According to the latest rankings the United States is the eighth best country in the world. Our life expectancy has dropped two years in a row, and we are the first high-income country to see its adults, on average, no longer growing taller.
We have among the highest infant and maternal mortality rates and the highest obesity rate. We are the only country without universal health insurance coverage and have the “largest share of unmet health-care needs due to financial costs.”
We ranked 16th in the 2014 Social Progress Index and in 2016, slipped to 19th place, with particularly mediocre scores in environmental quality (number 36), nutrition and basic medical care (number 37), and access to basic knowledge (number 40).
During a recent tour down South, United Nations health officials were shocked at the “third-world conditions” - no running water; no proper sewerage - found in an allegedly first-world nation.
We came in 14th on the 2017 World Happiness Index
Is this what you expect from the greatest country on earth?
Well, at least we have the greatest military on earth, with a defense budget estimated to be as much as the next seven countries combined. But, are missiles and the military what really make a country great?
Does a great country create and promote a “gig economy” that substitutes short-term jobs for careers and dispels economic stability?
Does a great country condone ageism to create an entire class of long-term unemployed and then try to forget they exist?
Would a great country allow its companies to lay-off citizens and replace them with imported workers, whom the laid-off workers often must train in order to receive a severance package?
Would a great country endorse economic Darwinism that blames the workers for their own layoffs? Well, you should have kept your skills up to date and you shouldn’t have grown old.
When the United States was great, were corporations people; was money considered free speech?
I’m pretty sure the United States was great when politicians put country ahead of party and Congress worked for us. Alas, last year the TV show "60 Minutes" revealed how congresspeople spend 20 hours per week dialing for dollars from rich constituents and corporations.
I think the USA was great when 4 percent unemployment was an accurate number and the new jobs-created report didn’t tout low-paying retail or part-time gigs without benefits.
My Trumpite friends tell me number 45 will fix all this. Some who live off the coasts says it’s already happening. Fox News assures them so.
Meanwhile, my financial advisor tells me it is a global economy with little to nothing to do with Trump, and small business owners ask me just what “thousands of regulations” they have been freed from. Every week an unemployed friend or client wonders when they will get a job or how they will manage to pay the bills. Young people can’t imagine how they will pay off student loans save for a house, care for aging parents, let alone, set aside money for retirement.
Does anyone really believe the guy currently in the White House will fix all this?
Trump is right. We aren’t as great as we once were. Furthermore, the United States will only be great again when we are respected around the world and people in other countries look to us for inspiration; not out of fear, not from scorn. We will be great again when our representatives put people ahead of corporations and people ahead of party. And we will be great again when we the people act not out of fear - looking for scapegoat groups - but out of love and compassion.
Edward Lawrence lives in Natick.