This right now is the greatest country on earth.

Michelle Obama 25 July 2016 – Democratic National Convention

There are many fabulous, generous, creative, compassionate human beings living in the United States.

It is a country that has spawned extraordinary achievements in retail (Jeff Bezos), Social Media (Mark Zukerberg), transportation (Elon Musk), computers (Bill Gates). The list of US accomplishments is endless.

But, as the US celebrates “Independence Day,” I am curious how they get to be “the greatest country on earth.” It seems there may be a few things that might not be cause for celebration south of the border:


from Wilkerson, Isabel. Caste: The Origins Of Our Discontent. NY: Random House, 2020.

There are more public mass shootings in America than in any other country, and the United States has one of the highest rates of gun deaths in the developed world, according to the World Health Organization. Americans own more guns per capita than any other nation. Americans own nearly half of the guns in the world owned by civilians.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, higher than that of Russia and China, with a rate of 655 per 100,000. The United States imprisons more people, 2.2 million, than any other nation. The incarceration rate in America is so hight that the line representing the United States extends well off the page in the graphics of the prison rates in the developed world. If the U.S. prison population were a city, it would be the fifth largest in America.

American women are more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than women in other wealth nations. With fourteen deaths per 100,000 live births, the maternal mortality rate in America is nearly three times the rate in Sweden, according to the Commonwealth Fund. Part of this reflects the woeful maternal death rates for black and indigenous women in the United States.

Life expectancy in the United States is the lowest among the eleven highest-income countries (United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, Japan, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Denmark). The life expectancy in America is 78.6 years, as against a combined average of 82.3 years and against 84.2 for Japan, the bounrty with the longest life expectancy, based on a 2019 analysis.

Infant mortality in the United States is highest among the richest nations, 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, as against a combined average of 3.6 per 1,000 live births for the richest countries, as against 2 per 1,000 in Japan and Finland.

American students score near the bottom in industrialized nations in mathematics and reading. Fifteen-year-olds in the United States scored well below students in peer nations on math literacy, below Latvia and the Slovak Republic, among the dozens of countries that exceed U.S. test scores. By the time that the first woman major-party candidate ran for president in 2016, some sixty other countries had already had a woman head of state, including India, Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom, and smaller countries such as Iceland, Norway, Burundi, and Slovenia. And, in perhaps the most important measure of all for citizens anywhere, the United States ranked eighteenth in happiness in the world, just above the Czech Republic, according to the consortium of organizations, including Gallup, that publishes the results each year. The United States has fallen seven spots since 2012, a testimony to our continuing discontents.


In addition to which:

The U.S. has the highest suicide rate of any wealthy nation. Suicides account for 14 deaths per 100,000 people in the U.S. This is double the suicide rate of the United Kingdom.

The United States spends more on national defense ($732 billion) than China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil — combined ($726 billion).

The US has the highest anti-depressant use in the world – 110 users per 1,000 people. 11% of Americans over the age of 12, takes an antidepressant. The next highest country is Iceland at 106 per 1,000 people.


I wonder what criteria Michelle Obama was using when she declared that This right now is the greatest country on earth.