American Backstory, While Biden Struts Abroad

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

France’s vacuous to repressive neoliberal president Emanuel “Hot for Teacher” Macron says that “America is back,” by which he means that the United States has returned, post-Trump, to its leadership role atop the world’s rich so-called democracies (outwardly constitutional de facto bourgeois class dictatorships) at the G7 meetings in Europe.

U.S. President Joe “Nothing Will Fundamentally Change” Biden on Sunday boasted in England that “America is back at the table,” leading the charge against grave challenges like “China.”

Let’s take a look back at some facts of U.S.-American life that are escaping serious “free press” attention (imagine) during Joe Defender of the Status Quo Biden’s visits with the cartoon Queen of England and the ostensible heads of European states.

Here are a few things European and other world citizens might want to know about the American backstory:

+ The United States has had 221 – my mistake, now 274 – mass shootings in 2021, a year in which the country has already seen 19,795 gun violence deaths, a record of gun carnage that dwarfs that of all other nations as usual. How does a nation that permits such colossal bloodshed against its own citizens lay legitimate claim to any status as a world leader?

+ “Back” America is home to more than 393 million civilian-owned firearms. That’s enough for every U.S. man, woman, and child to own a gun and still have 67 million left over. Americans purchased 39,635, 315 guns in 2020. America is home to more than 20 million military-style mass-kill assault rifles.

+ There will be no serious gun control legislation in the U.S. even though most U.S. citizens want such legislation and as the nation’s increasingly normalized mass-shooting madness escalates further this summer. This is because American so-called democracy is crippled by a system of governance and policy that vastly over-represents the nation’s most reactionary, rural, and white regions and grants vast power to wealthy entities like the neofascist National Rifle Association. A demented federal judge in “back” America recently shot-down California’s assault weapons ban in a decision that likened AR-15s to… Swiss Army knives. How does a nation plagued by such lethal and authoritarian insanity lay any legitimate claim to leading the “democratic world”?

+ The top tenth of the upper U.S. 1 percent had as much wealth as the bottom U.S. 90 percent even before Trump came into office and passed a massive regressive tax cut for the wealthy Few and before Covid-19, which furthered the grotesque upward concentration of wealth. The vast majority of the U.S. populace was irrelevantly opposed the tax cut.

+ There will be no seriously progressive taxation to address this deadly and plutocratic wealth imbalance because American so-called democracy is crippled by a system of class rule that privileges concentrated wealth over public opinion, rendering the latter powerless relative to the former, as is documented in mainstream political science. U.S. majorities back numerous policies that have zero chance of being passed because they are opposed by the backers of “back” America’s plutocratically owned politicians.

+ We recently learned that U.S. police have killed more than 32,000 U.S. Americans since the turn of the millennium. Sixty percent of the people killed by the nation’s gendarmes are nonwhite – this in a 40 percent nonwhite nation. The total and nonwhite body count would be considerably higher if it included the thousands killed directly and indirectly by U.S. Border Patrol. The killing of nonwhite Americans by U.S. police continued right through the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the white Minneapolis police officer who crushed the life out of the Black man George Floyd, sparking an historic protest wave last summer.

+ “Back” America is the world’s mass incarceration leader – and quite racist about it. One out of every five prisoners in the world are incarcerated in the U.S., the “land of the free,” itself home to less than 5 percent of humanity. As the Prison Policy Initiative reports, “Eleven million people around the world are in prisons and jails. The U.S. locks up a larger share of these people than any other country, with as many prisoners as the 194 countries with the smallest incarcerated populations combined.” A third of the nation’s prisoners are Black, nearly 3 times the Black share (12 percent) of the U.S. population. Twenty-three percent of the nation’s prisoners are LatinX, 7 points higher than the LatinX share of the populace. One in every three adult Black males is marked with the crippling lifelong brand of a felony record.

+ Massive police state violence and incarceration and massive gun violence mutually reinforce each other in the U.S. The ubiquitous presence of firearms is critical pretext for police shootings and the militarization of U.S. policing. The ruination of life chances by mass arrest, incarceration, and criminal marking and the spending of money on prisons and gendarmes instead of social welfare deepen poverty, helping encourage millions to turn to gangs and violence. It’s a vicious circle.

+ The social movements that have arisen to challenge racist policing are crippled by captivity to a mis-leadership class of bourgeois hyper-identitarians – advocates of a destructive, anti-revolutionary, and anti-science standpoint epistemology who are bought and paid for by corporate and financial America and its faux-progressive foundations.

+ “Back” America cannot and will not pass elementary voting rights protections because the nation’s so-called democracy is crippled by a system of governance and policy that vastly over-represents the nation’s most reactionary, rural, and white regions.

+ “Back” America cannot and will not pass elementary legislation to protect union organizing and collective bargaining rights because the nation’s so-called democracy is crippled by a system of governance and policy that vastly over-represents the nation’s most reactionary, rural, and white regions and concentrated wealth.

+ “Back” America’s powerful, democracy-squelching minority rule Senate is so biased towards small, rural, and disproportionately white and right-wing states that big and diverse California (home to nearly 40 million) would have 136 US senators if it had the same population-to-senator ratio as small and white Wyoming (home to less than 600,000). Under the nation’s Monty Python-esque 18th Century slaveowners’ constitution, all 50 American states have just two senators, regardless of population size. It is now possible to construct on Senate majority on the basis of mostly rural states that account for less than 18 percent of the US population.

+ “Back” America’s Dickensian Senate is so regressive and reactionary that it couldn’t even grant American proletarians the pittance of a $15-an-hour minimum wage, which would (assuming full time work) bring a workers’ annual income up to the paltry level of $30,000 a year (far below basic, minimally adequate family budgets). And numerous states under the control of the Republifascist Party are proving Karl Marx’s thesis on the role of the Reserve Army of Labor ending COVID-expanded unemployment benefits to force millions of Americans into unsafe and low-wage employment without basic human rights and dignity.

+ “Back” America’s nonfascist major party (the nominally “in-power” Democratic Party) is a fascism-enabling corporate and imperialist Weimar party of inauthentic opposition that relentlessly marginalizes its wan progressive wing (Bernie Sanders and AOC, etc.) while pursuing “bipartisan” outreach to a post-parliamentary, uber-partisan Republican Party that has gone full-on authoritarian and white- nationalist/neofascist.

+ The “back” Democratic vice president Kamala “Defender of the Status Quo” Harris was recently sent to Guatemala to tell desperate Central Americans “do not come” to the U.S. because the “land of liberty” will turn them away – an open statement of the United States’ cold nativist determination to violate international law on the right of asylum that is doubly offensive given Washington’s central role in making life miserable for masses of Central Americans.

+ “Back” America’s “back” Democrats are so conservative that their new Attorney General is defending the fascist gangster Trump against a defamation suit filed by one of his many rape victims, protecting Trump’s criminal attorney general the Christian fascist William Barr, and has no real interest in prosecuting Trump for such egregious crimes as, well, …umm…pandemicide and sparking a violent fascist Attack on the Capitol meant to protect American white male supremacy by nullifying the 2020 presidential election.

+ “Back” America’s new patriarch-president refuses to seriously consider expanding the nation’s reactionary minority-rule Supreme Court to counter the absurd imbalance between the high court’s 6-3 right wing super-majority and technically irrelevant public opinion – this as the nation’s absurdly powerful high court possibly prepares to end American women’s abortion rights.

+ “Back” America’s right-wing states are passing racist and partisan voter suppression bills in response to the neofascist Trump’s Big Fascist Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

+ “Back” America’s right-wing states are passing neofascist white-nationalist bills that make it a crime to teach about the nation’s past and ongoing history of white supremacism in public educational institutions from kindergarten through doctorate.

+ “Back” America’s ruling parties can’t agree on elementary measures to create a modicum of democracy and decency in its elections system (the For the People Act), its workplaces (the Protect the Right to Organize Act), and its health insurance system (long dormant Single Payer legislation) but they can agree to fund the nation’s giant military industrial complex and a massive New Cold War with China.

+ “Back” America continues to combine the world’s most expensive health care system, unaffordable for tens of millions of its citizens, with some of the worst health outcomes in the industrialized/post-industrialized world.

+ Most citizens in “back” America want Medicare for All (universal national health insurance for all people as a human right) but their policy preference is irrelevant under an openly plutocratic political and policy system that renders majority public opinion irrelevant while routinely governing in accord with the unpopular wishes of concentrated wealth.

+ “Back” America is so racially hierarchical and oppressive that the wealth of a typical Black family is one tenth at least that of a typical white family in the U.S.

+ “Back” America’s per capita carbon footprint remains at least four times the global average. lt would take 5 Earths to support the human population if everyone’s consumption patterns were similar to the average American. That is a form of American “back”-ness the word simply cannot sustain.

+ The single greatest institutional carbon footprint on Earth belongs to “back” America’s Pentagon System, which eats up more than half of U.S. federal discretionary spending in a nation that can’t properly feed and house and otherwise care for tens of millions of its own citizens but can transfer billions of taxpayer dollars to high tech “defense” corporation who provide weapons of mass destruction and more on a cost-plus profits basis to an American Empire that accounts for 37 percent of global military spending while maintaining nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 nations and territories abroad.

+ The “back” Democrats are more effective than the demented Republicans when it comes to managing and advancing a lethal imperial killing machine that has directly and indirectly) killed many millions of people across Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia in this century and tens of millions of world citizens – East Asians (Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans, Indonesians, Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians) especially – in the last century.

All of which raises an interesting question: how in the Hell does a decrepit corporate president sitting at the titular head of a country plagued by all this and more seriously claim to have a single solitary thing to tell the world about how to manage its affairs?!

Tens of millions of “back” U.S.-Americans have their backs against the wall of an abject racist, sexist, and eco-cidal, class rule plutocracy preserved in no small part by an absurdly outdated aristo-republican slaveowners’ charter from the days of Louis XVI. The world still has its back against the wall of an American Empire that is leading the planet-baking capitalist war on the common good.

America being “back,” whatever that really means, is not a good thing at all.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).