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U.S. missing the mark

Melvin B. Miller
U.S. missing the mark
“Boy, that attitude impedes improvement.” (Photo: Dan Drew)

It is sage advice not to rest on your laurels when you have a winning mode. An unfortunate arrogance can develop from being out front. Americans have every right to be pleased with the development of this country. The United States has become the world’s wealthiest industrial nation. However, issues raised in the campaigns for president as well as other current events indicate that the nation has numerous unresolved but critical problems.

The recent mass murder of patrons in a nightclub in Orlando, Fla. by an assailant armed with a semiautomatic rifle once again illustrates the consequences of Congress’ reluctance to restrict the ability of residents to obtain weapons of war. As the toll of gunshot deaths in the U.S. continues to grow, the carnage should be a source of national shame, and no cause for Americans to boast, “We are number one.”

According to FBI statistics there were 8,124 gunshot deaths in the U.S. in 2014. This is the highest death rate in the industrialized world. The possibility of being gunned down in Japan is relatively equivalent to being killed by lightning in America, according to a New York Times analysis. In New Zealand, the risk of being shot is equivalent to the hazard of death from falling from a ladder. And yet conservatives insist that the Second Amendment, which was drafted when the flintlock was at the forefront of rifle technology, prevents restrictions on the sale and possession of modern weapons of war.

While the battle over the Second Amendment rights has fatal consequences, the dispute over the nation’s wealth diversity determines which families can enjoy middle class status or better. America has 41.6 percent of the world’s wealth, which is concentrated among proportionately fewer people than is the case in other industrial nations.

The declining middle class in America has been a factor in gaining support for Donald Trump’s campaign for president. A major issue in Bernie Sanders’ campaign is to minimize the impact of the influence of the wealthy on the political process. Sanders has also been an advocate of programs to make higher education more affordable. The debt incurred by students acquiring a college education has climbed to $1.4 trillion, and that is a financial burden for students from families with a moderate income.

America can be proud of the quality of its colleges and universities, but the status of secondary education is substandard. The Program for International Student Assessment periodically tests 15-year-old students from various countries on math, science and reading. The effectiveness of the educational systems of the various nations is then determined by the results. The U.S. is outperformed by 29 nations in math, 22 in science and 19 in reading.

The top ten performing nations in order are Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Finland, Estonia, Switzerland, Netherlands and Canada. While some Americans are busy congratulating each other for being number one, the United States is losing ground in areas that matter.

The country cannot solve its problems unless citizens have the perception to understand the nature of the deficiencies and commit to policies likely to resolve them. Then the U.S. will be on the road to become truly number one.