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  Wikipedia: Social issues in the United States

Wikipedia: Social issues in the United States
Social issues in the United States
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The United States has created one of the most impressive economies without choosing to create the same state structures for the promotion of social justice as Western Europe. There are many social and political reasons for this including: values of self-sufficiency, a conservative electorate, effects of the spoils system, and Federalism. Socioeconomic issues perceived by social justice advocates include: an "unequal" educational system, poverty, high crime and incarceration rates, and lack of access to health care. Some people believe that the past history of racism and racial segregation is also behind any opposition to social justice programs.

Unequal funding of educational system

The US educational system is compulsory for the first 12 years of education (roughly ending when students are 18 years old); however, it is funded and controlled primarily by state and local governments. Control of education is primarily in control of the states with smaller portions of control going to local communities. Especially since the creation of the Education Department, the federal government has had an ever-increasing amount of control of education in the United States. The funding and condition of the school system in each municipality is largely determined by local government. In affluent communities, especially with large numbers of childbearing families, the educational system tends to be more heavily funded and tends to be more effective. Communities that are less affluent or have fewer childbearing families generally have less funded educational systems.

Poverty and the unequal distribution of wealth

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, US foreign policy was largely focused on fighting communism. Some, but not all, socialist efforts to redistribute wealth from the upper and middle classes towards the lower classes were often met with opposition, perhaps made greater due to the external threat of communism and its connection with socialism. Efforts to break up large conglomerates which started near the turn of the century became less frequent after the Great Depression and in the 1980s and 1990s, there were numerous mergers which would not have been possible in the past.

Some political activists blame these mergers for perceived increases in income and wealth inequality during this time, although econometricians blame the increase on a wider variety of causes, including increasing returns on education, rises in the stock market, the winner-take-all phenomenon, changes in the US tax code, and changes in the composition of households used to compute income and wealth statistics.

Crime and incarceration

The United States prison population is the highest of any world country, both in absolute and relative numbers. A substantial percentage of people behind bars are drug offenders, which is due to the so-called "war on drugs", a very rigid and controversial policy against selling and using recreational drugs. Incarceration of convicted criminals for long sentences was particularly popular politically in the 1990s, leading to the passage in many states of strict minimum sentencing guidelines and three strikes laws, which lead to incarceration for life after three felonies have been committed, including a number of drug crimes.

Access to health insurance

The United States does not have a national health care or socialized medicine system, although programs such as Medicare and Medicaid provide basic health insurance to elderly and poor residents. For most US residents, health insurance is provided as an employee benefit, leaving unemployed and part-time workers to pay for their own insurance. As of 2001, 41.2 million people in the United States (14.6% of the US population), including 8.5 million children, had no health insurance coverage. Efforts to provide universal health care in the 1960s and early 1990s foundered against widespread opposition, particularly by conservatives who objected to government control of medicine and business groups who did not want to experience a loss of profits with the increase of government bureaucracy in the health care and insurance industries. Despite a general agreement, enforced in law, that emergency care must be provided even to the indigent, there is no consensus in the United States that the availability of broader health care should be considered a right, nor that this service should be paid for by the state. [1]

See also


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona