It is, if you factor in the failure of our education system. That seems to be the incredible conclusion from McKinsey's new report on what America's notorious international education gap really costs us. "If the United States had closed the international achievement gap between 1983 and 1998 and raised its performance to the level of such nations as Finland and Korea, US GDP in 2008 would have been between $1.3 trillion and $2.3 trillion higher, representing 9 to 16 percent of GDP." How much do we spend on health care again? About 16 percent of GDP. Damn.
Or think of it this way: the McKinsey report is concluding is that if we erased our countries' racial and economic achievement gaps, and suddenly our students could read and multiply and write and solve for X as well as the Finnish, our GDP would add the economic equivalent of Italy. To be honest, I'm a little skeptical about these figures. The education gap is measured with international tests, and it would seem very difficult to attach a domestic product number to a four-year old international testing score. (Presumably, students aren't contributing much to GDP until they've graduated from college, four years after an international test from high school.)