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In the aftermath of a tax deal that will accelerate the shift of wealth to the richest Americans, it’s worth calling attention to a new report about how far the U.S. is sinking below other major nations in how we take care of our children.

A UNICEF report released last week brings this alarming news into focus -- among the world’s 24 richest nations, the U.S. ranks a paltry 23rd in material well-being , 22nd in health well-being, and 19th in education well-being for our youth.

"Socio-economic status," the UNICEF report concludes, "is the indispensable framework for policy analysis of bottom end inequality for children."

Didn’t hear about these findings? Perhaps that’s because you live in the U.S.

The UNICEF study, released December 10, was widely reported in Canada, but a media search finds only two references in the U.S. media, in commentaries by Charles Blow in the New York Times and Erika Stutzman in the Boulder, Colo. Daily Camera.

"As our great divide between rich Americans and poor Americans continues to grow, children," Stutzman appropriately notes, "will continue to bear the brunt of our policy mistakes."

To which Blow adds, "As we begin inevitably wrangling over budget cuts and other austerity measures, we must not lose sight of the plight of the most vulnerable among us -- the ones who have little say and few choices: the nation's poorest children."

But maybe we have already lost sight.

As Sen. Bernie Sanders noted in his classic 8-hour filibuster on the floor of the Senate last week – ironically the same day the UNICEF study was released –the wealth of the top one percent of the richest Americans is equal to the wealth of the bottom 90 percent and they receive 24 percent of all income.

One result, we are failing the next generation and perhaps generations to come, especially relative to other industrialized countries that are among the global competitors to the U.S. in an increasingly international economy, as the UNICEF report makes clear crunching data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The U.S. lags behind countries like Iceland and its spectacular banking collapse, Ireland and its suddenly toothless Celtic  Tiger, and Greece, that national symbol of economic  dysfunction and chaos.

On material inequality, where the U.S. placed next to last, only  ahead of Slovakia and behind Poland and Hungary, the analysis was premised on not just poverty, but also on household incomes, access to basic educational resources, and housing living space.

On education, where the U.S. ranked highest in the three groupings, at 19th, but still behind Greece, the principle criteria were reading, math, and science literacy.

On healthcare, where the U.S. trailed everyone but Italy and Hungary, the main categories of study were children’s self-reported health complaints such as head and stomach aches to sleep disorders, eating habits, and physical activity. But inequalities in health, the report emphasizes "arise because of inequalities in society in the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age."

While some of the data dates back as far as 2006, prior to the worst of the current recession, it’s likely conditions have become worse, in Europe as well as the U.S.

The report notes widespread debt problems, and, specifically,  "in the United States, as many as half of all workers have taken a cut in pay or hours or suffered at least temporary unemployment" in the past two years.

What does this have to do with the Obama-Republican tax deal?  

The tax deal diverts hundreds of billions of dollars to those who already have more yachts and second, third, and fourth homes than they need.

One of the agreement’s worst components, as Sanders noted, is the appeasement of the wealthy by slashing the estate tax, which as Sanders pointed out, applies to the top three-tenths of 1 percent of American families; 99.7 percent of American families will not pay one nickel in an estate tax."

Sanders cited the example of the Walton family, owners of Wal-Mart who have a net fortune of some $86 billion. The tax deal gives their heirs an estimated $32.7 billion tax break.

Rachel Maddow added two other examples to this list of infamy December 13, citing two families who have "spent millions lobbying to kill the estate tax."

The Mars candy billionaires, with a net worth of $30 billion, would get a $1.3 billion handout for their heirs. The Campbell Soup family, with a net worth of $6.8 billion, would save $1.3 billion in a tax giveaway.

Those resources, handed to the most wealthy, are diverted from education, healthcare, and other safety net programs that would reduce income inequality and help children, and give more ammunition to the deficit hawks who hold so much sway in Washington who will bemoan an ever greater deficit as a reason for additional programmatic cuts.

It’s hard to find a silver lining here. Except to continue to fight proposals like the latest giveaway that exacerbate the chasm between rich and poor in this country and threaten our next generation.

At a time in which the latest judicial ruling, overturning the flawed requirement that forces the uninsured to buy private insurance, we can also continue to work for the real reform that does not have the constitutional weakness of the Obama administration health plan.

A healthcare system such as Canada, and most of the other countries ahead of the U.S. in health inequality in the UNICEF report have, such as expanding Medicare to cover everyone, which would go a long way to reducing the gap between us and everyone else.

Originally posted to National Nurses Movement on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 04:16 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (20+ / 0-)

    National Nurses United, (AFL-CIO): the new RN "super-union" representing 150,000 nurses from all 50 states!

    by National Nurses Movement on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 04:16:19 PM PST

  •  The American dream or...? (10+ / 0-)

    Perhaps the American Myth would be more accurate.  Increasingly ideas like the middle class, social mobility and opportunity for all are becoming a myth in our society.  As our children sink further into poverty, as our social mobility decreases and more and more of our citizens become part of a permanent underclass with little chance to move out of that status.

    "I was asked what I thought of the mainstream media. I said I thought it would be a good idea" - Amy Goodman.

    by Chico David RN on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 04:28:51 PM PST

  •  What our senators think is more important.... (4+ / 0-)

    Our government just fails us on so many levels.

    Reading the below amendments included in the senate bill that will cost millions of dollars for such companies as Shell Oil, NASCAR, motorsports entertainment complexes, films and TV shows producers, rum producers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

    Ethanol tax credits, the group calculates, are worth about $6 billion in 2011, and they are part of something called the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, which is the largest subsidy to corn ethanol. It goes to fuel blenders, not farmers, and that means companies like Shell Oil are collecting the credit.

    The NASCAR racing league is pleased by the appearance of a tax write-off provision for owners of "motorsports entertainment complexes," who will be able to write-off the cost of their facilities on their taxes over seven years, instead of the standard 39 years for nonresidential property. That will cost taxpayers about $40 million in 2011, and benefit the companies that own the race tracks.

    It will also indirectly benefit NASCAR, which pays to rent the tracks for its races, and depends on access to cheap, high-quality facilities. "Allowing the track promoters to be able to spend capital to keep their facilities top rate is important to us, and to our fans," said Ramsey Poston, NASCAR spokesperson.

    The bill also includes an extension of expensing ruled for films and TV shows produced in the United States. At a cost to taxpayers of $162 million in 2011, the bill extends for two years the option of immediately deducting significant costs for most film or television productions.

    And don’t forget the rum industry. Included in the bill is a measure that would extend a complicated tax program involving rum revenues in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. It would cost taxpayers $235 million in 2011, and would help the Virgin Islands build a distillery to shift production of Captain Morgan from Puerto Rico.

    Daniel Ellsberg - "It was always a bad year to get out of Vietnam."

    by allenjo on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 04:37:00 PM PST

  •  Sadder yet (9+ / 0-)

    My grandkids don't even express the expectation of living better lives.  They expect to work hard and then work harder and know they may not see much positive result.

    Is that realism?  Or is it just killing ambition?

    To what should they aspire?  To work hard, to not be respected and then die broke and blamed for it?

    Maybe sitting around playing video games just dulls the pain of their dying dreams.

    DonnaSiCKO Tell your story at guaranteedhealthcare.org

    by donnasicko on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 04:37:29 PM PST

  •  I'm listening (0+ / 0-)

    to the senators on C-Span now, and so far, 2 Dems senators are voting No!

    http://c-span.org/...

    Daniel Ellsberg - "It was always a bad year to get out of Vietnam."

    by allenjo on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 04:38:55 PM PST

  •  Apparently the only thing Congress worries (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Willa Rogers

    about on the world stage is our ability to wage war because there is no apparent urgency or shame related to the myth of our love for our children.  Individuals love their children and the children of others, but the nation truly does not or we would concentrate on ways to inspire and aid them to be the best they can be.  The President has it right with school reform and child nutrition, but HIR as it stands and the current tax deal will certainly pull the rug out from under our kids' aspirations.  As a nation we seem to have hundreds of thousands of churches, clubs, organizations, codes and rules, but we have no shame.

  •  I like this union! (4+ / 0-)

    This is the union, National Nurses United (largest nurses' union) that came out, no holds barred, against the sellout Obama/Senate healthcare deal, back in December 2009.

    Nation's Largest Nurses Organization: Health Care Bill Cedes Too Much To Insurance Industry

    Now they are on the money (no pun intended) re the latest shite "deal," Obama/Dems' collusion in the Bush tax cut giveaway to the wealthy (or how to make the already obscenely wealthy wealthier, at the expense of the rest of us).

    Union leaders that kiss the hem of this White House/Democrats are hacks. Memo to those not paying attention amongst the middle and lower earners (and any wealthy with a conscience): The Democrats are just not that into us (the masses, we the people). That's putting it mildly. They are NOT our friends.

    This union, at least, stands up and speaks out as a union should.

    (Randi Weingarten, head of the AFT, by contrast, should should be forced to spend a year in the NNU's confines, as a condition of rehab. Who knows, maybe after a year or so she will come out making deals for her workers instead of Obama/Duncan... and earning her title as union head. She has been such a sell out. Obama's handmaiden in education deform, so far. So far, so bad.)

    Should a "progressive" Dem blog dwell in the safe zones of a tame party, or should it drive a tame party to break out?

    by NYCee on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 05:06:17 PM PST

    •  This is very off the wall but.... (0+ / 0-)

      Do you by any chance have a sister who's a nurse in Chico California?  I'm likely putting 2 and 2 together and getting 5, but thought I'd ask.

      "I was asked what I thought of the mainstream media. I said I thought it would be a good idea" - Amy Goodman.

      by Chico David RN on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 08:40:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, I dont. But I admire CA unions... (0+ / 0-)

        Like this one, which is joined by CA Nurses, Ive seen.

        I like the way they stood up to Mr Top Down imported chancellor Anthony Alvarado - and who was that superintendent (Berman?) - in San Diego. I like the way they stood against "value added" ... CA lost Race to the Top and some blame the unions for not caving in order to win (as Weingarten urges them to do) but I say, you lose, you win, when it comes to Obama's Race to the Top.

        I was appalled by what the LATimes did to 7,000 teachers, too, over the summer. The public shaming of them using that bogus student test data, no less. I was tearing my hair out, crying, reading letter after letter by my colleagues on the west coast, feedback letters, letters in their defense that the LAT "permitted" them to submit, after they had thoroughly trashed them on the front pages. How nice of them.Then one of their shamed teachers committed suicide. Rigoberto Ruelas. Dreadful... the toll neoliberal policies take on us. Obama's neoliberal policies.

        I loved how this union, NNU came out against the health plan, right away and without watering down their message. I love when unions fight back. I feel a lot of solidarity and admiration for the REAL fight exhibited by California working people and unions, in general. I am sure there are some crap unions, too, but overall, they deserve a big shout out and lots of support.

        I guess you could say they are all sisters (and brothers), in a certain way. Including those in "chico" :-)

        Should a "progressive" Dem blog dwell in the safe zones of a tame party, or should it drive a tame party to break out?

        by NYCee on Wed Dec 15, 2010 at 03:39:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  good thoughts (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NYCee

          I have a nurse friend here who has a relative who is an education activist in New York.  Hence the question.
          I don't keep fully up on the education issues - I pay attention to the broader parts, but not the details or personalities.  I'm more on the healthcare side of it as a nurse.  And I am proud to say, a member of the board of directors of CNA/NNOC, which is also the prime mover in NNU - the alphabet soup can get really confusing at times.
          I really appreciate your comments about our union.
          From an insider's perspective, I will say one thing:
          I've been on our board since 2003 and the executive board since 2005.  In that time, we have come up against a lot of heavy fights.  We run into conflict with other unions, with Arnold when he was the most popular political figure in America, with the largest insurance companies in the country and the largest hospital chains.  And every single time there has been a crisis and we have confronted the question of "what do we do about this?" - every time, the discussion always begins with "what's right?"  "What's in keeping with our principles?".
          Then once we settle that, we turn to strategy and tactics.  That's what keeps us real.  Too many unions and parties and individuals, start at the wrong end, with "What makes strategic sense?"  

          "I was asked what I thought of the mainstream media. I said I thought it would be a good idea" - Amy Goodman.

          by Chico David RN on Wed Dec 15, 2010 at 07:17:51 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Right on! You just keep on keepin on. (0+ / 0-)

            Such thinking as you describe should be the model for all unions' behavior and attitude. You nurses rock.

            I hope the CA teachers stay strong, too.

            In solidarity! ;-)

            Should a "progressive" Dem blog dwell in the safe zones of a tame party, or should it drive a tame party to break out?

            by NYCee on Thu Dec 16, 2010 at 12:19:30 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  In solidarity! You go NNU! eom (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    katnurseadvocate

    Should a "progressive" Dem blog dwell in the safe zones of a tame party, or should it drive a tame party to break out?

    by NYCee on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 05:07:04 PM PST

  •  and plaudits to nyceve and donnasicko (3+ / 0-)

    for continuing the fight for real healthcare reform, single payer.

    this report reminds us of why we still need to get there

  •  Thanks, NNU nurses for calling the question... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    katnurseadvocate

    and providing the valuable insight on the social evils affecting a vast segment of our community.

    The harmful influence of the Social Darwinist postulates, (who advocate for survival of the fittest), have curtailed the enactment of social reforms to assist the underprivileged since the beginning of the industrial age. The extreme right wingers and the so-called teabaggers seem hell-bent on continuing that horrific legacy.

    With the inception of modern nursing, progressive nurses like Lavinia Dock and Lillian Wald spoke truth to power; they challenged rule by the wealthy, inhumane competition, and political corruption as a way to improve society. They had a profound personal and professional ethic of social responsibility for the well-being of others.

    Nurses' values of caring, compassion and community compel us to seek a fairer and more just democracy. Nurses' advocacy for equal access to health care is conguent with those values. That's why we support the improvement and expansion of Medicare to cover all; it's our country's successful single-payer model of not-for-profit health care insurance.

    •  The most trusted profession........ (0+ / 0-)

      ....... is not our legislators.  Once again nurses have been voted the most trusted profession in our country.  Nurses see daily the results of the legislative "favors" given to the ultra-wealthy.  Lack of funding for the basic needs of society....with those dollars ending up in the bank accounts of the ultra-wealthy....the American Dream on steroids.  Thank you California Nurses Association...for unwaveringly standing up for social justice.  An excellent role-model for the rest of us.    

      To listen and truly hear is to learn.

      by katnurseadvocate on Wed Dec 15, 2010 at 11:58:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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