Historic wildfires ravage the West and an unprecedented number of hurricanes hammer the Southeast. Yet the Trump administration denies climate change is man made. Our country leads the world in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths because the administration misled us about the danger of the disease early on and continues to downplay its severity. We still do not have adequate testing and contact tracing.
The administration is currently in court attempting to end the Affordable Care Act which would eliminate insurance coverage for 23 million people and would allow insurance companies to deny coverage to individuals with preexisting conditions. They are taking this action even though they have no plan or program with which to replace the ACA.
As our businesses go bankrupt and unemployed workers are evicted from their homes due to the pandemic, the administration and the Republican-controlled Senate drag their feet on providing an adequate relief bill. They had no problem, however, passing a tax bill that gave the largest tax breaks to the wealthiest top 1 percent of families.
The administration places right wing ideologues — whose views do not reflect the majority of Americans — on the courts. Instead of trying to heal racial divisions, the administration exacerbates them. The administration abandons our allies like the Kurds in Syria in order to accommodate authoritarian rulers like Erdogan of Turkey and weakens our ties with our European friends.
The Social Progress Imperative (a nonprofit, nonpartisan group) has developed a Social Progress Index which assesses and ranks 163 countries on 50 dimensions dealing with the quality of life. The index examines such areas as health, education, nutrition, personal freedom, and environmental quality.
In 2011 we ranked 19th overall, but in the 2020 index we have now slipped to 28th, below countries such as Cyprus, Greece, and Estonia. We are number one in the quality of our universities and in access to advanced education, but rank only 91st out of the 163 countries in access to quality education. In access to quality health care we are a pitiful 97th. Maternal mortality is shamefully high at 73rd, and child mortality is 45th.
Contrary to those who believe we are doing well environmentally, we rank only 119. Sadly, but not surprisingly, in discrimination and violence against minorities we place 100th. According to the report, the US is one of only three countries that have declined in social progress over the past decade.
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These poor rankings confirm what we already know: we face complicated and challenging problems that demand a program of renewal for our country not seen since the 1930s. As a result, we can no longer tolerate the political gridlock in Washington that prevents almost any action.
In order to make effective changes, we must retain Democratic control of the House; elect a competent, honest, and healing president; and sweep out the Republican obstructionists in the Senate. Nothing less will allow us to put our country back on an upward track.
Thomas Hill is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Northern Iowa.