How is the United States such a powerful superpower and yet Americans seem to be so stupid?

I mean, seriously, haven’t we all pondered this at one time or another – or just about every frickin’ day since November, 2016, when 63 million Americans walked into voting booths and pulled the lever for Donald Trump? No matter how dreadful and flawed a candidate Hillary Clinton was, only a simpleton could imagine Trump would turn out to be a better president.

But even before that low point, evidence of American stupidity has been in abundance for decades.

So, for instance:

Electing Republicans who want to dismantle their health care system

The U.S. is the only wealthy industrialized nation without a universal health care system. Instead, Americans have a system run by profit-making insurance companies – which costs 17 per cent of their GDP, despite the World Health Organization (WHO) recommending countries spend no more than 10 per cent (Canada spends 10.4 per cent). Countries that spend in excess of 10 per cent of their GDP on health care are wasting money – cash better spent on innovating your economy, education and infrastructure.

Prior to Obamacare, if your employer didn’t provide you with health insurance, or you couldn't pay it from your own pocket, you had extremely limited health care, if any at all. Thus, by 2010, nearly 50 million Americans did not have health coverage – which meant going into debt if an operation was needed, or simply not having the procedure. Forty-five thousand Americans were dying every year by 2009 because they had no health insurance. And even those who do have coverage, insurance companies – not your physician – decide on whether you get an operation or not, based on cost. If they feel it’s too expensive, then you’re shit out of luck.

This awful system led to Obamacare, which is far from perfect, but clearly better than what existed before. Obamacare prevents insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, offers subsidies for poor people, expanded Medicaid and forced insurers to cover certain services. Since its adoption, the number of Americans without health coverage has fallen to 28 million. Yet, despite Obamacare clearly being a vast improvement, Americans have elected Republicans to the presidency and both houses of Congress – whose number one priority is destroying Obamacare and replacing it with nothing. That’s how dumb Americans are.

Tolerating a corrupt, undemocratic electoral system

Americans like to pride themselves on being a truly great democracy. This is utter nonsense. The US is unique among Western democracies for having only two political parties. Third-party candidates, such as Ralph Nader - who ran for president three times from 2000 to 2008 - are barred from participating in any of the presidential debates and ignored by the media. It would be akin to barring Elizabeth May from the 2015 debates among Canada’s party leaders – but that’s what they do in the U.S. When Bernie Sanders decided to run for president two years ago, this lifelong socialist was forced to join the Democratic Party in order to have any chance of being heard.

Yet the Republican and Democratic parties are often indistinguishable from one another. The neoliberalism of Reagan and the Bushes is no different from the neoliberalism of the Clintons and Obama (all of whom, for example, support free trade agreements, which have devastated the American working class). And both parties have supported military interventions abroad and massive defense spending.

Meanwhile, in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton beat Trump by nearly three million votes. In the 2000 election, Al Gore received about 500,000 more votes than George W. Bush. But due to the archaic electoral college system, Bush and Trump “won” those elections. Moreover, the U.S. system has no barriers for rich people and corporations pumping money into the system – ensuring only people who support the rich and corporations get elected. And the Republicans have gerrymandered Congressional and Senate districts so effectively that while more people can vote Democratic than Republican, the Republicans win more seats, which is one reason they control both houses of Congress. And yet Americans are not in the streets protesting the fact their democracy is a sham. That’s how dumb Americans are.

No gun control

​Americans love guns. They own 357 million of them, according to one estimate, or more guns than actual US citizens (by 40 million weapons). And because there are no restrictions on buying a firearm, any whack job can get their hands on them with ease. Every year, about 33,000 Americans are killed with guns – of which 12,000 are homicides, or about 25 times the average of other high-income countries. On an average day, 93 Americans are killed with a gun (most are suicides).

There were 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870. One study found that the annual rate of mass shootings has tripled since 2011. In 1982, a mass shooting occurred an average of every 172 days. Now they happen every 64 days.

Overall, the number of gun murders per capita in the US in 2012 - the most recent year for comparable statistics - was nearly 30 times that in the UK, at 2.9 per 100,000 compared with just 0.1. Of all the murders in the US in 2012, 60 per cent were by firearm compared with 31 per cent in Canada, 18.2 per cent in Australia, and just 10 per cent in the UK.

Countries with strict gun controls have much fewer gun-related fatalities than countries with no or poor gun controls. This is incontrovertible. Yet Americans continue to vote for politicians and donate money to the National Rifle Association (NRA) to ensure gun controls are never implemented. That’s how dumb Americans are.

Jailing more of their citizens than anywhere else

With only five per cent of the world’s population, the U.S. has more than 20 per cent of the world’s prison population. The U.S. imprisons around 730 out of every 100,000 people – by far the highest incarcerated population in the world (Canada by comparison is 139 people). There are currently around 2.3 million Americans behind bars, or "equal to a city the size of Houston," as Bloomberg News once noted. There are 4,575 prisons in the U.S. – more than four times second-place Russia at 1,029. In fact, no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.

Yet the US has one of the highest crime rates among industrial countries – suggesting locking up all of those people is no deterrence whatsoever. That’s how dumb Americans are.

They watch Fox News

For those who have never experienced watching Fox News, it’s the equivalent of getting a steady stream of bigotry, stupidity and misinformation vomited on you by a bunch of smug, angry, white, rich people.

In last year’s presidential election, 40 per cent of Trump’s voters said their main source of news was Fox News - which reaches 100 million U.S. households. Owned by Rupert Murdoch, one of the most morally depraved people of our time, Fox was created by the sexual predator and former Nixon operative Roger Ailes – who was forced out of the network in 2016 when his long history of sexual harassment was finally exposed. Internally, Fox fostered a culture of sexism and harassment towards women, culminating in the news that its biggest star, Bill O’Reilly, had shelled out (US) $45-million to settle sexual harassment claims – before he too was fired earlier this year.

Fox is the propaganda arm of the Republican Party, especially going to bat for Trump. Which means it produces nonsense and lies - from denying climate change, to claiming that Obama was never born in the U.S., to defending Trump at every turn. Here is a list of 50 of Fox News' lies that The Daily Show once assembled. Recently, Fox’s main bullyboy, Sean Hannity, has been busy defending accused sexual predator and Republican nominee Roy Moore, who is currently running for a Senate seat in Alabama. Despite all this, Fox News has been the number one cable news network in the U.S. since 2002. That’s how dumb Americans are.

They spend more money on defense - for no reason

While it creates jobs and the occasional technological breakthrough, arms spending is the most wasteful use of public funds, compared to spending on infrastructure, schools, hospitals and social services.

Yet the US spends (US) $611-billion on defense, which is more than one third the global total. Moreover, this expenditure makes no sense given that the US has not been invaded by troops since the war of 1812-'14, when Canadian, British and Indigenous soldiers marched south of the border - and is no danger of being invaded any time soon. Moreover, with nuclear weapons, the need for a huge standing army is almost nonexistent. This arms expenditure is one reason US debt is so high. And yet the defense budget keeps growing. That’s how dumb Americans are.

Sixty-three million Americans voted for Trump

‘Nuff said.

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Comments

I just don't get the US. I used to think we were similar but I seriously question anyone who watches Fox anything. I cannot even bring myself to watch or read a "Fox" story. It is an insane channel and I had the Telus package which included those cable news channels and had them removed during the US 2016 election because all I saw was HATE news everywhere and a bunch of talking heads yelling at me and each other. I only get my CBC and CTV talking heads now and am a much happier person. Plus the gun thing. This summer I went to revisit a childhood memory of a park at Whatcom Lake in Washington State and as we came closer to the water there was a booth set up advertising for "open carry" laws and a couple of white dudes wearing guns at their hips. That is the last time I have crossed the border. Too many kinder places to visit so take my money to see kinder places. Stupid is as stupid does and your article points that out very well.

Guns everywhere with uncontrolled access. Risible to nil "health care" for its people. Staggering inequality. An imprisoned population five times greater than the next candidate- Russia... a sexual assailant, braggart and flagrant liar as the President. A national weapons arsenal colossal, unimaginable: the product of a society dedicated to a habit of invading and destroying other countries on the other side of this planet for reasons ranging from specious to utterly false.
Doesn't this define barbarity in an "advanced" "democracy"?

I hope this article is just a "hook" and will be followed up with an exploration of WHY Americans behave this way.
The corruption of the electoral college mentioned in the article is a part of it. I believe a big part flows from a 2003 court decision (New World Communications v. Akre, Florida second circuit court of appeals) that it is not illegal for media to knowingly lie. The Protestant Ethic (see Max Weber's "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism") combines with anti-elitism to make the rich the natural authorities in American society.

This article is unfair. It's middle class gloating. It's anti poor. It's anti working class. It normalized white supremacy.

Americans aren't stupid, so much as rich people broke America.

Classism is deeply internalized by poor Americans. So is white supremacy. Most people of colour did not vote for Trump. White men and women however did.

It's dangerous for people like us to write them off as stupid. You're throwing gasoline on a nascent fascist fire. They have real frustrations with their lives the democrats failed to listen to. Social movements need to engage the working class.

It's stupid to give the right this ammunition.

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