Saturday 15 September 2012

America Is Number One... Not!

Aaron Sorkin recently came back to television in a series called The Newsroom. I certainly enjoyed The West Wing and was grateful and surprised I got to watch the first episode of this new show for free over the Internet. (see my blog: Aaron Sorkin: The Newsroom) Personally I liked it but we'll have to see if this strikes the fancy of the public.

A rant by the central character, Will McAvoy, caught my interest since this idea has been ofttimes bandied about: America is the greatest country in the world. In the show McAvoy states that America is not the greatest country in the world and rattles off a list of statistics which show America to be in anything but first place: seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. But he adds that America is number one in three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. I'm not sure those last three first place positions are things one wants to be proud of.

Okay, it's a TV show but Mr. Sorkin doesn't make stuff like that up. Is America number one? I mean objectively and not in that rah rah sis boom bah way. Considering that the up-coming election of November 6, 2012 will determine not just the next president of the United States, but which of the two diametrically opposed views of America will prevail in the White House for the next four years and determine the future of the United States. Recently none other than Republican candidate Mitt Romney himself tweeted that since Obama took over as president the United States has dropped from first place in the ranking of Global Competitiveness. (my blog: Mitt Romney tweets: America is not number one... FYI: While I find out Mr. Romney is correct in his statement, I question his implicit leveling of blame strictly on Obama without considering what happened under the tutelage of his predecessor.

Published on Jul 21, 2012 by tpratt441
America is not the greatest country anymore - "The Newsroom"

It's not the greatest country in the world, professor, that's my answer.

[pause] You're saying—


Let's talk about—

Fine. [to the liberal panelist] Sharon, the NEA is a loser. Yeah, it accounts for a penny out of our paychecks, but he [gesturing to the conservative panelist] gets to hit you with it anytime he wants. It doesn't cost money, it costs votes. It costs airtime and column inches. You know why people don't like liberals? Because they lose. If liberals are so fuckin' smart, how come they lose so GODDAM ALWAYS!

And [to the conservative panelist] with a straight face, you're going to tell students that America's so starspangled awesome that we're the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom, Japan has freedom, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium has freedom. Two hundred seven sovereign states in the world, like 180 of them have freedom.

And you—sorority girl—yeah—just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world. We're seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are without a doubt, a member of the WORST-period-GENERATION-period-EVER-period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don't know what the fuck you're talking about?! Yosemite?!!!

We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right! We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world's greatest artists and the world's greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and we acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn't belittle it; it didn't make us feel inferior. We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn't scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one—America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.

Wikipedia: List of countries by GDP (nominal) per capita
Using data from the International Monetary Fund for the year 2012-2011, this article shows the following:

1: Luxembourg = $113,533
2: Qatar = $98,329
3: Norway = $97,255
4: Switzerland = $81,161
5: United Arab Emirates = $67,008
6: Australia = $65,477
7: Denmark = $59,928
8: Sweden = $56,956
9: Canada = $50,436
10: Netherlands = $50,355
11: Austria = $49,809
12: Finland = $49,350
13: Singapore = $49,271
14: United States = $48,387

Wikipedia: List of countries by literacy rate
List of countries by literacy rate, as included in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Report 2011.

#1: Cuba = 99.9%
#13: Russia = 99.5%
25 countries at the 21st position with 99.0%
North Korea
United Kingdom
United States

Harvard - August 2011
Globally Challenged: Are U. S. Students Ready to Compete?
by Paul E. Peterson, Ludger Woessmann, Eric A. Hanushek, and Carlos X. Lastra-Anadón
At a time of persistent unemployment, especially among the less skilled, many wonder whether our schools are adequately preparing students for the 21st-century global economy.

Proficiency in Mathematics
U.S. students in the Class of 2011, with a 32 percent proficiency rate in mathematics, came in 32nd among the nations that participated in PISA. (PISA = Program for International Student Assessment)

Proficiency in Reading
The U.S. proficiency rate in reading, at 31 percent, ... takes 17th place among the nations of the world... In Korea, 47 percent of the students are proficient in reading. Other countries that outrank the United States include Finland (46 percent), Singapore and New Zealand (42 percent), Japan and Canada (41 percent), Australia (38 percent), and Belgium (37 percent).

The New York Times - Oct 26/2012
Editorial: 48th Is Not a Good Place
The National Academies, the country’s leading advisory group on science and technology, warned in 2005 that unless the United States improved the quality of math and science education, at all levels, it would continue to lose economic ground to foreign competitors.

The situation remains grim. According to a follow-up report published last month, the academies found that the United States ranks 27th out of 29 wealthy countries in the proportion of college students with degrees in science or engineering, while the World Economic Forum ranked this country 48th out of 133 developed and developing nations in quality of math and science instruction.

Wikipedia: List of countries by life expectancy
This is a list of countries by life expectancy at birth, the average number of years a person born in an given country would live if mortality at each age remains constant in the future.

For the world = 67.2

#1: Japan = 82.7
#13: Canada = 80.7
#14: United Kingdon = 80.1
#37: Cuba = 78.3
#38: United States = 78.2

#194: Mozambique = 39.2

Wikipedia: List of countries by infant mortality rate
Figures are from the 2011 revision of the United Nations World Population Prospects report, by five years averages, and the CIA World Factbook. (deaths / 1,000 live births: average of last three rankings)

#1: Singapore = 2.60
#24: Canada = 5.30
#25: United Kingdom = 5.38
#34: United States = 7.07
#194: Afghanistan = 144.01

Wikipedia: List of countries by incarceration rate
Prisoners per 100,000 population
#1: United States = 730
#5: Russia = 522
#26: Iran = 333
#114: Australia = 129
#130: Canada = 117
#218: Lichtenstein = 19

The Harris Poll - Dec 15/2009
A new Harris Poll finds that the great majority (82%) of American adults believe in God, exactly the same number as in two earlier Harris Polls in 2005 and 2007. Large majorities also believe in miracles (76%), heaven (75%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (73%), in angels (72%), the survival of the soul after death (71%), and in the resurrection of Jesus (70%).

Wikipedia: List of countries by military expenditures
This article is a list of countries by military expenditure, the amount spent by a nation on its military in a given year. Military expenditure figures are presented in US$ at either constant or current exchange rates. (B=billion, percentage of GDP, spending per capita)
#1: United States = $687B; 4.7%; $2,141
#2: China = $114B; 2.2%; $74
#3: Russia = $61B; 2.5%; $428
#4: France = $57B; 2.7%; 879
#5: United Kingdom = $55B; 2.7%; 893
#13: Canada = $20B; 1.5%; 560

Final Word
Am I beatin' up on Uncle Sam? Am I dissin' the States? Not in the least. While you chant "we're number one", I think it's time to wake up and smell the coffee. America is a great country and as always has potential, a great deal of potential. But you're slipping. You're not always out in front and it looks like you no longer have your eye on the ball and in some cases you've dropped it. When I or somebody else points out that you aren't number one, that you may be fifth or tenth or even seventy-second, look at it not as a criticism but as a challenge. You've done better. I've seen you do better. So let's see you do better again.

On November 6, 2012, all Americans will be casting their vote but they are not casting their vote just for the president of the United States, they are voting for their own future. I believe the Republicans have a flawed vision of the future. I believe the GOP has been hijacked by the more extremist elements in the party, namely the Tea Party. And I believe that many of the difficulties the country currently faces have been brought about by this flawed view of America and the world. As I have said elsewhere, the country has dug itself a deep hole and nobody, absolutely nobody is going to have an easy time of it guiding the country out of the darkness. A fickle impatient public demand quick fixes but must come to realize that if it takes decades to dig the hole, getting back out of may take a tad longer than overnight or a four year term.

You've done better. Let's see you do better again.


my blog: Aaron Sorkin: The Newsroom
Aaron Sorkin is back and I for one am glad he is. I greatly enjoyed The West Wing through 7 dramatic seasons. I saw the same promise in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip but others did not and that show folded after just 22 episodes. Of course, in the meantime I've had movies, The Social Network and Moneyball but it is really the television series where I love his writing. Will this new endeavour pass muster?

my blog: Mitt Romney tweets: America is not number one
U! S! A! U! S! A! We're number one! We're number one! How many times have I seen Stephen Colbert get his audience worked up by getting them all to chant this? Sounds good. It's inspirational. Rah! Rah! Sis boom bah! But is it true? I ran across the following tweet which seems to be from the legitimate account of presidential candidate Mitt Romney @MittRomney.

my blog: The 2012 Republican Platform: Are ya scared yet?

my blog: The 2012 Democratic Platform: yes you still can

Uploaded by mongotesttest on Jul 27, 2011
The West Wing - Schools Should Be Palaces
Sam talks about public schools and being against school vouchers

IMDb: Quotes for Sam Seaborn
Mallory, education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don't need little changes, we need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That's my position. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet.

Wikipedia: Six Meetings Before Lunch
"Six Meetings Before Lunch" is the 18th episode of The West Wing.

Wikipedia: School Vouchers
A school voucher, also called an education voucher, is a certificate issued by the government, which parents can apply toward tuition at a private school (or, by extension, to reimburse home schooling expenses), rather than at the state school to which their child is assigned. ... Opponents of school vouchers say allowing families the option of both public and private schools undermines the public education system through threatening its funding and enrollment.

Uploaded by vita63640 on Jul 11, 2009
Bill Maher - America Isn't #1
Bill Maher rants on America letting people know we need to reclaim that title and to quit replying on old adages.

Uploaded on Apr 15, 2007 by savingdestiny
Lewis Black on Broadway talking about how America ISN'T #1
This is the truest thing Lewis Black has ever said.... which is why it's so damn funny.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would add that the GOP was first hijacked by its belief that pandering to the religious right wins elections. Now they've got a big mess on their hands because the Tea Party's insistence that nobody pay taxes to support everybody's Medicare is at odds with (at least what used to be) the Christian values of the religious right. So all their energy gets poured into stuff like defining marriage and outlawing contraception and abortion which have absolutely nothing to do with government, particularly the small government they support.