Tag Archives: Canada

The State of the Union – – Candy-Coated Visions of US “Exceptionalism”

Unemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone

Today’s post comes from guest author Jay Causey, from Causey Law Firm.

           This short piece has nothing to do with workers’ compensation. It does have much to do with US workers. In the recent State of the Union speech, and its accompanying hoopla, President Obama and the Republican “counterpoint” presenters predictably extolled the underlying greatness of the good ol’ USA, essentially ignoring the primary rot to our nation that has occurred during my adult lifetime.

           Few in our national power structure – – either on the left or right – – want to acknowledge the devastating impact of income and asset inequality on our core social, economic, and political values. Occasional bursts of activity here and there to raise minimum wages to realistic levels chip around the edges of the problem. But until there is the political will to rebuild our decaying infrastructure, rethink our hemorrhaging defense budget, and massively transform our taxation scheme in this country, the future is not a rosy one.

           Some factoids underscoring the problem were recently outlined in Rolling Stone magazine:

  1. The amount of new income generated since 2009 going to the top 1%: 95%

  2. Financial wealth controlled by the bottom 60% of all Americans: 2.3%

  3. Record combined wealth of the top 400 richest Americans: $2 trillion

  4. Real decline in median middle-class incomes since 1999: $5000

  5. Federal minimum wage: $7.25

  6. What the minimum wage would be if it kept pace with worker productivity since 1968: $21.72

  7. Number of US workers earning at or below minimum wage: 3.6 million

  8. Taxpayer subsidies to the fast–food industry to pay benefits to fast-food workers earning poverty wages: $7 Billion

  9. US defense spending in 2012: $682 billion; amount spent by China, our nearest plausible military rival: $166 billion

  10.  Federal deficit in 2013: $680 billion

  11.  Official unemployment rate: 6.7%

  12.  Unemployment rate which includes Americans who have given up looking or only have part-time employment: 13.1%

           That there are at least some stirrings of recognition here and there of the corrosive effect of these conditions on our way of life is a somewhat hopeful sign. However, don’t count on the national media – – owned by six or seven behemoth corporations – – to elevate this conversation above the whispers and murmurs below. This issue usually only gets its attention, as recently occurred, when some clown–like multibillionaire capitalist equates complaints about the ultra-rich to the attacks on Jews in Nazi Germany. And every so often a former corporate “insider” or CEO will blow the whistle on his cronies, such as acknowledging that since 1950 the ratio of CEO to employee pay increased by 1000% and that these execs sit on the governing boards of companies dramatically underperforming against the market while they draw millions for the “value” of their “expertise.”  But, it will take a sea-change in the political representation of the economic underclass – – that is, of about 90 to 95% of the population – – before anything happens.   

           But we’re the greatest, aren’t we?! A Canadian journalist recently authored a book entitled Merger of the Century in which she proffered the merger of Canada with the United States as the solution to both countries’ problems. This thesis prompted another well-known Canadian columnist and author to react and observe some reasons not to take this course:

            “Over the past decade, the US has debased its currency and destabilized the world financial system, thanks to venal and incompetent Wall Street tycoons. Its foreign-policy has lost its way into costly wars that have made the world less safe, not more. American education and health care are both outrageously expensive and deliver relatively poor outcomes while its once–admired justice system has become a conveyor belt into the bloated and corrupt prison system. Absorbing Canada would be great for the US – – it would gain an immense source of natural resources and an infusion of some 34 million educated and law-abiding citizens. But Canada is by every measure a better–governed country than the US. So why would Canadians want to take such a great leap backward?”

           So, will the general public of this country actually find the willpower to insist we do what is needed to make the USA the truly exceptional place it was 50 years ago? Or are we just going to sit around mouthing the words and beating our chests about past glories?

 Photo credit: Unknown or not provided / Foter / Public Domain Mark 1.0

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Why is the US Still in the Asbestos Business?

This is another post by frequent contributor Jon L. Gelman who practices law in New Jersey. The post speaks for itself – shockingly the US has still not banned asbestos. We haven’t mined it here since 2002, but we import it from Canada. The fact of the matter is that, as Jon points out “the US imports 99% of the asbestos it consumes from Canada.” In 2010 that was over 1,000 metric tons.

The US still has not banned asbestos. The recently released US Geological Survey just published the latest statistics reporting that 1,040 metric tons of asbestos, a known carcinogen and the cause of mesothelioma, Continue reading

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