State of the Nation, 2013

by DAVID ROSEN

The New Year season is a good time to reflect on one’s life and the U.S.’s true standing in the world.  If you are honest with yourself, you known something fundemenal is taking place in early-21st century America.  The nation is being restructured, yet again transformed.

On July 4th, Memorial Day, election day and other patriotic occassions, politicians of every stripe ceaselessly repeat the well-worn clichés about America’s greatness, its uniqueness in the world and global prowess.  They insist, whether spoken or implied, that the U.S. of A. is #1!  But is it?

Politicians, pundits and plutocrats shamelessly invoke the grandeur that was once – allegedly – America.  These are the well-worn lies — shared social fictions – that legitimize the failed overreach of those in power.  Truthfully, no one really believes them.  Whether orchestrated by the military-industrial complex, the bankers’ financial plunder or simply historical exhaustion, the U.S. is being remade and the world order is – yet again — changing.

The following “snapshots” are 2-dimensional representations of 50 subject areas of change.  Each statistical profile (i) compares the U.S.’s standing to other nations and (ii) compares the U.S of the mid-2000s to today (or the latest available data).  Together, they suggest a profile, an outline, of what change – if any – has occurred in the wake of the Great Recession.  The U.S. remains the country with the greatest number of billionaires – 422 — and the highest current account imbalance – a debt of $378 billion.

The 50 individual snapshots are grouped into eight broad categories: (i) national economy, (ii) security state, (iii) technology & telecommunications,  (iv) environmental impact, (v) national wellness, (vi) domestic life, (vii) educational attainment and (viii) happiness. These categories, and the individual subject areas that they include, are critical domains of human existence, experience, that shape our lives and constitute history.

They reveal areas in which the U.S. leads and lags.  It’s ranked #1 is Military Expenditure, Incarceration, Medical Expenditures, Cosmetic Surgical Procedures and Billionaires.  It lags in everything else, including GDP, Income Inequality, Competitivenss, Life Expectancy, Education, Gender Gap and Happiness.  Welcome to 21st century America.

Please circulate and suggest additional categories.  An earlier version of this article appeared in 2011 and some additional subject areas have been added.

The individual subjects areas are not the real lived lives of ordinary Americas.  Rather, they are more like the DPI — dots per inch – measurement of a digital camera, smartphone or printer.  The higher the DPI count, the greater the image resolution.  And the greater the resolution, the more the real state of the image, the nation, is revealed.  Resolution — in this socio-political sense – falls along two axes: the nation’s international standing and the everyday lives of ordinary Americans.

One can only hope that as the “social DPI” is revealed, the great lie of American exceptionalism will be unmasked.  Hopefully, more Americans will gain a clearer — less ideologically manipulated — picture of the true state of the U.S. of A. and realize … it really is not #1.

I.          National Economy

1.         Gross Domestic Product (by country)

§  2012:

#1 — U.S. = $16.2 trillion

#2 — China = $8.2 trillion

§  2009:

#1 — U.S. = $14.1 trillion

#2 — China = $5.0 trillion

Source: 2012: World Bank; 2009: World Bank, CIA Factbook

2.         Gross Domestic Product (by territory)

§  2012:

#1 — EU = $17.2 trillion (12 countries)

#2 — U.S. = $16.2  trillion

§  2009:

#1 — EU = $14.4 trillion

#2 — U.S. = $14.1 trillion

Source: 2012: OECD; 2009: CIA Factbook

3.         Gross Domestic Product (per capita)

§  2012:

#1 — Qatar = $100,000

#13 — U.S. = $51,700

§  2007/2009:

#1 — Lichtenstein = $122,100 (2007)

#11 — U.S. = $46,000 (2009)

Source: CIA Factbook

4.         Current Account Balance

§  2012:

#1 — China = $201.7 billion

#188 — U.S. = ($378.4 billion)

§  2009:

#1 — China = $297.1 billion

#190 — U.S. = ($473.4 billion)

Source: CIA Factbook

5.         Competitive Economy

§  2013-14:

#1 — Switzerland

#4 — U.S.

§  2009:

#1 — Switzerland

#4 — U.S.

Source: World Economic Forum

6.         Income Inequality (least)

§  2013:

#1 – Sweden = 0.23

#32 – U.S. = 0.45

§  2008:

Source: OECD

7.         Poverty Index

§  2012 (lowest):

#1 — Norway = 0.955

#3 — U.S. = 0.937

§  2007-08:

#1 — Sweden = 6.3

#17 — U.S. = 15.4

Source:  Human Development Index

8.         Billionaires

§  2013:

world total: 1,426

#1 — U.S. = 422

#2 — China = 122

§  2008:

world total = 1,125

#1 — U.S. =     469

#2 — Russia = 87

Source:  Forbes

9.         Corruption Perception Index (least)

§  2012:

#1 — Denmark = 91

#19 — U.S. = 73

§  2009:

#1 — New Zealand = 9.4

#19 — U.S. = 7.5

Source: Transparency International

II. Security State

10.       Military Expenditures (total)

§  2012:

#1 — U.S. = $682 billion

#2 — China = $166 billion

§  2008:

#1 — U.S. = $663.2 billion

#2 — China = $98.8 billion

Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI); Military Expenditure Database

11.       Military Expenditure (per GDP)

§  2012:

#1 — Omar = 8.6 percent

#19 — U.S. =  4.2 percent

§  2005:

#1 — Omar = 11.4 percent

#25 — U.S. =  4.2 percent

Source:  2012: World Bank; 2005: CIA Factbook

12.       Incarceration Rate

§  2012

#1 — U.S. = 2,292,133

#2 — China = 1,650,000

§  2009/2006:

#1 — U.S. = 1,613,740 (2009)

#2 — Russia = 86,9814 (2006)

Source:  2012: King’s College London International Centre for Prison Studies: U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics; no reliable data available for North Korea

13.       Prison Population (per 100,000)

§  2013:

#1 — U.S. = 716

#216 — India = 30

§  2006/2009:

#1 — U.S. = 756 (2009)

#2 — Russia = 629 (2006)

Source:  2013: Source: World Prision Brief; International Centre for Prision Studies; 2006/9: U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics

III.        Technology & Telecommuniations

14.       Information Technology (innovation

§  2013:

#1 — Sweden = 6.7

#14 — U.S. = 6.3

Source: World Economic Forum

15.       Information Technology (venture capital)

§  2013:

#1 — Qatar = 4.7

#10 — U.S. = 4.1

Source: World Economic Forum

16.       Internet Users (total)

§  2013:

#1 — China = 568.2 million

#2 — U.S. = 254.3 million

§  2008:

#1 — China = 298 million

#2 — U.S. = 231 million

Source: 2013: ITU; 2008: CIA Factbook

17.       Internet Users (adoption)

§  2012:

#1 — Iceland = 96 percent

#24 — U.S. = 81 percent

§  2008:

#1 — Netherlands = 90.1 percent

#10 — U.S. = 72.3 percent

Source: 2012: ITU; 2008: CIA Factbook

18.       Fixed Broadband (adoption)

§  2010 (per 100 inhabitants):

#1 — Switzerland = 41.9.

#20 — U.S. = 28.0

§  2010 (per 100 inhabitants):

#1 — Netherlands = 37.8

#14 — U.S. = 27.1

Source: 2012: ITU; 2010: OCED

19.       Mobile Broadband (total)

§  2013 4G:

#1 — U.S. = 62.5 million

#2 – Japan = 26.1 million

§  2013 3G:

#1 – China = 325.5 million

#2 – U.S. = 225.0 million

§  2010:

#1 — Korea = 146.3 million

#9 — U.S. = 136.3 milion

Source: 2013: mobiThink; 2010: OCED

20.       Mobile Broadband (adoption)

§  2013 4G:

#1 — South Korea = 47.2 percent

#4 – U.S. = 19.6 percent

§  2013 3G:

#1 – Italy = 90.5 percent

#3 – U.S. = 70.6 percent

§  2010:

#1 — South Korea = 95.0 percent

#9 — U.S. = 44.4 percent

Source: 2013: mobiThink; 2010: OCED

21.       Broadband Data Rate (downsteam)

§  2013:

#1 — Hong Kong = 68.7 Mb/s

#32 — U.S. = 20.8 Mb/s

§  2010:

#1 — South Korea = 36.9 Mb/s

#31 — U.S. = 9.9 Mb/s

Source: Ookla Speedtest

22.       Broadband Data Rate (upsteam)

§  2013:

#1 — Hong Kong = 56.6 Mb/s

#48 — U.S. = 6.3 Mb/s

§  2010:

#1 — South Korea = 20.3 Mb/s

#33 — U.S. = 2.5 Mb/s

Source: Ookla Speedtest

IV. Environmental Impact

23.       Renewable Energy

§  2012 (million tons oil equivalent):

#1 — U.S. = 50.7

#2 – China = 31.9

§  2008:

#1 – U.S. = 29.5

#2 – Germany = 15.2

Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy

24.       Renewable Electricity Production

§  2011 (TW·h/year; terawatt-hours per year):

#1 — China = 797.4

#2 – U.S. = 520.1

§  2009:

#1 — China = 682.1

#3 — U.S. = 413.2

Source:  2011: EIA; 2009: BP Statistical Review of World Energy

25.       Environmental Impact

§  2012:

#1 — Switzerland = 76.4

#49 — U.S. = 56.6

§  2006:

#1 — New Zealand = 88.0

#28 — U.S. = 78.5

Source: Environmental Performance Index

26.       Climate Change

§  2013:

#4 — Denmark = 72.6

#43 — U.S. = 53.5

§  2008:

#1 — Sweeden = 65.6

#55 — U.S. = 33.4

Source: Germanwatch, Climate Change Performance Index

V.        National Wellness

27.       Life Expectancy

§  2013:

#1 — Monaco = 89.6 years

#51 – U.S. = 78.6 years

§  2008

#1 — Japan = 82.6 years

#38 — U.S. = 78.2 years

Source: 2013: UN Population Division; 2009: CIA Factorbook

28.       Infant Mortality (per 1,000 live births)

§  2013 (lowest to highest):

#224 — Monoco = 1.8

#174 — U.S. = 5.4

§  2009:

#1 — Iceland = 2.9

#33 — U.S. = 6.3

Source: 2013: UN Population Division; 2009: CIA Factorbook

29.       National Health Systems

§  2013 (efficiency rating):

#1 — Hong Kong = 92.6

#46 — U.S. = 30.8

§  2000:

#1 — France

#37 — U.S.

Source: 2013: Bloomberg; 2000: WHO

30.       Health Care Expenditures (percent of GDP):

§  2011:

#1 — U.S. = 17.7 percent

#2 – Netherlands = 11.9 percent

§  2006 (EU to US):

#1 — France = 11.0 percent

#37 — U.S. = 15.8 percent

Source: 2011: Bloomberg; 2006: OECD

31.       Health Care Expenditures (per capital)

§  2013:

#1 — U.S = $8,5083

#2 — Norway = $5,669

§  2009 (EU to US):

#1 — U.S. = $7,990

#2 — Switzerland = $7,184

Source: 2013: World Bank; 2009: OECD

32.       Overweight Rate (body mass index, BMI 25-plus)

§  2010 or later:

#1 — Mexico = 69.5 percent

#2 — U.S. =  69.2 percent

§  2006/2008:

#1 — Mexico = 70 percent (2006)

#2 — U.S. = 68 percent (2008)

Source: OECD

33.       Obesity Rate (body mass index, BMI 30-plus)

§  2013:

#1 — Mexico = 32.8 percent

#2 — U.S. = 31.8 percent

§  2006/2008

#1 — U.S. = 34 percent (2008)

#2 — Mexico = 30 percent (2006)

Source: 2013: UNFAO; 2008: OECD

34.       Cosmetic Surgical Procedures

§  2010:

#1 — U.S. = 3.1 million

#2 — Brazil = 1.4 million

§  2009:

#1 — U.S. = 1.5 million

#2 — Brazil = 1.0 million

Source: ISAPS

VI. Domestic Life

35.       Marriage Rate (“crude,” per 1,000):

§  2012:

#1 — U.S. = 6.8

§  2007 (“crude,” per 1,000):

#1 — U.S. = 7.4

#7 — Denmark = 6.7

Source:  2012: Statistic Brain; 2007: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

36.       Divorce Rate (per 1,000)

§  2012:

#1 — Belarus = 4.1

# — U.S. = 3.4

§  2002:

#1 — Sweden = 54.9 percent

#7 — U.S. = 45.7 percent

Source: 2012: UN Demographics; 2002: Americans for Divorce Reform

37.       Cohabitation Rate (20 year-old)

§  2010 vs 2002 (US):

2002 = 43.1 percent

2010 = 47.9 percent

§  2007:

#1 — France = 14.4 percent

#6 — U.S. = 5.5 percent

Source: US data (2002, 2010): CDC/NCHS; 2007: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

38.       Non-Married Childbirths (percent of live births)

§  2011 (US and Europe:

# — EU (28 countries) = 39.3 percent

# — U.S. = 40.7 percent

§  2007 (US and Europe):

# — EU (28 countries) = 35.0 percent

# — U.S. = 38.5 percent

Source: 2011: Eurostat, CDC; 2007: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

39.       Motherhood Ranking (best to worst)

§  2012:

#1 — Finland

#25 — U.S.

§  2010:

#1 — Norway

#28 — U.S.

Source: Save the Children “Mothers Index”

40.       First Sex (oldest to youngest)

§  2012:

#1 — Malyasia = 23.5 years

# — U.S. = 18.4 years

§  2005:

#1 — India = 19.8 years

#29 — U.S. = 16.9 years

Source: Durex Global Sex Survey

41.       Condom Use

§  2012 (during most recent sexual experi

#1 — China = 78.9 percent

#11 — U.S. = 65.3 percent

§  2009 (15-24 year old males)

#1 — Guyana = 62 percent

#11 — U.S. = NA

Source: 2012 Durex; 2009: World Bank

42.       Gender Gap (narrowest to widest)

§  2013:

#1 — Iceland

#23 — U.S.

§  2006:

#1 — Sweden

#23 — U.S.

Source: World Economic Forum

VII.      Educational Attainment

43.       College Graduates

§  2013 (tertiary education):

#1 — Russian Federation = 53.5 percent

#5 — U.S. = 42.5 percent

§  2007 (25-34):

#1 — Canada = 55.8 percent

#12 — U.S. = 40.3 percent

Source: 2013: OECD; 2007: College Board

44.       Secondary School Graduates

§  2010:

# US = 75 percent

§  2008:

#1 — S. Korea = 93 percent

#18 — U.S.= 73 percent

Source:  2010: Education Research Center; 2008: OECD

45.       Reading Level

§  2012

#1 — China/Shanghai = 570

#36 — U.S. = 498

§  2010

#1 — Korea = 539

#15 — U.S. = 500

Source: OECD PISA; China was divided into three regions (Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao) and Shanghai and Hong Kong out-performed the U.S.

46.       Science Level

§  2012:

#1 — China/Shanghai = 580

#36 — U.S. = 514

§  2010:

#1 — Finland = 554

#27 — U.S. = 502

Source: OECD PISA; China was divided into three regions (Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao) and each out-performed the U.S.

47.       Math Level

§  2012:

#1 — China/Shanghai = 613

#36 — U.S. = 481

§  2010:

#1 — Singapore = 562

#28— U.S. = 487

Source: OECD PISA; China was divided into three regions (Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao) and each out-performed the U.S.

VIII. Happiness

48.       National Happiness

§  2013:

#1 — Costa Rica = 64

#105— U.S. = 37.3

§  2006:

#2 — Columbia = 67.2

#115 — U.S. = 28.2

Source:  Happy Planet Index

49.       Life Satisfaction

§  2013:

#1 — Japan = 10.0

#15— U.S. = 9.0

§  2006:

#1 — Denmark = 273.4

#23 — U.S. = 246.7

Source:  2013: OECD Better Life Index; 2006: Adrian White, “A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being: A Challenge To Positive Psychology?”

50.       Subjective Well-Being

§  2007:

#1 — Denmark = 4.24

#16 — U.S. = 3.55

Source:  World Values Surveys

David Rosen regularly contributes to AlterNet, Brooklyn Rail, Filmmaker and IndieWire; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com; he can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net.

David Rosen is the author of the forthcoming, Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?