Currently at AlterNet, which sometimes causes me to wonder about them because half theor articles are focused on numbering things - is this article about 8 ways America leads the world, and NOT in ways one would want to cheer.
2 of these ways are related - that America blows the most money on healthcare while ranking dead last in overall access and quality, much of this due to health care being a for-profit commodity supporting thousands of for-profit insurance companies and specifically being the most expensive country in which to have a baby. No, we don't do it "better" here - we just pay more, because we're Americans!
We're also #1 in obesity and Anxiety Disorders, the latter probably due to a myriad of factors attributable to the ongoing failure of the economy and lack of access to affordable healthcare.
Again, fair use limits what one can report so mostly this 'diary' is to alert those interested to going to AlterNet and reading the whole thing. It's not long. And the assertions come with some links to suggest the author doesn't just hate America and pulled these ideas out of...well...you know.
My highlights over the fleur-du-kos
4. Small arms ownership.More access to guns than healthcare. What other country can say this? Wooo! America!
The Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva ranks the U.S. number one in both the total number of civilian firearms and in per capita ownership of small firearms, beating out recent war zones like Yemen, Serbia and Iraq.
In fact, we may even have more guns in the U.S. than we have people: The rate of private gun ownership in the U.S. was tabulated at 101.05 firearms per 100 individuals in one study.
But even with all those guns, we're only #2 in gun violence: Mexico's ongoing cartel wars keep us in that spot. More on that in a bit....
Next up: We're energy hogs!
6. Energy use per person.Apparently there is still an ongoing increase in people having needlessly large houses which consume more resources to build and energy to run, a plethora of electronic everything sucking up electricity, and the pervasive lack of effective public transportation (my interpretation) being reflected in oil consumption for us all having cars.
The U.S. is the global leader in the amount of energy use per person. We get top billing in electricity consumption, we’re miles ahead of everybody in oil consumption, and when it comes to coal consumption, we’re number two, right behind China.
8. Cocaine use.The author rightly contrasts cocaine use with marijuana use via its impact: Cocaine continues to kill a large number of users through heart attacks. Marijuana still isn't killing anybody,
When it comes to cocaine use, we’ve got a tie with Spain. In both countries, according to the 2008 World Drug Report released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, three percent of adults and teens say they’ve given it a try.
Speaking of drugs, we still lead the world in imprisoning people, well more than Russia and China and Iran. The author highlights to return of debtor's prisons, something else we can be proud of.
It's not part of the article but the war on drugs fills our prisons with largely non-violent offenders with an obscene racial disparity. From 'Incarceration Nation' Michelle Alexander's powerful indictment of the Drug War as the new Jim Crow
During a 30-year period of time our prison population quintupled, not doubled or tripled but quintupled. Our nation now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, dwarfing the rates of even highly oppressive regimes like Russia or China or Iran. But this is not due to crime rates. During that 30-year period of time crime rates fluctuated—went up, went down, went back up again, went back down again. Today, as bad as crime rates are in many parts of the country, crime rates are nationally at historical lows. But incarceration rates have consistently soared. Most criminologists and sociologists today will acknowledge that crime rates and incarceration rates in the U.S. have moved independently of one another. Incarceration rates, especially black incarceration rates, have soared, regardless of whether crime is going up or down in any given community or the nation as a whole.So, we're #1 in a lot of ways, none of them very good.
So what explains this sudden explosion in incarceration, black incarceration, if not crime or crime rates? There was a drastic shift in attitudes. There was a wave of punitiveness that washed over the United States. We declared a war on drugs, and a get-tough movement was born on the heels of the civil rights movement. The war on drugs and the get-tough movement are responsible for the quintupling of our prison population in a few short decades. What has changed dramatically is not crime but what counts as crime and how we respond to it. And nothing has contributed more to the emergence of this new caste system than the war on drugs. Drug convictions alone, just drug convictions, accounted for about two thirds of the increase in the Federal prison system and more than half of the increase in the state system between 1985 and 2000, the period of our prison system’s most dramatic expansion. Drug convictions have increased more than 1000% since the drug war began.
Shouldn't we be doing better than this?
About the author:
Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of 'Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.' She received her Ph.d in English and Cultural Theory from NYU, where she has taught essay writing and semiotics. She is the Director of AlterNet's New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.