Raymond A. Hult: American system is good for the rich but not everyone else

U.S. ranks behind Scandinavian countries for happiness and security.

(Laurent Cipriani | AP photo) In this Jan. 25, 2017 file photo Norwegian supporters wave their flags to support their Chef Christopher William Davidsen during the "Bocuse d'Or" (Golden Bocuse) trophy, in Lyon, central France.

I sometimes wonder if Americans somewhat exaggerate the feeling their nation is not only the ultimate “shining city upon a hill” but also superior in governance and citizen satisfaction to the rest of the world. That may be the case for the wealthiest of our population, but there’s a significant segment who aren’t so fortunate who may disagree.

The 2020 Legatum Prosperity Index (LPI) placed the United States 18th on a list of countries judged on a combination of economic quality, business environment, governance, education, health, safety and security, personal freedom, social capital and natural environment. The top six rated countries were Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands.

Sources for the LPI included the Gallup World Poll, World Development Indicators, International Telecommunication Union, Fragile States Index, Worldwide Governance Indicators, Freedom House, World Health Organization, World Values Survey, Amnesty International and Centre for Systemic Peace.

The top-rated countries including the U.S. are defined as socialistic democracies. It’s just that those rated higher than America involve more socialistic components. Social democracy is mostly capitalistic in function, but also involving nonprofit government-run social welfare fundamentals. Social democracies are far removed from communism or dictatorships. The majority of voters including those in the U.S. willingly support and encourage many of the socialistic features.

What are the reasons Scandinavian countries rank higher than the United States, as when Finland is rated by the 2020 World Happiness Report as containing the happiest citizenship? Basically, it appears to be somewhat less reliance on capitalism and more emphasis on nonprofit government-run agendas. Too much reliance on for-profit capitalism appears to benefit the super-rich at the expense of everyone else. The secret for maximum success is arriving at the most beneficial balance involving both capitalism and socialism.

Scandinavian countries appear to have reached a superior balance when compared to America. Their governments support free-market economies involving for-profit capitalism. At the same time, they promote socialistic nonprofit government-operated programs such as free education, health care, superior maternity/paternity leave and taxes redistributing wealth in a fairer manner. Do these countries represent pure socialism? Absolutely not! Just more so than the United States.

The four years under the leadership of President Donald Trump, instead of “Making America Great Again,” arguably exacerbating a decline in America involving literally all the above nine elements used for ranking countries by the LPI. Without going into detail on each one, I’ll comment on what I consider to be a few of the most egregious examples of his lowering of America’s standing in the world.

The worst in my opinion has been the “big lie,” still being promoted by Trump, by which he has hoodwinked a large number of his rabid Republican followers to lose trust in our system of voting and thus severely erode a critical lynchpin of our Democracy. By falsely claiming, with no proof whatsoever, that the election was rigged, he instituted the destructive insurrectionist attack on our Capitol led in part by his devoted racist supporters committed to white supremacy.

Next in line is his utter disregard for the danger climate change poses to America and the rest of the world in the not too distance future unless immediate action is taken to try to reverse polluting our fragile atmosphere. He has not only ignored the threat, but took positive steps to amplify the pending peril.

He attempted to further erode our sub-par health care system by doing everything in his power to void the Affordable Care Act, one of the recent successes passed by Congress helping ameliorate deficiencies including inadequate coverage and pre-existing conditions. He claimed he had a better solution which turned out to be just one more lie in a long list of brainwashing intended fabrications.

One more rank-lowering fiasco that bothered me was Trump’s successful passage in 2017 of his alleged tax reform legislation, which further widened the already enormous gap between America’s super-rich and everyone else. The nonpartisan Tax Policy center estimated, in the first year, the top 1% of earners would receive 20.5% of the benefit from the cut, and by 2027, that advantage would soar to 83%. Not to mention unnecessarily exacerbating the federal deficit for the primary purpose of gifting his affluent supporters.

Raymond A. Hult, Bountiful, is a retired FBI special agent

Raymond A. Hult, Bountiful, is a retired FBI special agent who has observed a wide swath of American culture and its effect on individual lives.

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