The United (Welfare) States of America

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Red E. Kilowatt wrote:

The endless flood of new people who are living at or below the poverty level make overwhelming demands on local public services. […] We might as well put up a big neon sign at the border that says, “Come one, come all.

You already have one. It says:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Free Healthcare.

In a ranking1 of Japan, Sweden, Canada, France, Australia, Spain, Finland, Netherlands, UK, Denmark, Belgium, USA and Germany, the USA was ranked:

13th (last) for low-birth-weight percentages
13th for neonatal mortality and infant mortality overall
11th for postneonatal mortality
13th for years of potential life lost (excluding external causes)
11th for life expectancy at 1 year for females, 12th for males

In the USA there are1:

12,000 deaths/year from unnecessary surgery
7,000 deaths/year from medication errors in hospitals
20,000 deaths/year from other errors in hospitals
80,000 deaths/year from infections acquired in hospital

That’s healthcare in general… now on to the “free” stuff… (of course, it’s not actually free, but paid for through taxes)

The US government only provides Medicare for about 15% of the population — those that are 65 or older, younger people with disabilities and kidney failure.

Compared that with her neighbour Canada — Canadian provinces are required2 to provide all residents with free health care that covers almost all procedures. Patients can choose their own doctor, hospital, etc… 98% of hospital care in Canada is paid for by the state.

In Australia, the Medicare system does not provide completely free treatment, but instead vastly subsidises health care. The patient only has to pay 15% of the cost of his/her care, up to a maximum of about $50.00.

In the UK, the NHS covers most treatment for free. It is the third largest employer in the world, after the Chinese Army and Indian Railways.

Since South Africa adopted a comprehensive publically-funded healthcare scheme soon after the fall of apartheid, the USA has been virtually the only developed country not to have one!

Free Education.

American eighth-grade students performed:

worse than Japanese and Canadian students at both mathematics and science3;
equal to Russian students in science, but worse in maths3;
equal to British students in maths, but worse in science4.

In a UNICEF study of 24 industrialised countries5, counting the percentage of 15-year-olds falling behind international benchmarks, the USA came 7th highest (with high=bad, low=good). Worse than Canada, Britain, Sweden and France. It just beat Germany though. (However Germany has higher adult literacy levels.)

Yet the USA spends more money on education than most other developed countries6.

Opportunities for advancement and eventual citizenship. All you have to do is wait till nightfall and sneak across the border. And if you’re pregnant, have your baby here and he will be granted instant citizenship, entitling you to free room and board (welfare) and the right to stay in the US.

Citizenship to babies born within a country’s borders is refered to as “jus soli”.

Many countries, including most of Europe, extend jus soli7 with very few strings attached. (One common exception is for the children of visiting diplomats.)

How many European countries operate that way?



1 “Is US Health Really the Best in the World?”, Barbara Starfield MD MPH, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 2000-07-26. (PMID: 10904513)

2 Canada Health Act

3 Third International Mathematics and Science Repeat Study, 1999.

4 I wonder why??


6 “Comparative Indicators of Education in the United States and Other G-8 Countries: 2002”, Joel D. Sherman, Steven D. Honegger, Jennifer L. McGivern, March 2003.

7 Aside: one exception is Japan which only extends jus soli in cases where the nationality of a child’s parents is unknown or they have no nationality. I was born in Tokyo, but am not a Japanese citizen.