America No. 1?
- In most important categories we're not even in the Top 10 anymore.
America by the numbers
by Michael Ventura
The Austin Chronicle
02/03/05 "ICH" - - No concept lies more firmly embedded in our
national character than the notion that the USA is "No. 1," "the
greatest." Our broadcast media are, in essence, continuous
advertisements for the brand name "America Is No. 1." Any office
seeker saying otherwise would be committing political suicide. In
fact, anyone saying otherwise will be labeled "un-American." We're
an "empire," ain't we? Sure we are. An empire without a
manufacturing base. An empire that must borrow $2 billion a day from
its competitors in order to function. Yet the delusion is
ineradicable. We're No. 1. Well...this is the country you really
The United States is 49th in the world in literacy (the New York
Times, Dec. 12, 2004).
The United States ranked 28th out of 40 countries in mathematical
literacy (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
Twenty percent of Americans think the sun orbits the earth.
Seventeen percent believe the earth revolves around the sun once a
day (The Week, Jan. 7, 2005).
"The International Adult Literacy Survey...found that Americans with
less than nine years of education 'score worse than virtually all of
the other countries'" (Jeremy Rifkin's superbly documented book The
European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly
Eclipsing the American Dream, p.78).
Our workers are so ignorant and lack so many basic skills that
American businesses spend $30 billion a year on remedial training
(NYT, Dec. 12, 2004). No wonder they relocate elsewhere!
"The European Union leads the U.S. in...the number of science and
engineering graduates; public research and development (R&D)
expenditures; and new capital raised" (The European Dream, p.70).
"Europe surpassed the United States in the mid-1990s as the largest
producer of scientific literature" (The European Dream, p.70).
Nevertheless, Congress cut funds to the National Science Foundation.
The agency will issue 1,000 fewer research grants this year (NYT,
Dec. 21, 2004).
Foreign applications to U.S. grad schools declined 28 percent last
year. Foreign student enrollment on all levels fell for the first
time in three decades, but increased greatly in Europe and China.
Last year Chinese grad-school graduates in the U.S. dropped 56
percent, Indians 51 percent, South Koreans 28 percent (NYT, Dec. 21,
2004). We're not the place to be anymore.
The World Health Organization "ranked the countries of the world in
terms of overall health performance, and the U.S. [was]...37th." In
the fairness of health care, we're 54th. "The irony is that the
United States spends more per capita for health care than any other
nation in the world" (The European Dream, pp.79-80). Pay more, get
lots, lots less.
"The U.S. and South Africa are the only two developed countries in
the world that do not provide health care for all their citizens"
(The European Dream, p.80). Excuse me, but since when is South
Africa a "developed" country? Anyway, that's the company we're
Lack of health insurance coverage causes 18,000 unnecessary American
deaths a year. (That's six times the number of people killed on
9/11.) (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005.)
"U.S. childhood poverty now ranks 22nd, or second to last, among the
developed nations. Only Mexico scores lower" (The European Dream,
p.81). Been to Mexico lately? Does it look "developed" to you? Yet
it's the only "developed" country to score lower in childhood
Twelve million American families--more than 10 percent of all U.S.
households--"continue to struggle, and not always successfully, to
feed themselves." Families that "had members who actually went
hungry at some point last year" numbered 3.9 million (NYT, Nov. 22,
The United States is 41st in the world in infant mortality. Cuba
scores higher (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005).
Women are 70 percent more likely to die in childbirth in America
than in Europe (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005).
The leading cause of death of pregnant women in this country is
murder (CNN, Dec. 14, 2004).
"Of the 20 most developed countries in the world, the U.S. was dead
last in the growth rate of total compensation to its workforce in
the 1980s.... In the 1990s, the U.S. average compensation growth
rate grew only slightly, at an annual rate of about 0.1 percent"
(The European Dream, p.39). Yet Americans work longer hours per year
than any other industrialized country, and get less vacation time.
"Sixty-one of the 140 biggest companies on the Global Fortune 500
rankings are European, while only 50 are U.S. companies" (The
European Dream, p.66). "In a recent survey of the world's 50 best
companies, conducted by Global Finance, all but one were European"
(The European Dream, p.69).
"Fourteen of the 20 largest commercial banks in the world today are
European.... In the chemical industry, the European company BASF is
the world's leader, and three of the top six players are European.
In engineering and construction, three of the top five companies are
European.... The two others are Japanese. Not a single American
engineering and construction company is included among the world's
top nine competitors. In food and consumer products, Nestlé and
Unilever, two European giants, rank first and second, respectively,
in the world. In the food and drugstore retail trade, two European
companies...are first and second, and European companies make up
five of the top ten. Only four U.S. companies are on the list" (The
European Dream, p.68).
The United States has lost 1.3 million jobs to China in the last
decade (CNN, Jan. 12, 2005).
U.S. employers eliminated 1 million jobs in 2004 (The Week, Jan. 14,
Three million six hundred thousand Americans ran out of unemployment
insurance last year; 1.8 million--one in five--unemployed workers
are jobless for more than six months (NYT, Jan. 9, 2005).
Japan, China, Taiwan, and South Korea hold 40 percent of our
government debt. (That's why we talk nice to them.) "By helping keep
mortgage rates from rising, China has come to play an enormous and
little-noticed role in sustaining the American housing boom" (NYT,
Dec. 4, 2004). Read that twice. We owe our housing boom to China,
because they want us to keep buying all that stuff they manufacture.
Sometime in the next 10 years Brazil will probably pass the U.S. as
the world's largest agricultural producer. Brazil is now the world's
largest exporter of chickens, orange juice, sugar, coffee, and
tobacco. Last year, Brazil passed the U.S. as the world's largest
beef producer. (Hear that, you poor deluded cowboys?) As a result,
while we bear record trade deficits, Brazil boasts a $30 billion
trade surplus (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
As of last June, the U.S. imported more food than it exported (NYT,
Dec. 12, 2004).
Bush: 62,027,582 votes. Kerry: 59,026,003 votes. Number of eligible
voters who didn't show up: 79,279,000 (NYT, Dec. 26, 2004). That's
more than a third. Way more. If more than a third of Iraqis don't
show for their election, no country in the world will think that
One-third of all U.S. children are born out of wedlock. One-half of
all U.S. children will live in a one-parent house (CNN, Dec. 10,
"Americans are now spending more money on gambling than on movies,
videos, DVDs, music, and books combined" (The European Dream, p.28).
"Nearly one out of four Americans [believe] that using violence to
get what they want is acceptable" (The European Dream, p.32).
Forty-three percent of Americans think torture is sometimes
justified, according to a PEW Poll (Associated Press, Aug. 19,
"Nearly 900,000 children were abused or neglected in 2002, the last
year for which such data are available" (USA Today, Dec. 21, 2004).
"The International Association of Chiefs of Police said that cuts by
the [Bush] administration in federal aid to local police agencies
have left the nation more vulnerable than ever" (USA Today, Nov. 17,
No. 1? In most important categories we're not even in the Top 10
anymore. Not even close.
The USA is "No. 1" in nothing but weaponry, consumer spending, debt,
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
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