America No. 1?
America by the numbers
by Michael Ventura
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 live in:
- 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).
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,
- 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!
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).
surpassed the United States in the mid-1990s as the largest
producer of scientific literature" (The European
Congress cut funds to the National Science Foundation. The
agency will issue 1,000 fewer research grants this year (NYT,
Dec. 21, 2004).
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
- 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 keeping.
- 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.)
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, 2004).
- 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.
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).
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,
- 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).
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 election legitimate.
- 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,
are now spending more money on gambling than on movies,
videos, DVDs, music, and books combined" (The
European Dream, p.28).
one out of four Americans [believe] that using violence to
get what they want is acceptable" (The European
percent of Americans think torture is sometimes justified,
according to a PEW Poll (Associated Press, Aug. 19, 2004).
900,000 children were abused or neglected in 2002, the last
year for which such data are available" (USA Today,
Dec. 21, 2004).
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, 2004).
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, and delusion.
Reprinted from the Austin Chronicle. www.citypages.com/databank/26/1264/article12985.asp
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