Friday, November 7, 2014

Is U.S. Still the Best? Hint: No

Jeff Daniels in "Newsroom": We're not No. 1.
A seminal moment in the TV series "Newsroom" had Jeff Daniels' character responding to a student's question, essentially, "Why is the United States the greatest country." The clip is here.

Daniels' response is a classic of television, beginning with "The U.S. is not he greatest country in the world." He threw out a bunch of statistics to back up his claim and I've looked for a few more. Here is evidence he is right.

No. 1 by category:
  • Health care: France (U.S. 38, No. 1 in cost). 
  • Lowest infant mortality: Monaco (U.S. is 169).
  • Per capita income: Qatar (U.S. is 10th). 
  • Medium household income: Luxembourg (U.S. is fourth). 
  • Employment rate: Iceland (U.S. is 16th). 
  • Happiness: Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden (U.S. is 17th). 
  • Education: Finland (four of top five are Asian; U.S. is 25th). 
  • Home ownership: Romania (U.S. is 34th). 
  • Most billionaires: U.S. with 492 (China is second with 152). 
  • Poverty: Haiti (77 percent; U.S. is 15 percent).
We like to think we are No. 1, but we are No. 1 in areas where it's embarrassing to admit (like number of rich people). My guess is we'd rank pretty high in the amount of money spent to buy Congress, but I couldn't find those statistics. As Daniels' character so succinctly pointed out: we used to be No. 1 in a lot of areas that counted. We aren't any longer.

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