Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Main discussion area is here. Reply to a message to continue a discussion thread, or create your own new Topics.
User avatar
fangz1956
Posts: 1124
Joined: 2007 Jul 07 10:16

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby fangz1956 » 2008 Feb 02 16:20

In 1995, Michael Parenti published a fine little book titled "Against Empire". This book deals with the realities of U.S global domination. Chapter 9 is devoted entirely to "the Thirld Worldlization of America". On page 170, Mr. Parenti writes:

Today, the conservative goal is the Third Worldlization of America, to reduce the U.S. populace to a Third World condition, having people work harder and harder for less and less. This includes a return to the "free market", free of environmental regulations, free of consumer protections, minimum wages, occupational safety, and labor unions, a market crowded with underemployed labor, so better to depress wages and widen profit margins. Conservatives also seek the abolition of human services and other forms of public assistance that give people some buffer against free market forces.

Page 171 states: With underemployment and poverty come the return of tuberculosis, homelessness, and hunger, and a sharp increase in the number of people who work at nonunion, low-paying, dead-end poverty-level jobs. Real wages have declined at least 10 percent in the last decade.


Whoa Nellie!!!! Let's take a real look at a few things. Consider Mr. Parenti's writings in light of the illegal immigration issue, the systematic busting of the labor unions, and healthcare in this country. I read a tiny little article buried somewhere the other day that stated that our illustrious Shrub wants to achieve a balanced budget by 2012 by cutting Medicare and Medicaid. Hmmmm.....................let's target and take away from the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. Consider also the influx of tainted foods and unsafe products from China.....the nation that bankrolls our debt. Pay close attention at the grocery store. The healthiest foods......fresh vegetables and fruits and whole grains.........are the most cost prohibitive items on the shelves for the average working American. The cheapest and most affordable dollar-wise are the foods that promote obesity and overall poor health. Ever wonder why a cake mix is generally cheaper than say 3 or 4 apples or oranges? why soda pop is cheaper than orange juice and milk?

Like the line from the Don Henley song says "we're partying fools in the autumn of our hey-day........"

This has been going on for a long time.

Imperialism has been the most powerful force in world history over the last four or five centuries, carving up whole continents while oppressing indigenous peoples and obliterating entire civilizations. Yet, empire as it exists todayis seldom accorded any serious attention by our academics, media commentators, and political leaders. When not ignored outright, the subject of imperialism has been sanitized, so that empires are called "commonwealths", and colonies become "territories" or "dominions". Imperialist military interventions become matters of "national defense", "national security", and maintaining "stability" in one or another region.

Against Empire......page 1


Now tell me......what are WE going to do to change this? Are you ready for a the National ID card or the coming of the Amero? Will we continue to vote for the lesser of two evils and maintain the status quo? Will we demand and require full and open accountability from the Federal Reserve (our own private central bank)? Will we hold our leaders accountable to the people? I doubt it very seriously. Even the rest of the world is not convinced that we want real change here. Maybe they are right. I was standing in line at the store the other day and watching as person after person bought their groceries on credit..................this should be a screaming red flag to this country but it goes on and on. I used to envy those folks with a multitude of credit cards at their disposal and the ability to buy all kinds of things and better groceries than I can. Not any more. I stood there feeling very grateful that my small purchase would be paid for in cash and no new debt incurred in the process.

And Wise One......thanks for the topic. You do realize that you have just opened up a huge can of worms, don't you?


:wink:
Ever looked at someone and thought "the wheel is turning but the hamster is dead"?

jjordan
Posts: 69
Joined: 2007 Jul 11 00:25

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby jjordan » 2008 Feb 02 16:57

Parenti says,
"Today, the conservative goal is the Third Worldlization of America, to reduce the U.S. populace to a Third World condition, having people work harder and harder for less and less.

Spoken as only a socialist could, in my opinion. We can argue about what is happening in the real world of American politics and economics, but this is most definitely not the conservative goal by any measure. Some of Parenti's extreme perspectives distort what wisdom he may otherwise have to offer.

User avatar
fangz1956
Posts: 1124
Joined: 2007 Jul 07 10:16

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby fangz1956 » 2008 Feb 03 08:52

Michael Parenti is considered one of the nation's leading progressive thinkers. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University in 1962, and has taught at a number of colleges and universities. His writings have been featured in scholarly journals, popular periodicals, and newspapers. Dr. Parenti lectures around the country on college campuses and before religious, labor, community, peace, and public interest groups.

Interesting how we jump to label progressive thinkers as radical or socialist. I think we do that when someone speaks a thought that challenges us to view things in another way............to step outside of our comfort zone of set thoughts and ideas and concepts. Do we immediately begin to stamp labels on those because they strike some chord of truth that we would prefer to ignore? Ah yes, ignorance IS bliss and reality is highly uncomfortable at times.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQv7oNdAYhg&feature =user

:wink:
Ever looked at someone and thought "the wheel is turning but the hamster is dead"?

jjordan
Posts: 69
Joined: 2007 Jul 11 00:25

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby jjordan » 2008 Feb 03 11:46

Fangz,
Stamping labels? I didn't say he was a "fat, ugly, ignorant socialist." I didn't mean socialist as a four letter word and I don't think Parenti himself would argue with that description. He might prefer the more Western, ear tickling, "ultra-progressive" moniker instead, but it seems to all boil down to the same thing. I think on the inaccuracy scale my calling him a Socialist pales in comparison to his suggestion that the goal of conservative thinking is to reduce the United States to a "third world condition." Some may make reasonable and compelling arguments suggesting "third worldlization" is happening. To say its the goal of conservative thought clearly reveals a socialist agenda, in my opinion. It would be akin to capitalists saying that the goal of progressives is to destroy the private sector so as to facilitate a complete government takeover of all the markets. I don't think that's the case either. Clearly, we all will argue about where the lines between private/public sector and centralization/decentralization of power should be drawn. Nevertheless, I think most Americans would align more with Adam Smith than Karl Marx. For Mr. Parenti, his opinions seem to indicate where his pendulum swings.

User avatar
Juggler
Posts: 673
Joined: 2007 Jun 11 03:51

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby Juggler » 2008 Mar 02 09:25

Image

User avatar
Uji
Posts: 411
Joined: 2008 Aug 01 10:10

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby Uji » 2008 Aug 07 10:45

Thing about third world countries is they are great if you've got money.

In Brazil, say, you can get as good health care and every other commodity as you can in a first-world country. You just gotta have the scratch to pay for it.

What you notice traveling in third-world countries, though, is the poor infrastructure -- crumbling roads, poor public conveniences, etc.

You combine those two and it's starting to sound a whole lot like the US today. All the US lacks is the hordes of obviously dirt-poor folks you see in the third world. But even that is changing, here. Poverty is more and more obvious. (Just visited some relatives in Mississippi. Driving through the rural part of that state is something!)

The term Republic -- which we used to use to describe our country -- means "for the public good." Interesting that we so seldom use that term anymore.

10thFO

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby 10thFO » 2008 Aug 07 16:33

WiseOne and Uji I take acception to the reflection to a 3rd world country. Been to a couple in my life. Matter of fact when I served in the Army. Let's just say that I deal with some of the destitute of America these days. I also deal with a bunch of young people that have decided that stealing copper is an easier way of getting money to get high with. When I was in Somalia and they had no wire for electricity it was because the thieves had stolen it to buy guns on the black market to get into power. The meth problem in the united states is something that is being swept under the rug, but people aren't stealing copper wire to pay bills with, no they could care to craps less about paying their bills the one's stealing it are the drugheads looking for their next high.

Being in Somalia and Haiti and seeing what their infrastructure looks like, does not even come close to resembling the issues with America's roads and infrastructure. I'm sorry, but that is not even a plausible relation.

The worst states in the country are the northern states that take such a beating with the harsh winters. In the south and midwest, I have really found very few issues with road
And when I go to NY state and they are paying at least .50 more for a gallon of gas, and 2.50 per pack more for cigarettes, and the property taxes in the rural parts of the state are 8 times what they are in Lexington, then I see some of this is self inflicted by states like NY. If you don't like VA roads then maybe we need to raise taxes a little, but the inordinant amount of taxes that NY "taxpaying" residents are burdened with is unfathomable to most people in the other 49 states.

Then again, if it weren't for their unions, teachers, cops, state employees, and their luscious retirements they wouldn't be paying 7.5% in sales tax and schools taxes out the ying yang.

User avatar
Uji
Posts: 411
Joined: 2008 Aug 01 10:10

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby Uji » 2008 Aug 07 20:39

My third-world experience was a little more upscale -- Mexico and Central American.

You are right, much worse even there. Can't imagine what Somalia must be like.

Anyway, thanks for the reality check. Your right, a comparison with the 3rd world is stretching it a bit.

User avatar
Wise One
Posts: 1913
Joined: 2007 Nov 02 09:33

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby Wise One » 2008 Aug 07 21:48

10thFO wrote:WiseOne and Uji I take acception to the reflection to a 3rd world country.
There is no need to take exception, because I don't say we are a 3rd world country.

I said, "I don't think we are quite there yet, thankfully, but I'm very disturbed by the trends. As compared to other countries in the First World we seem to be losing altitude, fast. Most indices of US economic success, as compared to western European countries, show we are in rapid decline. The dollar has lost so much value that many of us are economic prisoners in our "homeland", hardly able to afford travel to other First World countries. Investment in public facilities and pride in their use has plummeted, there being only a single criterion for a new building, "How cheap can we build it?""

So, I'm disturbed by the direction we are traveling, if not where we are at the moment.

I remember vividly my first trips to Europe, very stimulating and interesting and yet all comparisons of affluence, modernity, how well things generally worked, etc. were decidedly favorable to America. Now when I travel to Europe, the opposite impression obtains, and it is something of a letdown to re-enter a country that looks shabby and run-down in comparison to many European destinations.

For now, I live with it happily, but I can't say that my decision would be the same in another 20 years, if we keep on in the same direction.

:| For our childrens' sake, something needs to change. :|
"If your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like Donald Trump."

User avatar
Uji
Posts: 411
Joined: 2008 Aug 01 10:10

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby Uji » 2008 Aug 08 09:08

I'm with you WiseOne. Wrong direction for sure. Just some random data from the UN and CIA web sites:

    In the world, the U.S. ranks 4th in GDP, yet 92nd in distribution of wealth (UN). Our top 5% live better than anywhere in the world, and yet the bottom 25% live worse than in countries such as Greece.

    We have the most expensive medical system in the world, yet are 37th in quality of care (WHO).

    Our infant mortality rate is higher than any developed country. Higher than Cuba and Greece, too. (CIA)

    Our life-expectancy is lower than most developed countries. Lower than Puerto Rico, for instance. (We just beat Cuba and Albania but only by a year or two.) (CIA)

Pretty sad, considering. Yet, we're not Somalia. Somhow, not being Somalia is not a great comfort to me. I wonder if my grand children will take much comfort in that?

The obvious question is what do we spend our great wealth on? The answer is equally clear. It's an equally great shame.

10thFO

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby 10thFO » 2008 Aug 09 09:06

Yet strangely enough, I don't see people trying to flee this country, to immigrate to another of the "supposed better ones". You can use statistics all day. We use a good portion of GDP on our defense, and other by products of being this great country. Do I think we need to make some changes? Yes, but not to more socialistic ones. I believe that is wherein lies the problems we are starting to face today. Too many free handouts, whether they be to other countries or to lazy people not wanting to work. The perception of some of our youth, went from a hand up to a hand out long ago. And it's not getting any better.

As for the defense, there may come a time where we need it or where we don't, but just looking at the sheer number of Chinese should give one pause. They are a true power now, and when the day comes where there are more people than sustainable food, then people will begin fighting for it.

User avatar
Wise One
Posts: 1913
Joined: 2007 Nov 02 09:33

A low, low Bar

Postby Wise One » 2008 Aug 09 11:50

10thFO wrote:... I don't see people trying to flee this country, to immigrate to another of the "supposed better ones".
Sigh. Those who would deny reality up to the day that we see the citizenry fleeing as refugees from America, are shortsighted in the extreme. Think Ostrich ...

And, in a sense, you are wrong even about that. I see more and more young people leaving this country to take jobs elsewhere because economic opportunity is growing in other places even as it shrinks here. My own daughter just took a 2 year job in the United Arab Emirates, in field that is nearly impossible to find employment here.

10thFO wrote:You can use statistics all day.
Used properly, they illuminate reality. Ideologues are very uncomfortable with that because facts are so very inconvenient to ideological fairy tales.

10thFO wrote:... just looking at the sheer number of Chinese should give one pause. They are a true power now ...
Thank you for acknowledging this reality. What ideologues miss is that the rise of China, and its emergence as a world power, lies in its decision to invest its resources more in economic infrastructure than in military arms. Durable power flows from economic success.

That is why we take China is seriously as an economic competitor and a potential military power. North Korea, which invests more in its military and less in its people and economic infrastructure, is not. America has been trending in the direction of the North Korea model for much too long, President Eisenhower's prescient warning notwithstanding.
"If your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like Donald Trump."

User avatar
Uji
Posts: 411
Joined: 2008 Aug 01 10:10

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby Uji » 2008 Aug 09 12:46

CoonDog makes a good point on another thread: let's not take ourselves too seriously. Problem is, if you take what you are talking about seriously, it's sometimes hard not to sound like you take yourself seriously, too. So, CoonDog, if I can think of a good joke while writing this, I'll use it. Until then...

10thFO wrote:You can use statistics all day.
I'm not sure what you mean by this? Are the facts of the matter not relevant to the discussion? If not, there is no point to a discussion. If they are, statistics at least give us some base line.

For example: Why aren't people emigrating? Well, they are. According to the census bureau, in 2006 over 311,000 U.S. citizens are emigrating to other countries each year. In 1995, the average was 268,000/year. That's an increase of 16% or so. So -- in fact, not supposition -- more people are emigrating from this country each year. (Or maybe not, that would depends on the rate the population grew over that same period). You're right, statistics don't prove anything, but these statistics at least suggest that, contrary to your assumption, more people might be leaving than were just a decade ago.

In any event, this is something that's knowable. Shouldn't we try to "know it"? Wouldn't that help each of us understand the issue better?

As to "too many free handouts"... I'm not sure what you mean. "Too many" for you, clearly; but as the world power, our handouts are pretty meager. Here are some statistics on Foreign Aid (as percentage of GDP): Denmark:52%, Netherlands:38%, Austria:36%, Norway: 33% , Japan: 29%, Sweden:28%,Belgium:23%, Canada:23%, Ireland:22% , Switzerland: 21%, France:18%, Finland:18%, Germany:18%, Australia:14%, New Zealand:13%, United Kingdom:9%, Italy:8%... and finally, in 18th position, the United States: 3%. Denmark spends almost 18 times as much on foreign aid (as percentage of GDP) as the US. And of that US foreign aid, the most (by percentage) goes to Israel, Egypt, and Pakistan.

    "Too many free handouts, whether they be to other countries or to lazy people not wanting to work. The perception of some of our youth, went from a hand up to a hand out long ago. And it's not getting any better."
I understand that you don't like socialism, but who are you talking about? Who are all these lazy people. How condescending would you have considered this comment if I had made it?

And being against "socialism," will you reject your social security, medicade and medicare benefits on principle? Will you refuse to ride on any publicly funded roads and bridges? Will you refuse to use your publicly subsidized electricity or fill your tanks with public subsidized gasoline? If you get city water, will you refuse to use it since publicly subsidized? Will you refuse to patronize Walmart and other business that receive public subsidies to open? Will you refuse to call your publicly subsidized Fire Department when your publicly subsidized heating oil starts a fire in your publicly subsidized sub-division?

This is all "socialism" -- by definition. So, is this "good" socialism? If so, what is the socialism you don't like? Is it the sort that goes to all those "lazy people not wanting to work, and to the youth who want a "hand out" instead of a "hand up." Doesn't that sound a littler ego-centric.

"As for the defense, there may come a time where we need it or where we don't, but just looking at the sheer number of Chinese should give one pause. They are a true power now, and when the day comes where there are more people than sustainable food, then people will begin fighting for it."
The only countries that spend a greater percent of their GDP on defense than the US (4.06%), are third-world countries, with the one exception of China (4.3%) And we're not spending that money on "defense" at the moment, but on the occupation of Iraq -- an occupation that makes us less safe and more defense-less everyday it continues. That, while China is building up its military infrastructure. China can create an army as large as the entire population of the US, and still have plenty left home to man the wok. So what are you suggesting? How do we compete against this threat? Do you think that we can build enough bombs and draft enough men, women, and children to counter that sort of military threat? The solution would seem to be that we spend that time and money creating the technologies and the know-how to make sustainable energy and agricultural commodities that might mitigate the danger you see looming in the future.

Q: So what's the last thing that goes through a bug's mind when he hits your windshield?
(pause, for effect)
A: His a-hole.

User avatar
Wise One
Posts: 1913
Joined: 2007 Nov 02 09:33

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby Wise One » 2008 Aug 09 13:55

Uji wrote:... statistics on Foreign Aid (as percentage of GDP): Denmark:52% ...
Looks like your decimal point got shifted or something for these. I looked at CIA fact book and got $2.236 billion/ 203.7 billion = 1.1%. (US = $23.53 billion/ $13840 billion = 0.17%)

Your rankings look plausible.

Uji wrote: ... percent of their GDP on defense US (4.06%), China (4.3%)
Thanks for giving this. If CIA is right, then I am simply wrong, and the China proportion is much higher than I thought it to be. A question, though ... are there any structural accounting differences? For example, are state police forces in the China budget, while police are clearly outside the US federal budget?
"If your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like Donald Trump."

User avatar
Uji
Posts: 411
Joined: 2008 Aug 01 10:10

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby Uji » 2008 Aug 10 13:04

Thanks WiseOne. I'm sure the Danes are a very generous people -- but 52% GDP . . .

10thFO

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby 10thFO » 2008 Aug 10 20:30

My point about statistics, is that you can usually find one to back your position if you look long enough. They are sort of like opinions nowadays, seems we all have some. I'm sure most of the statistics that are thrown out on the internet and in the news, could be questioned for authenticity very easily. That was my only point about statistics.

As for socialist handouts to businesses? and for roads? I grant that there can be good in every action, but as we have become accustomed to seeing, their is also a lot of waste as well. Most of it not well regulated, then when it comes to light, we scratch our heads and wonder how in the hell they get away with it in the gov't, cause if we did it in our work we'd be looking for other employment.

I see fraud quite frequently when it comes to social programs such as welfare, and SSI, and SSDI. I make sure I report those that I feel are in violation, mostly people living together, using their maiden names to qualify for food stamps when their SO is working but they fail to report they are actually living with a working person, which puts them over the threshold for income. Also the people that are on Disability that I see working basically full time jobs for cash money.

As for the immigration? Would be interesting to see just who is leaving? are these people that had already immigrated here? Does this take into account for the number of illegals that are still coming in. Does the statistics for those leaving and the percentage increase take into consideration a spike in the population from what it was a decade ago.
That is my problem with most statistics that people will use in a forum on the internet, or in a letter to the paper. You can take them out of context, or they can be taken out of the context of a reality that does exist. Statistics may give you a baseline to start a discussion, but in all fairness, the baseline shouldn't move just to suit the point of the argument, no?

User avatar
Uji
Posts: 411
Joined: 2008 Aug 01 10:10

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby Uji » 2008 Aug 11 11:09

Good point, 10thFO. And it's so easy to make mistakes, too. (Like my over-generosity to the Danes!)

As to emigration: I think that the majority of emigrants are "foreign-born." Sounds like they are folks that immigrated here, got citizenship, accomplished whatever they needed to accomplish here (education, earn monry, etc.) and then moved on to some other nation state. So, as you say, it would be possible to use these same statistics to support your point about emigration, I'll bet. So statistics don't prove anything -- or rather, they can be used to prove anything. But at least they give us a place to start talking about the problem. I'll bet if we talked a problem long enough to agree on the statistics, that we would reach consensus on the problem as well.

Waste is certainly damaging. The question is whether or not opposing "socialism" in general is the best way to solve that problem. Why not just oppose waste? Maybe the problem isn't the social program, but the way it's administered?

It seems that many Euro-socialist countries are now electing more conservative governments. This seems to have a lot to do with immigration and anti-EU nationalism -- at least as much as dissatisfaction with big government. But one might be able to make a case that many socialist countries are having second thoughts about big-time socialist schemes. But not about the big programs--everyone complains about the National Health Service (in the UK and Canada, for example), but you'll be hard pressed to find many people who want to go back to a US-style private health system.

Anyway, I feel like we already understand each other better on this one. That's got to be better than what usually happens in these sort of discussions.

User avatar
Wise One
Posts: 1913
Joined: 2007 Nov 02 09:33

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby Wise One » 2008 Aug 12 09:42

Uji wrote:I think that the majority of (US) emigrants are "foreign-born."

Have you found any evidence for this?

PS, note added. Just did a search, and here's what I found.

According to this reference, estimating native born emigration is technically difficult and likely to be imprecise, but they got 18,000 per year in the last decade of the 20th century.

(Note: since the W. Bush debacle, this number has increased significantly as our economy, relative to the rest of the world, started going to hell.)
"If your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like Donald Trump."

User avatar
Uji
Posts: 411
Joined: 2008 Aug 01 10:10

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby Uji » 2008 Aug 12 12:22

The numbers I found agree with yours. About 300k emigrants, with the vast majority "foreign" born. Don't know what that means.

User avatar
Amy Probenski
Posts: 443
Joined: 2007 Aug 28 17:06

Re: Is America becoming a Third World Country?

Postby Amy Probenski » 2008 Sep 12 10:11

On 10 Sep 2008 in the News-Gazette Winston Davis wrote:Health Insurance In Canada

Whenever I meet people from a country with a national health insurance program, I make a point to ask them whether they are satisfied with the health care they receive. Over the years, I have heard foreigners gripe about their health care, but I have yet to meet anyone who rejects the idea of national health insurance as such.

When we were in Toronto this summer, I quizzed several Canadians about the Canadian program. Canada’s system is especially important for Americans to consider, even though it is routinely misrepresented by the lobbyists of large American pharmaceutical companies and attacked by American politicians who are in the pockets of these companies. The Canadian program, they tell us, is “socialized medicine” at its worst.

If that’s so, why are Canadians so proud of their system? A survey was recently conducted asking them what makes Canadians proud to be Canadians. The first choice of most Canadians was their health care system itself, a onepayer system in which the government itself covers nearly all costs.

Canadians realize that, like medicine in the United States, their health care system has its shortcomings. But the problems they see are not the ones we hear about in this country. Most Canadians are not overly concerned about having to wait a few months to get a knee replacement. (Recently, the wait has gone down to five and a half months. People with urgent needs are “bumped up” and put at the head of the line).

Another problem is that each province has its own system. This, however, does not prevent the system from operating effectively at the national level. If a woman from British Columbia breaks her hip in Montreal, the BC plan pays for everything — ambulance, surgery, hospital bills and drugs.

A more serious problem is the shortage of doctors. To a great extent, this is a selfinflicted wound. A few years ago, Canadian authorities reduced the number of students admitted to medical school in order to reduce costs. This, coupled with the emigration of many doctors and nurses to the United States (where they could make more money), created a shortage of doctors.

Most Canadians think that the discrepancy between health care received in cities and that in rural areas is a more serious problem than wait lists for elective surgery. A woman I know who moved from Toronto to Niagara-on-the- Lake was unable to find a new personal physician for five years. Now that she has found her own doctor, she is quite satisfied with the care she receives. I should point out, however, that if she had become ill during these five years, she could always have gone to the emergency room for help.

To deal with the doctor shortage, Canada has now increased the number of students graduating from its medical schools. Canada also makes use of qualified doctors, nurses and pharmacists from other countries. Routine physicals are performed by nurse practitioners and midwives take charge of uncomplicated deliveries. Well, why not?

Another problem is the rationing of costly experimental treatments for serious diseases such as cancer. The only difference between the Canadian and the American systems on this score is that in Canada, the Ministry of Health makes these decisions, while in the United States they are made by insurance companies concerned about their own bottom line.

Medicine is cheap nowhere. Someone has to pay for it. To help pay the bills — and avoid the demographical trap of an aging population that has countries like Japan in its grip — Canada has turned to immigration. About 400,000 people immigrate to Canada every year, 8,000 of them going to Toronto alone. (Another three million are on the waiting list). New Canadians help to keep the system viable for older Canadians.

Most Canadians are willing to pay higher taxes so that health care will be available to all. Canadians used to pay about 42 percent of their income in taxes. Recently this has gone down to 37.5 percent. That’s higher than most of us pay in this country. But Canadians get something for their tax dollars — not just new prisons, more military bases and one war after another.

I haven’t done the math, but it seem to me that if you add up what Americans pay in taxes for Medicare and Medicaid, pharmacy bills, health insurance premiums, co-pays, payments for items not covered by insurance plans, and surcharges demanded by physicians-on-the-take, there probably is not much difference in the total cost whichever system you choose.

The real difference is that in Canada health care is considered a community responsibility and a personal right. Since care is based on need and not the ability to pay, a medical misfortune does not have to turn into an economic disaster. That is an achievement for which Canadians have reason to be proud. We can learn from their experience.