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America #1 -- Score Card 2004

A Model of Freedom and Democracy for the World to Emulate ™


"The American way of life is not negotiable."
—G. H. W. Bush, 1992, Rio de Janeiro, Earth Summit.

"When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
—Martin Luther King, Jr., Beyond Vietnam, Riverside Church, New York City, 4 April 1967


In Perspective

World population: 6.456 billion and counting.
United States pop.: 294 million.

That's 4.55 percent of the world population (no longer 5%, as the story line goes).

Source: http://www.ibiblio.org/lunarbin/worldpop
and http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html

Prison Incarceration Rates in the Land of the Free

According to a US Justice Department report released on August 17, 2003:

1 in 37 adults living in the United States is in prison or has served time there (that's more than 5.6 million Americans!!!)...the highest incarceration level in the world.

The prison population has quadrupled since 1980.

By 2010, the number is expected to jump to 7.7 million, or 3.4 percent of all adults, American citizens or residents.

Source: Gail Russell Chaddock, "U.S. Has World's Highest Incarceration Rates," Christian Science Monitor, August 18, 2003.

The U.S. has the largest documented prison population in the world, according to the International Center for Prison Studies at King's College (London, UK).

"Today, [the USA] keeps more than two million people behind bars -- compared with only 200,000 three decades ago. With 5 percent of the world's population, we account for 25 percent of its prison population.

"Today, Finland imprisons the smallest fraction of its population of any European country (52 prisoners per 100,000 people, compared with 702 in the United States). Yet its crime rate, far from exploding, has remained at a low level."

Source: Jim Holt, "Decarcerate?" NYT Magazine, August 15, 2004.

According to the Pocket World in Figures, The Economist, 2004 Edition:

Number of prisoners
USA   2,021,223
China  1,428,126
Russia    919,330
India      281,380
Brazil     233,859


"The U.S. has the best healthcare in the world." Really?

Let's take four countries -- USA, France, Cuba, and Israel -- and let the figures (for year 1997) do the talking.

Healthcare expenditures as percentage of GDP

USA:  13.7%
France: 9.8%
Cuba    6.3%
Israel    8.2%

Healthcare expenditures per capita

USA    $3,734
France $2,125
Cuba      $109
Israel   $1,402

Health System Performance ranking

1) Overall performance (the lower the better):
USA   37
France   1
Cuba   39
Israel   28

2) On level of health (the lower the better):
USA    72
France   4
Cuba   36
Israel   40

Source: Health System Performance: World Health Report 2000

The above stats are estimates for the year 1997. Here below are 2001 figures:

USA -- Total health expenditure as % of GDP (2001): 13.9
Total health expenditure per capita (Intl $, 2001): 4,887

France -- Total health expenditure as % of GDP (2001): 9.6
Total health expenditure per capita (Intl $, 2001): 2,567

Cuba -- Total health expenditure as % of GDP (2001): 7.2
Total health expenditure per capita (Intl $, 2001): 229

Israel -- Total health expenditure as % of GDP (2001): 8.7
Total health expenditure per capita (Intl $, 2001): 1,839

Source: WHO - The world health report 2003

Another way of measuring the quality of health care is to look at life expectancy, infant mortality, and the number of doctors, nurses, dentists, and hospital beds per capita.

Life expectancy in years (2004 est.)

16    France            79.44
21    Israel              79.17
48    United States  77.43
53    Cuba              77.04

Source: CIA Factbook (2004)

Infant mortality rate (2004 est., out of 225 reporting)

180    Israel               7.21
185    United States   6.63
187    Cuba               6.45
214    France             4.31

(Here, the higher the rank the better...the lower infant mortality is.)

Source: CIA Factbook (2004)

Number of doctors, nurses and dentists

  Rate per 100,000 population / Year
Physicians Nurses Dentists
United States 279.0 1995   972.0 1996   59.8 1996  
Israel 385.0 1998   613.0 1998   116.0 1998  
France 303.0 1997   497.0 1996   67.8 1996  
Cuba 530.4 1997   677.6 1997   84.5 1997  

Source: WHO Estimates of Health Personnel
Physicians, Nurses, Midwives, Dentists and Pharmacists (around 1998)

Hospital beds per 1,000 people

USA       3.5
France     8.1
Cuba       4.6
Israel       6.3

Source: Pocket World in Figures, The Economist, 2004 Edition

Uninsured People

USA:  45 million and counting
France, Cuba, Israel:  Universal healthcare

Obesity in America: A Run-Away Epidemic

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index score of 30 or more.

In 2000, 19.8 percent of the US adult population (age 20 and over) was obese, an increase of 61 percent since 1991.

Current figures show that about 30 percent -- or 59 million adults -- are obese.

15 percent of children age 6 to 19 are overweight, about triple the proportion 20 years ago.

Source: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) - http://www.cdc.gov/ and http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/

NCCDPHP's motto: Safer Healthier People ™ (yes, it's trade-marked!)
(As of September 2, Approximately 1,140,029 people have died from chronic disease this year. By the end of the year the total will reach approximately 1.7 million.)

US Waste

In 1960, the per capita generation of waste was 2.7 pounds per person per day, and total waste generation was 88.1 million tons.

In 1970, the per capita generation of waste was 3.3 pounds per person per day, and total waste generation was 121.1 million tons.

In 1980, the per capita generation of waste was 3.7 pounds per person per day, and total waste generation was 151.6 million tons.

In 1990, the per capita generation of waste was 4.5 pounds per person per day, and total waste generation was 205.2 million tons.

In 2001, the per capita generation of waste was 4.4 pounds per person per day, and total waste generation was 229.2 million tons.

Source: US Environmental Agency (EPA) http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/muncpl/facts-text.htm

Resources consumed per capita per year

USA:       87 tons
Europe:   48 tons
Vietnam:   2 to 5 tons

(Reminder: the 20 percent of the world's people who live in the highest-income countries account for 86 per cent of total private consumption expenditures; the poorest 20 percent, by contrast, account for just 1.3 percent. Only 20% of the World's population spends 86% of the money that goes into personal consumption. And this 20% of the population is also responsible for the consumption of 80% of the natural resources.)

Source: Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling

Ecological Footprints

(According to The Economist, it's the amount measured in hectares of "productive land and water required to produce the resources consumed and assimilate the wastes generated, per person.")

USA       9.62 hectares (the second highest in the world, after the United Arab Emirates)
France    5.50 (the 15th highest)
Cuba       N/A
Israel       5.02 (the 19th highest)

Source: Pocket World in Figures, The Economist, 2004 Edition

Poverty in the U.S.

2002: 34.6 million (12.1 percent of the population)
2003: 35.9 million (12.5 percent of the population)

Source: US Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/hhes/hlthins/hlthin03/hlth03asc.html
See the full report: http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p60-226.pdf


The U.S. population, 4.55 percent of the world population, consumes 25 percent of the world energy resources.

Military Expenditures

World:     $900 billion   (2004 estimate)
USA:       $466   (2004)
France:      $46.5   (2000)
Cuba:          $0.630   (1999)
Israel:          $8.97   (FY02) [US military aid included?]

Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute SIPRI (http://web.sipri.org/contents/milap/milex/mex_database1.html) and World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers (WMEAT), compiled at GlobalSecurity.org:
Also see the Center for Defense Information (http://www.cdi.org/)


(Number of patents granted to residents in 2000)

1    Japan    123,978
2    USA       83,090
7    France    11,290
-     Cuba          N/A
20   Israel         433

When patents in force are measured per 100,000 inhabitants, the picture is quite different:

Japan is ranked fifth with 820 patents.
France is ranked ninth with 631 patents.
The USA is ranked fifteenth with 471 patents.
Cuba and Israel are not listed.

Source: Pocket World in Figures, The Economist, 2004 Edition


Question: Is this a model for the world to emulate?


Missing from this score card (and to be added hopefully soon)

Mental Health in the U.S.
Guns in the U.S.: Some 300 million guns and 90-100 million gun owners. (As of September 1, 2004, 19,373 Americans have died from guns. Source: http://www.handgunfree.org/HFAMain/)
Top Soil depletion
Household debt (cf. consumerism)
Pollution generation
Police state (number of "law enforcement agencies," number of "enforcers")
Voting records
More on education (public schools)
Hunger in the U.S.
Military expenditure per capita
And much more, if this compiler can get some help

(Please let us know of any potential errors.)

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Dossiers on Swans


Dossier compiled by Gilles d'Aymery, Swans' publisher and co-editor.

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Published September 6, 2004
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