You can now access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.
This video from UFCW brings us some of the indelible images of the past month’s inspiring uprising against Republican governors and legislatures trying to break unions and drive down working conditions for all of us.
But it isn’t a coda. It’s an invitation to a continuing fight.
On April 4, the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination while he was in Memphis supporting AFSCME sanitation workers, the UFCW, along with the AFL-CIO, SEIU, the NEA, and other groups, is sponsoring a day of action. There will be rallies in many locations, but it’s not just about rallies. Ideas for action include worksite leafleting or other actions, wearing solidarity gear like union t-shirts or Badger red armbands, holding house parties or discussions, reading from Dr. King’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech, delivered the night before he was killed.
It’s about finding a way to take action into your daily life, to know that as powerful as mass rallies are, they’re not the only way to show and to build worker strength. Look for an event or plan your own.
Help us reach 1,000,000 signatures.
First, the cost of war. The US is spending about $2bn a week in Afghanistan alone. That’s about $104bn a year – and that is not including Iraq. Compare that with the state budget shortfalls. According to a recent report by the nonpartisan Centre on Budget and Policy Priorities, “some 45 states and the District of Columbia are projecting budget shortfalls totalling $125bn for fiscal year 2012.”
The math is simple: the money should be poured back into the states, rather than into a state of war.
Dems botching budget fight: Rather than emphasize the human costs of proposed GOP cuts, they have allowed themselves get drawn into a numbers debate over how much is necessary to cut, a rhetorical frame that favors Republicans.
If you cut on detection of tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, severe weather events, weather buoys, satellite observation and weather patterns, those sorts of things, people will die. People will die from tornadoes in the Northwest, hurricanes or volcanic eruption or earthquakes. They are also cutting on preparedness funds that go down to the local organization down to the cities and counties, down to the first responders who need equipment.
The three-week continuing resolution, passed Tuesday by the House, includes cuts to NOAA, FEMA, the US Geological Service.
The transaction, which requires approval from regulators, is expected to be heavily scrutinized in Washington. The deal would leave only three major cellular carriers in the nation: AT&T, Verizon and a much smaller Sprint, which may now be forced to find a merger partner.
Already, some critics say the deal will result in higher prices for consumers. T-Mobile had offered some of the lowest rates in the county. While AT&T is expected to honor current T-Mobile contracts, it is likely that once those contracts expire, T-Mobile customers would be expected to pay AT&T’s higher rates.
The combined company is expected to shutter retail outlets in areas where they overlap as well eliminate overlapping back office, technical and call center staff. Marketing costs could also be cut. Cellular carriers have been one of the biggest advertising spenders in the nation.
On May 31, 2010, Governor Chris Christie’s New Jersey Privatization Task Force reported that more than $210 million would be saved by privatizing work that had traditionally been performed by government workers. The report even set out specific figures for some of the cost savings it identified, while others said savings were ‘TBD’ – ‘To Be Decided’. Who crunched the numbers to show that private contractors would do a better job or at least the same job for less money than public employees? The Privatization Task Force Report says that no one did.
Has the economy gone Hood Robin, with median wages stagnating because the folks at the tippy-top are channeling more and more of the economy’s gains into their own bank accounts? Or have the rich and famous moved into their own economy, and whatever is going on with median incomes is a different problem that will require different solutions?
Economists have not had an easy time parsing this out. The problem, they say, is that it’s very difficult to pinpoint a mechanism that can explain much of this. In fact, pick your explanation, and an economist can tell you a story for why it’s not true. They just can’t point you toward the one that is true.
We know, for instance, that taxes on the rich have fallen dramatically in recent decades. But the data on inequality are pre-tax. That is to say, they’re showing changes in who gets paid what, not who gets left with how much.
Hacker and Pierson have a theory of where the economists went awry: Economists might understand markets, they say, but they don’t understand politics. In markets, when big things change, it’s usually because something has happened. But in politics, big changes can be the result of something not happening. The rise of inequality, in Hacker and Pierson’s view, is the result of “systematic, prolonged failures of government to respond to the shifting realities of a dynamic economy.” They call this theory, in which big things happen because lots of other things don’t happen, “drift,” and it’s at the center of their story.
This is getting embarrassing.
Six weeks ago, Politico reported that the new House Republican majority realized “they’re struggling with their economic message.” Last week, Roll Call found those same Republicans are still struggling, but have a plan that includes “inserting the word ‘jobs’ into talking points.”
Today we learn that Senate Republicans believe they might be able to put things right.
While Republicans keep up the drumbeat on budget cuts, Senate GOP leaders and freshmen agree: The party needs to better make their case to voters that reining in the national debt will create jobs.
Jobs strategy has been the subject of closed-door GOP meetings and strategy sessions…. As a reminder to talk up the connection between spending cuts and jobs creation back home during next week’s recess, the Senate Republican Conference distributed a series of talking points on pocket-sized cards to the 47 GOP senators. […]
When asked if the GOP needs to be talking more about jobs rather than purely cutting spending, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) replied Thursday: “Absolutely.”
Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that going forward, the party’s priority list would be “No. 1 jobs, No. 2 debt.”
That’s nice, I suppose, but that pesky reality keeps getting in the way. Every Republican in both the House and Senate is on record supporting brutal budget cuts, all in the name of deficit reduction. There’s a lengthy list of experts, including Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and researchers at Goldman Sachs, that concluded the GOP plan would cost the economy hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The answer isn’t new talking points. The answer is a new policy — preferably one that doesn’t make unemployment worse on purpose.
In fairness, the article also notes that freshman Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), perhaps best known for his fiscal recklessness as Bush’s budget director, has been tasked with coming up with an actual policy related to job creation for his caucus. There’s no formal plan to critique just yet, but the blueprint apparently includes tax cuts, medical malpractice reform, and more offshore drilling.
Some people just never learn.
More than 80,000 of the nation’s 100,000 public schools could be labeled as failing under No Child Left Behind, the main federal law on public education, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Congress on Wednesday.
Mr. Duncan said the estimate, based on an analysis of testing trends and the workings of the law’s pass-fail school rating system, was the latest evidence of the law’s shortcomings and the need to overhaul it.
Even many of the nation’s best-run schools are likely to fall short of the law’s rapidly rising standardized testing targets, Mr. Duncan said.
“This law is fundamentally broken, and we need to fix it this year,” he told the House education committee.
California, for example, had only 14 percent of students proficient in reading in 2002, but it promised to raise that level in every school by a few points each year. The state vowed to have 35 percent of students proficient by 2008, 57 percent by 2010 and 100 percent by 2014.
But like most other states, California has had trouble keeping up. By 2009, 39 percent of the state’s elementary schools had missed the targets; last year, 60 percent of California’s elementary schools fell short.
If students in any ethnic group miss the targets, the entire school is put on probation. Schools that miss targets two years in a row are labeled “needing improvement,” and face escalating sanctions that can include staff changes or shutdowns.
Reid and other top Senate Democrats who oppose the amendment are looking for ways to kill it. And they may have a tougher time than they expected, given the momentum after the Energy and Commerce vote and anti-EPA sentiment among moderate Senate Democrats.
Option 1: Get the votes to defeat it
Majority Whip Dick Durbin told POLITICO that he’s expecting a vote early Wednesday. Durbin didn’t say how many Democrats would defect to vote in favor of the amendment, but he thinks it will fall short of the 13 needed to get to 60.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer “felt that she could defeat McConnell directly,” Durbin said. “I don’t know if that changed late this afternoon, but that’s what she felt at lunch.”
But Republicans think they’ve got a chance.
According to POLITICO’s whip count,17 Democratic votes are in play when it comes to legislation to block or delay EPA’s climate rules.
Option 2: Use Rockefeller’s alternative to lure away Dems
In order to siphon off Democratic votes, leadership could offer a vote on a plan from Sen. John Rockefeller to impose a two-year delay on EPA climate rules for stationary sources.
Just before a vote on another GOP effort to nullify EPA climate rules last summer, Democratic leadership drew moderate senators away by promising a vote on a two-year timeout from Rockefeller.
But that vote never happened, and the West Virginia Democrat offered his measure Tuesday night as an amendment to the small-business package as an alternative to the McConnell-Inhofe effort.
Rockefeller called the McConnell language an “emasculation of EPA forever.”
Option 3: Don’t hold the vote
Adding the controversial rider won’t help the bill’s chances of making it through the chamber and could prompt White House opposition.
The amendment drew immediate pushback from the White House, where top officials have insisted President Barack Obama would veto a stand-alone bill to block EPA climate regulations.
“This amendment rolls back the Clean Air Act and harms Americans’ health by taking away our ability to decrease air pollution,” said White House spokesman Clark Stevens. “Instead of holding big polluters accountable, this amendment overrules public health experts and scientists. Finally, at a time when America’s families are struggling with the cost of gasoline, the amendment would undercut fuel efficiency standards that will save Americans money at the pump while also decreasing our reliance on foreign oil.”
The ancient Chinese practice of tai chi appears to relieve symptoms of depression in older people, a new study shows.
The findings, published this month in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, are the latest to suggest that the slow movement, breathing and meditation of tai chi results in meaningful benefits to patients with chronic health problems. Other recent studies have shown that practicing tai chi may provide benefits for patients with arthritis and fibromyalgia. But the newest research is important because depression is notoriously difficult to treat in older people, many of whom are already coping with other health problems and are less likely to respond to drug treatment.
After 10 weeks of tai chi, 94 percent of depressed older adults showed marked improvement on depression scales, compared with 77 percent in the health education group. And 65 percent of the people in the tai chi group experienced remission, compared with 51 percent in the education group.
The tai chi group also showed marked improvement in measures of physical function, cognitive tests and blood tests measuring levels of inflammation.
“Altogether the effects were pretty dramatic,’’ said Dr. Helen Lavretsky, lead author and professor of psychiatry at U.C.L.A. “If a psychiatrist were to add exercise like tai chi, which is very nondemanding and easy to access, that would be a very beneficial thing instead of adding another drug.”
Plenty of people with pre-existing conditions like Mr. Garner are struggling to find affordable insurance. These plans offer a real alternative, but consumers are only now becoming aware of them. Plus, there are some tough restrictions. Here is what you need to know:
FINDING A PLAN…
THE RIGHT COVERAGE…
Immigration enforcement in the United States is plagued by unjust treatment of detainees, including inadequate access to lawyers and insufficient medical care, and by the excessive use of prison-style detention, the human rights arm of the Organization of American States said Thursday. The group, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, issued those findings in a report that also took aim at a federal program that allows county and state law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration laws. The report said the government had failed to ensure that local police were not singling out people by race or detaining illegal immigrants on the pretext of investigating crimes.
In an abrupt change of course, Arizona lawmakers rejected new anti-immigration measures on Thursday, in what was widely seen as capitulation to pressure from business executives and an admission that the state’s tough stance had resulted in a chilling of the normally robust tourism and convention industry.
Opponents of the five bills said that the state’s image had been hit hard, and that it did not make sense to pass new measures while the state had already put itself so far out in front of other states and the federal government on the issue — at a cost to tourism and other industries.
They said that previous immigration bills were still being reviewed by the courts, and that it was not smart to pass new legislation that plainly conflicted with the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
So far, Arizona-style anti-immigration bills have not lived up to their advance billing in other states, which despite strengthened Republican legislative majorities have failed to pass any identical bills. Similar proposals are still advancing in some states, but they, too, have encountered strong business opposition.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation sued the former chief executive of Washington Mutual and two of his top lieutenants, accusing them of reckless lending before the 2008 collapse of what was the nation’s largest savings bank.
The civil lawsuit, seeking to recover $900 million, is the first against a major bank chief executive by the regulator and follows escalating public pressure to hold bankers accountable for actions leading up to the financial crisis.
Kerry K. Killinger, Washington Mutual’s longtime chief executive, led the bank on a “lending spree” knowing that the housing market was in a bubble and failed to put in place the proper risk management systems and internal controls, according to a complaint filed on Thursday in federal court in Seattle.
A ThinkProgress analysis of press coverage by the three major U.S. cable news networks — CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News — from March 14 to March 18 finds that Bahrain received only slightly more than ten percent as many mentions as Libya and that Yemen received only six percent as many mentions as Libya:
– Libya: Libya was mentioned 9,524 times by the major cable news networks.
– Bahrain: Bahrain was mentioned 1,587 times by the major cable news networks.
– Yemen: Yemen was only mentioned 599 times by the major cable news networks.
The lack of coverage of the situation in Bahrain and Yemen isn’t disturbing just because the atrocities being committed there merit coverage. It’s especially alarming because, unlike Libya, both are close U.S. allies and recipients of major U.S. military and economic assistance — meaning that the U.S. actually bears a responsibility to make sure its assistance is not being used in ways that are contrary to American values.
One network that has been paying close attention to the revolts in Bahrain and Yemen is Al Jazeera English.
Yglesias says “people in the ‘writing about important things’ business need to roll up our sleeves and try harder to make our output compelling to people”:
“In the print world, I think people got too complacent about the idea of reporting out a worthy story, plopping it on page A3, and forgetting about it. Was anyone actually reading that story? It’s not clear to me that they were. On the web if you want people to read worthy journalism it’s made clear that this is actually a two-step process. First you have to produce the worthy content, and then you have to get someone to read the worthy content.”
Ezra Klein counters:
“Stories about payment fraud in Medicare will never dominate “most popular” lists. But so long as they’re in a publication that regulators and hospitals fear, they can have an impact — even if the vast majority of the paper’s readers never notice them.”
On March 17, Fox Nation linked to a Freedom Works ad which declared “we won in Wisconsin,” and encouraged that Americans “keep fighting.” From Fox Nation:
Former newspaper publisher Martin Langeveld, now of Circ Labs, countered:
This is a very porous paywall. It is as if the Red Sox sold season tickets for top dollar, but let in hordes of spectators for free — not only through a few loose planks on the outfield wall, but through many advertised, clearly marked free admission entrances.
The Times’ website is the most-read newspaper site in the world with more than 30 million users or readers monthly.
In a nutshell, subscribers to the print edition will have full access to the Times’ website and its digital content without paying anything additional. But for millions who access the site without subscribing to the traditional paper, they could have to pay $15 or $20 a month depending on which mobile devices they want to use to connect. In some cases, it could even be $35 a month.
But many users may simply opt to access the Times in a more limited way.
Digital readers would be able to browse and access the front page and most sections — to a point. The company will let users view about 20 articles a month without paying. Moreover, if users access a Times story through a search engine such as Google or social media such as Facebook or Twitter, they likely could view it even beyond the 20 free articles. The company provided a full explanation through a question-and-answer piece here.
The German news organization Der Spiegel has published photographs showing two U.S. soldiers posing with an Afghan corpse.
Army investigators looking into the deaths of three Afghan civilians last year seized several gruesome photographs kept by troops as war trophies. Five soldiers based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle have been charged with murder.
In one photograph published Sunday, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock of Wasilla, Alaska, grins as he lifts the head of a corpse by the hair. In another, Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Holmes of Boise, Idaho, poses with the same corpse.
A third shows two apparently dead men propped against a small pillar.
The Army says the photos depict “actions repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army.”
H/T Jeremy Scahill:
US Special Operations Forces have permission to enter Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan on a “case-by-case” basis when conducting counter-terrorism operations.
Other sources tell EurasiaNet.org that US Special Forces occasionally cross borders in “hot pursuit” of armed militant groups on the run from Afghanistan. US Special Forces do not maintain a permanent presence in any Central Asian country, but they have the ability to carry out extended missions in the region, a US military source said.
“Periodically we will have military-to-military cooperative events with our Central Asian partners. Any entry into these countries of US Special Forces would be with the permission of the host nation and conducted on a case-by-case basis,” said LTC Michael T. Lawhorn, Chief of Media Relations at US Central Command.
Last September, US Special Forces provided crucial tactical support in helping Tajik government troops repel an attempted Islamic militant incursion, a well-placed source told Eurasianet.org.
When President Obama warned that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision “will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our election,” conservatives began damage control literally before the President could even finish his sentence. Justice Sam Alito infamously mouthed the words “not true” while Obama was speaking. Of course, we subsequently learned the Chamber of Commerce was raising money from foreign corporations and then placed this money in the same account which funds their political attack ads.
Someone is now bankrolling a lawsuit to undermine the longstanding ban on political contributions by non-U.S. citizens:
[A] suit challenging the foreign contribution ban is being brought on behalf of a Canadian who wants to support President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and a dual Israeli-Canadian citizen who wants to contribute to Obama’s opponent and also to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), to help prevent a “government-takeover of the health-care system in the United States,” according to the suit. It says both plaintiffs are legally authorized to live and work in the United States, but are not permanent residents.
Polls are like confirming statistics, unimpeachable truths, relentless rationality, incontrovertible facts and words that “make this crystal clear”: the Big Endians have them and the Little Endians have them, to bring Jonathan Swift’s cynicism into play. Actually, polls not only reveal opinions, but are subject to opinions. My opinion, for instance, is that all Rupert Murdoch affiliated enterprises – and there are too many for anti-trust apparently to deal with – reveal Murdoch’s opinions. A majority of Americans must like them because more Americans get their opinions from Fox than any other source, a reliable source where “the truth will out.”
We live now in a country which is perceived, according to a decreasing (increasing?) number, as having turned upside down. A plutocracy has emerged from previous aspirations toward egalitarian democracy; a “trickle down” economics in which tax burdens are transferred from rich to poor persists even though it has only continued to redistribute the wealth to the wealthy; a tax rebate to the wealthy, which increases the national debt, is insisted upon by those who seeks massive cuts in government spending in order to decrease the national debt; a monumental collapse of the economy resulting from the reckless finagling of financial institutions results in an “austerity” campaign against the working class and the middle class; the largest wealth gap among all industrialized nations is defined as a war between taxpayers and public employees; a privatized energy industry has silenced a major threat to its profits – global warming; programs which have greatly benefited the majority of Americans – Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid – face a continuous attack by the wealthy and a capitulating response by its defenders …
You could continue this sort of cataloguing, but only, of course, if you yourself haven’t been turned upside down. Then, everything looks all right. The point is that, when the world turns upside down, it takes reason along with it.
We are far in our imaginations from seeing ourselves in a similar position as a global underclass, although there is no economic reality that would now prevent a total (if not total already) collapse of the American middle class into that downtrodden position. The middle class is threatened, at various times and to various degrees, with a repeal of a Obama’s limited measure to provide health care, with an reduction of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and perhaps a privatization or elimination of all three; an elimination of minimum wage and unemployment benefits; a further reduction of any “safety net”; a call for “work not welfare” at a time of double-digit unemployment; an elimination of pensions, collective bargaining, and any form of job security or retirement security.
Because we are in an upside down world, but imagine ourselves in the ways a plutocracy has created for us, none of these actualities move us toward the sort of revolt that is breaking out in the Arab world.
Do Republicans really hate consumers? Apparently, if the reception Elizabeth Warren had at yesterday’s House Financial Services Committee oversight hearing on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is any guide.
Ethics rules sharply limit the activities of former lobbyists who join the executive branch and former lawmakers who move to lobbying firms. But experts say there are no limits on lawmakers hiring K street employees and letting them write legislation in sync with the policies they advocated for hire.
New tallies indicate that nearly half of the roughly 150 former lobbyists working in top policy jobs for members of Congress or House committees have been hired in the past few months. And many are working on legislative issues of interest to their former employers.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, for example, which led other House panels by hiring six lobbyists this year, is drafting legislation sought by oil and energy firms. At least four staffers on the committee payroll worked for those industries last year.
On Thursday, the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental and nuclear watchdog group based in Cambridge, Mass., accused the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a report of allowing companies that operate plants to ignore, or delay repairs to, leaky pipes, electrical malfunctions and other problems that could escalate into something more serious.
The report echoes more general concerns raised on Wednesday in Congressional hearings, when the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory Jaczko, fielded questions from lawmakers about the age of the nation’s nuclear plants and whether safety and oversight procedures needed to be revisited.
David McIntyre, a spokesman for the commission, said the fact that the organization had reports of problems to scrutinize suggested that the regulatory system was working.
“We have resident inspectors stationed full time at each plant,” Mr. McIntyre said, “and if they say our inspectors are catching these things then that says they’re doing their job.”
The report by the Union of Concerned Scientists examined 14 instances in 2010 in which significant problems at nuclear power facilities set off special inspections by federal regulators — incidents characterized by the regulators as “near misses.” Reports on such incidents are made available publicly by the regulatory commission.
Twelve of the events involved lingering safety problems, among them leaky roofs and floods near safety equipment, faulty pumps, rusty pipes, fires and inadvertent shutdowns. Two others involved compromises in plant security, though details on those were not made public.
Newly released emails reveal that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, a close Republican ally of anti-worker Gov. Scott Walker (R), erupted in rage at his colleague Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson during a contentious discussion early last year:
As the deeply divided state Supreme Court wrestled over whether to force one member off criminal cases last year, Justice David Prosser exploded at Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson behind closed doors, calling her a “bitch” and threatening to “destroy” her. […]
“In the context of this, I said, ‘You are a total bitch,’ ” Prosser said.
“I probably overreacted, but I think it was entirely warranted. … They (Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley) are masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements. This is bullying and abuse of very, very long standing.”
In additional to being Chief Justice, Abrahamson is the first woman to sit on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Prior to joining the court, Prosser was the Republican Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly. His reelection campaign recently promised that he would “protect the conservative judicial majority and act as a common sense complement” to Gov. Walker if he is reelected.
Ohio Governor John Kasich delivered his ‘State of the State’ speech March 8 with all the pomp expected of a new governor setting his agenda. But 3,000 union members and allies – led by 2,000 firefighters along with teachers, state workers, electrical workers, steelworkers, and many others – had just finished rallying outside the Columbus statehouse damning Senate Bill 5, the governor’s proposal to gut public employee unions.
Under a GOP-backed bill expected to sail through the House of Representatives, the Internal Revenue Service would be forced to police how Americans have paid for their abortions. To ensure that taxpayers complied with the law, IRS agents would have to investigate whether certain terminated pregnancies were the result of rape or incest. And one tax expert says that the measure could even lead to questions on tax forms: Have you had an abortion? Did you keep your receipt?
In testimony to a House taxation subcommittee on Wednesday, Thomas Barthold, the chief of staff of the nonpartisan Joint Tax Committee, confirmed that one consequence of the Republicans’ “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” would be to turn IRS agents into abortion cops—that is, during an audit, they’d have to detemine, from evidence provided by the taxpayer, whether any tax benefit had been inappropriately used to pay for an abortion.
More than half of Americans say it should be legal for gays and lesbians to marry, a first in nearly a decade of polls by ABC News and The Washington Post.
This milestone result caps a dramatic, long-term shift in public attitudes. From a low of 32 percent in a 2004 survey of registered voters, support for gay marriage has grown to 53 percent today. Forty-four percent are opposed, down 18 points from that 2004 survey.
The issue remains divisive; as many adults “strongly” oppose gay marriage as strongly support it, and opposition rises to more than 2-1 among Republicans and conservatives and 3-1 among evangelical white Protestants, a core conservative group. But opposition to gay marriage has weakened in these groups from its levels a few years ago, and support has grown sharply among others – notably, among Catholics, political moderates, people in their 30s and 40s and men.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
We’re a nation of worrywarts, even in good times. But what causes us so much stress and fear? An expert explains
Is the United States more prone to higher levels of anxiety than other nations?
Put simply, we are. Perhaps the most puzzling statistics are the ones that reveal that we’re significantly more anxious than countries in the developing world, many of which report only a fraction of the diagnosable cases of anxiety that we do. One of the reasons for this is that the people in many of these third-world nations are more accustomed to dealing with uncertainty and unpredictability. I talk about this a fair amount in the book, but lack of control is really the archenemy of anxiety. It’s its biggest trigger.
That explains the disparity in anxiety levels between the United States and the developing world, but why are we more anxious than, say, your average European nation?
It’s hard to pinpoint an answer, but I think Americans have become extremely vulnerable to the pressures of the 21st century. For the past 50 years, we’ve been getting progressively more anxious in good economic times and bad, so we can’t even blame it on the recession. As I was conducting research for the book, psychologists pointed to three basic reasons why our psychic state is deteriorating. The first is a simple matter of social disconnection. As we spend more time with our electronic devices than we do with our neighbors, we lose our physical sense of community. Social isolation flies in the face of our evolutionary history. The second major cause is the information overload that we’re experiencing with the Internet and the 24-hour media cycle. We’re all aware of it, but I’m not sure we realize how big an impact it’s having on our brains. The third explanation can be attributed to what one psychologist refers to as a culture of “feel goodism” — the idea that we shouldn’t ever have to be upset and that all our negative emotions can be neutralized with a pill. This to me feels like a distinctly American phenomenon.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“If we don’t change our direction we’re likely to end up
where we’re headed.”