Only 31 percent of doctors would give the overall U.S. healthcare system a grade of A or B.
3. Rising Farm Productivity Restores Cropland to Forest
A new report belies the view that the United States has to a large extent felled its forests for farmland and paved them over for towns and cities.
The surprising fact is that forests today cover about 72 percent of the area that was forested way back in 1630 — 10 years after the landing of the Mayflower.
That is because farm productivity has improved to the extent that American farmers can now produce far more food on far less land, allowing land previously used for crops to return to forest, according to a report from Ronald Bailey, a science correspondent for Reason magazine.
From about 1850 until 1910, the demand for wood as fuel led to the rapid clearing of American forests. But in the 20th century the extent of U.S. forests stabilized, and it began increasing in the second half of the century.
This was spurred by revolutions in farming, including the advances made by plant breeder and 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug and his colleagues, who created new high-yield varieties of rice and wheat.
U.S. corn production grew 17-fold between 1860 and 2010, yet more land was planted in corn in 1925 than in 2010.
American farmers currently average about 180 bushels of corn per acre, more than twice the world average of 82 bushels.
But farmers in other countries have been making great strides as well. In 1960, India's population stood at 450 million, and Indians farmed 161 million hectares (400 million acres). By 2010, India's population had risen by more than two and a half times, but the amounted of land devoted to crops rose only about 5 percent, according to Bailey, who cites findings from the Population and Development Review.
Farmers around the world can now produce about three times as much food as they did in 1960 on the same amount of land.
Bailey points to the estimate that if global crop yields had remained at their 1960 levels, farmers would have needed about 3 billion more hectares to plant crops — an area equal to almost twice the size of South America.
4. China's Ownership of U.S. Debt Called a 'Myth'
The widely held belief that China "owns" the United States because it has accumulated a large percentage of America's outstanding debt is a "myth," according to a report from the Cato Institute.
"The myth is that the Chinese own a large amount of the public debt of the United States and are continuing to add to the debt in large amounts each year," writes James A. Dorn, editor of the Cato Journal.
"The reality is that the Chinese own a very small amount of the debt."
At the end of 2011, when America's gross public debt stood at $14.3 trillion, China's holdings amounted to just $1.2 trillion, or 8.4 percent of the total.
Foreign holdings excluding China stood at 22.4 percent, and domestic holdings at 27.3 percent.
But the largest percentage of debt was held by the Social Security Trust Fund and the Federal Reserve: 39.9 percent or $5.7 trillion.
The Federal Reserve in fiscal 2011 was the largest buyer of new U.S. Treasury debt, acquiring 77 percent.
The fact is, China's holdings of American debt equal barely more than a third of its total foreign exchange reserves.
The real cause of the U.S. debt crisis — debt had risen to more than $16 trillion at the end of last year — "is overspending and an explosion in entitlements, especially Medicare and Medicaid," says Dorn, a professor of economics at Towson University in Maryland.
"The stimulus programs in response to the 2008-09 financial crisis have also contributed to U.S. public debt.
"It is time to stop blaming China for the debt crisis."
5. Only 2 U.S. Cities Among World's 30 Most Populous
To most Americans, New York City is a very crowded place — but by the standards of the world's other large urban areas it's far from densely populated.
The New York urban area, comprising parts of New York state, Connecticut, and New Jersey, has a density of just 4,600 persons per square mile, the lowest density of any of the world's megacities, according to the ninth annual edition of Demographia World Urban Areas. In fact, among urban areas with a population of at least 500,000, it ranks only at No. 793 thanks to its 4,495-square-mile footprint, the largest among all world megacities.
The most densely populated urban area — defined by Demographia as a "continuously built-up land mass of urban development that is within a single labor market" — is Dhaka, Bangladesh, with 115,000 people per square mile. Its 14.4 million people are packed into an area of just 125 square miles.
If New York had the same density as Dhaka, its population would be 517 million — far more than the entire U.S. population today.
After Dhaka, the two most densely populated urban areas are Hyderabad, Pakistan (101,800 per square mile), and Mumbai, India (82,000), according to Demographia's calculations.
Tokyo remains the world's most populous urban area with 37 million, a position it has held since it displaced New York nearly 60 years ago.
It's followed by Jakarta, Indonesia (26.7 million); Seoul, South Korea (22.86 million); Delhi, India (22.82); Shanghai, China (21.7 million); Manila, Philippines (21.2 million); Karachi, Pakistan (20.8 million); New York (20.6 million); Sao Paulo, Brazil (20.5 million); and Mexico City, Mexico (20 million).
The only other American city among the top 30 is Los Angeles, No. 17 with 15 million.
Demographia reveals that despite the tremendous growth in population in the world's largest cities, particularly those in the developing world, the 28 megacities with a population of at least 10 million account for only 13 percent of the world's population.
And despite China's industrialization in recent decades and the growth of its urban areas, "only" 346 million people live in Chinese cities with a population of 500,000 or more, meaning that 74 percent of China's 1.3 billion population live in rural areas or in urban areas with less than 500,000 people.
6. U.S. Ranks 19th in Retirement Security
The United States lags behind 18 other countries in retirement security — including less affluent nations, according to a new worldwide index.
The Natixis Global Retirement Index measures how well retired persons fare in 150 nations, based on gauges of health, material well-being, finances, and other factors.
It was released in March by Boston- and Paris-based Natixis Global Asset Management (NGAM), one of the world's largest investment management firms.
Although the United States is the world's largest pension market, it lags behind less affluent nations on measures of income and health, Natixis states in a press release.
"While the U.S. leads the world in per-capita health spending, individuals are still required to pay a portion of this expense on their own," it points out. "That leaves many health costs in the hands of retirees and takes resources away from their other needs."
The United States, like many other nations, is facing a future with a rapidly aging population, rising life expectancy, and declining birthrates. This is likely to diminish the government's ability to finance programs such as Social Security and Medicare, leaving a heavier financial burden on retirees.
Another factor: The economic downturn has taken a major toll on retirement savings, and more than half of workers age 30 and older are on a path that would leave them unprepared for retirement.
The top 10 nations in the index of retirement security are all in Europe, with Norway ranked No. 1, followed by Switzerland, Luxembourg, Sweden, Austria, and Finland. Australia is the highest-ranked non-European nation, at No. 11, followed by Israel at 12 and Canada at 13.
The United States at 19 is behind Slovenia (16), Czech Republic (17), and Slovakia (18).
"The bottom line is that U.S. workers, like many of their counterparts across the globe, have to step up even more and take charge of their retirement futures," said Tracey Flaherty, NGAM's senior vice president for government relations and retirement strategies.
"If these challenges aren't met, they may not have adequate income in retirement, with negative consequences for their health and overall quality of life."
At the bottom of the index are Liberia at No. 146, followed by Sierra Leone (147), Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zimbabwe last.
Note: Newsmax magazine is now available on the iPad. Find us in the App Store.