A Picture of American Exceptionalism is Worth a Thousand Words

May 27, 2011
Do you know how the United States compares to other developed countries in categories that really matter?

There are those who are proud that the United States is exceptional. There is even a movement in which political figures praise the “exceptionalism” of our country. While I agree that there are some ways in which I am particularly proud of our country, there are other ways in which I feel we have no room for pride.

Then the other day I received an email from Marilyn Strong and Jerry Wennstrom, a couple whose website, In the Hands of Alchemy, offers inspiration to those who appreciate creative art and poetry.

The subject line said, “A Picture is Worth a 1000 words.” When I opened it, I discovered charts that absolutely fascinated me. I think they may be of interest to you as well.

Especially at a time when many in Congress are determined not to “burden” the rich, I believe the first chart, that of the comparative pay of CEOs to the average worker says a great deal about our values.

Is this the kind of exceptionalism we want the world to follow? I am not sure where the charts originally came from, but I believe that whoever made them won’t mind if I copy them here. David Morris has a blog called Defending the Public Good and that is where  Marilyn and Jerry found it. I imagine he got it from another source that had research capabilities.

After you’ve scrolled down through them, I would like to know what other comparisons you would like to know between us and other developed countries.

Here is my question for you to ask yourself and others: If we claim to be a Christian country, how are our values reflected in these figures?

There are ten of these charts below. Maybe that’s more than you want to view, but scroll down and see my suggestions for other comparisons.

Chart showing comparison of CEO pay to average worker in 5 countries

Chart showing comparison of percent of income received by top .1% in five countries

Comparison of military expenditures in five countries

Chart comparing social spending by five countries on families

Comparison of the percentage of prisoners per population for five countries

Comparison of population experiencing homelessness in five countries

Comparison of murder rates in five countries

Comparison of infant mortality among five countries

Comparison of health care costs in five countries

Comparison of children living in poverty in five countries

Do you know other areas in which comparisons would show the United States in a favorable light? For example, how about the number of people who attend college? What about the number of businesses opened by new entrepreneurs? The number of parks set aside for the public? The number of people who own their own homes (of course, there foreclosures would make it difficult to figure)? The number of people who make charitable contributions to those who are less well off? The percentage of people who attend church regularly or who have a spiritual practice they regularly follow?

If you know any of these or other comparisons, I would love to hear from you.

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Can Both Left and Right Win?

April 25, 2011
Finally someone is thinking outside the box to bridge the gap between left and right.

For several days I had ignored the emails. They came from Rick Raddatz and had subject lines like: LIVE Q&A About Win/Win Revolution. I ignored them because I was sure they were just more of the sales pitches for marketing with the latest “secret” techniques.

Then an email came with the subject line of: An end to “LEFT” vs “RIGHT.” As I prepared to toss it into the delete folder, for some reason I decided to read it. This is what it said:

Hi Rick Raddatz here.

On Friday at 9pm local time we launched http://WinWinRevolution.org

The response has been overwhelming!

As proof, check out the quantity and quality of testimonials below. [In the email]

And please notice how the testimonials come from ALL POINTS in the political spectrum.  That means this is REAL. [These were truly impressive; from Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Progressives, and Libertarians.]

The Win+Win Revolution will CHANGE EVERYTHING.

It’s just a matter of time.

So please visit http://WinWinRevolution.orgright now, watch the video, and then forward this email to everyone you know.

When I clicked on the link, I saw that the video was 23 minutes long — much too long just to see what it might mean. But for some reason I started watching and became intrigued.

Rick Raddatz’s idea about politics was definitely thinking out of the box. I was so impressed that I’ve decided to tell you about it. And rather than try to explain it to you, I suggest you go there and watch at least five minutes of it.

If you have despaired of ever getting our country (or friends and others who can’t seem to see things the way we do) to agree on how to to limit the scope of government, reduce the deficit, and yet care for the truly needy, I believe this may just be a way to do it.

I would like to know what you think, but mostly I would like you to know about this new perspective on our politics. It will take awhile to put into action, but I believe it has potential.

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A Note to Congress on Tax Day

April 15, 2011
What comments would you include in your tax return?

Just a quick note before my friend comes to give me a massage. Can’t remember when I last had one and April 15 sounds like a good time to start getting them again.

As a break after all your tax preparation efforts, I’d like to share a note someone sent me before the budget compromise was squeezed through congress this week. It is still a good one and makes me wonder what I would write to either my elected officials or the IRS.

Dear Congress,

Last year I mismanaged my funds and this year my family and I cannot decide on a budget. Until we have come to a unified decision that fits all of our needs and interests, we will have to shut down our checkbook and will no longer be able to pay our taxes. I’m sure you’ll understand. Thank you very much for setting an example we can all follow.

Now that congress has scraped by with an agreement that suggests further problems down the road, what would you write congress today? What example is congress setting for us now? How does that apply to your family?

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