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United States of America

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Flag of the United States of America
Obverse of the Great Seal of the United States

The United States of America (also, United States, America, USA, or US) is a federal republic in North America, bounded by Canada to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It has an area of 3.7 million square miles and a population of roughly 300 million.

The current President of the United States is Barack Obama, the current vice-president is Joseph Biden, and the current Speaker of the House of Representatives is John Boehner.

Contents

History

Britain's American colonies broke with the mother country in 1776 and were recognized as the new nation of the United States of America following the Treaty of Paris in 1783. The United States was originally a confederacy bound together by the Articles of Confederation. The Articles were eventually scrapped since they did not give the government the ability to carry out its duties, such as collecting taxes to pay off Revolutionary War debts. In 1789 the states amalgamated into a federal republic with the ratification of a new constitution, and elected George Washington as their first President. During the 19th and 20th centuries, 37 new states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the North American continent and acquired a number of overseas possessions. The two most traumatic experiences in the nation's history were the Civil War (1861-65), in which a northern Union of states defeated a secessionist Confederacy of 11 southern slave states, and the Great Depression of the 1930s, an economic downturn during which about a quarter of the labor force lost its jobs.
Image of Gettysburg, circa 1863
In the mid-20th century, Alaska and Hawaii became the final two territories to achieve statehood. Buoyed by victories in World Wars I and II and the end of the Cold War in 1991, the US remains the world's most powerful nation-state. The economy is marked by steady growth, low unemployment and inflation, and rapid advances in technology.[1]


Geography and climate

The United States has one of the most diverse topographies of any nation and contains all but two classifications within the Köppen climate classification system. The western third of the United States is primarily mountainous with areas of arid deserts to the south and west. The central third of the nation, known as the Great Plains is an area of prairie and steppe and is generally defined as the area west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains. The eastern third of the nation contains the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys and the Piedmont with the Appalachian Mountains running laterally separating the two.

Government and political subdivisions

The United States is a federation of fifty states and also contains one capital district and other territories. The United States' federal government is composed of three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial which carry out governmental power and functions. The executive branch of the government is headed by the current president, Barack Obama and enforces the laws. The legislative branch creates the laws, and the judicial branch interprets the laws. The Judicial Branch is headed by the Supreme Court and the legislative branch is headed by Congress which is bicameral; it is divided into two houses: the House of Representatives (the lower house that is based on state population) and the Senate (the upper house in which each state gets two senators, not taking into consideration the population).

States

State Population
Alabama 4,779,736
Alaska 710,231
Arizona 6,392,017
Arkansas 2,915,918
California 37,253,956
Colorado 5,029,196
Connecticut 3,574,097
Delaware 897,934
Florida 18,801,310
Idaho 1,567,582
Illinois 12,830,632
Indiana 6,483,802
Iowa 3,046,355
Kansas 2,853,118
Kentucky 4,339,367
Louisiana 4,533,372
Maine 1,328,361
Maryland 5,773,552
Massachusetts 6,547,629
Michigan 9,883,640
Minnesota 5,303,925
Mississippi 2,967,297
Missouri 5,988,927
Montana 989,415
Nebraska 1,826,341
Nevada 2,700,551
New Hampshire 1,316,470
New Jersey 8,791,894
New Mexico 2,059,179
New York 19,378,102
North Carolina 9,535,483
North Dakota 672,591
Ohio 11,536,504
Oklahoma 3,751,351
Oregon 3,831,074
Pennsylvania 12,702,379
Rhode Island 1,052,567
South Carolina 4,625,364
South Dakota 814,180
Tennessee 6,346,105
Texas 25,145,561
Utah 2,763,885
Vermont 625,741
Virginia 8,001,024
Washington (state) 6,724,540
West Virginia 1,852,994
Wisconsin 5,686,986
Wyoming 563,626

Demographics

Map of largest ancestry groups by county[2]

The United States is a culturally and ethnically diverse nation composed of all races and dozens of ethnicities. The July 2009 estimated population is 307,212,123. The 2007 estimated racial breakdown was (in order of the US Census): white 79.96%, Hispanic 15.1%, black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61%.[3]

Economy

The front of the US Treasury

The United States has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $48,000 and a national purchasing power parity (PPP) of $14.29 trillion (2008 est.). In this market-oriented economy, private individuals and business firms make most of the decisions, and the federal and state governments buy needed goods and services predominantly in the private marketplace. US business firms enjoy greater flexibility than their counterparts in Western Europe and Japan in decisions to expand capital plant, to lay off surplus workers, and to develop new products. At the same time, they face higher barriers to enter their rivals' home markets than foreign firms face entering US markets. US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers and in medical, aerospace, and military equipment; their advantage has narrowed since the end of World War II. The onrush of technology largely explains the gradual development of a "two-tier labor market" in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits.
Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households. The war in March-April 2003 between a US-led coalition and Iraq, and the subsequent occupation of Iraq, required major shifts in national resources to the military. Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage in the Gulf Coast region in August 2005, but had a small impact on overall GDP growth for the year. Soaring oil prices between 2005 and the first half of 2008 threatened inflation and unemployment, as higher gasoline prices ate into consumers' budgets. Imported oil accounts for about two-thirds of US consumption. Long-term problems include inadequate investment in economic infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, sizable trade and budget deficits, and stagnation of family income in the lower economic groups. The merchandise trade deficit reached a record $847 billion in 2007, but declined to $810 billion in 2008, as a depreciating exchange rate for the dollar against most major currencies discouraged US imports and made US exports more competitive abroad. The global economic downturn, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, investment bank failures, falling home prices, and tight credit pushed the United States into a recession by mid-2008. To help stabilize financial markets, the US Congress established a $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in October 2008. The government used some of these funds to purchase equity in US banks and other industrial corporations.
In January 2009 the US Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed a bill providing an additional $787 billion fiscal stimulus - two-thirds on additional spending and one-third on tax cuts - to create jobs and to help the economy recover.[4]

Industry

The United States is the leading industrial power in the world with a highly diversified and technologically advanced variation of industries including: petroleum, steel, motor vehicles, aerospace, telecommunications, chemicals, electronics, food processing, consumer goods, lumber, and mining.[5]

Military

See main article: United States armed forces
The United States government has a diversified military governed by the Department of Defense (DoD) headquartered in Arlington, Virginia at the Pentagon. The US military's commander-in-chief is the President of the United States while the Department of Defense is headed by the Secretary of Defense.[6] Of the five branches of the military, only the Coast Guard is not governed by the DoD. Because of the Coast Guard's law enforcement nature, it is governed under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).[7]

See also

References

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