American xceptionalism, bunk
The Truth About American Exceptionalism
America is exceptional but not in the way Republican Presidential candidates think
By David Morris
Recent research contradicts the fundamental tenet of American exceptionalism. A Brookings Institution report comparing economic mobility in the United States and other countries concludes, “…“Starting at the bottom of the earnings ladder is more of a handicap in the United States than it is in other countries.”
For Republican presidential candidates the phrase American Exceptionalism has taken on almost talismanic qualities. Newt Gingrich’s new book is titled, A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters. “American the Exceptional” is the title of a chapter in Sarah Palin’s book America by Heart.
The United States is also exceptional among industrialized nations not only in having by far the world’s most unequal income distribution but in believing that this inequality benefits us all, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.
In the last decade, while the top 1 percent of Americans saw their incomes rise, on average, by more than a quarter of a million dollars each, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined.
Another hobbling fundamental tenet of American exceptionalism is that we have nothing to learn from other countries. Why mess with God’s perfection? Back in the late 1980s I went to producers at Minneota’s public television station, TPT and proposed a show tentatively entitled, “What We Can Learn From Others”. They wondered what in the world I was smoking.
This sense of uniqueness has most clearly been reflected in our debates on national health care reform. In 1994 both the United States and Taiwan engaged in national debates about how their health care systems might be improved. To come up with the answers, Taiwan’s leaders visited about a dozen other countries to gain insights about the wide variety of existing national health system structures and used these insights to tailor a system adapted to their own needs. US leaders visited no other countries. The debate rarely even mentioned other countries except dismissively and usually inaccurately (e.g. Canadians cannot choose their own doctors). This occurred despite the overwhelming evidence that the US medical system is the most expensive, the least accessible and by many measures, one of the least well-performing of any in the industrialized world.
To make up for the decline in wages, Americans are working longer hours and taking on more debt just to make ends meet. Today Americans are at work 4-10 weeks longer than their counterparts in Europe. Forty million Americans lack health insurance and tens of millions more have health insurance with limited coverage.