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America is #1… But Not in a Good Way

For decades, America has prided itself on being number one. Number one in what? For a while it represented good things, like economic strength, personal freedoms, and quality of life. However, in recent years our great nation has started claiming a number of more dubious honors.

America now leads the world in crime statistics, debt levels, and costs for basic life essentials. We still like to think of ourselves as being on top, but it’s important to take a second look at the categories where we’re “winning” in the most cynical sense of the word.

Crime & Punishment

Many of the commentators on this site have noted the rising levels of crime in America. Put simply, most of us just don’t feel that safe in our own homes in our own country. Yet how can this be? We employ more police officers in the United States than any other nation, and  America leads the world in total prison populations. That’s right – America has the highest incarceration rate of any nation on the planet … but for all the people we’re locking up, things don’t seem to be getting any better.

America has the highest rate of illegal drug use on the planet, according to the World Health Organization, beating out both the Middle East and Africa. We are home to more reported rapes and car thefts than any other country, and Criminal Justice News notes that one in five people in America will be a crime victim each year, another world-leading statistic. Ouch!


After crime, America is also a world leader when it comes to debt. This is for both the national debt and our personal debts. It seems that our country just can’t seem to stop spending beyond its means at any level.

At a national level, the United States has the largest trade deficit in the world … each and every year since 1976. We are importing much more than we are exporting in pure dollar terms. In fact, between December 2000 and December 2010, America ran a total trade deficit that exceeded $6.1 trillion according to WorldNetDaily.

Our national debt is another issue. Forget about the quibbling over the debt ceiling – America has the biggest national debt the world has ever seen, and political posturing isn’t making a dent in the nearly $40,000 we are grow our debt every second of every day. For all the worry about the Eurozone debt crisis, ours is much, much worse.

Still, we can’t just blame our government. Personally, Americans carry larger debt loads than other nations, particularly when it comes to student loan debt. The class of 2011 was more indebted and less employed than any class in recent memory, while the class of 2012 will see total student loan debt exceed $1 trillion according to the Student Loan Debt Clock. The average college graduate now owes more than $24,000, a burden carried by both students and parents.

Quality of Life

America can also no longer brag about the quality of life that it offers its citizens. notes that the U.S. has the highest divorce rate in the world. That grim statistic may be related to another – more than 89% of the world’s pornography is made right here in the U.S. of A.

If you find that depressing, statistics indicate you’re not alone. More women in America are on anti-depressants than any other nation on earth, and more people in America are on prescription drugs than any other country. What can we say, other than clearly we like to escape? Comfort foods and television have combined to give us the most obese people of any nation, and credit for the most hours of TV watched per week. No wonder we spend more on health care than any other developed nation, since we need pills to “cure” us of the problems we are creating with our lifestyles in a vicious cycle that undermines American potential.

Clearly, many of the things we grew up celebrating as Americans are just not the way they used to be. Closing our eyes to the problem is not the solution. America is winning at all the wrong things at the moment, and change has to start at home. Understanding the real state of affairs is the first step in making a difference.

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