A Picture of American Exceptionalism is Worth a Thousand Words

May 27, 2011
Do you know how the United States compares to other developed countries in categories that really matter?

There are those who are proud that the United States is exceptional. There is even a movement in which political figures praise the “exceptionalism” of our country. While I agree that there are some ways in which I am particularly proud of our country, there are other ways in which I feel we have no room for pride.

Then the other day I received an email from Marilyn Strong and Jerry Wennstrom, a couple whose website, In the Hands of Alchemy, offers inspiration to those who appreciate creative art and poetry.

The subject line said, “A Picture is Worth a 1000 words.” When I opened it, I discovered charts that absolutely fascinated me. I think they may be of interest to you as well.

Especially at a time when many in Congress are determined not to “burden” the rich, I believe the first chart, that of the comparative pay of CEOs to the average worker says a great deal about our values.

Is this the kind of exceptionalism we want the world to follow? I am not sure where the charts originally came from, but I believe that whoever made them won’t mind if I copy them here. David Morris has a blog called Defending the Public Good and that is where  Marilyn and Jerry found it. I imagine he got it from another source that had research capabilities.

After you’ve scrolled down through them, I would like to know what other comparisons you would like to know between us and other developed countries.

Here is my question for you to ask yourself and others: If we claim to be a Christian country, how are our values reflected in these figures?

There are ten of these charts below. Maybe that’s more than you want to view, but scroll down and see my suggestions for other comparisons.

Chart showing comparison of CEO pay to average worker in 5 countries

Chart showing comparison of percent of income received by top .1% in five countries

Comparison of military expenditures in five countries

Chart comparing social spending by five countries on families

Comparison of the percentage of prisoners per population for five countries

Comparison of population experiencing homelessness in five countries

Comparison of murder rates in five countries

Comparison of infant mortality among five countries

Comparison of health care costs in five countries

Comparison of children living in poverty in five countries

Do you know other areas in which comparisons would show the United States in a favorable light? For example, how about the number of people who attend college? What about the number of businesses opened by new entrepreneurs? The number of parks set aside for the public? The number of people who own their own homes (of course, there foreclosures would make it difficult to figure)? The number of people who make charitable contributions to those who are less well off? The percentage of people who attend church regularly or who have a spiritual practice they regularly follow?

If you know any of these or other comparisons, I would love to hear from you.

Did you enjoy this post?
Here are a some related posts from this blog, and articles from the Support4Change website:


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