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Social Justice in America

2011 October 31

United States Ranks near Bottom for
Social Justice Among 31 OECD Nations

“We are slowly — and painfully — being forced to realize that we are no longer the America of our imaginations,” writes Charles M. Blow, New York Times op-ed columnist. “We sold ourselves a pipe dream that everyone could get rich and no one would get hurt.”
            Today we’re facing the brutal reality that, while a few have gotten very rich, most of the rest of us are feeling the pain — and some have been hurt very badly indeed. Blow cites a recent report of the Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation which rates member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on eight measures of social justice and economic equality (see graph): poverty among children, seniors, and overall poverty; measures to prevent poverty; equality or inequality of income; expenditures on primary education; healthcare inclusiveness, defined as the disparity of quality and outcomes between the highest and lowest-income citizens; and “intergenerational justice.”           
            On four of the OECD measures (and in the overall rating), the United States ranked in the bottom five out of 31 countries. On three measures we ranked in the bottom ten, and on one measure, in the bottom fifteen. On no measure of social justice did we rank even in the top half of the OECD member countries. We are fifth from the bottom overall.
            “Intergenerational justice,” the one measure on which the U.S. managed to almost make it to the middle of the pack, is defined in the report as follows: “Includes family and pension policies, environmental policies, and assessment of political-economic well-being established for future generations.” I assume these data were compiled before the right wing began to slice away at our social safety net, not to mention the belief we used to have that we would be able to pass on a better life to our children.

“We have not taken care of the least among us. We have allowed a revolting level of income inequality to develop. We have watched as millions of our fellow countrymen have fallen into poverty. And we have done a poor job of educating our children and now threaten to leave them a country that is a shell of its former self. We should be ashamed.”
                                   — Charles M. Blow, New York Times

(Illustration from Bertelsmann website.)

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