Comparing the United States to the World: Part 2 of 2

I thought for sure the United State would do well if I compared annual median and/or average wages to other countries.

I found my answer at Index that compared “GDP on a purchasing power parity basis divided by population”. I have no idea what that means, but the United States was ranked # 12 on that list compared to 226 countries. At least the U.S. was in the top 5.3%, but it wasn’t number one.

Then I thought if the United States has the biggest GDP in the world, it has to be number one in annual GDP growth. I found that list at Trading There were fifty countries on that list and the U.S. was # 49. Only Venezuela was ranked lower.

Desperate to find a list where the United States was number one, I turned to a comparison of global defense budgets.  Yea! The United States was number one.  The U.S. spent more money on its military budget than the next nine countries on the list combined. Source: Peter G. Peterson

What about the private-sector arms industry? I was convinced that the U.S. would be number one on that list too, and I was right! The private sector in the United States sells more weapons to other countries than any other country on the Earth. In 2011, the US controlled 44% of that sector. Number two was Russia with 17%. France was in third place with 8%. Source: Global

Next: comparing obesity by country. Nation reported that the United States was number one with 30.6% of its population obese. Mexico was in second place with 24.2%. But the CDC says—with up-to-date figures—that 35.9% of Americans are obese and 69.2% are overweight [fat]. Who should we believe and does it matter because the U.S. would still be # 1?

Corruption Perception Index: How does the United States compare on this list? To find the answer click on where you will discover the ranking of 178 countries.

The next list is one that I knew the United States would win before I even Googled it. The Population Reference Bureau reported that the U.S. had the world’s highest incarceration rate [prison population].

“Since 2002, the United States has had the highest incarceration rate in the world. Although prison populations are increasing in some parts of the world, the natural rate of incarceration for countries comparable to the United States tends to stay around 100 prisoners per 100,000 population. The U.S. rate is 500 prisoners per 100,000 residents, or about 1.6 million prisoners in 2010, according to the latest available data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

“Incarceration rates are significantly higher for blacks and Latinos than for whites. In 2010, black men were incarcerated at a rate of 3,074 per 100,000 residents; Latinos were incarcerated at 1,258 per 100,000, and white men were incarcerated at 459 per 100,000.”

On another list, CBS News reported that despite tough anti-drug laws, a new survey shows the U.S. has the highest level of illegal drug use in the world. This also helps explain why so many [free] Americans are locked up in prisons and jails. In fact, the United States is the world’s largest consumer of cocaine, Colombian heroin, and Mexican heroin and marijuana. Source: Nation

The last list I Googled revealed that the United States bares all and made at least two #1 lists for pornography.

First, the United States was the top video pornography producing country in the world. Second place goes to Brazil.

Second, the United States produced the largest number of pornographic Web pages on the Internet with more than 244 million Web pages with pornographic material. Germany was in second place with 10 million pornographic Web pages. Source:

Can anyone think of another category where the United States would be number one—one that’s more positive than obesity, people in prison, guns, drugs and porno? After all, the United States of America is the greatest country on the planet, and I’m proud to be an American.

Return to or start with Comparing the United States to the World: Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran and English-journalism teacher.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy that started life as a memoir and then became a fictional suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

6 responses to “Comparing the United States to the World: Part 2 of 2”

  1. Statistics are fragments, not a story. We’re having hard times and I don’t think we’ll see the end of them quickly. We have some serious work to do, some rethinking about where people will work and what they will be paid. Not to mention what we want from our government — really. But we don’t live in Hell either.

    Statistics need context. We are NOT even close to a really corrupt nation, regardless of perception. I’ve seen corruption. We’re babes in the woods.

    I wonder how Americans would really like living in one of the top-rated countries, like say Finland where 90% of your salary goes to taxes. You get services for your money and a safety net. But the payback is living under socialism (yes, I have). It’s not terrible. It’s not nightmare portrayed by Conservative. But — it means that working harder or better doesn’t gain you a promotion, more money or even recognition. You are whatever your G rating is and get moved up entirely on seniority. It’s secure, but dull. Not much incentive to work hard or creatively. Plenty of people hate it and would rather be here. They think we complain too much and I think they have a point.

    A friend of mine lived in Belgium for a 15 years. He described it this way: “In Europe, if they don’t say it’s allowed, you can safely assume it’s forbidden. In the U.S., if they don’t tell you it’s forbidden, you know it’s allowed.” That’s a HUGE difference. This country isn’t a set of statistics. It’s history, it’s national character. It’s who we are. Good and bad.

    1. You’re right. It’s good and bad—for every country; every culture throughout history. Actually, if you looked at all those lists, you will notice that the United States is probably in the top 10 – 15% for many of the lists, and I’m not talking about the lists we’d rather not be on.

      Added after a night’s sleep and thinking about your comment: I think America’s best years were probably under President Clinton. We were at peace for most of his presidency; unemployment was low; the middle class was still doing okay and the growth of the National Debt was at its lowest in decades. The public schools were not under attack as they are today by private sector billionaires salivating over the annual trillion dollars the US spends on public education K-12 did not have a president help them declare war on the public schools until NCLB. Racism in America may have been at its lowest ebb. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was behind us and there were laws protecting minorities that didn’t exist before then.

      But make no mistake. America was not perfect at any time in its history and was much worse before the Child Labor Laws and women won the right to vote after almost 150 years struggling to be more than the property of a man. It was also worse during the decades the Chinese Exclusion Act was a law that discriminated legally against the Chinese. Then there was the era before the Civil War ended slavery in the United States.

      The only reason immigrants still come to the US—legally or illegally—is because there are many countries much worse than the United States may ever be. Mexico, for example, that ranks much lower than the US on almost every comparison. And with Mexico a next door neighbor that makes it easier for uneducated people living in poverty to slip across the border illegally to what they hope will be a better life mowing American lawns; cleaning American homes; picking our farms’ fruit and vegetables, etc—-doing jobs that poor Americans once did that most poor Americans refuse to do today.

      But when we compare poverty among developed nations considered similar to the United Stated we see that the U.S. poverty rates are higher and the swafet6y net weaker. Historically, most of the rich and powerful in America have this hate of labor unions and paying low skill jobs a liveable wage, and they seem to have support from many poor Americans when it comes to keeping it this way.

      America is dead last when it comes to medium worker earnings. Click on the link and scroll down to discover that little Ireland ranks #1; and Ireland ranked #2 in 2012 for giving more to charity. Earn more give more.

      After reading that about Ireland, I decided to check the tax rates in Ireland and found that it isn’t far from the US while many of the countries that rank highest in happiness and medical care have the highest tax rates.

      So here is little Ireland: low taxes; high medium income; high charitable giving.

      Does that mean a high tax rate equals happier, healthier people who are more willing to give?

  2. Lloyd, I love your lists and the effort you’ve made to shake out the facts. Surely we must be #1 in PR firms or something because so many people around the world are still clamoring to get here. Or, perhaps immigration is a myth too. Perhaps we are #1 in taking risks which would account for several of the other categories. I think you overlooked alcohol in the lists of vices too. What about amount donated to good causes or charity, is that anywhere listed? I can’t believe the amount we were alleged to have spent on Halloween candy when it seems so many don’t even have jobs.


    1. You were right about the charity. I didn’t think to check for that list, but I’m sure there are many more lists. The first list I found with a Google search was for 2011.

      Here’s what I found from the Huffington Post dated 12/20/11: “In its second annual study of 153 countries, the Charity Aid Foundation concluded that the U.S. has demonstrated “strong” behavior across all three criteria measured — volunteering, helping strangers and donating money. The U.S. has increased its charity by 3 percentage points this year, up to $212 billion.”


      However, the United States has the 3rd largest population in the world and the largest GDP. And we lost the title in 2012, to Australia. The US slid to 5th place. Ireland was number 2; Canada #3, and New Zealand #4.


      If we add population and GDP, then it might be easy to argue “Shame on America, still the wealthiest country in the world.”

      Here’s a comparison of GDP and population of the first five highest giving countries of 2012:

      1. Australia with 1.542 Trillion GDP in 2012 with 22,262,501 population as of July 2013
      2. Ireland had a $210.5 Billion with a populaiton of 4,775,982
      3. Canada had $1.819 Trillion with a population of 34,568,211
      4. New Zealand had $169.7 Billion with a population of 4,365,113
      3. United States had $15.68 Trillion with 315,668,567

      Source for GDP was the CIA Factbook at: and for population at:

      As for the $7 Billion reported to have been spent on the average Halloween, I’m sure it doesn’t all go on candy. There are costumes and haunted houses, costume parties for adults where one treat of adult choice is probably booze or some other favorite drug of the people who love a good party.

      As for immigration both illegal and legal, there are many countries in the world that are worse than the United States—countries that probably are at the bottom of most lists. There is also this myth that seems to stick that the streets in the US are paved in gold. A century ago, the Chinese called American a Gold Mountain.

      As for the number of people who are unemployed, there are a lot more who still have jobs. Even during the Great Depression in the early 20th century, the highest unemployment rate hit close to 25% which means 75% still work.

      The most recent unemployment report said unemployment was 7.3% telling us that the number of Americans with jobs heavily outnumbers the unemployed. The underemployed rate was 16.6%. This is where we have to be careful what numbers we accept as the truth. It’s easy to claim millions of Americans do not have paying jobs because many of us are retired like I am. That doesn’t mean I don’t have money.

      To find out, I turned to the Social Security Website where I discovered that 58 million Americans will receive $816 billion in Social Security benefits in 2013. I think it’s safe to say those 58 million are not working or are working part time jobs to supplement their SS.

      Than I turned to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics:

      The BLS says in October 2013, that 143.5 million Americans were employed in the private sector and 92.5 million Americans were not in the labor force and that includes the elderly over age 65 on SS and children down to birth. Unemployed was 58.3 million.


  3. Thanks for this posting, Lloyd. As a “people” we seem to have an unnatural attraction to rankings on lists. I wish we would spend more effort on teaching our children that they have to be willing to work and wait for the results, and on our self-styled job creators, that the jobs have to be worth a serious commitment to the future, not just which ever way the windsock twists in the wind of shareholder greed. We’ve gone down a nasty road, and I have little faith that the next stop won’t be a Neo-Feudal state with most of us in lifetime servitude to the banks, poor health and big-screen TVs.

    1. We often hear complaints about jobs lost to China or other countries but it’s rare to hear anyone complain about jobs lost to automation.

      One pull quote from The Technology piece said, “New technologies are “encroaching into human skills in a way that is completely unprecedented,” McAfee says, and many middle-class jobs are right in the bull’s-eye; even relatively high-skill work in education, medicine, and law is affected. “The middle seems to be going away,” he adds. “The top and bottom are clearly getting farther apart.” While technology might be only one factor, says McAfee, it has been an “underappreciated” one, and it is likely to become increasingly significant.”

      And this: “The fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. from 2000 to 2010 reflect the demand for highly technical skills and those lower-skill jobs that are hard to automatize. Highly routine jobs are especially vulnerable to automation.”

      Back when I was still teaching, I attended a workshop where we learned about this and one of the examples that demonstrated how many lower-skill jobs were being list was one factory in Detroit that made bumpers for GM cars and truck. In the 1950s, five hundred people worked in this bumper factory. But in the 1990s, only two men worked there and their job was to maintain the robots that were turning out the same number of bumpers that had been produced by 500 people a few decades earlier. And one quote stood out: “Job growth suddenly slowed in 2000, while productivity remained robust.”


      America is still one of the most productive countries in the world but many of those products that are still made here are made by machines with a few high-tech employees to maintain them. If you click on the previous link and check out the first info-graphic, you will discover that productivity in the manufacturing sector of the economy continued to grow while employment dropped.

      A machine doesn’t need medical insurance, unemployment insurance, a retirement package, paid vacations, sick days, etc. Most Americans have no idea that automation is taking away jobs. Instead, when an American ends up losing his or her job, they usually blame China or another developing country.

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