macrohistory & world report

United States of America

Map of the United States

Crowded freeway I-80 in California on a Saturday north of Oakland

Saturday in California north of Oakland, Interstate 80, May 14, 2005, San Francisco Bay to the right, Berkeley to the left.

World Factbook as of November 2014: "Long-term problems include stagnation of wages for lower-income families, inadequate investment in deteriorating infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, energy shortages, and sizable current account and budget deficits."

Factbook's US per capita GDP estimate:
The latest is 2013, at $52,000, 14th in the world, behind Switzerland, Norway, Singapore and Qatar and other smaller states including Monaco and Luxembourg. It wouldn't be much of a distortion to say the US is fourth in the world.

September 1, 2014: The United States is holding its ranking basically in wealth as measured by GNP per capita but for the year 2013 it was surpassed by Switzerland, which moved up past Hong Kong, the US and Brunei to place just below Norway. These are all states that collect more revenue including taxes than does the US, but Singapore. which collects less in revenue than the United State ranks above Norway's, suggesting something is going on in GDP expansion other than low taxes encouraging or inhibiting GDP growth.

In birth rates, the US is higher than Singapore, 13.42 per thousand to 8.1 for Singapore.

In the Corruption Perception Index there is a small decline among the more wealthy industrialized nations, and the US improved more than some in 2013, but it remains far behind the leaders: Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands.

In measures of health the US also lags among the more wealthy industrialized nations, in life expectancy and infant mortality. Its lagging also in its number of doctors per 1,000 inhabitants. The US has around 2.5 per 1,000. compared to 3.9 for Switzerland, 3.8 for Sweden and Germany, and 3.7 for Spain. The US, however, is reputed to have the world's best medical research infrastructure and the world's best-trained doctors and nurses. Why it ranks behind in infant mortality and life expectancy must have something to do with how health care in the US is distributed.

Sep 2: Yesterday in a NewsHour broadcast, political scientist Cliff Zukin of Rutgers University described a decline in morale regarding the US economy. We have had almost five years of continuous economic growth, he said, but "42 percent say they have less in savings and salary now than they did five years ago." People were asked how much confidence they had in Washington's ability to solve problems. "Just 2 percent said a lot. Another 20 percent said some."


Economic growth rate estimates:
2013: 1.6%
2012: 2.2%
2011: 1.8%
2010: 2.4%

Unemployment rate:
2013: 7.3%
2012: 8.2%
2011: 9.1%
2010: 9.7%
2009: 9.4%
2008: 5.8%

Leading budget expenditures:
2011: Department of Defense 19%; social security 20%; Medicare and Medicaid 23%; interest on the national debt 6%; Discretionary Spending (Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Education, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development et cetera) 18%; Other mandatory spending (required by law), 13%.

Presidents Truman to Obama: Chart of tax revenues as a percentage of GDP since the Truman presidency..

Public debt estimate
2013: 71.8% of GDP
2012: 70% of GDP

Credit market debt:
1923-2012: chart

Trade balance:
2013: import $2.273 trillion, export $1.575 trillion – still unfavorable.

Advertising and Television:
According to Wikipedia, "Commercial breaks have become longer. In the 1960s a typical hour-long American show would run for 51 minutes excluding advertisements. Today, a similar program would only be 42 minutes long... In other words, over the course of 10 hours, American viewers will be shown approximately three hours of advertisements, twice what they would have seen in the 1960s. If a 1960s show is rerun today, the content may be edited by nine minutes to make room for the extra advertisements. "

Population growth rate:
2014: 0.77%, 143rd of 233 countries.

Health expenditures, update March 1, 2014
2011: 17.9% of GDP – compared to 11.1 for Germany and 9.3% for Britain. For its greater expenditure people in the US are not enjoying a greater life expectance, which at birth if 78.62 years, compared to 80.32 years for Germany and 80.29 years for Britain (2013 figures). The following is just speculation: Americans watch more television commercials for pills to make life less painful and it might be that they are spending much more on such medicines, pills Germans and Britons don't believe they need so much.

Living in an urban area:
2011: 82.2%. More people are moving into the cities, at a rate of 1.14% per year.

Religions (according to the World Factbook)
2007: Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%, Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4%

Migrations per 1,000 population:
2011: More arrive than leaving. A net gain of 3.62 persons
2010: More arriving than leaving. A net gain of 4.25 persons


Independence from Britain in 1783 (declared in 1776). Constitution-based federal republic. 50 states.

President and vice president elected on same ticket for 4-year terms not to exceed two terms. Bicameral legislature, members of the Senate elected by popular vote to six-year terms, members of the House of Representatives elected by popular vote to two-year terms.

Recent History

According to in 2010, the US produces 30% of the world's food – a great economic strength. The US is only 4.6% of the world's population. Also, the US uses 30% of the world's resources. According to, on average one American consumes as much energy as two Japanese and thirteen Chinese.

May 29, 2010: The 26th richest man in the world and the largest individual investor in the US stocks, Saudi Arabia's Prince Waleed (Al-Waleed bin Talal, nephew to King Abdullah), a happy and gracious man, likes US stability and plans to continue investing here. "The US," he says, "is down but not out."

Oct 2011: According to the Texas Transportation Institute, in the year 2010 Americans wasted 1.9 billion gallons of fuel while barely moving on congested roadways – enough to fill 38 super-tankers. The wasted fuel and wasted time that year cost Americans about 115 billion dollars.

Copyright © 2009-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.