. We’re not that great. First, the EU is set to ban our chemicals unless we can prove they are safe. Since our policy up until now has been to use them on the public first and recall them only if a lot of people die, we’re not well set up for this kind of proof. As a result, American chemical manufacturers stand to lose billions of dollars. If you work in the industry, there goes your job.

We’re ahead in health care though, right?

Wrong. The percentage of underweight babies born in the U.S. has increased to its highest rate in 40 years, with 8.2 percent of U.S. babies born at low birth weight. Americans have the highest rate of chronic disease in the world other than Australia. We don’t live as long as Canadians and we’re fatter in spite of more and cheaper food. We have higher rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes than Europeans, especially as we get older. African Americans have more problems with blood pressure than their African ancestors. Hispanic Americans are experiencing astonishing rates of diabetes; the rate diminishes as one moves south from Mexico into Central and South America. I could go on, but you get the picture.

We’re first in the world in food production, some argue. We have meat at a level other countries can only dream of. Why then, have Korea and Japan banned our beef? In Korea, the issue is only moderately tied up with national pride. In Japan, it is the result of horrifying meat-processing practices that led to the discovery of a spinal column in a shipment of beef. Japan lifted the ban in mid-2006 with the de facto provision that it be allowed to inspect meat processing plants in the future.

The EU has a longstanding ban against our chicken, which is treated with chemicals to make it less toxic after slaughter. In June, the EU reinforced this ban, heightening a long-standing argument with the U.S. over trade restrictions. The EU remains adamantly defiant, and defiantly unwilling to eat our contaminated poultry. I can understand their reluctance. Have you ever washed a chicken in the sink before cooking and wondered where the gray scum comes from? Ew!

The EU also bans our genetically modified food crops. When it came time to vote on January 11, The EU conveniently “missed” the deadline, effectively leaving the ban in place. You know that friend who keeps insisting you come over for dinner, even though his/her dishes look like they’ve been cleaned with a garden hose? After a while, you give in and agree; then you conveniently forget about the date and apologize afterward. The U.S. has become that persistent pest, and the EU is tired of pointing out the error of our ways when it comes to the definition of "edible."

More recently, the EU banned a secondary use of the drug Tysabri, made by Elan and Biogen. Originally formulated to treat multiple sclerosis, or MS, U.S. regulators want to extend its use to cover Crohn’s disease. The EU says there is not enough proof of benefit to warrant this extended use. In fact, Tysabri was pulled from EU shelves in 2005 and only recently reinstated with strict restrictions on its use. Nor is this the first U.S. drug the EU has banned. In addition to hormones and antimicrobials in meat supplies, and the meat itself, the EU has banned U.S. health supplements and certain cosmetics if developed through animal testing.

Europeans also refuse to share in our criminalization of Internet file sharing, our penchant for allowing big pharma to advertise its remedies on television, radio, newspapers and the Internet, and will likely refuse to agree to our safe harbor, or corporate disclosure, principles as proposed by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, since they don’t meet the EU’s standards for data privacy for citizens. Due north, the Canadians recently rejected the sale of satellite and robotics technology to the U.S., saying it would be detrimental to national interests.

Does anyone get the feeling these countries no longer trust our process or our motives? As for the U.S.being first in everything, it’s a dream shared by the wealthy and the merely hopeful, who somehow believe keeping their heads firmly embedded in the sands of oblivion will transform that hope into reality.

We are not only no longer first in a number of venues, but falling behind fast even in those venues where we were once superior, as noted in a 2007 report by the World Economic Forum. Given the recent, and ongoing, economic meltdown, it’s not inconceivable that we may become a third world country in terms of both resources and technology by the middle of the century.

Disclosure: I don’t own stock in any companies mentioned.

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