United States of America
The United States of America (USA or U.S.) is the third largest country, by area, in the world, with an area of over 9.8 million sq. kms. With over 330 million people, in a area over twice the size of the European Union, the population is less dense and less centralized than in most of Europe. Due to its size, the U.S. has a wide variety of climates, from arctic in Alaska to tropical beaches in Florida. Much of the eastern U.S. consists of temperate plains, while the west is mountainous. Most major metropolitan centers are located along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
The world’s oldest democracy, the only super power, the single largest economy, the leader of the free world, the biggest influence on global pop culture and the most diverse country in the world – the sobriquets about the United States are as grand and varied as the land itself. No other nation has played a bigger role than the U.S. in shaping history in the twentieth century, and no other great power in history has enjoyed as much global influence as the U.S. does now. And perhaps, no other country has occupied the global conscience over the last century like the United States of America.
The U.S. has the most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of USD 59,500. US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers, pharmaceuticals, medicine, aerospace and military equipment.
The country is also a major source of entertainment. American TV, Hollywood films, jazz, blues, rock and rap music are primary ingredients in global popular culture. The US has the most highly-developed mass media in the world. Its dramas, comedies, soaps, animations, music videos and films have a global audience and are staple fare for broadcasters worldwide. It is the home of the internet; more than 88% of Americans are online and 79% of adults use Facebook.
Inspite of being hit by the financial crisis of 2008, the country has rebounded from the worst of the downturn. Growth has returned, aided by strong fundamentals of the economy and pro-growth policies. The market-based practices and low regulatory environment in the United States encourages flexibility and adaptation. The U.S. remains the world’s largest national economy and export market. It ranks number three on the World Economic Forum’s 2014-2015 Global Competitiveness Index. Home to many of the world’s top universities, the U.S. is at the technological forefront in virtually every field of business. The U.S. is looking to overcome the setbacks of the financial crisis and rein in public debt through innovation and opportunity-led growth.
In December 2017, Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which, among its various provisions, reduces the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%; lowers the individual tax rate for those with the highest incomes from 39.6% to 37%, and by lesser percentages for those at lower income levels; changes many deductions and credits used to calculate taxable income; and eliminates in 2019 the penalty imposed on taxpayers who do not obtain the minimum amount of health insurance required under the ACA. The new taxes took effect on 1 January 2018. The tax cut for corporations are permanent, but those for individuals are scheduled to expire after 2025. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) under the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new law will reduce tax revenues and increase the federal deficit by about USD 1.45 trillion over the 2018-2027 period. This amount would decline if economic growth were to exceed the JCT’s estimate.
The United States is a federal republic. The federal system grants each of the 50 states the ability to form many of their own laws and regulations. The U.S. Constitution, on which the government is based, has been in use since 1789. Government power is balanced between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, with the President (executive) as head of state. The legislature is divided between the lower house and the upper house. The major political parties are the Democrats and the Republicans.
For the last many centuries, ‘the land of the free’ has attracted more fortune seekers and other migrants than any other country. The U.S. owes its cultural diversity to centuries of migration by people of different colour, race, and creed from all corners of the world. As most of the early settlers were of European origin, the country was distinctly European in customs, arts, music, and cuisine even before becoming an independent nation. The cultures of the indigenous people gradually disappeared as they lost ground or were side lined by the new settlers. Following the abolition of slavery, African influences started entering the popular culture and this process gained strength during the last century. With the influx of immigrants from other parts of the world, especially Asia and Latin America, the American culture added many more layers of diversity and vibrancy during the last century.
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