By: Raúl Zibechi
Los most diverse analyses about the United States elections agree on one point: the current electoral campaign has been history’s most polarized and conflictive. First was the confrontation in the Democratic Party primaries between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, and later between the former Secretary of State and Donald Trump.
What the electoral campaign shows is a social body torn apart as a consequence of a politics that has concentrated the power and money in 1% of the population. Three decades of policies sponsored by the neoconservatives are at the basis of the social schism, which translates into an impoverishment of the middle classes, the deterioration of social services and the quality of life of 80% of the population. On the international level, there are thirty years of wars of medium and high intensity to maintain the superpower status that, nevertheless, have accelerated the decadence.
As history teaches, external enemies do not defeat the great empires; rather it’s the internal wear and tear that with time leads to the break and leaves them disarmed versus their external enemies. The United States not only suffers the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, but also from a much more destructive process, which is the persistent deterioration of its institutions, the population’s health care, the quality of education and the production of goods and services, and they provoke convulsive and violent relations within the society.
Some indicators testify to that. The life expectancy rate has been increasing behind that of other developed countries and today the United States places 37th in the world, ranking behind the majority of European countries and also behind Chile, Cuba and Costa Rica. Countries that start with levels inferior to that of the proclaimed superpower, like those of Mediterranean Europe (Portugal, Greece and Spain), overcame them because they have superior health services and healthier food habits.
The consumption of hard drugs has shot up among the middle classes, with a strong incidence in the decaying industrial cities. Deaths due to a heroin overdose in the United States multiplied four times since 2002, to the point that more people die from an overdose than from traffic accidents. The most notable change has been that new consumers are, in the immense majority, whites, different from what happened previously. “It’s not like the sixties now, when, upon thinking about heroin addiction, you thought about the ghetto, about poor blacks,” say the professionals that edited the report of the Boonshoft School of Medicine, in Ohio. Now the consumption of heroin affects the country’s industrial belt, where hundreds of factories have closed and entire neighborhoods have been abandoned. According to official data, all social sectors registered decreases in incomes, up to 17% among the poorest and 10% in the middle classes, although wealth continues to concentrate in the richest 1%. One of the consequences of generalized impoverishment is that half of the 25-year old population lives with their parents because they are not able to live independently, versus 25% in 1999. The weight of the financial sector in the GDP has doubled in five decades.
But the most frightening data is related to the health of Americans. One Princeton University study, in which the Nobel Prize winner for economics Angus Deaton participated, assures that the mortality rate of middle-aged whites belonging to the disappeared middle class, has gone up in the last 20 years. A half million people of between 45 and 54 years died because of cirrhosis, suicide, alcohol and drugs, an indicting situation that had never affected demographic groups in developed countries, with the exception of the AIDS epidemic.
The mortality rate for the white population of that age group has been dropping 2% annually in the principal developed countries, but in the United States it increased a half point every year since 1998. One must look for the causes in the deterioration of the physical and mental health of that population group that is made visible in the increase of chronic pain that affects one of every three middle class whites, which makes it impossible to do daily tasks, walking, climbing stairs or having relations with friends. The breaking of the social fabric that the economic policy of the 1% has provoked is translating into a political crisis that drags on the country’s principal institutions, something never seen in periods of peace.
India’s ambassador Neelam Deo, director of the Indian Council on Global Relations, a think tank, writes: “These elections also demonstrate the absolute decline in the people’s confidence in the Government, in the democratic institutions and in the corporations, because the companies were rescued, the big banks were rescued, but the common people lost their homes, after having been deceived with mortgages.” The lack of confidence, she says, encompasses the big media. “More than ever there is a drop in the confidence in the communications media, which is becoming even more profound,” Neelam emphasizes.
According to the Global Times of China editorial on October 17, the principal U.S. media lost all objectivity, since “they have strongly promoted Trump’s insulting comments against women, while only scratching the surface of Clinton’s email scandals.” The Communist daily assures that: “of the country’s 100 principal daily newspapers, 30 give their support to Clinton and none to Trump. But in the two previous elections, in 2012 and 2008, support for the Democrat and Republican candidates was 41:35 and 65:25, respectively.”
The social crisis and the political crisis feed on each other and everything indicates that it’s going to deepen in the coming years. Beyond who wins on November 8, the damage is already done and the convulsive electoral campaign has done nothing more than to deepen it.
Monday, November 7, 2016
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee