The America Quiz

The America Quiz
posted by John

Like all of us I’ve been reading and watching too much about the manufactured debt ceiling crisis, amazed that the country has allowed itself to be held hostage by 70 tea partiers in the House of Representatives. As they push for the country to default it isn’t clear who they believe they are representing. They were of course funded by big money on the right, and at least some of those people must now be thinking, be careful what you wish for. If we go into default and interest rates skyrocket and the markets plummet those very moneyed interests who created the tea party will suffer as much or more than anyone. And we would all suffer, so it would be a very pyrrhic pleasure to see them suffer, as they still wouldn’t suffer as much as me or most Americans.

After eight years of complete Republican lockstep under Bush, it is amusing to see Boehner completely unable to control his caucus. And again, unintended consequences. I envisioned this when the tea partiers gave Boehner the majority and Speaker position, and it is amusing to see him flounder, and not so much that I want it to continue and for the country to default.

So I’m trying to think of something new to say about the whole thing, and that may be like finding something new under the sun. Every blog and pundit has weighed in. The country as always is divided on the whole thing, and like always I believe that is due to their having a very low amount of information. A few years ago I saw a poll that showed that only two in five Americans could name the three branches of government. And I’ve grown fond of saying that this sad fact is all you need to know about America. It pretty much explains it all. A politician could never point this out as they have to pretend that the American people are very intelligent. Well, some of them are; evidently fewer than two in five.

I’ve been thinking about a basic factual quiz, call it the America Quiz. Try to get us to some simple baseline of facts that all Americans should be aware of and aren’t. So I give you the America Quiz. It can grow, and if you can produce evidence that any of the answers are wrong, we will gladly correct them. We simply want a fact based discussion. Far too often we are asked something like just give us that the earth is flat and we’ll discuss from there. Or, the government doesn’t create jobs. Tell that to all the soldiers in uniform, all the teachers, all the firemen, all the Blackwater and Halliburton employees paid by government contract. Just make your case. Don’t ask me to accept an absurdity to begin the discussion. If you say tax cuts on the wealthy create jobs, before we go on you have to explain why we aren’t currently in a full employment paradise, having spent ten years with the lowest tax rates on the rich in generations. In the religion essays we can talk about faith. Here you have to make a fact-based case.

1. Name the three branches of the Unites States government.
2. What is required for a bill to become law?
3. A. Name the largest air force in the world.
3. B. Name the second largest air force in the world
4. List all the developed nations in the world where it is legal to make a profit selling basic health insurance.
5. What country has the most people in prison per capita?
6. What country has the most people in prison?
7. True or False: Most countries don’t have a debt ceiling as something separate from their budget.
8. True or False: The U.S. has raised the debt ceiling at least 90 times since 1917 when it was created during WWI.
9. True or False: The U.S. Constitution says there will be nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.
10. True or False: The United States spends more on its military and national defense than every other country in the world put together.

1. The Executive (the President), the Legislative (the congress, consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate), and the Judicial Branch, consisting of the courts and culminating with the Supreme Court.
2. A bill has to pass both the Senate and the House of Representatives in the exact same form and language and then be signed into law by the President. The President can choose to veto a bill that passes both houses of congress. The bill can still become law if congress can override the veto, which requires 2/3 of the members to vote to override the veto—so this rarely happens, though in 2008 congress did override a George W. Bush veto of a Medicare payment bill
3. A. The United States Air Force.
3. B. The United States Navy
4. The United States of America. We are the only nation where it is legal to profit off providing basic health insurance. See T.R. Reid’s book “Health Care America.”
5. The United States. We have 715 out of every 100,000 Americans in prison. Russia is in second place with 584.
6. The United States. We have over 2,019,000 people in prison. China, with a population several times larger than the U.S., has 1,549,000 people in prison.
7. True. Many countries don’t have a debt ceiling, and others do it differently than we do where it is a formality for the president or prime minister. Until now it has been routine in the U.S. George W. Bush’s budget director Mitch Daniels (the current governor of Indiana), calls raising the debt ceiling a simple house keeping matter.
8. True.
9. False. The Constitution does not specify a number of justices to be on the Supreme Court. FDR famously tried and failed to expand the number and put more liberals on the court.
10. True. And most of the countries in the top ten in spending are allies of the U.S.

I think my point here was to remind myself that there are facts, there is objective reality. The tea party seems to exist in the land of truthiness, and I needed to remind myself there are facts, there is objective reality, to get my balance back.
The next few days will be something to watch. I just don’t know what.


About JP

We're two guys who met in college, in 1980. We've stayed in touch, and like to talk politics, current events, music and religion. JP is nore liberal than Sid, but not in every way. We figure that dialogue stimulates ideas, moderates perspective, and is in general friendly. These are things we need badly in these dangerous times. The blog name is taken from a song by Bruce Cockburn.
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