In recent days there has been much talk of the presidential debates. We are preoccupied with relatively trivial perceptions of who "won" or "lost." There has also been endless discussion of whose policy proposals are better. Rather than entertain these meaningless debates, however, we would do better to look at our track record as a nation in comparison to other nations. I bring this up because in 2008 too many of us were blinded by "American exceptionalism" to realize that the recession that we suffered was global in its reach and not isolated to the U.S.

All of the research has already been done for us, via the CIA World Fact Book. The chart for 2011 shows our GDP growth at 1.5 percent, which tied us with nine other countries, including Lebanon, Bahrain, Thailand and Cuba. One hundred fifty-three countries out of 214 enjoyed better growth than we did (14 more used data from prior years).

Included in the countries that grew at a faster rate than us are Mexico (3.8 percent), Kosovo and Kenya (both at 5.3 percent), and Afghanistan (7.1 percent).

Now, one may argue that developing nations (Mexico excepted) have nowhere to go but up. But France, Germany and Switzerland, (to name a few "old economies") have also fared better than we have. With unemployment in 2011, we were tied with France at 96th out of 199, at an average rate of 9.1 percent. Interestingly, Mexico was at 5.1 percent.

In 2010, we ranked 54th out of 97 countries with a GDP growth rate of 2.8 percent. (Mexico outshined us at 5 percent.) Growth-wise, we are trending backward, not forward.

Debt-wise, we are spiraling down the "rabbit-hole." In light of this, when an unemployment figure of 7.8 percent is spun as "good news," American exceptionalism is truly dead. It has been replaced with mass delusion.

To be back where we were four years ago is not progress, and it is not "good news." As the economist Benjamin Ola Akande wrote to President Obama in the beginning of 2009, "Hope is not a strategy."

Unfortunately, with ever-increasing debt, coupled with two credit downgrades, and economic growth shrinking to a near-standstill, "forward" has become nothing more than a platitude supporting the delusion. Rhetoric aside, the actual metrics indicate we need a change in leadership.

Bill Paparounis, Parkville