Although we are used to finding the USA on the top of GDP lists, followed by China, Japan, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Brazil, Italy, Canada, and India, why not have a look at another list that measures much more than economic output based on per-person production, which is heavily-influenced by mechanization, and ignores other more informative economic indicators?
On first inspection of a 2011 global quality-of-life-index, we aren't surprised to find Scandinavia on the top of the list. We are also not surprised to find Afghanistan and Somalia at the bottom of the list, nor are we too surprised to find that the USA has fallen to #31 this year, considering the economic crisis.
The overall list becomes a bit more uncomfortable, however, when we discover our place on the lists which include health, education, wealth, democracy, peace and environment. Here our rank falls to 39th in health, 22nd in education, 20th in wealth, 15th in democracy, 81st in peace, and 52nd in environment. Of course, Scandinavia far outranks every country on every list, but now the British Commonwealth nations outrank the USA on every list, (remember that we gained our independence from them over 200 years ago, as any tea-party member will quickly point out to you). 24 European nations outrank us, we rank in the lower half of all western trading partners in overall quality-of- life, and Cuba outranks us in the areas of health, education, peace and environment. (Nation Ranking)
Although we claim to offer the most opportunity, democracy and wealth to our citizens, the facts just do not support this assertion. If we truly are the last best hope of the world, a bastion of freedom, a shining city on a hill, etc., why are we increasingly unsure of our position in the world? Our overall world ranking is even more dismal when comparing the world's most-livable cities. On a list of the top 21 best cities to live: Vienna, Melbourne, Vancouver, Sydney, Helsinki, Auckland, Zurich, Munich, Toronto, Calgary, Perth, Adelaide, Geneva, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Bern, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Stockholm, Paris and Madrid, the USA doesn't even have a city on the list.
Congress and President Obama say that jobs need to be our top priority. You think? Lately all you see and read concerns jobs and unemployment. One list says that if you lose your job today, there's a 70% chance you won't find another job in the next month, that if you've been unemployed for a year, there's a 91% chance you won't find a job in the next month, that by the end of 2011 over 6 million people will have exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, that there was 0% job growth in the past decade--the worst in U.S. history, that 1 out of 4 jobs added last year was only temporary, and that when you count the unemployed and underemployed, less than half of the nation's work force is fully employed.
How bad does it have to get before our leaders learn to cooperate? Or as the Chinese have been saying for some time, is our government too dysfunctional to be saved in its present form? So what are our options? What is to be done? Have you grown weary of hearing the same old, tired recipes that have not worked, but have added insult to injury? After World War II, The Employment Act of 1946 sought to head off rampant unemployment as a result of millions of soldiers returning from the war. (Sound familiar?) This act mandated in its original form that our government do everything in its authority to achieve full employment as a right guaranteed to the American people. The conservative coalition of Northern Republicans and Southern Democrats (Sound familiar?) controlling Congress objected to the guarantee of full employment and the order to engage in compensatory spending, so they amended the bill to remove these mandates, essentially making the bill nothing more than a set of suggestions. (Wikipedia)
In 1978, the Humphrey- Hawkins Full Employment Act instructed the nation to pursue full employment, price stability, balance of trade and budget through cooperation with private enterprise. Over time, Humphrey-Hawkins has in practice become little more than a semiannual report to Congress by the Federal Reserve Chairman. (Wikipedia) Both The Employment Act of 1946 and The Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act of 1978 were steps in the right direction, but fell short. We'll never know the results of these bills, since they were never fully implemented. However, we do know that through an unwritten commitment between business and labor, relationships were formed which helped us to expand and thrive, despite the government's failure to act. This was the result of nothing more or less than a willingness to cooperate between employer and employee at the grassroots level. It is essentially the "If you want something done right, then you must do it yourself" concept. I think that time has now come in our national life.
Since we are broken, and since none of our elected officials have a clue how to fix us, I suggest that we fix ourselves. We have over 28 million businesses, both small and large, which are already functioning. We have nearly 10% of our workforce who are unemployed. If every business in America with 10 employees or more would commit to increasing the number of their employees by 10% or more, we could solve this problem. Where would the money come from to accomplish this? With our government's failure to agree on anything, much less on funding, the last thing we need is to suggest that we or our grandchildren pay for it. Instead, if tax incentives aren't strong enough to spur the necessary hiring, reduce paychecks nationwide by 10% to cover this expense. Sharing this burden from top to bottom, from CEO to janitor, from President, Congressman and Judiciary to clerk and secretary would create the empathy, solidarity and optimism that will propel us out of this depression. Wouldn't lowering everyone's pay by 10% cause another lag in spending? No--quite the opposite would occur, because the newly-employed would eagerly spend their checks, setting an example for the rest of us to fuel our economic recovery. The increase in production and new employee/customers that are created would fuel domestic demand, increase revenues, address infrastructure and other public needs, and buoy public, private and national interests in our economy. There is, however, one more necessary ingredient in this recipe for economic growth--the willingness to cooperate--between business and labor, between business and government, and between our fellow citizens, recognizing that what is good for the unemployed is also good for the rest of us, who are badly in need of a more vibrant economy and country.
Since there has already been one Republican speech suggesting remedies for our ailing economy, to be followed today by eight more nostrums, plus one more from President Obama tomorrow, maybe it's time to observe some of our more successful fellow nations--the friends and neighbors who share this planet with us.
We often hear the word "socialism" derided as a poison which endangers free enterprise. If socialism is poisonous, then Scandinavia must be in great danger. But anyone who has been to Scandinavia knows that this is just not true. Rather than stifling the free enterprise system, socialism has strengthened and enhanced their quality-of-life, encouraged foreign investment and fostered an environment which is conducive to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. (Or did you think that the U.S. has a monopoly on these?) In short, Scandinavia is on top of every list of superlatives for a very good reason--she belongs there! Why not send our politicians to Scandinavia to practice their speeches before trying them on us? They'll discover they have a small audience for what they are selling. Why not pay closer attention to what actually works in the Scandinavian systems of government, instead of spouting our capitalist rhetoric to a world and nation that has grown weary of empty promises? Where is the proof that our governmental approach is superior?
Our nation's credibility is being questioned by all people everywhere who pay attention and have an ounce of common sense. Scandinavian governments, as constitutional monarchies, are the most stable form of socialism the world has ever known. As such, they exemplify the best of the spirit of cooperation in the way that they care for and about each other. In doing so, there is no dilemma regarding private vs. public ownership or private enterprise. In fact, private enterprise is encouraged, is successful and has far fewer impediments than the U.S. does. Yet everyone is provided for, and Scandinavia has consistently ranked at the very top in surveys of citizen's individual satisfaction for many years. There is national pride in Scandinavia which is based on actual quality-of-life rather than rhetoric.