“In a world of relative equals, the U.S. will have to learn to define itself not by its rank, but by its values. It will be important to have the right story to tell, the right purpose and the right aura. It will be more important to know who you are.”

David Brooks said this the other day in a NY Times article entitled “Ben Franklin’s Nation”. The article discusses a YouTube video (see below) by Swedish professor Hans Rosling animating the growth and health (in terms of life expectancy and average income) of 200 countries over the last 200 years.

The gist of the video is that there has been a trend since the industrial revolution that is pushing the world’s average income and average life expectancy in every country to wealthier and healthier numbers. As Brooks mentions in his article, “This convergence is great news, but the change in the global social structure has created a psychological crisis in the U.S. Since World War II, we’ve built our national identity on our rank among the nations — at the front with everybody else trailing behind.”

David Brooks makes a few good points about how we’ve produced great thinkers like Ben Franklin, among others. But the road America is heading down is a disbanding of benefits for the middle class and a catering to the upper class (see the humanrobot tax cuts as a prime example).

America has always had this sense of entitlement and the feeling of being the world’s greatest superpower, which at one time we may have been. But look at what we’re really doing to this world: we’re in the midst of two wars (and no matter what you say they’re for we all know they are for oil and precious natural resources), we’ve jumpstarted a global economic meltdown by deflating the dollar, we’re trying to close our borders off entirely and kick out anyone who doesn’t belong (to quote Jack White on the absurdity of this notion: “Why don’t you kick yourself out you’re an immigrant, too.”), we consume roughly 25% of the earth’s energy, we spewed nearly 5 million gallons of black gold into the Gulf, the list really goes on and on regarding reasons the rest of the world could despise us. And by catering to the those in higher tax brackets we’re merely solidifying these absurdities. 

As was found in another recent Op-Ed on the NY Times, “The latest installment of the groundbreaking work on income inequality by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez shows that the richest 1 percent of American households — those making more than $370,000 a year — received 21 percent of total income in 2008. That was slightly below the highs of the bubble years but still among the highest percentages since the Roaring Twenties.

The top 10 percent — those making more than $110,000 — received 48 percent of total income, leaving 52 percent for the bottom 90 percent. Where are college-educated workers? Their median pay has basically stagnated for the past 10 years, at roughly $72,000 a year for men and $52,000 a year for women.”

The recent success of the humanrobot tax cuts is a major factor in this path we’re heading down. We need to get back to the values that David Brooks talks of for the good of America. Not for our returning to a global superpower, but for showing the world we are not stuck-up assholes who think we’re in control of things, especially that 10% of our country. Because the truth remains that the middle class is not in control of things (look at those numbers above).

When we are having the richest 10% of Americans racking in 48% of the total income that’s creating an “aristocratic grace” that Brooks mentions we’ve never had in this country. I’m interested to know how many lobbists, politicians, CEOs/top executives, and lawmakers in this country make up that top 10%. Because we bailed their asses out by giving them our money, yet they haven’t given it back and continue to pay out huge bonuses. Greed continues to consume this country and will probably run it into to the ground, along with the rest of the global economy.

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