By The Numbers: No. 1?
Michael Ventura, February 23, 2005, Austin Chronicle
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:
States is 49th in the world in literacy (the New York Times,
Dec. 12, 2004).
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).
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).
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!
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,
surpassed the United States in the mid-1990s as the largest
producer of scientific literature" (The European Dream,
Congress cut funds to the National Science Foundation. The agency
will issue 1,000 fewer research grants this year (NYT, Dec.
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.
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.
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
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.)
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.
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).
States is 41st in the world in infant mortality. Cuba scores
higher (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005).
are 70 percent more likely to die in childbirth in America than
in Europe (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005).
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.
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).
States has lost 1.3 million jobs to China in the last decade
(CNN, Jan. 12, 2005).
employers eliminated 1 million jobs in 2004 (The Week, Jan.
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
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).
last June, the U.S. imported more food than it exported (NYT,
Dec. 12, 2004).
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.
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,
are now spending more money on gambling than on movies, videos,
DVDs, music, and books combined" (The European Dream, p.28).
one out of four Americans [believe] that using violence to get
what they want is acceptable" (The European Dream, p.32).
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.
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).
In most important categories we're not even in the Top 10 anymore.
Not even close.
is "No. 1" in nothing but weaponry, consumer spending,
debt, and delusion.