Help us, we’re falling and we can’t get up again.
Once upon a time — in 1988 and 1998 to be exact — the United States was the best country for a baby to be born and raised in, at least according to The Economist magazine.
But the 2013 edition of the magazine’s “where-to-be-born” index has us down at No. 16 — tied with Germany and one spot ahead of the United Arab Emirates.
Switzerland, Australia, Norway, Sweden and Denmark — nice countries but not exactly world famous as destinations for millions of people seeking opportunity — are ranked 1 through 5.
The Economist’s annual ranking tries to quantify what country “will provide the best opportunities for a healthy, safe and prosperous life in the years ahead.”
It crunches and weighs the numbers for 11 indicators — everything from geography and demography to GDP per capita, the cost of living and future economic growth prospects. And, unfortunately for the United States, it weighs government debt.
The Economist doesn’t factor a debt-related reason America will likely continue to slide in these rankings — no one today has any confidence in our political leaders to solve our economic problems.
Our economy is stuck on a reef. Growth is too low. The prospects of a real recovery coming anytime soon are dim and getting dimmer, not brighter.
It’s so bad, even illegal aliens are losing confidence in America and leaving the country. And Citigroup just announced it is laying off 11,000 employees. Obviously, its bosses don’t have much hope for a better future, either.
Back in the 1980s, we had more confidence in our political leaders because they actually earned it from time to time.
When my father was in the White House and Democrats controlled Congress, both parties fought bitterly with each other.
But when it came time to work out a solution to get the economy moving forward, they sat down and cut deals to lower or simplify taxes and to ease or eliminate onerous regulations.
In the 1990s, the roles were reversed. Clinton was president, Republicans ran Congress and partisanship was fierce. But when they had to do it, the leaders of both parties worked out a way to balance the budget and reform welfare.
In the old days, conservatives and liberals — loyal R’s and die-hard D’s — buried their hatchets and ultimately found a way to work together.
Today, we don’t seem to even want both parties to cooperate. We demonize the other side so much we can’t imagine ever working with them to fix the Capitol Building’s roof, much less the economy.
Fast-forward to 2012. Does anyone have confidence in our leaders to work together to pull the Supertanker of State off the reef, much less turn it around?
We know what makes America work better for everyone today and in the future — or we used to. It’s when government is smaller and the private sector is bigger, not vice versa.
The American people have lost confidence in their leaders for good reasons. Politicians from both parties in Washington have to join to clean up the economic mess they created or that confidence will never be restored.
If they don’t do it soon, being ranked No. 16 on The Economist’s “best place to be born” index will look pretty good to our grandkids.
Michael Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is a syndicated columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org