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:
United States is 49th in the world in literacy (the
New York Times, Dec. 12, 2004). Omigod!
United States ranked 28th out of 40 countries in
mathematical literacy (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
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).
This I knew.
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). I have to read
this book. Am going to look it up right now!
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
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).
I've read this somewhere else, too.
surpassed the United States in the mid-1990s as the
largest producer of scientific literature" (The
European Dream, p.70). I'm
not surprised by this.
Congress cut funds to the National Science Foundation.
The agency will issue 1,000 fewer research grants this
year (NYT, Dec. 21, 2004). This
government is totally anti-education. Ignorant
people are easier to fool, and to control.
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
knew this statistic, too.
- 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.
We have the best health care in the world, for the
rich. We have one-fifth of our population who
haven't access to it.
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. I
knew this one, also.
- 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.)
I din't know these figures, but
I don't doubt it at all.
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 poverty. That's
the one-fifth of our entire population who struggle to
live below the poverty level.
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). I
knew this, and think that is the greatest shame of
this richest nation on earth.
United States is 41st in the world in infant
mortality. Cuba scores higher (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005).
This figure has been going down
for years. It was only 16th when I was teaching
Sociology back in the 1970s.
- Women are
70 percent more likely to die in childbirth in America
than in Europe (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005).
Migod, I didn't know this!
leading cause of death of pregnant women in this
country is murder (CNN, Dec. 14, 2004).
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. "All
this work and whaddawe get? Another day older
and deeper in debt..."
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).
United States has lost 1.3 million jobs to China in
the last decade (CNN, Jan. 12, 2005). They
were "outsourced." All of the
facts below show what's happening to the US economy.
These are the facts on which the Democrats should be
focusing, broadcasting daily.
employers eliminated 1 million jobs in 2004 (The
Week, Jan. 14, 2005).
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).
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.
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). I
understand this is the first time in the history of
the US that this is true.
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
I've know this true but shocking fact for a long time.
There is a lot of speculation on WHY this is happening
in the world's "greatest democracy."
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, 2004). And a higher
proportion of these live in the "Red States"
where the greatest fear is that gay marriage will
"destroy heterosexual marriage." The
number of out-of-wedlock births, divorces, desertions,
and child and spouse abuse are far greater in the
"Red" than the "Blue" states.
are now spending more money on gambling than on
movies, videos, DVDs, music, and books combined"
(The European Dream, p.28).
And we need another state lottery?!!!
one out of four Americans [believe] that using
violence to get what they want is acceptable" (The
European Dream, p.32). This
is shocking, as is the one below.
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). Another
of our claims to shame!
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).
All of the social services in
the US have been cut, and the new Bush budget will cut
them even more: schools, police, hospitals,
public libraries, social welfare, aid to dependent
children, veterans' services.....while the tax cuts
for the wealthy remain, and trillions of our tax
dollars are used to kill and maim and destroy Iraq,
and now possibly Iran...
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.
And don't forget waste---our
landfills continue to overflow with garbage, and the foods
thrown away in US restaurants daily could feed the world's
Reprinted from the Austin Chronicle.