So, I’m going to preface this post with a HUGE disclaimer: I LOVE THE USA! I grew up in a time when patriotism was important and everyone recited the pledge of allegiance and sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” daily. I believe we have amazing people…a beautiful country with everything from mountains to oceans to deserts…and opportunities/freedoms that simply don’t exist in scores of other nations in the world. Grampa served 3 years in the Navy during WWII and my Great Uncle was one of the men who stormed the beach at Normandy and lived. Needless to say, my family takes a lot of pride in this. 🙂
I also used to believe that criticizing any aspect of this country is wrong…we need to just believe we are the greatest country on earth, bar none. In fact, criticism of any aspects is still seen as unpatriotic by many even today…as if seeing the problems/issues we face cuts down the country as a whole. That if we just close our eyes and repeat the mantra of ‘we are the best and that’s all there is to it’ takes away from the greatness we do have in so many ways.
However, I watched a video on YouTube by David Cross where he addresses social issues that plague us and then did my own research to make sure. Honestly, the first time this video popped up in my feed which is entitled “Why America Sucks at Everything” I was quite taken aback and thought “Here’s another jerk that is un-American”. Actually, my language was a bit more colorful to say the least and the title still riles me…we don’t ‘suck’ at everything…not at all! But, I watched it over breakfast and began objectively paying attention to these issues, looked into them myself, and realized that seeing these problems is not wrong at all…it’s right!
Why is it people are so hesitant to do this in other capacities as well? “Hey hon, what you did was hurtful and I need you to understand that.” Answer: “Fuck off.” Or, “Hey, I’m so sorry I don’t feel the way you do about whatever…” Answer: “Fuck off.” Or, “Hey, I think we need to talk about what happened and clear things up.” Answer: “Fuck off.” Charming…and so so useful as well. 🙄
So, let’s take a look at some of these problems that plague the US and what really opened my eyes.
YES! We are the richest country in the world…and ever in the history of the world. We have 18 million millionaires (no, I’m not one on my community college salary but I’m hoping for a raise 🙄) and $100 trillion dollars in wealth. But, according to statista, we have the 3rd highest childhood poverty rate among developed nations, just under Israel and Chile with only a 1% separating us from the top. Hmmmm…the most money in the world and 21.2% of kids living in poverty. How can that be? We are also 3rd in poverty and .1% lower than the 2nd ranked country of Hungary. Costa Rica is the highest OECD country in poverty and only 2.1% higher. I’m sorry, but this just isn’t right to me.
A lot of it has to do with medical costs: According to David, the US has the highest medical costs, the lowest effectiveness and the lowest efficiency of any other developed country and 66% of bankruptcies in the US are due to medical costs. Because of our exorbitant medical costs, people often put off care until forced to get it, often through an urgent care or ER which are very expensive. If you take a look-see at money ‘out’ in terms of taxes and health premiums, this is interesting: Canadian workers pay 11% of their incomes to taxes, the UK spends 26% and Americans spend 43% of our income to taxes and health premiums, yet these other 2 countries have paid healthcare. It’s crazy to think we spend almost half our paychecks to taxes and healthcare, yet even working people can’t afford the services. Prices are so overinflated, especially by pharmaceutical companies: insulin in Canada = $20. In the US: $300. Wow. And, 33% of GoFundMe asks are for medical bills. That’s so sad to me.
And it’s not that Americans are lazy…not at all! We have the longest work hours but less job support, worse unemployment benefits, the fewest of family benefits, and the highest rate of underpaid workers. We also have less unionization which could be a correlating factor. In other words, we work the hardest but give the most to the government. Blech.
As you know by now, education is a hot button issue with me and the metrics for this aren’t great either. According to oecd.org:
- The US ranks 14th in the world in terms of higher ed: 42% of 25-34 year olds have achieved this.
- The odds that a young person in the U.S. will be in higher education if his or her parents do not have an upper secondary education is 29% which is one of the lowest levels among OECD countries.
- The U.S ranks 28th in the percentage of 4-year-olds in early childhood education, with a 69% enrolment rate.
- Teachers in the U.S. spend between 1 050 and 1 100 hours a year teaching – much more than in almost every country (even though Americans often think teachers have so much free time).
However, our testing score in reading and math are pretty much in line with other countries and are above OECD averages in reading and science! That’s music to this teacher’s ears. 😃
In terms of Americans health, the stats are pretty grim. According to commonwealthfund.org:
- The U.S. has the lowest life expectancy and highest suicide rates among the 11 richest nations in the world.
- The U.S. has the highest chronic disease burden and an obesity rate – 2x higher than the OECD average.
- Compared to peer nations, the U.S. has among the highest number of hospitalizations from preventable causes and the highest rate of avoidable deaths.
- BUT, we also have the best preventative measures (breast cancer screenings, etc.) than any of the 11 countries.
The CDC states the obesity rate in the US is 42.4% (adults) and 19.3% among kids. Causes: poor nutrition (hello fast food 🤢, oversized portions, lack of access to stores with fresh veggies/fruit, and advertising), lack of physical activity because of unsafe neighborhoods, etc. (and another reason to turn off those blasted screens), genetics, health conditions and meds (did you know many antidepressants and other psychotropic meds cause weight gain and people often choose not to take them because of this?), and stress/emotional factors/poor sleep.
Finally, mhanational.org says this about mental health in America (pre-pandemic 2019):
- 19.86% of adults experience a mental illness which equals nearly 50 million Americans.
- 15.08% of youth experienced a major depressive episode and 10.6% of youth in the U.S. have severe major depression.
- Over half of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment, totaling over 27 million adults in the U.S. who are going untreated.
- 7.74% of U.S. adults and 4.08% of youth had a substance use disorder
Also, the NIMH found this regarding suicide (2019):
- Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States – over 47,500 people a year.
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people between 10 – 34 years old, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 – 44.
- There were nearly two and a half times as many suicides (47,511) in the United States as there were homicides (19,141).
So the point of this? As I was grading the finals from my Social Problems class (where we talk about issues such as racism, sexism, poverty, health, education, crime, drugs, etc.), here’s what one student had to say: “Social problems range from something so small to something that can affect a nation. How do you end the vicious cycle of the problems? I believe they will never be able to get to the root. However, believing that because most of the problems only matter to a few people.” Another student added this: “I’ve spent the semester taking in new knowledge and integrating it into my understanding of Sociology and the world. I think I’ve gained even more compassion for my fellow humans, and I understand their struggles a little bit better. I’ve learned some different ways to help, to get involved. Our country, and all countries, have social issues, and it’s up to us to start solving them.”
It made me realize that many people don’t know the struggles Americans face or the issues that affect each of us so much. Looking at these issues of health, money, education, etc. aren’t dissing America…it’s looking at what needs to be fixed…helped…worked on. NO country is perfect and yes, I truly believe America is the greatest nation on earth; of course I do because we have so much going for us all including opportunities, personal freedoms, being a world leader in tech and scientific advances, having proud citizens who love this country, using a business model other countries try to emulate, being a leader in popular culture, and the list goes on! Plus, very important to me: I do have freedom to talk about these things without fear of reprisal from the government.
When people criticize America my dander goes up and I become extremely defensive. But it’s like a family or any relationship: if you don’t address the ‘bad’ that’s inherent in all of them since we are imperfect human beings, nothing will change. Nothing will be resolved. Nothing will move forward. And it takes all of the people in the relationship/family to make this happen. Isn’t that true with these issues as well? Our country has some problems that we need to admit, address, and work together to resolve. Will this ever fully happen? No. Of course not. But, can we all try to make things a bit better? Yep…I think so.