In the premiere of HBO's new Aaron Sorkin series The Newsroom, news anchor Will McAvoy played by Jeff Daniels was asked "what makes America the greatest country in the world." To which he replied that it isn't.
There's absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world. We're seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number 4 in labor force, and number 4 in exports. We lead the world in only 3 categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies."
The topic of why America is/isn't the greatest country in the world (why, just in time for July 4th) is definitely controversial. In a series about American exceptionalism, Todd Leopold of CNN remarked that despite the United States not being number 1 in several objective measures, acknowledging that the country isn't the greatest in the world is "the third rail of American politics."
Good luck in saying that aloud, however. Forget Social Security. The third rail of American politics is acknowledging we may not be the greatest country in the world.
"If you can think of a politician who can say consistently 'We're not No. 1; we're not No. 1,' then I'd be very surprised," says Melvyn Levitsky, a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer and former ambassador to Brazil.
But why can't we acknowledge the problems? Isn't that the first step toward fixing them?