American (Real) Exceptionalism

BY GHALI HASSAN | 24.07.2011

cursingmap477A majority of Americans believe America is an “exceptional” nation and “a shining beacon of democracy and hope to a dark world”. But, reliable and unbiased evidence shows that real America is an unequal society, oppressive, undemocratic and a violent imperialist power.
  • Inequality and Poverty

A report released on 20 October 2008 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) revealed that the U.S. has “the highest inequality level and poverty rate across the OECD, Mexico and Turkey excepted. Since 2000, income inequality has increased rapidly, continuing a long-term trend that goes back to the 1970s”. All Western Europe’s OECD states, along with Japan, South Korea, Canada and Australia have recorded better figures than the U.S., as did central and eastern European states, including Poland and Hungary. [1].

The OECD Report shows that,

“Rich households in America have been leaving both middle and poorer income groups behind. This has happened in many countries, but nowhere has this trend been so stark as in the United States. The average income of the richest 10 percent is US$93,000 in purchasing power parities, the highest level in the OECD. However, the poorest 10% of the US citizens have an income of US$5,800 per year—about 20% lower than the average for OECD countries”.

Over the past 30 years, the richest 1% of U.S. population, the ruling class, has tripled its share of the income pie, mainly through tax cuts and financial deregulation. If their income had increased only at the pace of American productivity (80%), they would be taking about a trillion dollar less out of U.S. economy. According to a study by Jon Bakija, Adam Cole and Bradley Heim, the U.S. is truly exceptional in that it is on its way to becoming the most unequal society on the planet, if not already the most an equal society. [2].

In 2009, there are 43.6 million Americans living in poverty, one in every seven Americans. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in September 2010 that, there were 8.8 million families living in poverty in 2009, including one child in every five. According to a study by the U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA), some 14.7 percent of American households had serious feeding problems. For over a third of the affected households, the situation is particularly bleak. This means, 6.8 million or about 5.7 percent of all U.S. households, is in serious food insecurity, according to the study. At least one member of each household was forced to eat less or to switch their eating habits. Around one million children were affected. [3].

A report by UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre in Italy revealed that, although the U.S. is still considered (by economists) as the wealthiest country in the world, it has the highest incidences of child poverty among industrialised nations. The Report shows that, factors such as, poor education, structural racism against minorities and women, limited job opportunities and declining health status contribute greatly to child poverty and hunger among the marginalised and forgotten Americans. [4].

  • Healthcare

The U.S. is exceptional among industrialised and many non-industrialised nations not only in having by far the most expensive healthcare system but healthcare in the U.S. is the least accessible. The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that does not provide universal health care for children and pregnant women. There are more than 60 million uninsured Americans. The U.S. has 59 million people medically uninsured; 132 million without dental insurance; 60 million without paid sick leave. Furthermore, infant mortality, low birth weight, and child deaths under five are ranked among the highest in the U.S. as compared to Western nations and Japan. Among OECD countries, only Mexico, Turkey and the Slovak Republic have high infant mortality than the U.S. Life expectancy in the U.S. has fallen behind compared to other nations. A recent report by the University of Washington found that life expectancy, particularly for women, has fallen in 860 counties across the U.S. [5].

  • Violence and Militarism

No other nation perpetuates violence in the same way as the U.S. does. It has a complete monopoly on violence. The U.S. is rightly condemned by a majority of the world’s populations as the greatest threat to world peace and human survival. At home, the U.S. is the world leading nation of organised violence. “The culture of organised violence is one of the most powerful forces shaping American society, extending deeply into every aspect of American life”, writes Henry Giroux, a professor of Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.

In militarism, the U.S. is exceptional. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the U.S. spends more than the next 45 highest spending countries in the world combined or 48 percent of the world’s total military spending. [6]. About 50 percent of U.S. discretionary spending goes for the Pentagon. A massive transfer of wealth into the hands of a few while the American people lack sufficient jobs, healthcare, education, housing, retirement security.

As an imperialist militarised power in pursuit of world hegemony, the U.S. is a serial violator of international law, and international human rights law. Since the end of World War Two, the U.S. government (the Zionist ruling class) has embarked on a foreign policy characterised by wars of aggression and illegal military invasions and occupation of defenceless nations. Millions of innocent civilians have been killed and many more millions have been wounded by U.S. forces. From Vietnam to Iraq, Yugoslavia to Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yugoslavia, the destruction caused by U.S. aggression was truly barbaric. Furthermore, to enforce its murderous occupation of defenceless nations, the local populations are subjected to brutal treatment, including night raids and deprivation of liberty. Human rights abuses including, kidnapping, imprisonment, sexual violence, torture and executions were parts of U.S. military occupation.

  • Human Rights

The U.S. government is addicted to bragging about human rights violations in other countries, knowing full well that the U.S. is a bastion of human rights violations. Outside the U.S., the U.S. record on human rights is criminal. The 1990-2033 U.S.-Britain engineered and enforced genocidal sanctions against Iraq that killed at least 2 million innocent Iraqis, including 600,000 infant under the age of 5 is a case in point of U.S. violations of human right in other nations. The sanctions were the prelude to the 2003 war of aggression that ruined an advanced nation.

In the U.S., the U.S. justice system is one of the most corrupt and callous in the world. It is a brutal system that openly denies justice to the poor and venerable, including, African Americans, people from minorities and Muslims. In its annual report on human rights, the New York-based Human Rights Watch condemns the U.S. on its treatment of Americans of racial and ethnic minorities. For example, African American males are incarcerated at a rate more than six times that of white non-Hispanic males and 2.6 times that of Hispanic males. In 2009, 1 in 10 African American males aged 25-29 was in prison or jail compared to 1 in 64 white males and 1 in 25 Hispanic males. That is more than two-thirds of prisoner incarcerated are African and Hispanic Americans.  While African Americans constitute only about 13 percent of the U.S. population, they constitute 33.6 percent of drug arrests, 44 percent of state convictions on drug felonies, and 37 percent of people sent to state prison on drug charges. The Report shows that African Americans and white Americans engage in drug offenses at equivalent rates. Furthermore, the U.S. imprisons three times more women than any other nation in the world. There were 123 female prisoners per 100,000 women of the U.S. female population, compared to 1,348 male prisoners per 100,000 men.

According to National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD), the U.S. incarcerates the largest number of people in the world at a rate four times the world average. More than 2.3 million people are incarcerated, or 25% of the world’s prison population, the majority are African and Hispanic Americans. Most prisoners are locked in a network of super-maximum security prisons, known as the Prison-industrial Complex or Gulags, where prisoners are subjected to brutal torture and human rights abuses. As of this writing, prisoners in California prisons have been on hunger strike for three weeks to protest against torture and inhumane treatments. [7]. Furthermore, since 2001, the U.S. has extended its Gulags of torture and human rights abuse centres as far as Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Bagram in Afghanistan.

  • Democracy

While the U.S. claims to be a democracy and pretend to promote democracy around the world, the U.S. is not a democracy, but a plutocracy. The U.S. is ruled by a wealthy ruling class for the sole benefit of the minority rich Americans.  The American people are manipulated and completely excluded from political influence and decisions. The people are reduced to helpless spectators. They have been indoctrinated “not to get involved in politics” and to mind their own business. Elections are used to con the people. Indeed, the U.S. has one of the lowest voter participation rates. Former U.S. president George W. Bush was an illegitimate president for two terms having arrived at the White House through well-known rigged elections. The so-called, two-party system is a fraud. It is a one-party with two branches system that serves corporate interest. It doesn’t matter who occupy the White House, the country is controlled by wealthy corporations and individuals.

Furthermore, the so-called “promotion of democracy” around the world by the U.S. government and its agencies is nothing more and nothing less than the promotion of ruling elites subservient to U.S. diktats, mostly brutal dictators serving U.S. interests. In short, the U.S. promotes murderous dictators and has a shameful disdain for democracy. The U.S. role in subverting and undermining democracy around the world is outright criminal.

  • Freedom

In personal freedom, as David Morris, an author and the co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance writes; “To American exceptionalists, freedom means being able to do what you want unencumbered by obligations to your fellow citizens. It is a definition of freedom the rest of the world finds bewildering.  Can it be, they ask, that the quintessential expression of American freedom is low or no taxes and the right to carry a loaded gun into a bar?” People who question or doubt the official story of 9/11 are demonised and depicted as anti-American “conspirators”. The event was used as an opportunity for the U.S. government to crackdown on dissent, including students’ protest and academic freedom. Furthermore, in press freedom, the U.S. ranked 20th by Reporters without Borders and 24th by Freedom House. So, the U.S. is not exceptional as Americans claim.

In conclusion, “Among industrialized nations, the United States is at or near the worst ranking in employment, democracy, wellbeing, food security, life expectancy, education, and percentage of the population in prison, but right at the top in military spending whether measured per capita or as a percentage of GDP or in absolute terms”, writes American author, David Swanson.

So the U.S is not an “exceptional” nation. American “Exceptionalism” is false propaganda used to promote ugly nationalism and rally Americans behind America’s imperialist wars and incite Americans against each other. If the U.S. indeed aspires to be “exceptional” nation, it will have to reinvent itself. A complete collapse of the current U.S. system will benefit not only the American people, but the survival of the planet and humanity.


[1] OECD. (2008). Growing Unequal? Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries. Country Note: USA. (See Link here).

[2] Jon Bakija, J. Cole, A., & Heim, B. (2010, November). Jobs and Income Growth of Top Earners and the Causes of Changing Income Inequality: Evidence from U.S. Tax Return Data. Department of Economics Working Papers 2010-24. Williamstown, MA: Department of Economics, Williams College. (See Link here).

[3] Nord, M., Coleman-Jensen, A., Andrews, M., & Carlson, S. (2009, November). Household Food Security in the United States, 2009. ERR-108, USDA, Econ. Res. Serv. (See Link here).

[4] UNICEF (2007). Child poverty in perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries, Innocenti Report Card 7. UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence, Italy.  (See Link here).

[5] Kulkarni, S. C., Levin-Rector, A., Ezzati, M., & Murray, C. (2011). Falling behind: life expectancy in US counties from 2000 to 2007 in an international context. Population Health Metrics, 9:16. (See Link here).

[6] Hellman, C., & Sharp T. (2009). The FY 2009 Pentagon Spending Request – Global Military Spending. Washington DC: Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. (See Link here).

[7] Hartney, C. (2009). US Rates of Incarceration: A global Perspective. National Council on Crime and Delinquency (See Link here); Sabol, W.J., West, H. C., & Cooper, M. (2010). Prisoners 2008. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin. (See Link here).

*Ghali Hassan is an independent political analyst living in Australia.

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