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America the Exceptional?

Crazy talk is the one thing you can count on when election time rolls around — though this “rolling around” trope is beginning to seem quaint. Running for major office is now a 24/7/365 thing where the day after a new president is elected the drum beats start up again. I blame the media for a lot of this nonsense. They’ve got so much invested in talk shows, columnists, analysts, reporters, commentators, op-ed writers, editors, opinion spinners, camera operators, etc. that the country’s unemployment rate would soar if we ran our elections like sensible countries, like our friends to the north.

For those who weren’t paying attention, Canada just had their Federal election and the whole bloody thing lasted just 11 weeks and that was longer than typical. A couple of debates, a bunch of lawn signs, a few editorials, insults, bad photo-ops, awkward TV ads and, voilà, a new Liberal government. Piece o’ cake.

Most (all?) of the crazy talk down here has been coming from the GOP where any hint of sanity or any suggestion that the role of government might be to actually govern is attacked as apostasy; where the more outrageous the claim and the more bizarre the proposal the more the blind mole rats of the electorate rush to embrace the insanity.

What the GOP candidates have been saying is simply empty rhetoric. When not demonizing Hillary, bashing Planned Parenthood or insulting gays and immigrants, we get a lot of blather about the gossamer myth of “American Exceptionalism.” Alas, we’re not so great and certainly not exceptional. Here are some numbers. Let’s start with the biggies, the measures that are used to determine how well a country is doing in the basics of life:

Life expectancy: US is 42nd in the world.

Infant mortality: US is 26th

Education (overall): 14th

Education (math): 37th

Education (science): 27th

Health care: 37th.

Childhood poverty rate: 43rd.

GINI Index (income inequality among developed nations): 32nd

Personal Freedom: 21st (you’d think we’d be first; we’re not, not even close)

Now look at the raw economic issues, which most Americans think are the best indicators of how wonderful our country is. Here we’re a bit better.

Overall standard of living: US is 6th.

PPP (Purchasing Power Parity): US is 10th.

But where does America “shine?” Where do we get to wave the “We’re #1 Finger”? Here:

Gun deaths per capita: 1st

Incarceration Rate: 1st

Health care expenditures: 1st — despite, as noted above, being 34th in overall care

No one broached any of these problems in Wednesday’s debate. But there was an intriguing element that slipped in as the evening wended down. Several seemed to grasp that there was, in fact, something deeply wrong in the land. Alas, they don’t/can’t/won’t promote appropriate programs because to do so would be to acknoweldge that government has a role here, that government is, in fact, the only agency that can address these issues.

The GOP strategy seems to be blame Obama and if that fails dump all over the “liberal” media and, if you want to show how “serious” you are, introduce a tax plan that would make a Eco 101 student wince.

I shudder to think that one of the Republican candidates is liable to end up as president and have to really face those numbers that reveal just where America is today.

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