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  #251  
Old 12-26-2013, 11:02 AM
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FYI, Riga, implying that posters are idiots is not allowed in this forum.

Sorry to Jr. mod, but there it is.
  #252  
Old 12-26-2013, 11:16 AM
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NEVER, of course. It just gets better from one day to the next. Strange that it isn't recognized by the International Democratic Index, though. I put it down to jealousy.
So you got nuttin' and all your bloviating on this topic is pointless drivel.
  #253  
Old 12-26-2013, 11:19 AM
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The US is not a banana republic, but it's really hard to argue that it's not on that path. I mean, what is a banana republic? Isn't it a country of mostly very poor people ruled by a small oligarchy that is deeply corrupt, generally with a matching deeply corrupt civil service and police, often with the military propping up the government and sometimes with the military holding the real power in civil society. The middle class is generally small and identifies primarily with the wealthy oligarchs. The poor are generally poor for life, with very little mobility between the classes, and a great gulf dividing most citizens from the upper classes. There is little in the way of public education to give the poor a shot at upward mobility, and trade unions are suppressed.

Now I do not believe our civil service is deeply corrupt, for the most part, except for the ones at the national level who deal with finance and the military, where the revolving-door phenomenon has corrupted most of them thoroughly. But it's not like the third sub administrator for southeastern agricultural affairs routinely solicits bribes. I'm sure a few do, but for the most part, civil servants make their money by doing their jobs, not shaking down those they serve in their jobs.

I do not believe our military is deeply corrupt or all that interested in seeking political power, though of course those who deal with contracting are.

I DO believe that Congress is deeply corrupt. Most have to solicit bribes, or as they are called in America, "PAC donations," to get re-elected, whatever their political persuasion. Our post Citizens United government is inherently corrupt at the level of federal elected officials. We are definitely in banana republic territory here.

We have the highest level of wealth inequality of any developed nation. Our government does what Wall Street wants it to do whether most voters want that or not. We are definitely in banana republic territory here.

Our poor have access to much better public education than most banana republics, though it could and should be a lot better. Still, we are not a banana republic on that score, despite every effort of the Republicans and libertarians to make us one. On the issue of upward mobility between the classes, we are well below most developed nations, so we are definitely in banana republic territory there.

Our middle class is much larger and healthier than most banana republics. I think this is mostly an aftereffect of the tremendous success of the American middle class from the 1950s to the 1980s. The middle class has been in recession ever since, with stagnant wages and a rapid loss of wealth relative to the upper classes. Some members of the middle class identifies with the wealthy oligarchs (as do some members of the poor). It's perhaps evenly split. So we are not in banana republic territory with regard to the middle class, though we are trending that way.

Politically, one party, the Republicans, has been making efforts to manipulate the vote so as to allow a minority of affluent whites to retain power, through such ruses as phony concern over illegal voting to create barriers for millions of legal voters of the "wrong" sort (i.e., Democrats) and blatant gerrymandering. But they have not had nearly enough success to date to say they control elections. We are trending toward banana republichood on the Republicans' acount, but at a tiny rate.

Trade unions in America have lost greatly in political power, though it's hard to say they have been suppressed, certainly not in traditional banana republic ways (executions, jailing, etc.).

Overall, we are not all that near being a banana republic, except in the area of economics, where we are either at full banana republic status or fast approaching it.
  #254  
Old 12-26-2013, 11:32 AM
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First of all, I chose 1965, as I was putting into your life time.
As for the Great Depression, again, it affected the whole world, and it was in fact one of the catalysts to spur change.

However that may be. I see your point. And I respect that. And agree to a certain extent. I guess the difference is that I'm observing things with some alarm.
Alarm is good. Let's look at some history as well.

I graduated high school and entered college in 1968.

Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were shot, there was a police riot in Chicago, and Richard Fucking Nixon was elected president. There were no gay rights, no women's rights. You could be arrested for living together without being married. You could get beaten up for having long hair. You could get beaten up in a race riot. Rochester had one of the first of the 60s, in 1964, which occurred literally outside the apartment I once lived in. I passed through burned out and torn down wastelands every time I took a bus downtown. You didn't want to go to a hospital if you got beat up. Although there now existed vaccines against polio, virtually none of today's everyday medicine and surgery existed even in the lab. The city was emptying out fast, but other cities were much worse. New York was a hellhole, and would hit bottom around 1975. I went to an inner city high school, seething with racial tension. The counselors confiscated boxes of weapons: I saw them personally. Security checkpoints didn't exist. Maybe that's why dozens of airplanes were being hijacked each year. Teachers tried and mostly failed. We scraped together 4 people for an AP American History class. The suburban high school two miles away had 3. Three full classes, that is. There were no ethnic cuisines unless you counted German and Italian. I didn't eat Chinese food until I was in college. Supermarkets were the size of today's drug stores. No specialty foods, no special diet foods, no prepared foods, and little to no fresh produce in winter except for a few expensive items flown in from California. Did I mention that George Wallace won several states in the election? Look him up. And J. Edgar Hoover was spying on everyone, especially Martin Luther King, whom he considered a Communist. Not a Communist Fascist like Obama. The real thing. The worst thing possible. He had records on every politician and regularly blackmailed them. His troops infiltrated every peace and protest movement. He wiretapped everybody everywhere, except for the Mob, which he didn't believe existed.

If you would have told us this was the Golden Age and the U.S. would have gone into a decline since, we would have slit our wrists. The Good Old Days, They Were Terrible.

We paid no attention to the Depression and the War that our parents lived through. We could see with our own eyes how much was wrong.

But now things are reversed. We're the old ones with the memories. You're the ones who see all the bad things with your own eyes. You're angry. That's the natural order of things.

The only real difference is that we weren't stupid enough to try to convince anybody that things were better during the Depression!
  #255  
Old 12-26-2013, 11:53 AM
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To add to what Exapno said, in 1965:
- The FBI was in the midst of COINTELPRO (which Exapno was alluding to).
- The Vietnam war was starting to ramp up which would lead to the draft lottery.
- The Cold War was in full swing.
- The US environment was in worse shape than it is now and there were almost no environmental protection laws.
- Violent crime was higher than it is now and was still going up.

Last edited by Deeg; 12-26-2013 at 11:54 AM.
  #256  
Old 12-26-2013, 12:03 PM
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Yes, but we're not debating whether any particular city has issues or whether the US has issues, but whether the country is turning into a "banana republic."
Many in the thread concede that the term was grossly misused. Still it points to substantive issues; to ignore that substance and "win" the debate against the weakest strawman is rather pointless, no?

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Are you making the point that white people moving 10 miles, from the city of Detroit to the city of Warren, is a strong enough citation to make the US a banana republic?
The way you stress "10 miles", as though that were of particular relevance, suggests that, after all, you do need to click and study the links I posted about "white flight."

And, yes, although "banana" was an exaggeration, it is true that robbing from poor cities to subsidize an elite is a characteristic of failing societies: e.g. communist countries and, yes, classic "banana republics."
  #257  
Old 12-26-2013, 12:08 PM
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FYI, Riga, implying that posters are idiots is not allowed in this forum.
Click on the little red triangle in the upper right-hand corner of the post in question for better, quicker, and more effective results.
  #258  
Old 12-26-2013, 12:12 PM
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So you got nuttin' and all your bloviating on this topic is pointless drivel.
You don't agree that the U.S. gets better all the time and that rights are improving day by day?
  #259  
Old 12-26-2013, 12:16 PM
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You don't agree that the U.S. gets better all the time and that rights are improving day by day?
Any luck specifying when the U.S. was better, or freer, than it is right now?
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Old 12-26-2013, 12:19 PM
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Any luck specifying when the U.S. was better, or freer, than it is right now?
That's not possible. It was NEVER better than it is right now.
  #261  
Old 12-26-2013, 12:24 PM
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That's not possible. It was NEVER better than it is right now.
In the aggregate, that is correct, yes.
  #262  
Old 12-26-2013, 12:27 PM
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It should be noted that the same is true of most of the world. It's not unique to the U.S. We are living in mankind's golden age, so it's no surprise that most societies are freer, healthier, and more confortable than ever before.
  #263  
Old 12-26-2013, 12:41 PM
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The US is not a banana republic, but it's really hard to argue that it's not on that path.
Actually, it's pretty easy to argue it's not.

It's only the most facile examinations of economic markers to suggest the US is even on that path. That's rather the point of most of the replies in this thread.

Now if you were to claim the US is on the path to no longer being the pre-eminent economic power in the world, there's room to argue.

But to suggest the US is economically at or near banana republic status is nearly laughable (unless, of course, you mean the US is turning into a chain of apparel retailers - which is perhaps as far from the truth).

Last edited by Great Antibob; 12-26-2013 at 12:45 PM.
  #264  
Old 12-26-2013, 01:03 PM
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Overall, we are not all that near being a banana republic, except in the area of economics, where we are either at full banana republic status or fast approaching it.
When is "B" day? If we're "fast approaching it", you must mean within the next generation or so, at least. Right?

And please specify which economic metrics you are talking about that put us at "full BR status".

Last edited by John Mace; 12-26-2013 at 01:06 PM.
  #265  
Old 12-26-2013, 01:17 PM
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That's not possible. It was NEVER better than it is right now.
I'm glad you agree.
  #266  
Old 12-26-2013, 01:25 PM
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That's not possible. It was NEVER better than it is right now.
You don't even agree with that yourself (from this thread extolling the virtues of past Chicago):
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Yes! Maxwell Street! That's it! Thank you! I've been trying to think of the name of that place for 3 days now. Nostalgia has got the best of me lately. Italian sausage, Italian beef, oooooooo! Parky's hot tamales, mmmmmm! Riverview, wowwwww! The Hungry Eye in Old Town. hehehehe!(
Oh, wait. You were being sarcastic.

Amazing how your memory for the past is so selective. Not a single thing was wrong in Daley's Chicago!

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  #267  
Old 12-26-2013, 01:26 PM
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Actually, it's pretty easy to argue it's not.

It's only the most facile examinations of economic markers to suggest the US is even on that path. That's rather the point of most of the replies in this thread.

Now if you were to claim the US is on the path to no longer being the pre-eminent economic power in the world, there's room to argue.

But to suggest the US is economically at or near banana republic status is nearly laughable (unless, of course, you mean the US is turning into a chain of apparel retailers - which is perhaps as far from the truth).
I suspect we are using different definitions of "banana republic economy." You are probably thinking of a country that has only one of a few sources of wealth -- say, banana plantations -- over which a small number of wealthy families exercise control.

I define a banana republic economically as rule by a small oligarchy, and by "small" I mean a tiny percentage of the population overall. That could be a lot of people, in a big country like the US.

But when the Walmart heirs own more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of US citizens, as is the case at present ... banana, banana, banana, my friend.

Last edited by Evil Captor; 12-26-2013 at 01:27 PM.
  #268  
Old 12-26-2013, 02:15 PM
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When is "B" day? If we're "fast approaching it", you must mean within the next generation or so, at least. Right?
Purely in terms of economics, yes. I see no indication that the military leaders are taking a direct interest in politics, or that voting has been successfully rigged. Both could concievably happen within a generation. In fact, a military coup almost DID happen, back in the 1930s. And Rove and the Koch brothers are doing the damnedest to subvert voting, though not with any great success as yet. And just because something is trending in a particular direction, does not mean it will inevitably happen.

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And please specify which economic metrics you are talking about that put us at "full BR status".
We have huge wealth inequality not seen since the age of robber barons, our Congress is utterly dependent on money to get elected, and the Supreme Court has backed the situation up. We ARE there, economically. It's no coincidence nobody ever got arrested for the malfeasance that led to the Great Recession. Instead we gave them enormous amounts of money and patted them on the back. That's corruption.
  #269  
Old 12-26-2013, 03:02 PM
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Purely in terms of economics, yes. I see no indication that the military leaders are taking a direct interest in politics, or that voting has been successfully rigged. Both could concievably happen within a generation. In fact, a military coup almost DID happen, back in the 1930s. And Rove and the Koch brothers are doing the damnedest to subvert voting, though not with any great success as yet. And just because something is trending in a particular direction, does not mean it will inevitably happen.
So, let's say current trends continue. Trends that mean we are "fast approaching" BR status. At current trends, when is BR-day? 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? 100 years?



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We have huge wealth inequality not seen since the age of robber barons, our Congress is utterly dependent on money to get elected, and the Supreme Court has backed the situation up. We ARE there, economically. It's no coincidence nobody ever got arrested for the malfeasance that led to the Great Recession. Instead we gave them enormous amounts of money and patted them on the back. That's corruption.
None of which is an essential ingredient of BR status. Note that relative inequality is not the same when the bottom 80% (or whatever) does not live in poverty (which is what makes BRs BRs).
  #270  
Old 12-26-2013, 03:45 PM
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But when the Walmart heirs own more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of US citizens, as is the case at present ... banana, banana, banana, my friend.
In what countries do the rich not control a disproportionate amount of the wealth?

If every country is a banana republic, then none are.
  #271  
Old 12-26-2013, 03:53 PM
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BTW, for those busily spinning the notion that nothing like this has ever happened before (excuse me while I have the vapors) check this out.
  #272  
Old 12-26-2013, 03:54 PM
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I suspect we are using different definitions of "banana republic economy." You are probably thinking of a country that has only one of a few sources of wealth -- say, banana plantations -- over which a small number of wealthy families exercise control.

I define a banana republic economically as rule by a small oligarchy, and by "small" I mean a tiny percentage of the population overall. That could be a lot of people, in a big country like the US.

But when the Walmart heirs own more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of US citizens, as is the case at present ... banana, banana, banana, my friend.
Agreed: the Walton heirs own a significant amount of assets in absolute terms, $89.5 billion.

In relative terms it means that the richest family (not person) owns .075% of the total US net worth as defined by the UN (cited above.)

And these numbers, I'm sure you admit, are meaningless without comparison, right? The richest family in the US owns 7.5% of 1% of the country, which, given the drift in this thread, must be a substantially higher percentage than that seen in more economically "enlightened" countries, such as Sweden, Germany, etc. And it has to be greater, otherwise the topic discussed would be "Is the West falling apart?"... but it's not. It's just about the US (again.)

So, how does the US compare? The link below has some basic data:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B95...it?usp=sharing

(Controls to zoom in/out are at the top left)

I put together a simple chart showing the % of a nations wealth, as defined by the UN Wealth Report cited above, owned by the richest person/family within that nation (citation provided in-chart.)

I can see why this is such a hot button issue with you, NiceGuyJack - you live in a country where a whopping 1.4% of it is owned by a single person (for the US, the equivalent would be if the Walton heirs owned $1.65 trillion.) That would piss me off too. On the other hand, I would direct my anger where it would benefit me the most... in your own backyard, not at some country more than 3,000 miles away.

Yes, the Walmart people own as much as 40 million households who have negative to smaller net worth amounts... but other than Japan, as the richest family in their country, they own the smallest percentage of their nations assets than any of the more "enlightened" countries listed on the chart.

So, for your definition of "oligarchy", Evil Captor, I would argue that a country where 1.4% of it is owned by a single person is in far, far greater danger of falling into such than a country where .075% is owned by a single family.

(But, seriously - almost 1.5%!? How did you let this happen?)

Last edited by JohnT; 12-26-2013 at 03:55 PM.
  #273  
Old 12-26-2013, 06:12 PM
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Wake up, Swede-ple!
  #274  
Old 12-26-2013, 10:41 PM
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Agreed: the Walton heirs own a significant amount of assets in absolute terms, $89.5 billion.

In relative terms it means that the richest family (not person) owns .075% of the total US net worth as defined by the UN (cited above.)
Minor nitpick: Walmart stock has done well over the past three years; $145 billion is a better estimate of Walmart family wealth than your 3-year old figure.

Major nitpick: The U.N. report you cited upthread, perhaps meaningful for some purposes, is an extremely peculiar choice for understanding wealth inequality, etc. Their measure includes unharvested forests, the future values of ores and fisheries, and most importantly a huge portion of the "wealth" is human capital -- more than $1 million for a typical working family. That $1 million estimate (for a family which might have much much less than that in financial assets) may be a fair estimate of the future value of their labor, but most of their wages will eventually be used for their own food, housing, etc.

Since slavery is illegal in the U.S. the Walton family "owns" no humans at all, except themselves.

The four richest Waltons own more financial wealth than the 150 million poorest Americans put together. No cherry-picking of irrelevant data, nor braggado about the leading zeros necessary in an irrelevant percentage figure, will change that.
  #275  
Old 12-27-2013, 12:36 AM
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Alarm is good. Let's look at some history as well.
I graduated high school and entered college in 1968.
Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were shot, there was a police riot in Chicago, and Richard Fucking Nixon was elected president. There were no gay rights, no women's rights. You could be arrested for living together without being married. You could get beaten up for having long hair. You could get beaten up in a race riot. Rochester had one of the first of the 60s, in 1964, which occurred literally outside the apartment I once lived in. I passed through burned out and torn down wastelands every time I took a bus downtown. You didn't want to go to a hospital if you got beat up. Although there now existed vaccines against polio, virtually none of today's everyday medicine and surgery existed even in the lab. The city was emptying out fast, but other cities were much worse. New York was a hellhole, and would hit bottom around 1975. I went to an inner city high school, seething with racial tension. The counselors confiscated boxes of weapons: I saw them personally. Security checkpoints didn't exist. Maybe that's why dozens of airplanes were being hijacked each year. Teachers tried and mostly failed. We scraped together 4 people for an AP American History class. The suburban high school two miles away had 3. Three full classes, that is. There were no ethnic cuisines unless you counted German and Italian. I didn't eat Chinese food until I was in college. Supermarkets were the size of today's drug stores. No specialty foods, no special diet foods, no prepared foods, and little to no fresh produce in winter except for a few expensive items flown in from California. Did I mention that George Wallace won several states in the election? Look him up. And J. Edgar Hoover was spying on everyone, especially Martin Luther King, whom he considered a Communist. Not a Communist Fascist like Obama. The real thing. The worst thing possible. He had records on every politician and regularly blackmailed them. His troops infiltrated every peace and protest movement. He wiretapped everybody everywhere, except for the Mob, which he didn't believe existed.
If you would have told us this was the Golden Age and the U.S. would have gone into a decline since, we would have slit our wrists. The Good Old Days, They Were Terrible.
We paid no attention to the Depression and the War that our parents lived through. We could see with our own eyes how much was wrong.
But now things are reversed. We're the old ones with the memories. You're the ones who see all the bad things with your own eyes. You're angry. That's the natural order of things.
The only real difference is that we weren't stupid enough to try to convince anybody that things were better during the Depression!
You have certainly experienced a lot in your life so far.
And although I may not have experienced it first hand, I am well aware of the upheaval of the 60ís and 70ís. But again, this was not unique to the States. There were riots and unrest elsewhere in the world. Student riots in cities all over Europe and Japan. There were even race riots in places like Singapore. Then in the 80ís and 90ís there was period of relative prosperity and calm. I have some recollection of the 70ís but I recall the 80ís and 90ís better. And this was again worldwide. And again, apart from universal healthcare, economically advanced countries shared similar trajectories in terms of cultural reforms in settling the unrests of the previous decades.
You have a point that my perspective and experience is from a period of relative calm, and I do agree that there has been advances made. My issue is that there is a trend in the US to revert and dismantle what people fought so hard for. At least that is how I see it. I'm surprised you're not alarmed by it as well.
As for using Detroit as an example, creating a slum out of a once prosperous city does not seem like a step forward, however you want to twist it.
  #276  
Old 12-27-2013, 01:39 AM
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Agreed: the Walton heirs own a significant amount of assets in absolute terms, $89.5 billion.
In relative terms it means that the richest family (not person) owns .075% of the total US net worth as defined by the UN (cited above.)
And these numbers, I'm sure you admit, are meaningless without comparison, right? The richest family in the US owns 7.5% of 1% of the country, which, given the drift in this thread, must be a substantially higher percentage than that seen in more economically "enlightened" countries, such as Sweden, Germany, etc. And it has to be greater, otherwise the topic discussed would be "Is the West falling apart?"... but it's not. It's just about the US (again.)
So, how does the US compare? The link below has some basic data:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B95...it?usp=sharing
(Controls to zoom in/out are at the top left)
I put together a simple chart showing the % of a nations wealth, as defined by the UN Wealth Report cited above, owned by the richest person/family within that nation (citation provided in-chart.)
I can see why this is such a hot button issue with you, NiceGuyJack - you live in a country where a whopping 1.4% of it is owned by a single person (for the US, the equivalent would be if the Walton heirs owned $1.65 trillion.) That would piss me off too. On the other hand, I would direct my anger where it would benefit me the most... in your own backyard, not at some country more than 3,000 miles away.
Yes, the Walmart people own as much as 40 million households who have negative to smaller net worth amounts... but other than Japan, as the richest family in their country, they own the smallest percentage of their nations assets than any of the more "enlightened" countries listed on the chart.
So, for your definition of "oligarchy", Evil Captor, I would argue that a country where 1.4% of it is owned by a single person is in far, far greater danger of falling into such than a country where .075% is owned by a single family.
(But, seriously - almost 1.5%!? How did you let this happen?)
First of all, where did you get the National wealth figures? I know you mention the UN Wealth report, but that has factors such as pollution and work force. It doesnít measure real wealth. Can you provide a link? If you want to compare the wealth of an individual, shouldnít it be against total actual wealth of all individuals and possibly the government and companies in a country?
However that may be, I would appreciate if you could point out where I have said rich is bad? In fact, I have already admitted to being a capitalist myself.
As for Stefan Persson, his main worth comes from being the main shareholder in the company H&M as well as having major stakes in Hexagon. So as the value of these shares grows, so does his wealth. And he has owned these shares for a long time. He also owns properties outside of Sweden, including an entire village in England. Correct me if my math is wrong, but wouldnít the worth of an entire village in England be part of the English total? Or has this village become part of the Swedish national wealth simply by being owned by a Swede?
The funky math aside, you can bet Stefan Perrson has paid a substantial amount in tax already and continues to do so. He canít buy Swedish political loyalty, although his company would benefit with export assistance and tax breaks if he employs Swedes. Just like any other company operating in Sweden. If he is worth $28 billion after all the taxes he must have paid, he certainly deserves it.
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Old 12-27-2013, 01:53 AM
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I'm glad you agree.
It's even better today than when I wrote that yesterday!
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Old 12-27-2013, 02:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Evil Captor View Post
I suspect we are using different definitions of "banana republic economy." You are probably thinking of a country that has only one of a few sources of wealth -- say, banana plantations -- over which a small number of wealthy families exercise control.

I define a banana republic economically as rule by a small oligarchy, and by "small" I mean a tiny percentage of the population overall. That could be a lot of people, in a big country like the US.

But when the Walmart heirs own more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of US citizens, as is the case at present ... banana, banana, banana, my friend.
An interesting comparison! I wonder if we can gain any insight into what a Banana Republic might look like if we take into consideration Bananas, Dole, Chiquita, other Latin American resources .... and those (or that which) who call the shots and exploit them?
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Old 12-27-2013, 08:41 AM
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First of all, where did you get the National wealth figures? I know you mention the UN Wealth report, but that has factors such as pollution and work force. It doesn’t measure real wealth. Can you provide a link? If you want to compare the wealth of an individual, shouldn’t it be against total actual wealth of all individuals and possibly the government and companies in a country?
I have linked to the UN report a number of times in this thread. Were you reading my arguments, you should have already clicked on the link at least to make sure they said what I said they said.

Here is the home page for the report.

Here is the report itself. It's a 13mb PDF.

I am confused by the arguments you made above, especially in light of your implied admission that you haven't read the report. You tell me it includes "pollution" but doesn't include "real wealth". The only thing I can imagine this means is that you're arguing it doesn't include things like cash, stocks, bonds, etc? It does, on page 74. However, as noted:

Quote:
This includes estimates of the value of housing, consumer durable goods, and financial assets owned by households and non-profit organizations less home mortgages and other household debt.
Assets owned by the government are included in the estimates. The value of assets owned by firms is not estimated directly as this should be captured by the value of corporate equities, equity in non-corporate business, and corporate bonds.
And pollution matters. It significantly decreases the value of property, screws up your depreciation schedules, and it should be included as a liability if possible. Whether you agree with their specific formulation of the impact pollution has is one thing, but to argue that the quality of capital stock doesn't matter doesn't make much financial sense.

Regardless, I'm sticking by the report. The purpose of assets is to build wealth and the purpose of wealth is to control more assets. The two, while not similar, are inexorably linked.

To conclude: I have one family in Sweden with enough wealth to own 1.4% of the nations assets compared to a family in the US with enough wealth to own .075% of its assets. Make of that as you will, but I won't make of it as evidence that the US is a banana republic nor will I make of it evidence that the US is an oligarchy.

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However that may be, I would appreciate if you could point out where I have said rich is bad? In fact, I have already admitted to being a capitalist myself.
You haven't, nor have I made that point.

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As for Stefan Persson, his main worth comes from being the main shareholder in the company H&M as well as having major stakes in Hexagon. So as the value of these shares grows, so does his wealth. And he has owned these shares for a long time.
Uh... ok. This is how the Walmart people own their billions as well. They own Walmart stock.

(Please note that the post you're responding to wasn't aimed at you, though it did mention you in that one paragraph. Evil Captor is the one who mentioned the Walmart heirs.)

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He also owns properties outside of Sweden, including an entire village in England. Correct me if my math is wrong, but wouldn’t the worth of an entire village in England be part of the English total? Or has this village become part of the Swedish national wealth simply by being owned by a Swede?
Questions of methodology are best left to the UN. I refer you to the various authors of the report.

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The funky math aside, you can bet Stefan Perrson has paid a substantial amount in tax already and continues to do so. He can’t buy Swedish political loyalty, although his company would benefit with export assistance and tax breaks if he employs Swedes. Just like any other company operating in Sweden. If he is worth $28 billion after all the taxes he must have paid, he certainly deserves it.
Agreed. Same thing for the Walmart heirs. And how is the math funky?

However, the fact still remains that, throughout Europe, your rich and elite own a far greater percentage of their respective nation's wealth than those here in America.

Last edited by JohnT; 12-27-2013 at 08:46 AM.
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Old 12-27-2013, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by septimus View Post
Minor nitpick: Walmart stock has done well over the past three years; $145 billion is a better estimate of Walmart family wealth than your 3-year old figure.

Major nitpick: The U.N. report you cited upthread, perhaps meaningful for some purposes, is an extremely peculiar choice for understanding wealth inequality, etc. Their measure includes unharvested forests, the future values of ores and fisheries, and most importantly a huge portion of the "wealth" is human capital -- more than $1 million for a typical working family. That $1 million estimate (for a family which might have much much less than that in financial assets) may be a fair estimate of the future value of their labor, but most of their wages will eventually be used for their own food, housing, etc.

Since slavery is illegal in the U.S. the Walton family "owns" no humans at all, except themselves.

The four richest Waltons own more financial wealth than the 150 million poorest Americans put together. No cherry-picking of irrelevant data, nor braggado about the leading zeros necessary in an irrelevant percentage figure, will change that.
Can y'all get your figures right? Is it "more than 150 million people" or "more than the bottom 40%" (128 million.)

1 in 5 Americans have a negative net worth. That's 65 million people. Somebody flat-assed broke living on the streets with nothing to their name has a greater net worth than a family living in an over-leveraged McMansion and a SUV with a $30k note with an income of $129,000, all of it going to bills and payments, for the simple reasons that (1) 0>-x and (2) income is not wealth.

With 65 million people of negative net worth, it's no surprise that it takes an additional 85 million people with a positive net worth to not only bring the balance up to 0, but then increase the balance to a positive $89 billion.

I would think that if you're looking to decrease this ratio (from top 150 million to top X million), then you would have a far, far greater impact by teaching people how to manage their money so they won't end up with a negative net worth than worrying about people who, face it, are providing the poor with a quality and quantity of affordable goods unmatched in the history of man.

Last edited by JohnT; 12-27-2013 at 09:00 AM.
  #281  
Old 12-27-2013, 12:38 PM
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You have a point that my perspective and experience is from a period of relative calm, and I do agree that there has been advances made. My issue is that there is a trend in the US to revert and dismantle what people fought so hard for. At least that is how I see it. I'm surprised you're not alarmed by it as well.
As for using Detroit as an example, creating a slum out of a once prosperous city does not seem like a step forward, however you want to twist it.
You've packed several major conceptual errors into this, so it's worth taking it apart and baring the underlying context.

Detroit is a tragedy. No question. Nor is it singular. I could name dozens of other northeastern former industrial hubs of all sizes for which the same sad history has been at work. Detroit has the highest percentage of people living in poverty, but also in the top ten are Hartford, CT, Cleveland, Dayton, and Cincinnati, OH, Providence, RI, Buffalo, NY and, um, Rochester, NY.

Who gained from these cities' falls? The South and the West. People starting moving out of the cold north for sunnier climate in large numbers starting in the 1950s. You can point to a multitude of reasons starting with air conditioning becoming widely available and making summer living bearable, the need to replace old industrial stock and the desire of companies to do so in less unionized areas, the move toward a service economy that lessened the dominance of industry and agriculture, and the lower living expenses in areas where you could build new rather than competing with decades of previously-owned houses.

Nothing in history suggests that any individual city or area in a country must always progress and prosper, in the same way that nothing in history suggests than any individual or family must progress and proper. As long as the entirely of the country prospers, the fate of subunits does not speak to the country as a whole. Singling out Detroit as anything other than an individual tragedy is the first major conceptual error.

If you look back at that era, in fact, you could make some predictions about the rise of the South but probably not do a good job of guessing which individual cities would come out on top. It's impossible to know ahead of time who wins. You could make predictions about the North as well, but history might also fool you. As I said, New York hit bottom around 1975. The consensus was that the city was finished. It's now on top again, even if filled with the same inequalities that people said doomed it 40 years ago. Washington, DC, was a gloomy slum outside of the gleaming government center. Today it's gentrifying rapidly, a problem to some but a boon overall. When Boeing moved its headquarters to Chicago, somebody erected a billboard saying "Will the last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights." Today it's the model city for the Internet age. San Francisco went from the Summer of Love to a haven for drugged-out homeless people. It's problem now is literally so much success that people can't afford to live there.

Not understanding that cities, as with everything from people to nations, have cycles of success and failure and that nobody knows what the next cycle will bring is the second major conceptual error. Detroit could come back. It offers cheap opportunity and that's always a draw. It may not. We don't know. But taking a slice out of a long cycle and using that slice to proclaim decline is always wrong.

The next major conceptual error is somewhat more subtle, especially to those not in the U.S., even if it's already been mentioned in this thread. Detroit, the center city that gives the area its name, and the Detroit Metropolitan Area are two very different things, economically, politically, socially, and in every other way. The city has zero political power over those who live outside its boundaries. Today that is normally 60 to 90% of the total population. It is 80% for Metro Detroit. (The combined economic area of Detroit, eight other Michigan countries, and Windsor, Ontario had 5.7 million compared to Detroit's 681,000. Which area you use for any given comparison should vary.) Although the center city gets all the headlines, it's clear that a judgement about the area shouldn't be made based on 20% of the population. Metro Detroit is a prosperous area, though certainly hit by the recession. Talking about "Detroit" as just the center city is basing your judgement on an obsolete but historically entrenched political entity. Most - but certainly not all - people think that a prosperous metro area requires a prosperous center city, but that is a huge political argument in its own right.

What you see in the headlines seldom reflects the total reality. If Detroit is anything, it is an outcome rather than a symptom, and an outcome from mistakes made in the 50s and 60s, exactly the period people keep insisting were better times. If you look back from prison at the great spending spree you had on stolen money can you really say those days were better? If you do, you're just setting yourself up for future failure. Maybe some forces in the U.S. are making this mistake - the dismantlers, we might call them. But they have no chance of succeeding. And they are loudest now because they know this is the last short window they have before becoming an absolute minority and losing any hope of taking the country backwards.
  #282  
Old 12-27-2013, 04:17 PM
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I can see why this is such a hot button issue with you, NiceGuyJack - you live in a country where a whopping 1.4% of it is owned by a single person (for the US, the equivalent would be if the Walton heirs owned $1.65 trillion.) That would piss me off too. On the other hand, I would direct my anger where it would benefit me the most... in your own backyard, not at some country more than 3,000 miles away.

Yes, the Walmart people own as much as 40 million households who have negative to smaller net worth amounts... but other than Japan, as the richest family in their country, they own the smallest percentage of their nations assets than any of the more "enlightened" countries listed on the chart.

So, for your definition of "oligarchy", Evil Captor, I would argue that a country where 1.4% of it is owned by a single person is in far, far greater danger of falling into such than a country where .075% is owned by a single family.

(But, seriously - almost 1.5%!? How did you let this happen?)
Oh, the Walton heirs statistic is just a dramatic pointer, there is much more complete and compelling evidence that wealth is distributed unequally in the US. Here is a collection of charts that demonstrate the startling rise in wealth inequality in the US over the last few decades.

Your isolated data point from Sweden is just that, an isolated data point. The numbers are overwhelming, and clearly show rising wealth inequality. Now the question in your mind must be, at what point does the wealth inequality reach banana republic-hood in purely economic terms? I don't think there is an established metric for that. But surely we're close enough to it that any reasonable person must be alarmed. (I realize that the term "reasonable person" excludes many Dopers and almost all libertarians, but ... I'm OK with that.)

Last edited by Evil Captor; 12-27-2013 at 04:19 PM.
  #283  
Old 12-27-2013, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Evil Captor View Post
I don't think there is an established metric for that. But surely we're close enough to it that any reasonable person must be alarmed. (I realize that the term "reasonable person" excludes many Dopers and almost all libertarians, but ... I'm OK with that.)
The irony potential for this one is just off the charts. *BOOM!* Well, there goes another irony meter, and I just calibrated this one for the 'Dope too!
  #284  
Old 12-27-2013, 04:33 PM
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Now the question in your mind must be, at what point does the wealth inequality reach banana republic-hood in purely economic terms?
None. Zero. That is like asking at what temperature does a diagnosis of bubonic plague result? Fever is one symptom of bubonic plague, but not diagnostic and really one so incredibly minor and besides the point compared to everything else that would be happening as to be ignorable.

And you still haven't answered my direct question: which countries do not show economic inequalities? If the average body temperature is 98.6, then running around yelling "OMG! Get him to a hospital! He has a temperature of almost 99!" is lunacy.
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Old 12-27-2013, 04:47 PM
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Oh, the Walton heirs statistic is just a dramatic pointer, there is much more complete and compelling evidence that wealth is distributed unequally in the US. Here is a collection of charts that demonstrate the startling rise in wealth inequality in the US over the last few decades.

Your isolated data point from Sweden is just that, an isolated data point. The numbers are overwhelming, and clearly show rising wealth inequality. Now the question in your mind must be, at what point does the wealth inequality reach banana republic-hood in purely economic terms? I don't think there is an established metric for that. But surely we're close enough to it that any reasonable person must be alarmed. (I realize that the term "reasonable person" excludes many Dopers and almost all libertarians, but ... I'm OK with that.)
It's not isolated. Every country in Europe that I listed had higher %'s than the US. Did you not understand the chart?

Feel free to add to it, btw. I think you'll just confirm the correlation, but maybe not.

Again, I don't contest the links numbers. I contest your conclusion that they point to the US heading towards being a "banana republic."

Last edited by JohnT; 12-27-2013 at 04:49 PM.
  #286  
Old 12-27-2013, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnT in reply to Septimus View Post
Can y'all get your figures right? Is it "more than 150 million people" or "more than the bottom 40%" (128 million.)
My apologies, Septimus. In the post you cited, I incorrectly entered "40 million" when I should have entered "130 million". Only thing I can figure is that I was thinking "40%" while typing it.

So it's me who didn't get his figures right. I apologize for the snark.

Last edited by JohnT; 12-27-2013 at 04:53 PM.
  #287  
Old 12-27-2013, 05:05 PM
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It's not isolated. Every country in Europe that I listed had higher %'s than the US. Did you not understand the chart?

Feel free to add to it, btw. I think you'll just confirm the correlation, but maybe not.

Again, I don't contest the links numbers. I contest your conclusion that they point to the US heading towards being a "banana republic."
Well here is a chart that addresses the point I think you are making. It shows the world's countries color-coded by Gini coefficient. The US is in roughly the middle of the chart, not as bad off as what are presumably the Original Banana Republics in South America, but with a higher Gini coefficient than any other industrialized nation. In fact, the US has a higher Gini coefficient than Nigeria, considered a hotbed of corruption and site of a lot of civil unrest over that.

The US is not a banana republic, as I stated in my original post. And the US is not YET a banana republic in purely economic terms ... but we are clearly headed that way. And do we REALLY want to be stuck down there with all those high Gini coefficient countries in South America?
  #288  
Old 12-27-2013, 05:10 PM
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None. Zero. That is like asking at what temperature does a diagnosis of bubonic plague result? Fever is one symptom of bubonic plague, but not diagnostic and really one so incredibly minor and besides the point compared to everything else that would be happening as to be ignorable.

And you still haven't answered my direct question: which countries do not show economic inequalities? If the average body temperature is 98.6, then running around yelling "OMG! Get him to a hospital! He has a temperature of almost 99!" is lunacy.
I'll refer you to my original post in this thread, where I listed a number of factors that I thought might make a country a banana republic. On several of them, the US did not rank as a banana republic, and I said so. I said I thought one of the areas in which the US is most like a banana republic is economics. So, you're barking up the wrong tree here.

Last edited by Evil Captor; 12-27-2013 at 05:11 PM.
  #289  
Old 12-27-2013, 05:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Evil Captor View Post
I'll refer you to my original post in this thread, where I listed a number of factors that I thought might make a country a banana republic. On several of them, the US did not rank as a banana republic, and I said so. I said I thought one of the areas in which the US is most like a banana republic is economics. So, you're barking up the wrong tree here.
Yes, I get it. The U.S. is not even on the road to becoming a banana republic except for economic inequality, which I contend is absolutely and utterly irrelevant in predicting whether a country is becoming a banana republic. You couldn't have made a worse case if you were a libertarian.
  #290  
Old 12-28-2013, 09:46 AM
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The Big Question on the Table - "Is the US becoming a banana republic?"

I think we've pretty much proved ..... Yes, it is.

"Is the U.S. a banana republic"? Rather clearly .... No, it isn't.
  #291  
Old 12-28-2013, 10:19 AM
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The Big Question on the Table - "Is the US becoming a banana republic?"

I think we've pretty much proved ..... Yes, it is.
Wouldn't you have to come up with some kind of facts, or evidence, to prove that?

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  #292  
Old 12-28-2013, 10:23 AM
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The Big Question on the Table - "Is the US becoming a banana republic?"

I think we've pretty much proved ..... Yes, it is.
Only for odd and idiosyncratic definitions of "banana republic" that are put forth by the couple of you who want to pretend that banana republic means something different than it means for every other speaker of the language.

Otherwise, you have merely "proved" that you are willing to abuse the language to make some point that makes no sense.
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Old 12-28-2013, 11:07 AM
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Wouldn't you have to come up with some kind of facts, or evidence, to prove that?

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Well, we've already had 6 pages of it, wouldn't you say?
  #294  
Old 12-28-2013, 11:14 AM
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Well, we've already had 6 pages of it, wouldn't you say?
Six pages of weird assertions, errors, abused language, and personal opinions hardly qualifies as facts or evidence.
  #295  
Old 12-28-2013, 11:15 AM
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When a five-year-old runs up repeatedly to the adult table and makes farting noises, it adds nothing to their conversation no matter how much he giggles.
  #296  
Old 12-28-2013, 11:19 AM
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Only for odd and idiosyncratic definitions of "banana republic" that are put forth by the couple of you who want to pretend that banana republic means something different than it means for every other speaker of the language.

Otherwise, you have merely "proved" that you are willing to abuse the language to make some point that makes no sense.
Not at all. The fact that there is no definition of what is required for a Banana Republic to be one ...... and we're left with 6 pages of 50% conviction, 50% counter-conviction and 100% guess-work or prejudice.

I didn't initiate this thread so don't accuse me of "abuse of the language" or tweeking of the definition. I say, with no guidelines there can be no abuse - but then again there can be no resolution other than what you want it to be. "Odd and idiosyncratic definitions" (in this case) don't enter into it.
  #297  
Old 12-28-2013, 11:22 AM
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Yes, I get it. The U.S. is not even on the road to becoming a banana republic except for economic inequality, which I contend is absolutely and utterly irrelevant in predicting whether a country is becoming a banana republic. You couldn't have made a worse case if you were a libertarian.
Not buying your notion that economic inequality is irrelevant to banana republichood. In fact, obtaining and maintaining control of wealth and power is what banana republics are all about, and the wealth inequality inevitably stems from the indifference of the people who seek wealth and power to the fate of the others in that society. You could make a strong element that seeking both wealth and power are the result of irrational subconscious motivations on the part of those who do so (to extremes) and I would agree with you there. But that's what the game is all about, let there be no doubt about it.

Last edited by Evil Captor; 12-28-2013 at 11:26 AM.
  #298  
Old 12-28-2013, 11:27 AM
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Six pages of weird assertions, errors, abused language, and personal opinions hardly qualifies as facts or evidence.
And what are links to economic data, exactly?
  #299  
Old 12-28-2013, 11:33 AM
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er, post 297 should read, "You could make a strong argument ..."
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Old 12-28-2013, 11:52 AM
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Not at all. The fact that there is no definition of what is required for a Banana Republic to be one ...... and we're left with 6 pages of 50% conviction, 50% counter-conviction and 100% guess-work or prejudice.

I didn't initiate this thread so don't accuse me of "abuse of the language" or tweeking of the definition. I say, with no guidelines there can be no abuse - but then again there can be no resolution other than what you want it to be. "Odd and idiosyncratic definitions" (in this case) don't enter into it.
You are abusing the language, again.

There is very definitely a clear definition of what constitutes a banana republic. Pretending that one does not exist in order to excuse your complete lack of evidence in order to simply make silly claims is, itself an abuse of language.

Wikipedia:
Quote:
Banana republic is a term in political science for a politically unstable country whose economy is largely dependent on the export of a single, limited-resource product, e.g. bananas. It typically has stratified social classes, including a large, impoverished working class and a ruling plutocracy that comprises the elites of business, politics, and the military.[1] This politico-economic oligarchy controls the primary-sector productions and thereby exploits the country's economy.
Merriam-Webster
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a small dependent country usually of the tropics;
especially : one run despotically
Oxford English Dictionary
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colloq. applied to a small state , esp. in central America, whose economy is almost entirely dependent on its fruit-exporting trade
Regardless whether one's "definition" is based on O. Henry or on a more extended metaphor as indicted by the Wikipedia entry, we have a history of the word and a clear indication of how and why the expression came to be and has been used. What you are attempting is to simply say "here is a derogatory term, let's apply it to the U.S.," (pretty much the way that idiots on the Left fling around the term "fascism" and idiots on the Right fling around "communism" or "socialism").
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