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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, 
   "The 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). 
   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! 
   "The 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). 
   "Europe surpassed the United States in the mid-1990s as the largest producer 
of scientific literature" (The European Dream, p.70). 
   Nevertheless, Congress cut funds to the National Science Foundation. The 
agency will issue 1,000 fewer research grants this year (NYT, Dec. 21, 2004). 
   Foreign 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 anymore. 
   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, 
   "U.S. 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. 
   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. 
   "Sixty-one 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). 
   "Fourteen 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, 2005). 
   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, 2005). 
   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, 
   Bush: 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, 2004). 
   "Americans are now spending more money on gambling than on movies, videos, 
DVDs, music, and books combined" (The European Dream, p.28). 
   "Nearly one out of four Americans [believe] that using violence to get what 
they want is acceptable" (The European Dream, p.32). 
   Forty-three percent of Americans think torture is sometimes justified, 
according to a PEW Poll (Associated Press, Aug. 19, 2004). 
   "Nearly 900,000 children were abused or neglected in 2002, the last year for 
which such data are available" (USA Today, Dec. 21, 2004). 
   "The 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 
Reprinted from the Austin Chronicle.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed 
without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the 
included information for research and educational purposes. Information 
Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this 
article nor is Information Clearing House endorsed or sponsored by the 

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