Report Card: American Exceptionalism

The United States thinks of itself as the greatest country in the world. Maybe even the greatest of all-time. Because of this awesomeness, it believes it has the right, if not the obligation, to tell the rest of the world what to do. Yay America.

Those of us who were raised in the United States were taught that this country is the most exceptional country in the world. We are "the best and the brightest," have the world's greatest democracy and by far the best standard of living. Except it's not true.

St. Pete for Peace has done extensive research to compare the status of the United States to other countries with some surprising results. By clicking on the links on the American Exceptionalism Report Card below, you can review the source of the data and read in more detail about each category.


1. Income equality 99th out of 139 D
2. Life expectancy 42nd out of 223 A
3. No. of years lived after retirement 56th out of 68 F
4. Educational achievement of 15 year-olds 25th out of 31 F
5. Education spending vs. military spending** 98th out of 114 F
6. Press freedom 46th out of 180 B
7. Infant mortality 56th out of 224 B
8. Health care efficiency 46th out of 48 F
9. Alzheimer's or dementia related deaths 190th out of 192 F
10. Pct. of population that is stressed 106th out of 122 F
11. Pct. of population that is depressed 65th out of 122 C
12. Access to water & sanitation 35th out of 122 B
13. Asthma related deaths 24th out of 192 A
14. Divorce rate 34th out of 34 F
15. Gender education equality 1st out of 122 A
16. Gender wage equality 67th out of 136 C
17. Mandated paid maternity leave 38th out of 38 F
18. Tax rate 30th out of 141 B
19. GDP per capita 10th out of 211 A
20. Cancer related deaths 135th out of 192 D
21. Suicide rate 130th out of 192 D
22. Autism rate 105th out of 120 F
23. All-time, Winter Olympic medals 2nd out of 204 A
24. All-time, Summer Olympic medals 1st out of 204 A
25. Single parent households 26th out of 30 F

*Grade based on rank percentiles: A=80-100, B=60-79, C=40-59, D=20-39, F=0-19.
** Based on education expenditures and military expenditures statistics from the CIA.

American exceptionalism, manifest destiny, and the notion that the U.S. is God's chosen country, has made a comeback.

In fact, in the context of the current anti-Russia climate, the Washington establishment is whipping people into a pro-America hysteria that much of the country has seemingly bought into.

Ironically started in 1929 by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin as a condemnation of the American working class' unwillingness to foment revolution, the expression "American exceptionalism" has only recently become the rallying cry of cheerleaders for the U.S.

Used as a justification for the U.S. to militarily intervene in foreign countries in order to 'bring liberty and democracy to the rest of the world', the U.S. neoconservative movement made the phrase go viral leading up to the 2012 presidential elections. Now, the expression, and the sentiments behind it have become so prevalent that if you dare utter doubt that the U.S. is exceptional you run the risk of being labeled un-American.

"Peel a few layers back and the rise of faith in American exceptionalism doesn't evince superiority. It indicates fear." -- Terrence McCoy

This information is not intended to be a negative reflection of America as much as it is a reality check. The belief in U.S. international superiority is based on wishful thinking rather than the truth. Instead of continuing to fall behind, we have an opportunity to face our deficiencies and learn from other countries. Are America's best days behind her? This may be true if we refuse to acknowledge our true place in the world.

Check out the entire American Exceptionalism Report Card and see if you agree with George Carlin who once famously said, "It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it."

Melissa Baird contributed to this article.