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Is the U.S. #1?

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.