How Great We Art … Or Something

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

Approaching nothing. It too often looks like we’re well past spiritual death in my country. With no renaissance or resurrection in sight. (Is that what all that “zombie apocalypse” business is about? Probably not. And don’t tell me — I don’t much care.)

But I WOULD like to know why we pathologically vain and competitive Americans don’t give a shit that so many countries we love to sneer at make us look like lame assholes, because they take decent care of their people, and we just don’t bother.


The United States is No. 1 – But in What?
Monday, October 13, 2014 * History News Network
by Lawrence Wittner
American politicians are fond of telling their audiences that the United States is the greatest country in the world. Is there any evidence for this claim?
Well, yes. When it comes to violence and preparations for violence, the United States is, indeed, No. 1. In 2013, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. government accounted for 37 percent of world military expenditures, putting it far ahead of all other nations.
(The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively.) From 2004 to 2013, the United States was also the No. 1 weapons exporter in the world.
Moreover, given the U.S. government’s almost continuous series of wars and acts of military intervention since 1941, it seems likely that it surpasses all rivals when it comes to international violence.
This record is paralleled on the domestic front, where the United States has more guns and gun-related deaths than any other country. A study released in late 2013 reported that the United States had 88 guns for every 100 people, and 40 gun-related deaths for every 400,000 people, the most of any of the 27 economically developed countries surveyed.
By contrast, in Britain there were 6 guns per 100 people and 1 gun-related death per 400,000 people.
Yet, in a great many other areas, the United States is not No. 1 at all.
Take education. In late 2013, the Program for International Student Assessment released a report on how 15-year old students from 65 nations performed on its tests.
The report showed that U.S. students ranked 17th in reading and 21st in math. An international survey a bit earlier that year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that the ranking was slightly worse for American adults.
In 2014, Pearson, a multinational educational services company, placed the United States 20th in the world in “educational attainment” — well behind Poland and the Slovak Republic.
American health care and health fare even worse. In a 2014 study of health care (including infant mortality, healthy life expectancy, and mortality from preventable conditions) in 11 advanced industrial countries, the Commonwealth Fund concluded that the United States ranked last among them.
According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. healthcare system ranks 30th in the world.
Other studies reach somewhat different conclusions, but all are very unflattering to the United States, as are studies of American health. The United States, for example, has one of the world’s worst cancer rates (the seventh highest), and life expectancy is declining compared to other nations.
An article in the Washington Post in late 2013 reported that the United States ranked 26th among nations in life expectancy, and that the average American lifespan had fallen a year behind the international average.
What about the environment? Specialists at Yale University have developed a highly sophisticated Environmental Performance Index to examine the behavior of nations.
In the area of protection of human health from environmental harm, their 2014 index placed the United States 35th in health impacts, 36th in water and sanitation, and 38th in air quality. In the other area studied “protection of ecosystems” the United States ranked 32nd in water resources, 49th in climate and energy, 86th in biodiversity and habitat, 96th in fisheries, 107th in forests, and 109th in agriculture.
These and other areas of interest are dealt with by the Social Progress Index, which was developed by Michael Porter, an eminent professor of business (and a Republican) at Harvard.
According to Porter and his team, in 2014 the United States ranked 23rd in access to information and communications, 24th in nutrition and basic medical care, 31st in personal safety, 34th in water and sanitation, 39th in access to basic knowledge, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, and 70th in health and wellness.
The widespread extent of poverty, especially among children, remains a disgrace in one of the world’s wealthiest nations. A 2013 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund noted that, of the 35 economically advanced countries that had been studied, only Rumania had a higher percentage of children living in poverty than did the United States.
Of course, the United States is not locked into these dismal rankings and the sad situation they reveal about the health, education, and welfare of its citizens. It could do much better if its vast wealth, resources, and technology were employed differently than they are at present.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of priorities. When most U.S. government discretionary spending goes for war and preparations for war, it should come as no surprise that the United States emerges No. 1 among nations in its capacity for violence and falls far behind other nations in providing for the well-being of its people.
Americans might want to keep this in mind as their nation embarks upon yet another costly military crusade.
© 2014 History News Network


About l. l. frederick

I'm pretty ordinary, so I find any number of things in the world interesting, among them: books, music, flowers, food, social justice, politics and (sometimes!) people. As for my writing, I've decided that I can be subtle and tasteful when our only problems are esthetic ones. Or when I'm dead, whichever comes first. In the meantime, read at your own risk.
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16 Responses to How Great We Art … Or Something

  1. Powerful, damning indictment of what has become of the United States system of government. American citizens have some major work to do. Thanks for posting as elections are around the corner and reinforcing the wisdom in voting every Washington, D.C. incumbent out of office.

    • Indeed yes! But even booting every one of them out won’t help much as long as the new ones can still access so much money, power and privilege before, during, and after a stint in government. At this point, they scarcely bother to pretend they’re doing a damned thing in the public interest … except for the occasional photo op for their constituents. Then they wonder why we get cynical. Thanks for your good comment! – Linda

  2. So, basically this says that the U.S. is no. one in a race to the bottom. I can get behind that with no problem. Health care is ridiculous and in my opinion encourages suffering and then a most painful death. Illiteracy is still a major problem and back in my hometown, the people who could read and write their own name was in the minority. Most of them had no access to dental care and many people who were trying to get into the few clinics that helped low income people who were without dental insurance were booked up and there was over a year long wait to be seen. Many of the people who were waiting had worked for over 35 years, retired and still could not afford dental coverage and of course, Medicare does not cover dental but if they needed a penis pump, that is covered. And we wonder why the U.S. is in a race to the bottom in every category that counts? I don’t. I only wish I did!

    Thanks Linda!

    • Shelby, Thanks for your comment, and no, we aren’t really wondering why such outrages are the norm these days. In fairness, I’m not sure suffering and pain are inflicted deliberately — they just don’t give a shit whether we suffer or not. And decent health care (and education, safe food and water, and so on) could impact corporate profit margins … something they definitely DO! give a shit about. – Linda

  3. Pingback: How Great We Art ... Or Something | Gaia Gazette

  4. Thank you for compiling this. Very respectable links in your post. I’m sharing it with my social networks.

  5. tubularsock says:

    Nice going Linda! You have made Tubularsock’s day. I feel so American! Now with my new bazooka, a short-range TUBULAR rocket launcher just like ME, Tubularsock can blow up the library and get rid of those pesky books Americans don’t read anyway. And then proceed to use my Medicare to get my “penis pump” (thank you Shelby) so Tubularsock can increase his “member” to be as large as the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We are ALL military in America. Boom, Boom, Boom!

    Great information, Linda

    • So, Tube? Are you going for the ‘boa constrictor sized penis pump’? LMAO!!! And if we can pay for bourbon soaked Speaker of the House John ‘Boner’ to get a penis pump, I see no reason why we can’t pay for yours.

      Just don’t destroy the books. Linda and I still read! I know, it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it! How do ya think we stay so in the know? It’s all due to reading!

    • Tubularsock, Blow up a library? No, no — you can’t mean it!! I do realize being a book-lover is considered … some sort of perversion these days. But couldn’t you start off by blowing up other things? Let’s see … Fracking wells come to mind, though I suppose exploding them might do equal or greater harm overall. Hmm. Please just hold on — I’m sure there are many fun and worthy targets for your um, patriotic zeal, just let me (and my readers) think for a bit, we won’t let you down. All constructive (if that’s the right word here?) suggestions welcome, folks! And thanks for your enthusiastic comment. – Linda

  6. Jeff Nguyen says:

    Who says Americam exceptionalism is dead. Clearly, there are many things we still excel at including prisoners per capita. Something has to be done about all those renegade okra growers.

    Good stuff and well researched, Linda.

  7. You have to admit that Americans are the number one global experts on torture. We wrote the book (literally).

    • Too true. Yet we still think of ourselves as the good guys, somehow. Other people have problems — we’re just fine, we tell ourselves. And it shows. Thanks for commenting, as always. – Linda

  8. dougstuber says:

    You are the crowned and uncrowned queen of great information. You A-D quotes list has already been used in my English classes herein Gwangju. also:

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