Sunday, October 31, 2010

U.S. Workers Far Behind Other Countries

U.S. workers far behind other countries

By Caleb T. Maupin
Published Oct 29, 2010 7:25 PM

The Central Intelligence Agency, a ruthless enforcer of Wall Street’s drive for profits, publishes “The World Factbook.” It gives updated statistics for every country, some of which measure quality of life and societal health, such as life expectancy, infant mortality, literacy, unemployment and industrial production. In this last of a series, some surprising facts are revealed, all using the CIA’s own statistics.

Proponents of U.S. capitalism call it the richest country in the world and use this to drum up patriotism and chauvinism. While it is true that there is more wealth in the U.S., it is mostly in the hands of a few and does not bring prosperity to the majority.

Even compared to most other imperialist countries, which also got rich from exploiting the labor and resources of much of the rest of the world, the U.S. is far behind in terms of life expectancy, literacy and infant mortality.

In France, Britain, Germany and other countries in the West, vast working class movements, often led by socialists and communists, won the use of some of the wealth for the people’s benefit. This was even truer when competition with the socialist countries of Eastern Europe and the USSR forced the rulers in the West to make concessions to the workers.

In Western Europe, mass movements after World War II won the implementation of national health care systems, free education from pre-school to college, long paid vacations, early retirement, and higher rates of union representation and workplace benefits. These came under attack once the USSR was dismantled. Yet even during the present economic crisis, when European governments are slashing social services and workers’ benefits, they are still at a much higher level than in the U.S.

The U.S. leads the way in promoting private health care, is trying to privatize public schools, and has a low minimum wage. As a result, the average person is less healthy and educated — and the statistics show it.

Canada, France, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Norway, Britain, Ireland and Germany have a higher life expectancy than the United States. This country is not “number one,” as many are led to believe, but is 49th in the world.

Even in relatively poor Greece, whose workers have been holding multiple general strikes to defend the reforms they had won, the average life expectancy is two years higher than in the United States. In Canada, people live 81.29 years on average compared to 78.24 years in the U.S.

According to the CIA Factbook, infant mortality in the U.S. averages 6.22 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births. (All figures given here are estimates for 2010.) All the West European countries with nationalized health care or single-payer insurance have fewer than five deaths per 1,000 live births. In France, where the workers take to the streets in militant demonstrations and sometimes lock up their bosses in defense of their jobs, there are 3.33 infant deaths per 1,000 live births — about half the infant death rate here.

The CIA has to admit that socialist Cuba, with 5.82 deaths per 1,000 live births, also has a lower infant mortality rate than the U.S., even though it started its socialist construction with an economy distorted by centuries of colonial and imperialist oppression.

It is clear that the “free market” policies of U.S. capitalists have been a disaster for the working class. If U.S. workers want a longer life expectancy and a lower infant mortality rate, both of which are signs of basic societal health, it is clear that they need to fight for their interests as a class. The capitalist propaganda that says demanding government action is “disrespectful” or “un-American” has clearly harmed the health of the people in this country.

In the current economic crisis, the U.S. capitalist government is seeking to cut back the minimal social programs that do exist. Only mass movements of the people can force concessions from the bosses and the government so life can get better, not worse, for working people.

As U.S. communists who organized workers during the Great Depression proclaimed, the workers need to understand that their choice is simple: “Fight or starve!”
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