United States of America

Flag of the United States Great Seal of the United States
In God We Trust
The Star-Spangled Banner
Map of the United States
Civil War:
Confederate States (1861-65)
CapitalWashington, D.C.
Government Presidential republic
- From 2009Barack Obama
Vice President
- From 2009Joe Biden
Legislature Congress
- Upper houseSenate
- Lower houseHouse of Representatives
July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence
March 4, 1789Federal Government under the U.S. Constitution
December 15, 1791Bill of Rights
May 5, 1865Confederacy defeated
Area9,826,675 km²
- 2010308,745,538
GDP2010 (PPP)
- TotalUS$ 14,727.4 billion
- Per capitaUS$ 47,701
CurrencyUnited States dollar
Flag of the Thirteen States United States

The United States of America is a federation and a presidential republic located in North America.


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. 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. 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. Over a span of more than five decades, the economy has achieved steady growth, low unemployment and inflation, and rapid advances in technology.[1]


The United States is a liberal democracy with a federal political structure comprising 50 states and the District of Columbia. The federal government is characterised by a separation of the powers of the executive from the legislative and judicial functions. The constituent states have significant powers of self-government.


Heading the executive is a President elected every four years in a national contest by universal suffrage. A presidential election is held every fourth year, and though millions of Americans vote in the election, the President is not directly elected by the people. On the first Tuesday in November of every fourth year, the people elect the members of the Electoral College. Apportioned by population to the 50 states — one for each member of their congressional delegation (with the District of Columbia receiving three votes) — these Electors then cast the votes for the President. There are currently 538 electors in the Electoral College.


The legislature, known as the Congress, consists of the 100-member Senate and the 435-member House of Representatives. Senators are elected on a state basis and serve six year terms. Each state is represented by two Senators. Representatives are elected from single-member constituencies and serve two year terms. Congress has sole powers to make US federal legislation and appropriate financial outlays, and operates through a system of committees. Legislation must be approved by both chambers to become law. The President can veto legislation, but can be overridden by two-thirds majorities in both chambers.

Supreme CourtEdit

The Supreme Court is the highest judiciary body in the United States and leads the judicial branch of the US federal government. It consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and a number of Associate Justices decided by Congress. There are currently eight Associate Justices on the Supreme Court. The Justices are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Court is the highest tribunal in the nation for all matters arising under the Constitution and the laws of the United States. It has the authority to invalidate legislation or executive actions which it deems to conflict with the Constitution.[2]


The US has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $47,400. 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. 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 60% 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 $840 billion in 2008 before shrinking to $506 billion in 2009, and ramping back up to $630 billion in 2010. 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. GDP contracted until the third quarter of 2009, making this the deepest and longest downturn since the Great Depression. 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, much of which had been returned to the government by early 2011. In January 2009 the US Congress passed and President Barack OBAMA signed a bill providing an additional $787 billion fiscal stimulus to be used over 10 years - two-thirds on additional spending and one-third on tax cuts - to create jobs and to help the economy recover. Approximately two-thirds of these funds were injected into the economy by the end of 2010. In March 2010, President OBAMA signed a health insurance reform bill into law that will extend coverage to an additional 32 million American citizens by 2016, through private health insurance for the general population and Medicaid for the impoverished. In July 2010, the president signed the DODD-FRANK Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a bill designed to promote financial stability by protecting consumers from financial abuses, ending taxpayer bailouts of financial firms, dealing with troubled banks that are "too big to fail," and improving accountability and transparency in the financial system - in particular, by requiring certain financial derivatives to be traded in markets that are subject to government regulation and oversight. In November 2010, in an attempt to keep interest rates from rising and snuffing out the nascent recovery, the US Federal Reserve Bank (The Fed) announced that it would purchase $600 billion worth of US Government bonds by June 2011.[3]


  • Barack Obama () (January 20, 2009 - )

Vice President

  • Joe Biden () (January 20, 2009 - )


  1. The CIA World Factbook: Introduction - Background
  2. Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: United States of America country brief
  3. The CIA World Factbook: Economy - Overview

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