“Real Patriots” can endlessly be heard touting the claim that America is number one, while eating a deep-fried double cheeseburger with one hand, holding a gun with the other, while a bald eagle is perched on their shoulders.
And, in certain aspects, these true Americans are right. The problem is that America is number one in all of the categories you don’t want to be number one in, and none of the ones you want.
“When it comes to violence and preparations for violence, the United States is, indeed, No. 1,” wrote Lawrence Wittner for AlterNet. “In 2013, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute [SIPRI], the US government accounted for 37 percent of world military expenditures, putting it far ahead of all other nations.”
China and Russia, America’s two closest competitors, only accounted for 11 and five percent respectively according to the SIPRI report.
The US also came in at number one in number of weapons exported from 2004 to 2013, and given our recent activity in the Middle East, it’s probably safe to say we’re going to hold on to that title in 2014, too.
“This record is paralleled on the domestic front, where the United States has more guns and gun-related deaths than any other country,” wrote Wittner. A study conducted using firearm injury data from the World Health Organization and guns per capita data from the Small Arms Survey found that the US has 88.8 guns per 100 people and 10.2 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people. At the bottom of the list was Japan, with fewer than one gun per 10 people, and just 0.06 deaths for every 100,000.
Wittner also pointed out the categories in which the US isn’t number one, and some in which we’re not even close. They include America coming in at
- 17th in reading test scores
- 21st in math test scores
- 20th in overall educational attainment
- 11th out of 11 advanced industrial countries in healthcare according to the Commonwealth Fund, 30th according to the World Health Organization
- 7th highest in cancer rates
- 26th in life expectancy
In the areas of protection of human health from environmental harm and protection of ecosystems, America is ranked
- 36th in water and sanitation
- 38th in air quality
- 32nd in water resources
- 49th in climate and energy
- 86th in biodiversity and habitat
- 96th in fisheries
- 107th in forests
- 109th in agriculture
In areas of social progress, the US ranks:
- 23rd in access to information and communications
- 24th in nutrition and basic medical care
- 31st in personal safety
- 39th in access to basic knowledge
- 69th in ecosystem sustainability
- 70th in health and wellness
And to round out the depressing-statistics bonanza that is America today, out of 35 economically advanced nations, the US has the second-highest rate of child poverty. Only Romania was higher.
So yes, technically, America is number one, just not in any of the categories that matter the most: education, health care, access to food and water, etc. Unless Americans stop electing officials who ignore these problems, it’s safe to say we’ll keep slipping farther and farther in the rankings, and farther and farther away from the great nation we once were.
This clip from HBO’s The Newsroom sums it up perfectly. (Some NSFW language in clip)