Observations from Abroad
Mirror.co.uk - News - IS THIS THE DEATH OF AMERICA?: "[The United States] has 37 million living under the poverty line, largely unnoticed by the richest in a country with more than three million millionaires.
The typical white family has $80,000 in assets; the average black family about $6,000. It's a wealth gap out of the Middle Ages. Some 46 million can't afford health insurance, 18,000 of whom will die early because of it.
The US, we learn, is 43rd in the world infant mortality rankings. A baby born in Beijing has nearly three times the chance of reaching its first birthday than a baby born in Washington. Those who survive face rotten schools. On reading and maths tests for 15-year-olds, America is 24th out of 29 nations.
On the other side of the tracks, 18 corporate executives have so far been jailed for cooking the books and looting billions. The prosecution of Mr Bush's pals at Enron - the showcase trial of the greed-is-good culture - will be soon.
But the backroom deal lives on and, in an orgy of cronyism, billions of dollars are being carved up in no-bid contracts awarded to politically-connected firms for work in the hurricane-hit states and in Iraq.
The war, seen as unwinnable, is becoming a bleak burden, with nearly 2,000 American dead. Two-thirds think the invasion was a mistake.
The war costs $6billion a month, driving up a nose-bleed high $331billion budget deficit. In five years the conflict will have cost each American family $11,300, it is said.
Mr Bush says blithely he'll cut existing programmes to pay for the war and fund an estimated $200billion for hurricane damage. He won't, he says, rescind his tax cuts. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel says Mr Bush is 'disconnected from reality'.
Americans have been angered by a reports that US troops have routinely tortured Iraqi prisoners. Some 230 low-rankers have been convicted - but not one general or Pentagon overseer. Disgruntled young officers are leaving in increasing numbers.
America's sense of itself - its pride in its power and authority, its faith in its institutions and its belief in its leaders - has been profoundly damaged."