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The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) released its 2009 statistical survey of member states a little over three months ago. The OECD -- which is not some crazy left-wing liberal think tank, but a respectable, centrist, pro-business organization that played major roles in the implementation of the EEC and other progressive democratic initiatives in Europe -- is comprised almost entirely of high-income, developed, "First World" nations*. Here are some of the things the most recent statistical survey revealed:

* Of nine leading social indicators -- employment rates, student literacy rates, income equity, gender wage gap, life expectancy, infant mortality, crime victimization, overall well-being, and total income per capita -- the U.S. ranked in the top three only in the last category. In two categories (income equity and infant mortality), it ranked in the bottom three. In those same categories, it showed overall forward progress in only one category (gender wage gap) and showed a significant decline in six.

* Americans worked more hours per year than any other country surveyed, and had less leisure time. They had the second-longest work week, the second-longest work year, the second-worst record for illness and maternity leave, and by far the least number of holidays and vacation days.

* Americans spend less time eating than all but two countries, but have the highest level of obesity of all those surveyed.

* The U.S. ranks 27th of 30 in social spending as a percentage of net national income.

* Only in Mexico is the average age of a woman when she has her first child lower. The U.S. also has the third-highest fertility rate of all countries surveyed.

* Although it is fashionable on the right to blame many of these social factors on immigration, eight countries included in the 2009 statistical survey had a higher percentage of foreign-born citizens.

* The U.S. has far and away the highest divorce rate of all countries surveyed -- among heterosexuals, anyway.

* 25 of 30 countries surveyed spend more on preschool child care than the U.S.

* The U.S. life expectancy rate is ranked 25th out of 30 in life expectancy (that is, we have the 5th-worst life expectancy of all countries surveyed), in overall height (a leading indicator of physical health), and in low birth weight; our child poverty rate is 27th of 30, as is our income inequity level; our infant death rate is ranked 28th out of 30, as is our overall poverty rate.

* We imprison a higher percentage of our citizens than any other country surveyed.

* In only three countries surveyed does a single parent get less assistance from the state than in America. Those benefits are the third least-generous of any country, and the U.S. ranks 27th both in work incentives for single parents and in wage levels for single parents.

* The U.S. has the highest reported levels of mental illness of all countries surveyed, and the highest degree of severity in those reporting mental illness.

* More people responded that they are "very dissatisfied" with their job in the U.S. than in any other country surveyed.

* The U.S. ranked 3rd-highest for auto theft, 5th-highest for burglary, 3rd-highest for sexual assault, 5th-highest for assault, and 5th-highest for personal theft of all countries surveyed.

* Only two countries surveyed have less social protection for the elderly in terms of money set aside for pensions and retirement plans.

* The U.S. ranked 29th of 30 in trade union representation.

* No country spends more on health care.

Keeping all that in mind -- that is, keeping in mind that in a number of rather important ways, the richest country in the world is on the very precipice of becoming a Third World nation, and that we spend more money on health care than any country in the history of the world in exchange for southeast Asian levels of life expectancy and infant mortality -- please note that a bunch of ignorant, know-nothing loudmouths have just aided and abetted multi-billion-dollar insurance and health care companies in ensuring that once again, there will be no meaningful health care reform in America.

Well done, everybody. Let's pat ourselves on the back for this one.

*: Nations included in the survey were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. So, keep in mind that when you stack up U.S. results, you're not only comparing them to barely-out-of-the-third-world countries like South Korea, Turkey, and Mexico, and countries like Hungary and Slovakia that were Soviet satellites less than 20 years ago, but any country not included in the survey is either one too tiny to have any kind of substantial economic power, or one where vast numbers of people currently live in what Americans would likely consider intolerable poverty.


Aug. 17th, 2009 12:45 am (UTC)
In fairness, some of the numbers were good. Gender gaps are closing across the board; we still make piles of money, as a country; our educational system is average to above-average, and actually shows some improvement in science and literacy (but major fall-offs in math); we've done a terrific job lowering teen smoking and teen alcoholism rates, especially compared to other countries; we make fairly good use of the leisure time we do have; our levels of school bullying are surprisingly low; and unemployment, while high for America, is still overall on the low side.

But the places where we fall behind and the pattern they form -- rising unemployment, less and less social spending, higher unemployment, decreasing pension and retirement, increased crime rates along with skyrocketing imprisonment rates, bad (and expensive) public health care, increased work hours combined with lower job satisfaction, and more productivity resulting in more money ending up in the hands of less people -- is a recipe for becoming a Third World country.
Aug. 17th, 2009 01:35 am (UTC)
"Becoming a third-world country" - well, where would you put the line? What would have to happen before you'd say "Okay, US is a third-world plutocracy" ?

I'm not entirely sure, myself. It just feels distressingly close. I also strongly suspect that for a lot of people, it's already the case.
Aug. 17th, 2009 11:33 am (UTC)
To answer your question, and to temper ludickid's fear: it takes more than just discomfiting levels of crime to turn a country into a Third World hellhole. It also takes institutional levels of government corruption. The reins of power need to be handed over often, irregularly and with occasional violence.

So, if you're looking for a handy benchmark for Third World status: when the Treasury Department starts bailing out corporations that are headquartered off U.S. shores, the boulder has crested the hill.

(I would say that the massive redistribution of wealth from poor to rich we've seen in the last two years hasn't helped, but there are precedents)
Aug. 17th, 2009 11:59 am (UTC)
I'm not entirely convinced that it will take much violence or even frequent power shifts; there are Third World countries in Asia and Central America that maintain that status without much bloodshed and with some continuity of leadership. It will definitely take more government corruption, but we're well on the way there.

The main thing is, if the trends of increased population without increased job creation, continued concentration of wealth in the hands of a very few (of a particular class group), a ritual unwillingness at government level to make any institutional changes, and a bottoming out of social spending (accompanied by a rise in the cost of private-sector social aid) continue, we've got the conditions which characterize a Third World country, at the very least.
Aug. 17th, 2009 01:18 am (UTC)
Would health insurance coops work at all well? That might be what we'll end up getting, if this passes at all.
Aug. 17th, 2009 01:20 am (UTC)
I've also heard that the administration's suggestion that they might accept coops was just a trial balloon. If so, I hope it pops!
Aug. 17th, 2009 02:30 am (UTC)
I've also heard indirect quotes saying Obama would rather pass the public option than have a second term, but I don't know how reliable that is.
Aug. 17th, 2009 03:13 am (UTC)
Could they have been trying to call a Republican bluff, or motivate their supporters the hard way?

The Atlantic-- Administration Official: "Sebelius Misspoke."
Aug. 17th, 2009 11:42 am (UTC)
At the same time, can we ladle the Democrats a generous helping of grief for failing to pass a plan - any plan - with a majority in both houses and the most popular Democratic President since ... well, since brooks no comparison? They expended more political capital getting the minimum wage raised two years ago, and I think you'd agree with me that better health coverage at less cost would make this country better off than another $0.75 an hour.
Aug. 17th, 2009 11:54 am (UTC)
Oh, no question, the Democrats are light-years past blameless here. It's the most spineless thing I've ever seen them do.
Aug. 17th, 2009 01:13 pm (UTC)
If someone gave a Democrat a gun to shoot a Republican with they'd ask the Republican how to commit suicide.
Aug. 17th, 2009 06:38 pm (UTC)
If he were a real Democrat, he wouldn't need to ask how.
Aug. 17th, 2009 02:10 pm (UTC)
This sounds like a good idea:


Do you guys know any great activists?
Aug. 17th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
Thank god we still have such cheap TVs. And now they're in HD!


flavored with age
Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator
Ludic Log


Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer wandering around Texas with no sleep or sense of direction. If you give him money he will write something for you. If you are nice to him he may come to your house and get drunk.

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