Glenn Beck and other far right multi-millionaires are
claiming that the US is hot on the path towards socialism. Part of their claim is that the US is much
more generous and supportive of our working and poor people than other
countries. People may wish it was so,
but it is not.
As Senator Patrick Moynihan used to say “Everyone is
entitled to their own opinions. But
everyone is not entitled to their own facts.”
The fact is that the US is not really all that generous to
our working and poor people compared to other countries.
Consider the US in comparison to the rest of the 30
countries that join the US in making up the OECD – the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development. These 30 countries include Canada and most comparable European countries
but also include some struggling countries like Czech Republic, Greece,
Hungary, Korea, Mexico, Poland, Slovak Republic, and Turkey. See www.oecd.org
When you look at how the US compares to these 30 countries,
the hot air myths about the US government going all out towards socialism sort
of disappear into thin air. Here are
some examples of myths that do not hold up.
Myth #1. The US
government is involved in class warfare attacking the rich to lift up the poor.
There is a class war going on all right. But it is the rich against the rest of us and
the rich are winning. The gap between
the rich and everyone else is wider in the US than any of the 30 other
countries surveyed. In fact, the top 10%
in the US have a higher annual income than any other country. And the poorest 10% in the US are below the
average of the other OECD countries. The
rich in the U.S. have been rapidly leaving the middle class and poor behind
since the 1980s.
Myth #2. The US
already has the greatest health care system in the world.
Infant mortality in the US is 4th worst among
OECD countries – better only than Mexico, Turkey and the Slovak Republic.
Myth #3. There is
less poverty in the US than anywhere.
Child poverty in the US, at over 20% or one out of every
five kids, is double the average of the 30 OECD countries.
Myth #4. The US is
generous in its treatment of families with children.
The US ranks in the bottom half of countries in terms of
financial benefits for families with children. Over half of the 30 OECD countries pay families with children cash
benefits regardless of the income of the family. Some among those countries (e.g. Austria,
France and Germany) pay additional benefits if the family is low-income, or one
of the parents is unemployed.
Myth #5. The US is
very supportive of its workers.
The US gives no paid leave for working mothers having
children. Every single one of the other
30 OECD countries has some form of paid leave. The US ranks dead last in this. Over two thirds of the countries give some form of paid paternity
leave. The US also gives no paid leave
In fact, it is only workers in the US who have no guaranteed
days of paid leave at all. Korea is the
next lowest to the US and it has a minimum of 8 paid annual days of leave. Most
of the other 30 countries require a minimum of 20 days of annual paid leave for
Myth #6. Poor people
have more chance of becoming rich in the US than anywhere else.
Social mobility (how children move up or down the economic
ladder in comparison with their parents) in earnings, wages and education tends
to be easier in Australia, Canada and Nordic countries like Denmark, Norway,
and Finland, than in the US. That means
more of the rich stay rich and more of the poor stay poor here in the US.
Myth #7. The US spends generously on public education.
In terms of spending for public education, the US is just
about average among the 30 countries of the OECD. Educational achievement of US children,
however, is 7th worst in the OECD. On public spending for childcare and early education, the US is in the
Myth #8. The US
government is redistributing income from the rich to the poor.
There is little redistribution of income by government in
the U.S. in part because spending on social benefits like unemployment and
family benefits is so low. Of the 30
countries in the OECD, only in Korea is the impact of governmental spending lower.
Myth #9. The US
generously gives foreign aid to countries across the world.
The US gives the smallest percentage of aid of any of the
developed countries in the OECD. In 2007
the US was tied for last with Greece. In
2008, we were tied for last with Japan.
Despite the opinions of right wing folks, the facts say the
US is not on the path towards socialism.
But if socialism means the US would go down the path of
being more generous with our babies, our children, our working families, our
pregnant mothers, and our sisters and brothers across the world, I think we
could all appreciate it.
Bill Quigley is Legal Director at the Center for
Constitutional Rights and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. There is a version of this article with
footnotes for those interested. Quigley77@gmail.com
Sort of hard to say we're moving towards socialism when we rank last or almost last among the 30 OECD countries. The rest of the post speaks for itself.