Saturday, March 26, 2011


Well, not really.  It's true that the US spends a stupendous amount of its wealth on the military, far exceeding the combined total of the next 15 or so countries. 

The US is also the number 1 economy in the world, but according to forecasting of the Pardee Center for International Futures,  China will become the largest economy in the world within the next few decades, only to then be overtaken by India, relegating the US to third place.

So, how does the US compare worldwide in other categories?  Here are some very interesting data re where the country ranks in comparison to other countries [March 14 2011 issue of Time Magazine and other sources]:

1       Obesity
1       Guns
1       Crime [Developed Countries]
1       National Debt
1       Number of Universities in Top 10 Worldwide
6       Higher Education Enrollment
10     Prosperity Index [down from Number 1 in 2007]
11     Spending on Research and Development
12     College Graduation [Developed Countries]
15     Math Skills of 15-year-olds
17     Science Skills of 15-year-olds
27     Life Expectancy
27     Years of Secondary Education per Worker
31     Adequate Food and Shelter
47     Infant Mortality - 46 Countries Have Lower Rates
79     Elementary School Enrollment
84     Domestic Savings Rate

We are also likely numero uno in things like expenditures on professional sports and sports facilities, political campaign expenditures, wealth gap, and a host of other less-than-edifying endeavors.  Does this all mean that the US is in decline?  Fox News - no.  Most everyone else - yes, ncluding Bob Herbert in this commentary entitled Losing Our Way:
So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.

Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.

Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.

There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.

Americans behave as if this is somehow normal or acceptable. It shouldn’t be, and didn’t used to be. Through much of the post-World War II era, income distribution was far more equitable, with the top 10 percent of families accounting for just a third of average income growth, and the bottom 90 percent receiving two-thirds. That seems like ancient history now.

The current maldistribution of wealth is also scandalous. In 2009, the richest 5 percent claimed 63.5 percent of the nation’s wealth. The overwhelming majority, the bottom 80 percent, collectively held just 12.8 percent.

This inequality, in which an enormous segment of the population struggles while the fortunate few ride the gravy train, is a world-class recipe for social unrest. Downward mobility is an ever-shortening fuse leading to profound consequences.

A stark example of the fundamental unfairness that is now so widespread was in The New York Times on Friday under the headline: “G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether.” Despite profits of $14.2 billion — $5.1 billion from its operations in the United States — General Electric did not have to pay any U.S. taxes last year.

As The Times’s David Kocieniewski reported, “Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.”

G.E. is the nation’s largest corporation. Its chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, is the leader of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. You can understand how ordinary workers might look at this cozy corporate-government arrangement and conclude that it is not fully committed to the best interests of working people.

Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.

New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed.
ps - once again, Nuggets Win - Knicks Lose, and this time I am gloating a bit!


Anonymous said...

That explains all the people fleeing this country!

annabanana said...

This is upsetting and I wish I knew what to do about it. What to do, uncle?

popohicks said...


Bizzy Brain said...

Karl couldn't have put it better himself.

Dr S said...

Popo is correct [what a shame the record is for percentages of voter turnout in this country], and while Anon's observation is interesting, the comment is probably a bit too glib. Although the US apparently does not keep official data on out-migration, it has been claimed the the current emmigration is at an all-time high. It is also clear that in-migration from India and China is dropping dramatically. In the past, folks would come to the US for higher education and stay, and now they are either returning to their home countries or not coming at all because of increased opportunities at home, educationally and economically. If we look at the ex-pat community, it is clear that it is the higher educated and more wealthy that are leaving this country. The great majority of in-migration is of poor and lower education folks, and who can blame them?? This country has virtually no controls on immigration and it provides vast services for immigrants, legal or illegal - so who is smarter here? I would also forecast to Anon that there will be a continual increase in out-migration, to places where there is not a culture of anti-intellectualism and divisiveness, and where there is less emphasis on making war and more on living along side the other.

Bizzy Brain said...

So, Doc, have you decided on a backup country yet?

Bizzy Brain said...

RE: your Nuggets ps, LeBron James dumped on Cleveland to become part of one of those "invincible" mega-teams, the Miami Heat. Well, those "invicibles" played Cleveland last night and got soundly beaten. That should keep the smile on your face, Dr. S.

Dr S said...

Yes BB - any time one of the "super men" teams loses, I smile a bit. LeBron's televised "decision" was one of the biggest sports ego trips imaginable

Dr S said...

Also - I have a backup country or two picked out - how about you? :-)

Bizzy Brain said...

RE: backup countries. Have not given that much thought as by the time TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) arrives, it will no doubt be too late to get there.