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Debunking popular myths about the U.S.
email | Craig J. Cantoni

Posted on 05/24/2005 8:11:25 AM PDT by hsmomx3

Listed below are 15 commonly-held myths about social, economic, health and environmental conditions in the United States, followed by facts that debunk the myths. The facts have been gleaned from the Pocket World in Figures 2005, published by the The Economist magazine.

Myth # 1: The U.S. ranks low in human development.

Fact: On the Human Development Index, which measures literacy, life expectancy and income levels, the U.S. ranks above Japan, Switzerland, Denmark, Holland, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Austria, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and 38 other countries.

Myth #2: The U.S. is uncompetitive in global markets.

Fact: The U.S. is the world's biggest exporter, twice as big as Japan and three times as big as China. It also ranks first in manufacturing output, with 80 percent more output than Japan and more than twice as much output as either China or Germany. And it is surpassed in per-capita Gross Domestic Product by only Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland, all of which are tiny, lily-white countries. The social-welfare countries of Germany, France and Italy have a per-capita GDP that is only 66 percent, 67 percent and 57 percent, respectively, of the per-capita GDP of the U.S.

Myth #3: Because the U.S. doesn't produce enough scientists and engineers, it has lost its edge in innovation.

Fact: It ranks first on the Innovation Index, which is a measure of human resources skills, market incentive structures and the interaction between the business and scientific sectors. It also ranks first in the number of Nobel Prize winners in economics, medicine, physics and chemistry. The first-place rankings are in spite of the U.S. ranking fifth in R&D spending as a percentage of GDP and dropping to 10th place on the Index of Economic Freedom.

Myth #4: American roads are congested due to a lack of mass transit.

Fact: The U.S. ranks 42nd in the number of vehicles per kilometer of road. Germany, a country with a lot of mass transit, ranks third.

Myth #5: The U.S. is the most car-crazy country.

Fact: It ranks 12th in the number of cars per 1,000 people, surpassed by such countries as New Zealand, Luxembourg, Iceland, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Australia.

Myth #6: The U.S. has a high rate of auto accidents.

Fact: It ranks 31st in the number of people injured per miles traveled. Italy, Canada, Belgium, Israel and Germany have more injuries.

Myth #7: The U.S. ranks low in educational achievement.

Fact: Only one nation, South Korea, ranks higher than the U.S. in the percentage of the population enrolled in post-secondary education, in spite of the U.S. having a large number of immigrants from third-world countries.

Myth #8: The U.S. leads in breast cancer, lung cancer and diabetes.

Fact: It does not make the top-20 list in deaths per 100,000 people for breast cancer. The top five countries for breast cancer are Denmark, Iceland, Belgium, United Kingdom and Hungary. The U.S. ranks eighth in lung cancer, surpassed by the Netherlands, Italy, Croatia, United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium and Hungary. And it ranks 14th in diabetes, surpassed by such countries as Canada, Spain, Italy, Greece and Singapore.

Myth #9: Americans don't read books.

Fact: The U.S. is tied with Singapore in fourth place for book sales per capita. Japan, Norway and Germany rank first, second and third, respectively. France is in 17th place.

Myth #10: American teenagers watch the most TV and drink the most alcohol.

Fact: The U.S. ranks tenth in the percentage of 15-year-old males who watch TV four or more hours a day on weekdays. Ukraine is in first place. The U.S. does not make the top-14 list in 15-year-olds who drink alcohol weekly.

Myth #11: Americans are heavy smokers and drinkers.

Fact: The U.S. does not make the top-20 list in per-capita smoking. Greece is in first place. In beer consumption, the U.S. is in 11th place; and in alcohol consumption, it doesn't make the top-23 list. The Czech Republic ranks first in beer consumption, and Luxembourg ranks first in the consumption of alcoholic drinks.

Myth #12: The U.S. leads in crime.

Fact: The top ten countries for serious assaults per 100,000 people are in rank order: Australia, Sweden, South Africa, Belgium, Ghana, Swaziland, Fiji, Jamaica, Netherlands, United States. The top ten countries for theft are: Australia, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium, France, Austria, United States, Germany, Iceland.

Myth #13: The U.S. leads in defense spending.

Fact: When measured as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, the United States does not make the top-39 list. North Korea is first, Israel is tenth, and Singapore is nineteenth. Most Arab countries are on the list, and many rank near the top. For example, Saudi Arabia is fifth, Kuwait is sixth, and Jordan is eleventh.

Myth #14: The U.S. leads in threatened species.

Fact: It is in 21st place in mammal species under threat and in 10th place in bird species under threat. Indonesia, China, India and Brazil rank in the top five in both categories.

Myth #15: The U.S. leads in sprawl and deforestation.

Fact: It ranks third in the amount of forested land and second in the amount of land under protected status. It doesn't make the top-48 list of nations with the highest rural population density. __________

Mr. Cantoni is an author and columnist. His new book, Breaking from the Herd: Political Essays for Independent Thinkers by a Maverick Columnist, retails for $18.95 but can be purchased directly from him for $10. You can contact him at either ccan2@aol.com or haalt1@aol.com.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government
KEYWORDS: cantoni

1 posted on 05/24/2005 8:11:26 AM PDT by hsmomx3
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To: hsmomx3

BTTT!


2 posted on 05/24/2005 8:15:01 AM PDT by gogogodzilla (Raaargh! Raaargh! Crush, Stomp!)
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To: hsmomx3
Interesting stuff...
3 posted on 05/24/2005 8:15:35 AM PDT by .cnI redruM ("Every man's your brother 'til the rent comes due" - Anon.)
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To: hsmomx3

Guess that clears the air


4 posted on 05/24/2005 8:15:48 AM PDT by SMARTY
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To: hsmomx3
beer consumption, the U.S. is in 11th place;

Hey! I'm doing my part. Who's slacking off?

5 posted on 05/24/2005 8:15:58 AM PDT by avg_freeper (Gunga galunga. Gunga, gunga galunga)
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To: hsmomx3
Thanks for the excellent post! I'm definitely getting this guy's book.
6 posted on 05/24/2005 8:16:26 AM PDT by Gingersnap
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To: hsmomx3

"Myth #14: The U.S. leads in threatened species." The world didn't know what an endangered species was until we taught them. The rest of the world already killed their endangered species off before we gave them the idea that preservation was a good thing. We also invented the national park.


7 posted on 05/24/2005 8:16:57 AM PDT by RKV ( He who has the guns, makes the rules.)
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To: hsmomx3


Damn, looks like we've got a lot of catching up to do! I better tell my 13 year old son to put down the beer, bring the truck around so that we can chop down some trees!


8 posted on 05/24/2005 8:17:42 AM PDT by golfboy (character is doing what is right, when no one is looking)
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To: hsmomx3

Nice.

Eat that, Eurofascist doody heads.


9 posted on 05/24/2005 8:17:52 AM PDT by msf92497 (My brain is "twitchy")
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To: hsmomx3

Wait...this post seems to be saying that we're not

DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED!


10 posted on 05/24/2005 8:18:48 AM PDT by Tulane
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To: hsmomx3
The Czech Republic ranks first in beer consumption

The Czechs have good beer.

11 posted on 05/24/2005 8:19:08 AM PDT by Tribune7
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To: Temple Owl

ping


12 posted on 05/24/2005 8:19:30 AM PDT by Tribune7
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To: hsmomx3

PING


13 posted on 05/24/2005 8:19:38 AM PDT by oldleft
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To: hsmomx3

reference bump


14 posted on 05/24/2005 8:19:40 AM PDT by NonValueAdded (NEWSWEEK LIED, PEOPLE DIED)
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To: hsmomx3; the gillman@blacklagoon.com; 1rudeboy; hedgetrimmer; Nowhere Man; wayoverontheright
Myth #2: The U.S. is uncompetitive in global markets.

Fact: The U.S. is the world's biggest exporter, twice as big as Japan and three times as big as China. It also ranks first in manufacturing output, with 80 percent more output than Japan and more than twice as much output as either China or Germany. And it is surpassed in per-capita Gross Domestic Product by only Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland, all of which are tiny, lily-white countries. The social-welfare countries of Germany, France and Italy have a per-capita GDP that is only 66 percent, 67 percent and 57 percent, respectively, of the per-capita GDP of the U.S.

Hey wedgie, check this out.

15 posted on 05/24/2005 8:19:43 AM PDT by Toddsterpatriot (If you agree with Karl Marx, the AFL-CIO and E.P.I. please stop calling yourself a conservative!!)
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To: hsmomx3

Fact: It ranks 31st in the number of people injured per miles traveled. Italy, Canada, Belgium, Israel and Germany have more injuries.

***

I don't know about the other countries, but I believe it re: Italy. Rome is a dangerous place.


16 posted on 05/24/2005 8:22:28 AM PDT by fatnotlazy
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To: hsmomx3

Whoa! Cut, paste, save!! This is a keeper...


17 posted on 05/24/2005 8:22:52 AM PDT by wizardoz (Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they AREN'T out to get you.)
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Comment #18 Removed by Moderator

To: hsmomx3

Myth Busted!!
19 posted on 05/24/2005 8:29:27 AM PDT by HEY4QDEMS
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To: Tribune7

20 posted on 05/24/2005 8:37:16 AM PDT by frogjerk
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To: hsmomx3

there are facts and then there are statistics.


21 posted on 05/24/2005 8:40:00 AM PDT by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorism by visiting johnathangaltfilms.com and jihadwatch.org)
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bump for later. good post.


22 posted on 05/24/2005 8:47:43 AM PDT by Mortikhi
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To: hsmomx3
Fact: It is in 21st place in mammal species under threat and in 10th place in bird species under threat. Indonesia, China, India and Brazil rank in the top five in both categories.

Of course, that all depends on your definition of "endagered species", who decides, and the percentage of the "political" or "I'm king of the universe" factor by groups such as "Dirt First!".

23 posted on 05/24/2005 8:48:45 AM PDT by Publius6961 (The most abundant things in the universe are hydrogen, ignorance and stupidity.)
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To: Publius6961
The facts have been gleaned from the Pocket World in Figures 2005, published by the The Economist magazine.

Got to get one of these!

24 posted on 05/24/2005 8:49:31 AM PDT by Publius6961 (The most abundant things in the universe are hydrogen, ignorance and stupidity.)
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To: hsmomx3
gleaned from the Pocket World in Figures 2005, published by the The Economist magazine.

Is there a link or other source on this?  I'm sure it's possible to verify all these factoids one at a time with other sources, but the source for this list would be handy.

25 posted on 05/24/2005 8:53:57 AM PDT by expat_panama
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To: hsmomx3
Myth #5: The U.S. is the most car-crazy country.

Fact: It ranks 12th in the number of cars per 1,000 people, surpassed by such countries as New Zealand, Luxembourg, Iceland, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Australia.

In my best Johnny Carson voice "I did not know that." I am a bit surprised. I guess its hard not to digest at least SOME of the garbage that is often passed around as "common knowledge".

26 posted on 05/24/2005 8:59:51 AM PDT by Paradox (In my heart, I will always be something of a Liberal, in my head, a Conservative. Head wins.)
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To: Publius6961
"The Economist magazine. Got to get one of these!"

You'll get PO'd real fast after readin their socialist BS....Cancel is what I wrote when renewal time came....

27 posted on 05/24/2005 9:05:51 AM PDT by litehaus
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To: hsmomx3
Myth #7: The U.S. ranks low in educational achievement.

Fact: Only one nation, South Korea, ranks higher than the U.S. in the percentage of the population enrolled in post-secondary education, in spite of the U.S. having a large number of immigrants from third-world countries.

Mere enrollment in post-secondary schooling should not be confused with educational achievement. Our colleges and universities may provide the best remedial schooling money can buy, but that is nothing to be proud of.

28 posted on 05/24/2005 9:06:56 AM PDT by Logophile
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To: hsmomx3
Thanks for the post - some interesting info in there.

One item contradicted a report that I recently read:

Fact: The U.S. is the world's biggest exporter, twice as big as Japan and three times as big as China.

According to the 2005 CIA World Factbook, Germany is the world's largest exporter at $893.3 billion. The U.S. comes in second at $795 billion.

29 posted on 05/24/2005 9:16:51 AM PDT by TXLibertarian
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To: litehaus
I have no intention of reading their magazine. I am just buying their book.
(and it ain't cheap)

Ordered it a half hour ago: Pocket World in Figures 2005, published by the The Economist magazine.

30 posted on 05/24/2005 9:18:05 AM PDT by Publius6961 (The most abundant things in the universe are hydrogen, ignorance and stupidity.)
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To: frogjerk

I once brought a six of Pilsener Urquells over to my grandfather's house. As we sat on the back porch drinking them, my grandfather, a Pabst Blue Ribbon man, said "I don't care what they say about foreign beers. This is good."


31 posted on 05/24/2005 9:36:12 AM PDT by Heyworth
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To: hsmomx3
Myth # 16 - The Democrat Political Party is for the "little guy".
32 posted on 05/24/2005 9:38:20 AM PDT by Osage Orange (Newsweek Lied....And People Died)
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To: hsmomx3

double ping tap'em twice bttt


33 posted on 05/24/2005 9:52:20 AM PDT by CGVet58 (God has granted us Liberty, and we owe Him Courage in return)
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To: Publius6961
"hydrogen, ignorance and stupidity."

Funny, one is a presence,the other two indicate the presence of nothing, lack of anything....Clever....

34 posted on 05/24/2005 11:13:18 AM PDT by litehaus
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To: Toddsterpatriot
Just got done reading a blog entry over at CafeHayek by a GMU Professor of Economics named Russell Roberts. I know that only less than a handful of the protectionist crowd would actually visit if I just left the link - that's why I'm leaving the whole thing thing below...hhehehe:

I want to close out this series on inequality by looking at one of the questions we started with—the question of opportunity in America. In the first post, I pointed out that there are many different ways to think of opportunity. One way is to look at whether people are getting ahead. A second is to look at whether everyone has the same chance of getting ahead. A third is whether than second measure is changing or constant over time—is it getting easier or harder to get ahead. In the previous posts [includes this one as well] I wrote about how hard it is to measure these things—various demographic changes distort the measurement, particularly changes in family structure and immigration. I want to try to tie up some loose ends in this post and give you some idea of why I'm more optimistic about the state of mobility and opportunity than the standard things you read or hear.

First question-is the average American doing better or doing worse? A surprising number of people argue that the average person is actually falling behind in absolute terms and not just relative terms. In this view, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. In this view, while the average goes up over time, that's because the rich are getting all of the gains. The average person is not gaining. Most of the people who say this are talking about either household data that is confounded by the demographic issues I mentioned or they're looking at hourly wages for a subset of the population.

On the household issue, here's some cheerier data from the Census Bureau. This is median annual family income (for some reason, the Census Bureau doesn't have historical household data up on the web that is easily viewed, but the family data should be good enough for this purpose). Using median income purges the data of the possibility that the rich are getting all of the gains. Here's what we find, corrected for inflation, and rounded to the nearest thousand:

2000 $54,000
1990 $48,000
1980 $44,000
1970 $40,000

Between 1970 and 2000, real income for the median American family rose 35%, not great, but not too bad. Certainly the median family isn't falling behind. But as I pointed out in an earlier post, this number is distorted by changes in family structure. Let's hold family structure constant and look at the change in family income for just married couples where both spouses are working:

2000 $74,000
1990 $64,000
1980 $57,000
1970 $50,000

That's a 48% increase in real median family income over 30 years. What about female-headed households, the category that grew from 18% of all households in 1970 to 29% of all households in 2000:

2000 $27,000
1990 $23,000
1980 $22,000
1970 $21,000

Three things to point out. Female-headed families are a lot poorer than the average family. As I pointed out in an earlier post, a 50% increase in this poorer group will drag down the average even when everyone is actually doing better, merely from a compositional change. Second, even among this group there has been economic progress, though most of it was in the 90s.

By the way, the only type of family that has stagnated over the last 30 years is male-headed households with no spouse present. Median family income for this type of family is virtually unchanged over the last 30 years. Why? Could be demographics or it could be that male-headed without a spouse have a low level of education. The last 30 years have been tough on people without a high school degree.

All of these numbers purport to correct for inflation. But it's generally accepted that the inflation numbers overstate inflation by failing to correct for quality changes. So my guess is that these numbers understate how well we've done over the last three decades.

In what I expect to be the last post in this series, tomorrow, I'll write about the question of mobility within economic strata and the why this issue is less important than the media claims it is.


35 posted on 05/24/2005 12:14:56 PM PDT by LowCountryJoe (50 states, and their various laws, will serve 'we, the people' better than just one LARGE state can)
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To: Destro

"It'll never work...you'll never make it."


36 posted on 05/24/2005 12:17:30 PM PDT by LowCountryJoe (50 states, and their various laws, will serve 'we, the people' better than just one LARGE state can)
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To: hsmomx3
Myth #9: Americans don't read books.

Fact: The U.S. is tied with Singapore in fourth place for book sales per capita. Japan, Norway and Germany rank first, second and third, respectively. France is in 17th place.

This fact doesn't really refute the allegation.

It's a fair bet that a decent percentage of sales here are driven by fad, peer pressure, and mere presence on the NYT Bestseller list -- purchased, and then left on the shelf.

37 posted on 05/24/2005 12:36:59 PM PDT by Constitutionalist Conservative (Have you visited http://c-pol.blogspot.com?)
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To: Publius6961
I have one from a few years go. Pocket size, a genuine eye opener, and along with a copy of the US Constitution something to have on hand for the occasional "discussion" with acquaintances of the leftward persuasion.
38 posted on 05/24/2005 12:43:59 PM PDT by katana
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To: avg_freeper
When we lived in Germany, we noticed the beer truck making deliveries to apartments and houses on a weekly basis. Until America actually has a delivery system in every town just for alcohol, I'm afraid we'll never catch up.

I think we need a government-funded system to address this problem. We simply can NOT allow America to keep falling behind in beer consumption.

I mean, seriously... think of the *children*!!

39 posted on 05/24/2005 12:46:55 PM PDT by Marie (Stop childhood obesity. Give them Marlboros, not milkshakes.)
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To: LowCountryJoe

Excellent post. Protectionists are allergic to facts.


40 posted on 05/24/2005 12:48:11 PM PDT by Toddsterpatriot (If you agree with Karl Marx, the AFL-CIO and E.P.I. please stop calling yourself a conservative!!)
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To: hsmomx3

ping for later, thanks.


41 posted on 05/24/2005 1:45:04 PM PDT by No.6 (www.fourthfightergroup.com)
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To: hsmomx3
Interesting article, but the truth is that some of these "refutations" are as misleading as the myths themselves. I'll point a few out . . .

Myth #2: The U.S. is uncompetitive in global markets.

Fact: The U.S. is the world's biggest exporter, twice as big as Japan and three times as big as China. It also ranks first in manufacturing output, with 80 percent more output than Japan and more than twice as much output as either China or Germany. And it is surpassed in per-capita Gross Domestic Product by only Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland, all of which are tiny, lily-white countries. The social-welfare countries of Germany, France and Italy have a per-capita GDP that is only 66 percent, 67 percent and 57 percent, respectively, of the per-capita GDP of the U.S.

GDP is not an accurate indicator of a nation's "competitiveness" from a global perspective. And export statistics don't mean much unless they are listed in terms of population. I can almost guarantee you that per-capita exports for the U.S. are very low compared to many other industrialized nations.

Myth #4: American roads are congested due to a lack of mass transit.

Fact: The U.S. ranks 42nd in the number of vehicles per kilometer of road. Germany, a country with a lot of mass transit, ranks third.

This "fact" doesn't have anything to do with the myth. What this tells us is that the U.S. has a lot of roadway miles in very sparsely-populated areas -- something that anyone who has driven across this country would know. It doesn't say anything about the number of vehicles per kilometer of road in areas where most people live and work.

Myth #6: The U.S. has a high rate of auto accidents.

Fact: It ranks 31st in the number of people injured per miles traveled. Italy, Canada, Belgium, Israel and Germany have more injuries.

Again, the "fact" has nothing to do with the "myth." The myth that is supposedly debunked here is the rate of auto accidents -- not the rate of auto accidents involving injuries. And since the information about auto accidents per mile traveled is generally available from the same sources that were consulted for the numbers presented here, I suspect the author is being deliberately misleading here.

Myth #7: The U.S. ranks low in educational achievement.

Fact: Only one nation, South Korea, ranks higher than the U.S. in the percentage of the population enrolled in post-secondary education, in spite of the U.S. having a large number of immigrants from third-world countries.

Anyone who thinks that getting a post-secondary education in the U.S. makes you "educated" is delusional.

Myth #8: The U.S. leads in breast cancer, lung cancer and diabetes.

Fact: It does not make the top-20 list in deaths per 100,000 people for breast cancer. The top five countries for breast cancer are Denmark, Iceland, Belgium, United Kingdom and Hungary. The U.S. ranks eighth in lung cancer, surpassed by the Netherlands, Italy, Croatia, United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium and Hungary. And it ranks 14th in diabetes, surpassed by such countries as Canada, Spain, Italy, Greece and Singapore.

This one is almost identical to the auto safety argument described previously. The "myth" apparently involves the number of cases of these various ailments, while the "fact" addresses only the number of deaths from these ailments.

Myth #12: The U.S. leads in crime.

Fact: The top ten countries for serious assaults per 100,000 people are in rank order: Australia, Sweden, South Africa, Belgium, Ghana, Swaziland, Fiji, Jamaica, Netherlands, United States. The top ten countries for theft are: Australia, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium, France, Austria, United States, Germany, Iceland.

Don't tell me about serious assaults, and don't tell me about theft. Tell me about all crimes -- these numbers are readily available, so why aren't they used?

42 posted on 05/24/2005 2:12:52 PM PDT by Alberta's Child (I ain't got a dime, but what I got is mine. I ain't rich, but lord I'm free.)
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To: avg_freeper
I'm right on it.

43 posted on 05/24/2005 2:14:46 PM PDT by evets (God bless President Bush and VP Cheney)
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To: hsmomx3

bookmark


44 posted on 05/24/2005 7:55:31 PM PDT by chaosagent (It's all right to be crazy. Just don't let it drive you nuts.)
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To: Marie
We simply can NOT allow America to keep falling behind in beer consumption.

Allus (hic!) did wanna do muh patroti...patritotic...oh, dang it, spilled another one on th' keyboard...

45 posted on 05/24/2005 8:06:31 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: hsmomx3

bookmark


46 posted on 05/25/2005 3:32:46 PM PDT by Talking_Mouse (Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just... Thomas Jefferson)
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To: hsmomx3

Strange posting. Most of the "popular myths" seem to be straw men set up specifically be debunked. Furthermore many are so generally stated that the rebuttal is meaningless and the way in which the rebuttals are stated is designed to mislead. The work seems to be that of a propagandist, not a serious academic.

The U.S. is certainly not as bad as the claims many so-called conservatives impute the radical left or to their centrist kin, the liberals. But then the only people I ever hear making those claims are on the radical right. I would like to see some verifiable evidence that these myths even exist other than on right-wing talk shows and some of the less respectable right-wing mass media.

The U.S. is a good country, by and large. Better than many. Better than most, actually. However it isn't the BEST country by any measure that I know of, except perhaps in its immigration policies. The impression that I get when listening to the radical right is that this is God's country and is the best place to live on Earth. My belief is that God has no country and my experience tells me that this isn't the best place to live... it's just better than most. There are scads of things that need fixing starting with giving every child an EQUAL opportunity to succeed from the time he/she is born. If we do that one thing, this actually could be the best country on Earth, but we are heading in the opposite direction.


47 posted on 06/10/2006 12:04:51 AM PDT by Frans Bouman
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To: Frans Bouman
There are scads of things that need fixing starting with giving every child an EQUAL opportunity to succeed from the time he/she is born. If we do that one thing, this actually could be the best country on Earth, but we are heading in the opposite direction.

And how, pray tell, Mr. Socialist Faggot do we do that, when human beings are NOT GENETICALLY equal in terms of intelligence or ability?

48 posted on 06/10/2006 12:12:41 AM PDT by Clemenza (The CFR ate my bilderburgers! Time to call for a trilateral commission to investigate!)
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