Covid-19: Managing the Crisis

Covid-19:  Managing the Crisis: Wasted Lives & Wasted Money

Worldwide, there have been 25.8 million cases of Covid-19 and 859,000 deaths by the end of August 2020.  Different countries have taken different approaches to managing Covid-19.  For example, on January 31, 2020, President Trump announced a travel ban on people coming from China.  Within ten days other nations imposed a similar ban.  Those countries allowed their citizens to return home, but tested them at the airport and quarantined those who tested positive.  The U.S. allowed 40,000 citizens and relatives to return to the U.S. from China during the two months after the ban, but did not test nor quarantine.  The U.S. has 4% of the world population and 22% of the deaths from Covid-19 in the world.

A comparison of the U.S. to Germany reveals differences in approach and results.  Germany is the largest country in the European Union and utilized approaches similar to other western democracies.


In 2015, Bill Gates predicted a pandemic like the 1918 Spanish flu that would spread very quickly.  Germany was prepared for a pandemic with diagnostic testing, which produced same day results or next day results.  They also implemented contact tracing. They had adequate personal protective gear, ventilators and other necessary medical devices.  In the U.S., Obama established the Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense to prepare for a pandemic.  Trump dismissed this group, leaving his administration with no preparation nor strategy for managing a pandemic.


German GDP declined 10% in the second quarter.

U.S. GDP declined 33% in the second quarter.

German unemployment rate is 4.1%.

U.S. unemployment rate is 10.1%.

Germany’s public debt rose to 82% of GDP.

U.S. Government’s public debt rose to 120% of GDP.

U.S. death rate from Covid-19 is four times the German death rate.

Angela Merkel’s approval rating rose from 40% to 70%; Donald Trump’s fell.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the cost of Covid-19 to be $8 trillion.

Other Countries

Germany is not the best performing country on Covid-19.  The U.S. death rate from Covid-19 is more than 50 times the death rates in the east Asia countries – Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.  Taiwan, with a population of 24 million, has seven deaths to date.  Florida, with a population of 22 million, has 12,786 deaths to date.  Taiwan had no shutdowns.  Instead, they tested, tracked and quarantined

The United States

The U.S. has led the world in scientific expertise, biomedical knowledge and immense resources, but it failed to utilize them effectively.  In no other industrialized country have political leaders departed from expert advice in this crisis as frequently and significantly as the U.S. 

At the beginning, the seriousness of this pandemic in the U.S. was underestimated.  Trump said on January 22, “We have it totally under control,” and on February 10, “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” On February 27, he said, “It’s going to disappear,” and on March 10, “We’re prepared.  And we’re doing a great job with it.  And it will go away.  Just stay calm.”

The U.S. was slow to initiate diagnostic testing. When testing was ramped up, much of it was ineffective due to lengthy time periods to receive results.  In addition, the U.S. lacked testing materials, personal protective geardrugs, and devices.  Efforts to track and trace infections have been largely ineffective.   

Unlike other countries, the U.S. made Covid-19 a political issue.  The U.S. is the only country where citizens divided over wearing masks based on political affiliation.  President Trump tweeted, “Everyone is lying.  The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all, but most that we are told to trust.”  Public health officials have been threatened and harassed and some have resigned for personal safety reasons.  This has not happened in other industrialized countries.


If the U.S. had adopted the procedures implemented by Germany and other countries, 140,000 American lives might have been saved to date, assuming the U.S. had the same death rate as Germany.  In addition, the U.S. could have saved at least $2 trillion if it handled Covid-19 more effectively. That is as much as the cost of Social Security and Medicare combined in one year.  In 2017, President Trump projected that the U.S. would have a balance budget by 2020.  Instead, with Covid-19 and the related waste the deficit will exceed GDP.  The ratio debt to GDP will be higher than levels during the World War II era.  This ratio of debt to GDP will put the U.S. in the company of Greece, Italy and Japan

Statutes, Monuments & Other Tributes

A debate is raging over statues, monuments and other tributes honoring Americans in centuries past.  Each person should be evaluated on the basis of his or her contribution to civilization.  Aristotle supported slavery, but he made significant contribution to human knowledge.  Decisions on American tributes should be made by elected officials, not mob rule.

George Washington made an enormous contribution to the creation of the United States.  Historians have argued that without Washington and Franklin, the United States would not have been created near the end of the 18th century.  (Franklin persuaded the French to fund the American revolution and provide nearly half of the military personnel.)  Washington owned slaves, which were freed when he and Martha died. Nevertheless, Washington should continue to be honored for his positive contributions to the United States.

Likewise, Thomas Jefferson made significant contributions to the United States.  He drafted the Declaration of Independence and was the leading advocate for religious freedom.  He served as Governor of Virginia and President of the U.S.  He was also the founder of the University of Virginia.  Jefferson owned slaves and only some were freed upon his death.  He should also continue to be honored for his contributions to the U.S.

Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution states “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against” the United States.  Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee met the Constitution’s definition of treason.  They engaged in a war against the United States to preserve slavery in the Confederate States. Their war against the United States caused the deaths of 620,000 Americans.  That is about the same number of American soldiers who died in all wars combined since the Civil War. 

Neither Davis nor Lee nor their senior officers should be honored by statues, monuments or other tributes.  In addition, forts including Bragg, Benning, Hood and other military bases named for Confederates should be remained.  Lee apparently agreed when he wrote in 1869 that he objected to the idea of creating Confederate monuments because it would be wiser “not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife.”

Lee’s advice was followed by Germany.  Germany does not honor Adolph Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Herman Goring, Heinrich Himmler and other leading Nazis.  Neither should the U.S. honor Confederate leaders.

Removing monuments and renaming military bases does not change nor diminish American history.  It stops honoring men who diminished American history.

Climate Change: Facts, Forecasts & Response

Climate Change: Facts, Forecasts & Response


  1. Climate change has occurred naturally through the history of the Earth.
  2. The climate change that has occurred in the last 100 years has, historically, taken 5,000 to 10,000 years. Greenhouse gases emissions (GHG), including carbon dioxide (CO2), are the most important factor in accelerating global warming.
  3. In 1910 there were more than 100 glaciers in Glacier National Park. Today there are 26. Greenland has lost an average of 278 billion tons of ice per year for the last 10 years. Antarctica has lost 155 billion tons of ice per year during the last decade.
  4. Large oil companies know that CO2 contributes to global warming. The average car produces five tons of CO2 per year. Bonuses paid to Shell Oil executives are based in part on the carbon emission targets aimed at reducing Shell’s global footprint. ExxonMobil is spending millions of dollars in research to develop carbon capture technologies.
  5. China is the biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) followed by the U.S. On a per capita basis, the U.S. is the biggest contributor.
  6. In the Paris Climate Agreement, countries set voluntary goals for 2020. China and India have already met their goals. The U.S. withdrew from the agreement and will not meet its goals.
  7. Over 60 countries adopted a target that will get them to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The U.S. is not among them.


  1. Climate scientists have reached a formidable consensus that, in the absence of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) significantly, the changes in climate will be substantial, with long-lasting, significant effects on many of Earth’s physical and biological systems.
  2. No global policies to control GHG emissions would result in temperature increases of 4.1° to 4.8°C (7.4° to 8.6° Fahrenheit) by 2100. Current global policies would hold temperature increases to 3.1° to 3.7°C (5.6° to 6.7° Fahrenheit) by 2100.
  3. An increase of 3° C would mean the loss of most costal cities and many ocean island nations. Virtually all of the coral reefs would die. An increase of 4° C would put Europe in permanent drought, make deserts out of large areas of China and India, put 1,000 Polynesian islands under water and make the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. A 5° C increase would likely end human civilization.


  1. The President has promoted increased use of fossil fuel by withdrawing environmental regulations, opening more federal land to drilling for oil and gas, and reducing auto emission standards. As a result, greenhouse gas emissions increased 3.4% in 2018 after declining over the past ten years. The Trump administration also repealed Clean Water Rules.
  2. The EPA’s proposed budget “discontinues funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts.” The State Department budget proposal “eliminates the Global Climate Change Initiative and fulfills the President’s pledge to cease payments to the United Nations’ (UN) climate change programs by eliminating U.S. funding related to the Green Climate Fund and its two precursor Climate Investment Funds.” The budget also cut several NASA programs designed to study climate change. Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, said that spending in those areas is a waste of money.


Saving Lives in America

Saving Lives in America

Among developed nations (OECD members), the United States has the highest percentage of gun owners. Switzerland is second. Yet the murder rate by guns is more than 70% less per capita in Switzerland. Switzerland’s gun laws are similar to the U.S. with three exceptions: (1) mandatory background checks, (2) no assault weapons and (3) gun licenses. These regulations do not violate the 2nd Amendment.

There have been 251 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2019 through August 4th. Switzerland has not had a mass shooting since 2001. There have been 2,191 children killed or injured by guns so far this year in the U.S. Mental illness rates are no higher in the United States than they are in Canada and Western Europe. Lenient gun laws are responsible for the high death rate from guns in the U.S.

The American people and the NRA should support reasonable gun laws that will save the lives of thousands of American children and sustain the 2nd Amendment.

Impact of Artificial Intelligence

Impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

Artificial intelligence, biological engineering and quantum computing, when combined, will impact life in the 21st century.  Biological engineering will increase, and possibly double, life spans.  Half or more of today’s jobs will be eliminated by artificial intelligence (AI) and changes will occur faster due to quantum computing. This is the first in a series of columns on these subjects.

Beginning with the Industrial Revolution, there has been a continuing transition in the methods of producing goods and services and the jobs required to produce those goods and services. In 1900, 40% of Americans lived on farms. Today 2% live on farms and they produce five times as much food.

In 1987, General Motors employed 877,000 worldwide.  At the end of 2017, GM employed 180,000 worldwide and GM produced more cars.  This decline in employees is primarily due to the use of robots and other manufacturing technologies. (Source: GM’s Annual Reports.)

Several university research studies have found that 82% to 87% of job losses in the US from 2000 to 2017 were due to automation. The pace of this change is continuing and may even increase as automation becomes more intelligent.

McDonald’s has announced plans to install digital ordering kiosks in place of cashiers at 14,000 of its American restaurants in the next two years, according to Business Insider.

Bank of America has opened three completely automated branches, which do not employ any humans. These branches provide mortgages, credit cards and auto loans. Customers can also use ATMs. For situations requiring a bank employee, customers can have video conferences with employees at other locations.

In some tech firms, administrative assistants are computers that communicate verbally using AI. In Georgetown’s Washington Harbour, a security robot named, Steve, works 24 hours per day, replacing humans.

In Chicago, the law firm, Baker & Hosterler LLP, utilizes IBM’s AI-based legal assistant, ROSS, that can read and understand language, postulate hypotheses, research and then generate responses, along with references and citations to back up its conclusion.

In the investment world, computers use artificial intelligence and algorithms to read, process and trade on news before humans have time to read it. Major investment advisory services, including Schwab, Morgan Stanley, Vanguard, Fidelity and Chase, have introduced or announced AI-based robot investment services. According to Money magazine (August 2018), these services charge about one-third the cost of human investment advisory services.

AI-driven automation is impacting manufacturing jobs. Computers work 24 hours per day with no breaks and no health insurance and perform many tasks more consistently producing better quality. A Chinese company making cell phone components replaced 650 employees with 60 robots using AI. They increased annual volume from 8,000 to 21,000 units and reduced defects from 25% to 5%.

In tradable industries, like manufacturing, companies can produce products in one part of the world and sell these products in another part of the world. Global competition has driven these companies to utilize technology to reduce costs and increase quality. Non-tradable industries, like education and healthcare, have not been pressured by competition in the same way to adopt new technologies to improve outcomes. They have been the least disrupted by productivity-enhancing technologies, but this is starting to change.

In Plato’s Academy (387 BC), students learned by listening to lectures from teachers. Now, 2,500 years later, this remains the primary form of teaching.

On-line education, including massive open online courses (MOOCs), are where automobiles were in 1920. In 1920, horses were more reliable, but eventually automobiles dominated personal transportation.

Darrell West’s excellent book, “The Future of Work,” describes some technology innovations in education: “Video designers are incorporating math or science puzzles into instructional games. Players are required to answer substantive questions in order to advance through the video game. Those who are successful earn points and win the game. This combination of video gaming and education represents a potent form of digital learning.”   Technology will allow each individual student to learn at his or her optimal speed.

In medicine, at the 2018 World Medical Innovation Forum on artificial intelligence, Health Analytics reported on a dozen technologies using AI that are likely to impact on healthcare in the next decade. These included diagnostic tools, analytics for pathology images and wearable health monitoring devices.

At the World Economic Forum, in 2017, researchers in AI at Oxford and Yale predicted that AI will outperform humans in (1) transcribing speech by 2023, (2) driving trucks by 2027 and (3) working as surgeons by 2053. There is a 50% chance of AI outperforming humans in all tasks in 45 years.

Existing jobs will likely be eliminated by technology faster than new ones are created and the people losing the old jobs will likely lack the skills to perform the new ones. Jobs requiring only a high school education are declining in number. They will continue to be replaced by technology.

AI will significantly improve the productivity of professionals, including accountants, attorneys, diagnosticians, financial advisors, pharmacists and many others. Higher productivity means that fewer people will be required in these professions.

Pricewaterhouse Coopers predicted that AI could contribute up to $16 trillion to the global economy in 2030. This is more than the combined GDP of China and India in 2017

Lifetime learning will necessary to maintain employment. Extraordinary improvements in our education systems will be essential.

In fairness, opinions of AI differ. Elon Musk (Tesla) said that automation driven by AI “is the biggest risk that we face as a civilization.”  Steve Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary, stated, “In terms of artificial intelligence (AI) taking over American jobs, I think we’re so far away from that that it’s not even on my radar screen.   .   .   I think it’s 50 to 100 years away.” This implies that the U.S. is not currently preparing for future disruptions and the requirement for life-long learning associated with AI.

Income Taxes Have Little Impact on Economic Growth

Income Taxes & Economic Growth

Politicians argue that reducing income taxes stimulates economic growth. Here are the facts.

In the 31 years from 1950 to 1980, the top income tax rate ranged from 70% to 91%. Economic growth during this period was averaged 3.9%.

During the Reagan-Bush presidencies, the top income tax rate was first reduced to 38.5% then to 31%. Economic growth declined to 3.1%.

During the Clinton years, the top income tax rate was increased to 39.6% and economic growth rate rose to 3.9%.

The top income tax rate dropped to 35% the George W Bush presidency and economic growth dropped to 2.1%.

Conclusion:  The evidence shows that cutting income taxes, particularly for people with high income, does not produce economic growth. Factors other than taxes are more important to economic growth.


Alternative Solutions to Mass Shootings

Since 9/11/2001, more than 400,000 Americans have been killed by guns. That is four times the number of Americans killed in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the 1st Gulf War, the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War all combined. Terrorists killed less than 1% of the Americans killed by guns since 9/11/2001 and most of those were on 9/11.

Among the developed nations, the United States has the highest death rate per capita from guns. A person is five times more likely to be killed with a gun in the U.S. than in Canada, nine times more likely than in Germany, and 42 times more likely than in Great Britain. (Per capita, the U.S. does not have 42 times as many mentally ill people.)   Within the U.S., the states with the most open gun laws are the states with the highest death rates from guns.

Americans have four broad alternatives in addressing gun issue:

  1. Arm teachers and school officials.
  2. Adopt Swiss-type gun laws.
  3. Repeal the 2nd Amendment.
  4. Do nothing and allow mass shootings with assault weapons to continue.

Solving the school shooting problem by arming teachers and school officials is a severely flawed concept for at least three reasons. First, while a teacher is searching for her or his gun, a shooter with a semi-automatic weapon can fire one round per second at the teacher or 12 rounds per second with a fully automatic weapon. Second, studies show that police accurately hit targets 88% of the time when shooting at a target that is not shooting back, but only 18% of the time when shooting at a target that is shooting back. Third, when the swat team arrives, they may shoot persons with a gun because they are unable to distinguish between a teacher and a criminal.

A better solution is to examine the gun policies of countries similar to the U.S. Switzerland has the most liberal gun laws in Europe and the second highest percentage of gun owners, next to the U.S. Per capita, the Swiss also have the most deaths from guns in Europe, but their death rate from guns is 70% less than the U.S. Switzerland has had no mass shootings in the last 15 years.

Swiss gun laws have three characteristics that differ from the United States: (1) 100% background checks; (2) gun registration; and (3) no assault weapons. Polls show that the vast majority of Americans support these terms. This would reduce American deaths from guns while still allowing high gun ownership.  .   .   Lifting the Federal ban on funding gun research and funding for antiquated computer systems at ATF would also be positive.

The NRA opposes these restrictions. The NRA provided more than $54 million supporting Congressional candidates in the 2016 elections. They also ran television ads and mailed fliers to voters. Economics are an important issue for the NRA. If gun laws were passed that were supported by a vast majority of Americans, the NRA would lose its issues and significant revenue.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to own guns. The U.S. is the only developed country with this constitutional protection. The Second Amendment also makes it difficult to prohibit gun ownership by people who are mentally ill. Conservative columnist, Bret Stephens, recommended repealing the 2nd Amendment. This is clearly the least like alternative.

According to The Economist magazine, “America’s constitution does not prevent tighter gun control. Lack of political will does.” Based on American history, the most likely outcome is that the President and Congress will do little or nothing and more school children will die.


Improving US Healthcare, Lower Costs & Better Outcomes

Improving US Healthcare

Lower Costs & Better Outcomes

Among industrialized nations, the United States ranks first in the cost of healthcare per capita and 30th in life expectancy. In this column, we will explore ways to improve the U.S. healthcare system, while lowering healthcare costs and improving the outcomes.

The analysis here utilizes information from the Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD), an organization of 39 industrialized countries, including the U.S., Canada, Chili, Mexico, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and 30 European countries. Most of these countries have found ways to lower healthcare costs and increase life expectancy. Here is a sample of information from the OECD Health Statistics 2016:

                                                            Cost per               Life
                                                             Capita            Expectancy

Italy                                                     3,207                   82.2

United Kingdom                               3,971                   81.4

Japan                                                 4,152                   83.7

Australia                                            4,177                   82.4

France                                               4,367                   82.8

Canada                                              4,506                   82.1

Sweden                                             5,003                   82.3

Germany                                            5,119                   81.2

Netherlands                                      5,131                   81.8

Switzerland                                       6,787                   82.3

United States                                   9,024                  78.1

OECD Average                                3,620                   80.5


Note that the United States spends 2½ times per capita as much on healthcare as the average OECD and the lifespan of Americans is more than two years shorter than the OECD average.

Additional evidence supports these statistics. A 2012 Novartis/McKinsey study revealed that the French population has a higher rate of lung disease than Americans due to higher smoking rates. Yet the French spend one-eighth as much on treating lung disease and have fatality rates one-third of the U.S. fatality rates. Broader coverage and early detection contribute to better outcomes.

In their 2017 study of 11 leading nations, the Commonwealth Fund stated, “Overall, the United States ranks last on access. The U.S. has the poorest performance of all countries on the affordability subdomain and ranks next to last in Administrative Efficiency”.

In many OECD countries, the private sector delivers the healthcare services and the government pays for the healthcare through taxes. All citizens are covered and governments administer the programs for far less cost than the private sector insurance in the U.S.

Studies have shown that, on a per claim basis, Medicare’s administrative costs are about one-fourth the cost of private insurance. The insurance industry argues that on a “per enrollee basis” (not per claim), their administrative costs are less, but this is because they insure a younger group and many enrollees have few or no claims. As Disraeli said, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”

In an apples-to-apples comparison, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) compared the administrative costs of regular Medicare to the privately-run Medicare Advantage. Medicare’s administrative costs are one-fifth the cost of Medicare Advantage. The higher cost of private insurance is due to expenses for sales, advertising, other marketing costs and higher salaries and bonuses for executives.

Adding more citizens to Medicare would require an increase in taxes, but this increase would more than offset what employers and individuals are paying for healthcare insurance. According the Council on Foreign Relations, healthcare costs add $1,500 to $2,000 to the cost of every car made in America. Reducing healthcare costs for employers would enable American companies to be more competitive in global markets.

In addition, various polls and studies (including Gallop Poll and Princeton) have shown that people on Medicare are more satisfied with their health plan that people with private insurance and they have less negative experiences.

Based on this information, adding more Americans to Medicare would:

  1. Lower overall healthcare costs
  2. Increased life expectancy
  3. Cover more Americans
  4. Make American companies more cost competitive.

This could be accomplished in a phased-in approach, by adding citizens 60-65 the first year, then adding those over 55 in two years, continuing until all Americans are covered with Medicare.

The biggest challenge to single-payer system may be the lobbying against it. Healthcare lobbyists represent their employers, including health insurance companies. In 2016, the healthcare industry spent $511 million on lobbying, according to the Senate Office of Public Records. Healthcare ranks #1 in lobbying expenditures. Spending on healthcare lobbying in 2016 amounted to $955,000 per member of Congress. In Washington, DC, there are 2,759 registered healthcare lobbyists, more than five lobbyists for each of the 535 Members of Congress.

Some countries, like France and Japan, have systems that blend single payer with insurance. Germany has non-profit insurance companies. The Dutch have a system similar to the U.S. in that they utilize private health insurance, yet their healthcare costs per capita are 45% less than the U.S. In the Netherlands, all residents, excluding the military, are mandated to purchase health insurance and have the right to change insurers every year. Insurers are required to accept all applicants. The Government subsidizes those who are high-risk or low-income. Long-term care insurance is also mandatory and subsidized. More information on the Dutch healthcare system is available on the Commonwealth Fund web site.

Other industrialized nations have proved that they can provide high-quality healthcare at lower costs. The challenge for Americans is to replace false beliefs with evidence-based research and foster a healthcare system with lower costs, more inclusion and greater life expectancy.


How Great is America

How Great is America? 

The 2016 US Presidential race has raised questions about how great America is. One Presidential candidate has said, “This place is a hell hole and getting worse.”  Polls show that 70% of Americans believe the US is on the wrong track.  So, what do the numbers show?

Economy:  The US has the largest economy in the world with $18 trillion in nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  The EU is second at $16 trillion.  China is third at $11 trillion.  Although economic growth has been slow, the US has the fastest growth rate among the developed countries.  (See the CIA’s list of 34 developed countries in a note at end.)

National Wealth:  The US is the largest country in national wealth at $86 trillion.  China is second at $23 trillion.  Japan is third at $20 trillion.

Per Capita Income:  Per capita income in the US was $56,516 in 2015, the highest of any large country and eight times that of China.  Income growth exceeded 5%, the largest gain since records began in 1967.  Income and job growth have risen every year since 2009.  Job growth is the longest streak on record.

Income Inequality:  Pew Research ranks the US 21st in income equality among 31 developed economies.  Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries are among the best in income equality.  Those countries also ranked the highest in happiness, according to US News & World Report.  The US ranked 15th in happiness.  The countries with the best income equality and happiness rankings pay higher taxes and have more government involvement in their economies.   American income inequality likely contributes to the high wrong-track numbers.

Income Inequality:  Pew Research ranks the US 21st in income equality among 31 developed economies.  Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries are among the best in income equality.  Those countries also ranked the highest in happiness, according to US News & World Report.  The US ranked 15th in happiness.  The countries with the best income equality and happiness rankings pay higher taxes and have more government involvement in their economies.   American income inequality likely contributes to the high wrong-track numbers.

Defense:  David Petraeus said, in Foreign Affairs September/October 2016 issue, “The United States has the best military in the world today.  US forces have few, if any, weaknesses – from naval warfare to precision-strike capabilities, to airpower, to intelligence and reconnaissance, to special operations – they play in a totally different league from the militaries of other countries.”  The US also has the best technology, weapons and military personnel.  And, the US spends three times as much as China on defense and more than the next eight nations combined.  The US spends a larger % of GDP on defense than any developed country, except for Israel.

Immigration System:  Illegal immigration peaked in 2006 and has been declining since.  Net immigration from Mexica (legal & illegal) has been running at a negative 21,000 per year during the last five years, according to Pew Research.  For the last two years, the two countries that have provided the most immigrants to the US have been China and India.  The crime rate among immigrants is one-third the crime rate among the general American population, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Drugs are increasing entering the country via drones.  .   .   The US immigration system is more restrictive for skilled workers than most developed countries, which has caused companies to locate research facilities outside the US.

Unemployment rate:  US unemployment rate peaked in 2010 at 10% and has dropped in half to 4.9%.  However, the percent of adults participating in the labor force has declined.  The two major causes of this are demographics (baby boomers retiring) and increasing college attendance.  The US is among nations with lowest unemployment rate in the developed world.

Globalization, Technology & Unemployment:  Some industries, including textiles and furniture manufacturing, have been severely hurt by outsourcing production to countries with lower labor costs.   Advancements in technology have also contributed to the decline in manufacturing employment.  As an example, employment at General Motors’ worldwide has gone from 877, 000 thirty years ago to 215,000 at the end of 2015.  Manufacturing employment in the United States has gone from a peak of nearly 20 million in 1979 to about 12 million today.   Since 1979, industrial production in the US has doubled, peaking in 2015, but 37% fewer people are employed in manufacturing.  Unfortunately, the US is among the worst nations in retraining the unemployed or under employed.  Germany is among the best.

Crime Rate:  The murder rate in the US peaked in 1990 to 1994, when murders averaged 24,108 per year.  Murders have declined to an average rate of 14,577 per year since 2010.  Nevertheless, the US has the highest death rate from guns among the developed countries.

Education:  The US has the best universities of any country in the world.  However, in secondary education, the US ranks 14th.  The top five nations in secondary education are South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Finland.

Infrastructure:  The US ranks 11th in quality of infrastructure, which includes roads, bridges, water systems and power supply systems.  The top two are Hong Kong and Singapore.  Most Western European countries rank ahead of the US.

Corporate Tax Policy:  The US has the highest corporate tax rate among developed nations before deductions, but the US is average after deductions.  Tax loopholes and subsidies cost the Treasury more than $1 trillion per year, which is about the same as Social Security and Medicare combined.

Individual taxation:  Of the 34 advanced countries, the US ranks 31st in amount of taxes paid per capita by individuals and the percent of income paid in taxes.

Deficit:  The US deficit as a percent of GDP has declined from 10% in 2009 to 2% today.

Government regulations:  US Government regulations appear to be excessive, but they are less than other developed nations.  The World Bank consistently ranks the United States as the easiest place to do business among large developed countries.

Campaign Finance:  All other developed democracies spend less on elections than the US.  Many provide public funding and limit the campaign period.  Some forbid TV advertising.  Only in the US can people and organizations buy favorable legislation through campaign contributions.  As an example, managers of hedge funds and private equity funds saved $14 billion in taxes over ten years by contributing an estimated $60 million to congressional campaigns to promote “carried interest” legislation.  Even though carried interest is considered the most egregious tax loophole, it passed.  Tax loopholes and subsidies cost the Treasury over $1 trillion per year, about the same as Social Security and Medicare combined.

Technology:  As the world evolves from the industrial revolution to the technology revolution, the US is home to all of the leading technology companies:  Apple, Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon.   The US leads in mobile telephony, social networks, Nano technology, bio technology and most other fields of technology.  No other country has duplicated Silicon Valley.  While the US is the clear technology leader by most measures, the US Government has reduced its funding for basic scientific research.

Reserve Currency:  The US dollar is the world’s reserve currency.  It is the most trusted currency.  Most international transactions are conducted in US dollars.

Stock Market:  During the George W Bush administration, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 25%.  During the Obama administration, it has increased 233%.  Nevertheless, a recent poll showed that a majority of self-identified Republicans believe that stocks have gone down during the Obama administration.  This may feed into the right-track wrong-track polls.

Right-track wrong-track polls:  In the 44 years since right-track wrong-track polls began, these polls have rarely shown that the US is on the right track.  Right track occurred during two of Regan’s eight years as President and three years during the Clinton and Bush Presidencies.  The last time was at the beginning of 2004 when 55% of Americans thought the country was on the right track.  What followed was the worst recession since the Great Depression.  Consumer confidence, on the other hand, was in the 40s in 2008 and 2009 and has been over 90 for the past two years.

Global Image:  Pew Research has polled more than 30 other countries on the favorability rating of the US.  In 2015, American favorability ratings were higher than a decade ago in all countries with three exceptions:  Russia, Jordan and Lebanon.

Olympics:  Finally, in the Rio Olympics, the US won 121 medals, compared to 70 for China, 67 for Great Britain and 56 for Russia.

Although far from perfect, the statistical evidence clearly shows the United States is the greatest country on earth.



Note:  The CIA lists 34 countries as “developed.”  They include the US and Canada, Western European countries, Israel, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.



Immigration Figures & Facts

Immigration: By the Numbers

The flow of immigrants – legal and illegal – peaked eleven years ago in 2005 and has been declining ever since. For the last two years the country that provided the most immigrants to the United States is China. In second place is India. Mexico is third, but more Mexicans are leaving than entering. Net Mexican immigration has averaged a negative 28,000 per year for the last six years. Approximately 40% of illegal immigrants entered the country legally and then overstayed their visas.

Currently, in 2016, there are 82,243 employees who work in immigration, customs and border security, compared to 66,014 in 2008, the last year of the Bush Administration. The 2016 budget is 31% higher than the 2008 budget.

Of historical interest, the President who provided “amnesty” for the greatest number of illegal immigrants was Ronald Reagan. The Immigration Reform & Control Act (Simpson-Mazzoli Act) was signed into law by President Reagan 11/3/86. It provided a relatively easy path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who had been in the country for five years or more. Approximately 3.0 million of the 3.2 million immigrants in this category became citizens.