I consider myself a good American with lots of international experience, seven years consulting in Italy, France and the UK; 15 years as vice president of product design and sales for a major software company involving set up and supervision of offices in more than 40 foreign countries.
Those are my international bona fides. I will now attempt to describe why the rest of the world sees the U.S. as a corrupt falling star.
The U.S. became world leader after much of European and Japanese infrastructure and youth were destroyed in World War II. No European I have met recently thinks that ranking is still justified. We no longer have the biggest economy. Based on purchasing power parity, China has surpassed us. We have the biggest external debt and the biggest current negative trade balance in the world. If the U.S. were an individual, we would be in debtor’s prison.
We should be No. 1. We have the most usable agricultural land in the world. We led the world’s industry for 75 years after World War II. We don’t have the largest population, but plenty of well-educated residents and lots of well-educated would-be immigrants. So, where do many Americans think we are No. 1 but the world thinks otherwise?
Democracy. In the Economist’s annual rating for 2020 we were the 25th most democratic country.
High school education. This is the foundation of our future, but we rank only 12th in reading, 20th in science and 28th in math.
Health care. As measured by The World Health Organization (and taking into account cost) we are 37th.
Why aren’t we #1? Three reasons: egotism, politics and corruption.
Egotism. We think we are No. 1 and can rest on our laurels. We don’t bother learning about other countries, though many of their newspapers are available online. Other nations move forward. They no longer want our polluting, gas guzzling cars; we are now only the eighth biggest producer in the world. Ditto personal computers, where we produce less than 10% by value.
Politics. A democracy? Ninety percent of our Senate seats and 80% of our House seats went to the biggest spender in 2020. That’s plutocracy.
Corruption. Spending to win a Senate seat averaged $300 million, $25 million for a House seat. Politicians in Congress are officially paid about $144,000. Can’t you smell the corruption? Many politicians take their orders from their big business donors rather than their constituents and make fortunes in the stock market.
Payback example 1. Republicans are fighting against replacing some taxes on the rich when we just ended a year with the biggest negative balance of trade in peace time!
Example 2. Paying double what other countries pay for prescription drugs — the industry with the most lobbyists in Washington.
Example 3. Whether they believe them or not, lawyers are highly trained in presenting “facts” favoring their clients — innocent or guilty. In Congress, 166 representatives and 57 senators have law degrees.
I don’t like plutocracy because the rich are paid too much and many have mastered tax evasion — e.g. Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg — all worth billions, but their companies pay peanuts in taxes.
Historically, corrupted democracies have all failed. Do you want the U.S. to be next?
Frank Fish, Taylorsville, was born to a working-class family in England, studied mathematics in college, was a Fulbright scholar and worked as an information systems consultant in the U.S., U.K., Italy and France before retiring.