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THOMPSON: America is not number one, it's ranked 28th for quality of life

September 21, 2020 - 3:42 PM

 


OPINION


I’ve got good news, and bad news. Canada ranks seventh worldwide among 163 nations on a quality of life index. That’s the good news.

Now the bad news. My other home, the United States, ranks 28th. It gets worse when you consider that among all those nations only the U.S., Brazil and Hungary have lost ground, with the U.S. showing the biggest drop the past decade.

This is the tenth year of the rankings, called the Social Progress Index. It is neither a touchy-feely measure of people’s happiness or fulfillment nor a measure of Gross Domestic Product.

Rather, it considers 50 factors...like nutrition, safety, the environment, freedom, healthcare and education, among others...to quantify quality of life. 

The Index is the culmination of the work of several Nobel Prize-winning economists and is administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The OECD - founded in 1961 - includes 37 cooperative member nations that promote democracy and market economies to the benefit of all.

Scandinavian nations fare best in the Index, with Norway, Denmark and Finland one, two and three, respectively. New Zealand is fourth, with Switzerland holding fifth and Sweden sixth. We should all be proud that Canada is seventh...and commit to doing everything we can to improve further next year.

I’m more than willing to throw the first punch in a fight over why the U.S. holds down the 28th spot...a drop from 19th a decade ago. The U.S. lags behind Estonia, Cypress, the Czech Republic and Slovenia...not what you would call Super Powers.

We Americans need to ask ourselves...and more importantly our lawmakers...why the U.S. has most of the world’s high-quality universities, yet ranks 91st in access to quality basic education? Why does America lead the world in medical technology...yet barely makes the top 100 - 97th - in public access to good health care?

When it comes to heath care, Americans are on par with Albania, Chile and Jordan. Hmmm. And in terms of education, the U.S. is right there with Mongolia and Uzbekistan.

Another hmmm. Nearly 100 countries have lower homicide rates than America. Yet another hmmm. And almost every so-called advanced country has cleaner air and water, better sanitation and more reliable Internet access. Enough of the hmmms...everyone should sense the irony by now.

Every American should be outraged that when it comes to discrimination against minorities...the U.S. ranks 100th. Really? Do Americans respect senior citizens? The way we are caring for those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities so far during the COVID-19 pandemic...shouts, “No!”

And America isn’t protecting its children the way most nations do. In the previous decade, more than 250,000 children were legally married in the U.S....that’s age 17 and younger.

Three states - Alaska, Louisiana and South Carolina - reported more than a dozen 12-year-olds getting married. Only 38 of 50 states even provide data on child marriages...so it’s likely an even larger problem. Again, where’s the outrage?

I guess it takes more effort than complaining about athletes taking a knee.

So, what’s wrong my fellow Americans? Well, it started long before Donald Trump became president...and both political parties have had a hand in this debacle. Certainly, the Trump fiasco has accelerated the decline, but we won’t know just how much until next year’s Index.

The COVID-19 pandemic will likely make America’s slide even worse over the next year or two. Why? Because nations best handling the pandemic rank higher on this year’s Index...it’s highly correlated. And if you don’t already know, America is the poster child for mishandling the pandemic. So look for another drop in the Index before a turnaround.

There’s a lot wrong with America...and that’s constructive criticism...not just throwing eggs. It’s fixable. But enough people have to want it...demand it. There are plenty of warning signs that should point clearly to what ails us.

Consider, just one percent of Americans own more than half of America’s wealth. That means just three million Americans have more assets than the entire Middle Class...nearly 155 million people.

The average American earning $75,000 last year paid more income taxes than Google and Apple...combined. See a problem?

Look, my fellow Americans, we can play this like some John Wayne movie...shouting, “We’re Number One” or “USA, USA, USA!” Or, fix it...demand change from impotent politicians and corporations that have become the state. Believing fiction over fact just makes us look stupid.

Americans might be shocked that Canadians laugh or roll their eyes when they hear those self-absorbed chants. Now, Mongolians, Czechs, Albanians, Cypriots and Estonians are in on the joke, too. Saying you’re number one...when you’re 28th...just isn’t right.

I hope the U.S. follows our lead. And here in Canada, let’s work on our shortcomings as a society and do even better next year. Don’t we owe it to ourselves?

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.


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