Sunday, November 06, 2005

Three American Myths

There's no doubt I've always believed I grew up in the "world's greatest country," the United States of America. That's what I've always been told, and I've had no reason to believe otherwise... until now, possibly. You may have been brought up the same way, never giving the declaration a second thought. But before either one of us goes back to our mind-numbing, "love it or leave it" comfort zones, let's consider these three American myths:

The U.S. has the World's Best Health Care

A new international survey supported by The Commonwealth Fund finds that one-third of U.S. patients with health problems reported experiencing medical mistakes, medication errors, or inaccurate or delayed lab results—the highest rate of any of the six nations surveyed.

While the U.S. performed better than most countries on the hospital transition measure, it had the highest rate of patients reporting coordination problems during doctor visits. One-third (33%) of U.S. respondents said that either test results or records were not available at the time of appointments or that doctors duplicated tests.

One–half of adults with health problems in the U.S. said they did not see a doctor when sick, did not get recommended treatment, or did not fill a prescription because of cost. Despite these high rates of forgone care, one-third of U.S. patients spent more than $1,000 out-of-pocket in the past year.

The U.S. is the #1 Environmental Leader

In case you're ready to defend the U.S. as an environmental leader, on the frontlines in the "war on mother earth," remember this: despite Vice President Al Gore's efforts to urged the passing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1998, the United States Senate has refused to ratify the treaty (An agreement on global warming reached by the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997).

On June 25, 1997, before the Kyoto Protocol was to be negotiated, the U.S. Senate passed by a 95-0 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98), which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States". On November 12, 1998, Vice President Al Gore symbolically signed the protocol. Aware of the Senate's view of the protocol, the Clinton Administration never submitted the protocol for ratification.

As of September 2005, a total of 157 other countries have ratified the agreement.

The U.S. is the Largest Aid Contributor

There's no doubt that the United States of America is the largest contributor of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to some of the worlds poorest, underdeveloped countries. But before you start patting yourself on the back for a job well done, consider this:

The U.S. "giving" is currently at .16% of gross national income, the SMALLEST percentage of any G-8 country; The U.S. is "2nd to last" out of 22 countries in giving as a percent of GNI; The U.S. only beats out Italy by .01% of GNI for last place among the 22 countries.

Tony Blair at the 2005 G8 Conference in Gleneagles, Scotland failed to get all the G8 summit countries to commit to boosting foreign aid to an amount equal of 0.7 percent of national income by 2015. The United States did not make any additional pledges.

Sure, there's lots to add to this discussion and many things to explain in defense of the "so-called-myths," but it's got me thinking!