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The United States of America (also referred to as the United States, the U.S., or the U.S.A.) is a federal constitutional republic containing fifty states and a federal district. The country is situated mostly in central North America, bordered by Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. The state of Alaska is in the northwest of the continent, with Canada to the east and Russia to the west across the Bering Strait. The state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also possesses several territories in the Caribbean and Pacific.
At 3.79 million square miles (9.83 million km2) and with over 310 million people, the United States is the third or fourth largest country by total area, and the third largest both by land area and population. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries. The U.S. economy is the world's largest national economy, with an estimated 2010 GDP of $14.780 trillion (23% of nominal global GDP and 20% of global GDP at purchasing power parity).
Indigenous peoples of Asian origin have inhabited what is now the contiguous United States for many thousands of years. The warfare, disease, and inhuman acts that accompanied European contact served to greatly reduce this Native American population. The United States was founded by thirteen British colonies located along the Atlantic seaboard. They rebelled against Britain in 1775 and declared themselves an independent union on July 4, 1776. Hostilities with Britain ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. That treaty recognised United States jurisdiction to the lands east of the Mississippi River and south of the Great Lakes, except Florida. Throughout the 19th century, the United States expanded by forcibly acquiring land from the native peoples, as well as Mexico and Spain, and by obtaining land by agreement with France, the United Kingdom, and Russia.
Disputes between the agrarian South and industrial North over the expansion of the institution of slavery and states' rights provoked the Civil War of the 1860s. The North's victory prevented a permanent split of the country and led to the end of legal slavery in the United States. It emerged from World War II as the first country with nuclear weapons and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union left the United States as the sole superpower. The country accounts for 43% of global military spending.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 2.1 American Revolution
- 2.2 The New Nation
- 2.3 Expansion and Conquest to the West
- 2.4 The Civil War
- 2.5 Reconstruction
- 2.6 Turn of the Century
- 2.7 Roaring 20's
- 2.8 World War I, Great Depression, and World War II
- 2.9 Post War and the Red Scare
- 2.10 Civil Rights Movment
- 2.11 The Computer Revolution
- 2.12 Turn of the 21st Century
- 3 Government
- 4 Foreign relations
- 5 Economy
- 6 Geography and climate
- 7 Demographics
- 8 Culture
- 9 Notes
- 10 External links and further reading
In 1507, German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the lands of the Western Hemisphere "America" after Italian explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci. The former British colonies first used the country's modern name in the 1776 Declaration of Independence, the "unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America". While the Franco-American treaties of 1778 used "United States of North America", from July 11, 1778, "United States of America" (with a capital "U") was used on the country's bills of exchange, and it has been the official name ever since.
The short form "United States" is also standard. Other common forms include the "U.S.", the "USA", and "America". Colloquial names include the "U.S. of A." and, internationally, the "States".
The name of the country "United States of America" is controversial on its own. In its creation, and even today, it reflects a way of thinking that places the country as leader (or even owner) of the rest of the continent. The country has, many times, intervened in other countries of America, especially in South America ("USA's backyard"). As to date, citizens of the US tend to refer to themselves as "Americans" and there is no (unambiguous) word in English to designate those who live in the rest of the continent. There have been outlined alternatives to the name. Paul Erdos, famous mathematician has (for different reasons) nicknamed the country as "samland" (the land of uncle Sam). Though controversial by some citizens of other American countries, the name is more of an accident of history. For example, the phrase "the United States have improved their defense capability" was considered grammatically correct for the majority of US history. Until the civil war, citizens generally considered themselves citizens of their individual territories with the territories themselves (after the fact) being organized into a larger organization. Following this, a name as generic as "United States of America" was considered acceptable as most of the continent was still colonial and the independent organization was fairly unique for the hemisphere. Mostly dialog pertaining to the name is relatively low (compared to other topics) as the term "American" in this sense has such widespread usage and a widespread understanding that the term is of somewhat defunct grammatical logic.
The American Revolution was arguably the first bourgeois-democratic revolution as it resulted in the removal of some aspects of the British feudal system such as the special role of the aristocracy and replaced it with a proto-capitalist system that would develop during the industrial revolution. The revolution resulted from a variety of factors, notably taxation by the British to pay for war debt and the treating of colonists as non-British. According to George Washington who had led American during the French and Indian War insulting behavior by British officers played a major role in turning him against the crown.
Dissatisfaction resulted in several movements leading up to the war: the forming of the Continental Congress and proclamation of the Declaration of Independence. The Continental Army was formed and led by George Washington who later became the first US president. After a decade long war, with substantial help from Kingdom of France, the United States and France defeated the main British force at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 and in 1782 the House of Commons voted to end the war. After negotiations a general European peace treaty, the Treaty of Paris, was signed in 1983. Initially the United States was a confederacy of 13 sovereign states.
The New Nation
The post war realities for the United States was harsh, made worse by the restrictions placed on it by the Articles of Confederacy (the initial US constitution) which hindered most actions by the Federal government to improve the economy.
Eventually the US would daft the Constitution is has today, along with ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights that would establish it as a Federal Republic and give the US government the teeth it needed to drag its war ravaged economy out of trouble.
Expansion and Conquest to the West
One major problem faced was paying the back pay for the soldiers who fought in the war. This was resolved by granting them land in the western lands that the British has previously prevented them from expanding into. This resulted in the first of many crimes against the Native Americans as the US begin taking away their land by force.
The US would eventually purchase land from France in the Louisiana Purchase, which would expand the United States to the Pacific Ocean, laying the foundation for the Manifest Destiny that would influence the US in later years.
With the US economy growing, slavery became more prominent in the south leading to several disputes that would later result in Civil War. In the mean time however, the US continued to expand, eventually annexing the Republic of Texas leading to conflict with Mexico. This resulted int the Mexican War which would lead the the US gaining most of the rest of its modern continental boundaries.
The Civil War
Slavery continued to divide the US eventually leading to war.
Turn of the Century
World War I, Great Depression, and World War II
The End of WWII The United states dropped two atomic bombs on innocent men, women, and children on Hiroshima and Nagasaki who were simple innocent bystanders. In fact, it was merely a combination of their two cities being test subjects and a form of blackmail to get the Japanese to call off their attacks and surrender. However, many historians argue the Japanese were merely already defeated before the bombing of the two cities, and they claim the bombings were unnecessary. The american "say" they are "sorry" for what has happened, and yet they do nothing to prove this claim, thus proving they are simply being a lying bunch of scum. To make this claim even MORE valid, Barack Obama, the US president, bowed to the Emperor of Japan a year ago to show respect when he met him, and un ironically, the americans were angry for what he did. They claimed it to be a sign of they being Japans slaves and that they were weak.
Post War and the Red Scare
Civil Rights Movment
The Computer Revolution
Turn of the 21st Century
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The United States formed during the industrial revolution and is based on Enlightenment ideals. By it founding laws, the Declaration of Independence and constitution, it is neither a capitalist nor a religious state. However, certain elements basic to capitalism such as property rights and the sanctity of contract are included in its basic constitutional structure. The founders greatly limited the franchise, but over the centuries a near universal franchise has developed. Control of the government of the United States by the capitalist class is accomplished through institutionalized corruption supplemented by criminal, extra-legal, corruption. For example, corporations have been declared persons by its corrupt Supreme Court.
Subject to limitations imposed by the Constitution of the United States as interpreted by Federal judges with lifetime appointments, decisions are made by elected representatives in the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives and administered by the President of the United States, a strong executive officer and his administration. These officials are elected democratically, but by methods set forth in the constitution which ensure enhanced geographically-based representation by large regions with low populations. Elections are winner take all; there is no proportional representation. As a practical matter only candidates supported by one of the two national parties, the Democratic Party, a left of center party, and the Republican Party, a right of center party have much of a chance to be elected. Both parties strongly support capitalism and receive substantial funds from capitalists, and multi-national corporations. Successful campaigning requires purchase of political advertising on national or local media using the candidates' personal funds or donated funds.
There are two senators from each state in the Senate. The senators serve 6-year terms and are elected on a state-wide basis. This malapportionment gives an advantage to the smaller states and to the majority of voters in the state. California has 2 senators and 38 million people; the 38 million people who live in 22, mostly rural, states are represented by 44 senators. Representatives are elected from districts based on population for 2-year terms; this gives an opportunity to shape the districts in ways which influence the outcome of elections, by gerrymandering. The situation is complicated by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act which permits, and perhaps, requires, gerrymandering to ensure districts are created in a way that ensures a fair chance of minorities being elected; this gives an opportunity to create not only the minority majority district but also neighboring conservative majority districts. The result is many districts which are not competitive and under-representation of urban workers and minorities in the House of Representatives.
There are 50 states which make up the United States. They vary widely in size, population, history, and demographics. They are self-governing with respect to most matters, but, by virtue of the Commerce Clause in the Constitution, matters of international and national trade may be regulated by the Federal government.
Political Parties with national representation
- The Democratic Party: Founded in 1827, the Democratic Party was a populist party, as exemplified by Andrew Jackson, who dissolved the central bank. Strong in the south, early Democrats supported slavery, but in the 20th century became a left-of-center party which supported unionism and broad social programs.
- The Republican Party: Founded in 1854, the Republican Party took the lead in combating slavery, and under Abraham Lincoln, successfully conducted the United States Civil War which defeated agrarian interests in the South which supported it. However, in the late 19th Century, the Republican Party became the party of capitalism, and remains so in the 21st Century.
- Independents in the Senate are sometimes elected, notably Senator Barry Sanders of Vermont, a socialist.
- The Tea Party movement is a populist conservative political movement which developed in the 21st Century. They entered Congress in 2010 and vote with the Republicans.
- The Progressive movement is a coalition uniting most leftist, environmental, and ethnic minority movements. They operate within the Democratic Party and have elected a few Senators and Representatives which function as the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
The Constitution of the United States embodies liberal principles which limit the scope of government. With respect to economics, it can be interpreted to limit the capacity of the government to regulate the economic and political activity of corporations and other institutions and individuals who hold power through control of capital. To the extent that interpretation is the basis for decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States concentrations of wealth have free reign over the political and economic life of the nation through control of the media and through financing of political campaigns.
United States courts are clogged in most urban jurisdictions and at the federal level, delays stretching to years are common. In the Bronx, a borough of New York City, the press of business is so severe that for most minor defenders obtaining a trial is nearly impossible. Thus the formal liberal guarantees of the constitution are abrogated in practice.
As of 2011, the U.S runs on a centrist system with some social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid , Social Security, and public education. However in the past 30 years the United States has drifted to the right; Mainly because of the well-known 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. While the Bill Clinton administration (1993-2001) accomplished low unemployment rates and a balanced budget, the 2000 election saw George Bush win with an electoral vote not with popular vote. Bush engaged in senseless wars in Afghanstan and Iraq and lowered taxes on the rich. Current president Barack Obama is trying to reverse this. For almost a year the President and the Democrats attempted to create a Universal Health Care System but ended in a compromise due to determined Republican opposition. The Affordable Health Care Act was signed into law April of 2010.
As of 2013 there is an ineffective Congress due to the Tea Party Republicans refusal to compromise.
The United States has modern and extremely effective military forces with a global reach. Its forces are capable of establishing air and sea superiority in any theater of war.
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As of 2013 the United States was a global power which dominates the globe economically and militarily. Its preeminent position resulted from successful struggles in the 20th Century with the Axis powers, Nazi German and Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union.
The United States has also created NATO which is responsible for many innocent deaths during the Cold War and now.
The United States fought in many wars because of its imperialistic interests like Korea, Vietnam, and the war in Iraq; which the United States says that it wants to make the world safe for democracy but raped, murdered, gassed, and injured many people in Vietnam, Iraq, and many other countries. The United States has also murdered many Native Americans for Land during the 1700's to the late 1800's.
As of the 2010s the income and assets of the younger generation of workers was stagnant, a contrast with older generations of workers who had enjoyed a "middle class" life sytle and secure retirement. The collapse of housing prices during The Great Recession when houses sold to young workers at inflated prices lost as much as half their value or were lost due to foreclosure and onerous student loans caused loses and prevent accumulation of assets.
Following the Hard Hat Riot of July 8, 1970 on Wall Street by reactionary construction trades unionists who supported the Vietnam War their leader Peter J. Breenan was appointed Secretary of Labor. About 60% of the White working class vote was captured by first Nixon and then Reagan.
Union Members 2012
In 2012, the union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union--was 11.3 percent, down from 11.8 percent in 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported [January 23, 2013]. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.4 million, also declined over the year. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.
The data on union membership were collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation's civilian noninstitutional population ages 16 and over.
Highlights from the 2012 data:
- Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.9 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.6 percent).
- Workers in education, training, and library occupations and in protective service occupations had the highest unionization rates, at 35.4 and 34.8 percent, respectively.
- Black workers were more likely to be union members than were white, Asian, or Hispanic workers.
- Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate (23.2 percent), and North Carolina again had the lowest rate (2.9 percent).
Farming and ranching in the United States has through a long process of consolidation become concentrated with most production and income in the hands of a few million relatively wealthy persons, some very wealthy. The sector is highly subsidized by the government with over $100 billion being spent annually to subsidize wealthy farmers, ranchers, absentee landlords, and agribusinesses.
Geography and climate
The United States comprises most of the North American continent which lies in the temperate zone. For the most part the United States is well watered with large stretches of fertile soil. The Interior is drained by an extensive and well developed river system. The country has vast hydrocarbon resources which as of January, 2013 had the potential to provide for domestic needs. The southern portion of the eastern United States is exposed to severe weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes while the northern portion is subject to periodic invasions of arctic, even polar, air masses. The eastern United States was originally forested with low mountains, the central portion is a rich plain which rises in the west to a series of mountain ranges which form the western portion of the country. Portions of that region are desert, lying in the rain shadow of coastal ranges on the Pacific coast. The northern Pacific coast has a maritime climate while the southern Pacific coast has a Mediterranean climate. The south western portion of the country lies in the desert belt which lies on the Pacific coast of Mexico. The eastern United States is watered by warm fronts carrying moisture moving north from the Gulf of Mexico which interact with periodic cold fronts which come from the north. See Popular Climate Maps of the United States Persistent high pressure in the central plains can block movement of warm moist air north from the Gulf of Mexico resulting in drought such as that which occurred in 2012.
There are two outlying states, Hawaii, an tropical island chain to the west, and Alaska, a mountainous and mineral rich area in the arctic region of northwestern North America. The mainland United States is divided into 48 states with states in the eastern United States being smaller than those to the west. This pattern follows the course of development of the country as the 13 original colonies expanded westward. Much of southwestern United States, including Texas and California, was acquired from Mexico through rebellions by American settlers and the Mexican War.
As of January, 2013 the United States had an expanding population fueled by liberal immigration policies. The native population was skewed by a concentration of older people dating from a "population explosion" which occurred during the prosperous economic times which followed World War II. Due to a long history of liberal immigration policy, with respect to Europeans, the original English settlers of the country were a minority. About 10% of the population was descended from Africans brought to the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries to serve as slaves in a plantation economy in the southeastern portion of the country which was broken up by the United States Civil War. During the 20th century, the Hispanic natives of the former Mexican states in the southwest have been augmented by significant immigration from Mexico and other Latin American countries, particularly from Cuba an adversary, and Puerto Rico, a dependent Caribbean island with an ambiguous status; it is neither a state nor a colony. This population had spread widely throughout the country. A portion of these immigrants, particularly from Mexico, were "illegal" or "undocumented" and were widely exploited in low wage work. As of January, 2013 various proposals were being made to better manage this situation and regularize the status of immigrants. There were also significant undocumented immigrants from Ireland and China.
A few million of the original Native American aboriginal population remained in both the mainland and in Alaska, many of them on isolated reservations characterized by desperate poverty and social disorganization. Hawaii also had a native population. Hawaiian growers imported large numbers of Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino workers for its plantation economy. As of the 21st century, augmented by immigrants from southeast Asia where the United States was involved in the Vietnamese War, Asians were a rapidly growing group with large populations in Hawaii and California.
The United States has a European culture. The archetypical capitalist country, the United States is dominated by a culture of mass-consumption of consumer goods and entertainment imported, or manufactured, and distributed by large corporations. There are numerous exceptions to the general pattern among immigrant, minority populations, and counter-cultural groups which offer traditional or creative alternatives.
- Adams, J. Q., and Pearlie Strother-Adams (2001). Dealing with Diversity. Chicago: Kendall/Hunt. ISBN 0-7872-8145-X.
- (2009). World Economic Outlook Database. International Monetary Fund. URL accessed on 2010-04-27.
- Dull, Jonathan R. (2003). "Diplomacy of the Revolution, to 1783", p. 352, chap. in A Companion to the American Revolution, ed. Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole. Maiden, Mass.: Blackwell, pp. 352–361. ISBN 1-4051-1674-9.
- Cohen, Eliot A.. History and the Hyperpower. Foreign Affairs. URL accessed on 2006-07-14. "Country Profile: United States of America", BBC News, 2008-04-22. Retrieved on 2008-05-18.
- "Cartographer Put 'America' on the Map 500 years Ago", USA Today, 2007-04-24. Retrieved on 2008-11-30.
- The Charters of Freedom. National Archives. URL accessed on 2007-06-20.
- McClure, James. A Primer: The 'First Capital' Debate. YDR.com. URL accessed on 2010-07-26.
- "Smaller States Find Outsize Clout Growing in Senate: The disproportionate power enjoyed in the Senate by small states is playing a growing role in the political dynamic on issues as varied as gun control, immigration and campaign finance." article by Adam Liptak in The New York Times March 10, 2013
- The Commerce Clause describes an enumerated power listed in the United States Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3). The clause states that the United States Congress shall have power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."
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- "In Misdemeanor Cases, Long Waits for Elusive Trials" article by William Glaberson in The New York Times April 30, 2013
- Union Membership table of contents of reports issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics January 23, 2013
- "Share of the Work Force in a Union Falls to a 97-Year Low, 11.3%" article by Steven Greenhouse in The New York Times January 23, 2013
- "The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy" blog by Erin Hatton on The New York Times January 26, 2013
- "Younger Generations Lag Parents in Wealth-Building" article by Annie Lowrey in The New York Times March 14, 2013
- "Lost Generations? Wealth Building among Young Americans" study by Eugene Steuerle, Signe-Mary McKernan, Caroline Ratcliffe, and Sisi Zhang, Urban Institute, March 15, 2013
- "Union Members Summary" report Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 23, 2013, text is copied from document which is in the public domain
- "Richer Farmers, Bigger Subsidies" op-ed by James B. Stewart in The New York Times July 19, 2013
- "Global Warming Not Significant in 2012 Drought: Report" article by Andrew Freedman in on Climate Central April 11, 2013
- "Lifting the Veil of Mirage Democracy in the United States" news analysis by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers , Truthout, February 13, 2013
- "Mapping the Left": Progressive Politics in the United States by Ethan Young, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, New York Office, November 2012