That’s how I feel about a USAToday opinion about the Philippines election results. The first paragraph caused my jaw to drop:
Any Americans who hold out the faint hope that our our onetime colony the Philippines might yet drag itself out of an unending cycle of poverty, corruption and violence must now bet on the long odds that newly elected President Benigno Aquino III will act against the best interests of his elitist class.
That statement is a perfect example of American arrogance about the state of America. In my view, a comparison between the U.S. and the Philippines on all four measures (poverty, corruption, violence and elitist class) is not a slam dunk for the U.S.
Let’s start with elitism. Yes, there is an elite in the Philippines and it has political power. So what? There’s one in the U.S. too and guess what….it has political power. Can you believe that?
Who do you think is in Congress representing “we, the people?” Not “Joe the Plumber” that’s for sure. Let’s see…about 1% of the country is a millionaire. In Congress, 44% are millionaires. Hmmm….seems like Congress is a just a wee bit elitist and out of touch with Main Street. That’s why “Joe the Plumber” gets a lot of media attention. Few of our representatives go grocery shopping.
And just who is Congress looking out for? “We the people”? Or, the special interests such as Wall Street and Big Oil? The financial bailout and the Deepwater Horizon are Exhibits A and B that Congress is not looking out for “we, the people.” Only after “it” hits the fan (or the beaches) do the politicians begin posturing when they should have been preventing.
Then, there’s violence. It’s not clear whether the reference is to political violence or general societal violence. Yes, there’s both types of violence in the Philippines. I’ll concede that political violence is higher in the Philippines. (But you have to admit: nothing works as well to literally “thin out” the opposition as lobbing a hand grenade onto a stage with numerous opposition party candidates.)
I’m not knowledgeable about the current level of general societal violence. But I felt much safer when I lived in the Philippines than I do in this country. How many school massacres have you read about in the Philippines? How can you not feel safe walking in downtown Manila when there is armed private security in front of every store? Anyone trying a “snatch and run” would face a few dozen drawn pistols before he got even 25 yards.
Bank robbery? Unlikely. When we there in 1995, here’s how a bank visit worked: Two guards outside the entrance with pump shotguns. Door is opaque with bullet proof glass and a deadbolt. Inside, at least two more guards with military grade automatic weapons.
In the U.S., banks get robbed regularly by folks claiming they have a weapon. Clerks meekly hand over the cash without seeing a weapon. Ridiculous! (No wonder my wife’s bank is robbed about once every three months.)
Then, there’s corruption. Anyone want to take the position there’s no corruption in the U.S.? I’ve lost count of how many dozens of Florida city and county officials have been indicted, especially for bribery in zoning change decisions. Last year, the Florida House Speaker had to resign for improprieties involving a college building that was actually going to be an aircraft hangar for a developer and major GOP donor. Let’s not leave out judicial corruption. I doubt it’s any different in any other state.
And don’t get me started on corruption at the federal level. Especially at the “street” level, where drugs are involved. From my perspective, this country is as corrupt as the Philippines. (If you consider the dollar value involved with the corruption, I’d think the U.S. is the “winner.”)
As I noted in a recent post, the only difference between corruption in the Philippines and the U.S. is that I could afford it in the Philippines but I cannot afford it here. Another example of how the middle class in this country is getting screwed. (My populist vote will go to any politician that promises to make petty corruption affordable to the middle class!)
Finally, there is poverty. It’d be easy to assume that a Third World country like the Philippines has lots of poverty. That is true, but consider that the government doesn’t have a lot of financial ability to address it.
Yet, one of the richest countries in the world has a level of poverty that would surprise you. Did you know that the U.S. child poverty rank among 18 industrialized countries is the highest? Yes, we are #1 in that unenviable category.
And, among the 20 countries (all European except for the U.S. and Japan) in the world belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. has the highest poverty rate, the highest rate of permanent poverty, and the second highest elderly poverty rate. (My source is here.) Which is the greater tragedy: a country that has poverty but can do little about it or a country that has poverty and does little about it for ideological reasons?
Methinks the writer is throwing stones in America’s glass house.