U.S. Exceptionalism: Nothing to Brag About

Two days ago, Newt Gingrich, the polling leader in the GOP presidential race, castigated President Obama for never speaking about U.S. exceptionalism. This is far from the first time that Obama has been assailed for this presumed failing. The comparisons below indicate that it has been a wise decision for Obama not to have singled out the United States for being exceptional.

1) Military Expenditures                                                                                 Including war spending, the U.S. spends about $675 billion annually; most other countries spend a little less or a little more than $25 billion.

2) Multiplier of CEO Pay to Average Worker Pay                                         U.S. over 450 to 1. Comparison countries register somewhere between 0 and 50 to 1.

3) Prisoners Per 100,000 Population                                                       U.S. over 700. Canada, Germany, Denmark, France and Italy — all under 100.

4) % of Total Income Received by Richest 0.1%                                     U.S. close to 8. France, Portugal and Italy under 3%; Sweden under 2%.

5) Murders Per 100,000 Population                                                                           U.S. about 4.25. Germany and Denmark 1% or under; France a little over 1.50 and Canada under 1.50.

6) Infant Mortality – Deaths Per 1,000 Live Births                                     U.S. about 6.75. U.K. a little over 5; Sweden 4; Germany about 3.75 and Japan about 2.50

7) Health Costs as a % of GDP                                                                                  U.S. almost 16%. Germany and France about 10%; Canada a little under 10%; Sweden a little under 9% and the U.K. 8%.

8) Social Spending for Families – % of GDP                                                            U.S. a little over 0.4%. U.K. about 2.1%; France, Germany about 2.6%; Sweden about 3.3%.

9) % of Population Experiencing Homelessness – 1990-2006                 U.S. about 7.9%. Italy about 3.8%; Belgium about 3.1%; Germany about 2.1%; and Portugal about 1.7%.

10) % of Children Living in Poverty                                                           U.S. about 21%. U.K. about 9%; France about 7%; Sweden about 3%.

In mid-2011, of the 43 most developed countries, the United States ranked 31st  on factors that included women’s health, educational, economic and political status, and indicators of their children’s well-being. The U.S. rate for maternal mortality was one in 2,100 — the highest of any industrialized nation.

Although a leader of the United States would not want to claim exceptionalism based on the categories presented above, the categories represent a very large agenda of corrective work that can be done.


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