The typical vision of America as a great country is blurred.
Take Obamacare. Better than nothing. However, the president’s so-called affordable care doesn’t match the developed world’s single-payer health coverage. Universal health costs less and provides better care.
Another problem that Larry Schwartz points out in an AlterNet op-ed: the miserable maternity leave policy in America. That policy is left up to the whim of the states and in many cases to the will of the employer. Congress only guarantees unpaid leave.
In some countries maternity leave is guaranteed and even paid for. Denmark grants a year of maternity leave for all public employers. So does Serbia and Croatia. France, Spain, the Netherlands and Austria give four months of paid leave.
Abortion is becoming increasingly difficult in the land of Roe v. Wade. Republicans in many states have passed laws making it hard even to find an abortion clinic.
“Clinics are closing in record numbers because of conservative lawmakers passing laws making it difficult for women to have the right to abortion,” Schwartz notes.
“Most Western democracies demand the right to choose. Even the tiny country of Nepal puts the U.S. to shame. Nepal legalized abortion in 2002, setting aside the issue of religion. Abortion clinics are available in all 75 districts of Nepal.”
Congress should provide four years of university or college education free. It could easily pay for it just by slashing military funding. We need fewer wars and more social benefits.
Students and their families are going deeper into college debt. The average after four years: $25,600. The interest rate is so exorbitant they will spend years paying it off.
Most developed countries insist that a college education strengthens a nation. In countries like Germany, Brazil, Norway, Iceland and Panama, public university tuition is free.
America is the only developed nation without any legally required holiday or paid vacation. Conservatives argue that vacation time reduces productivity. They say that Americans must outperform and outwork the rest of the world.
But working constantly and productivity aren’t always linked. The U.S. is the fifth most productive country, lagging behind Switzerland, Singapore, Finland and German–all of which mandate paid vacations and holidays. In the European Union every nation grants citizens a minimum of four paid weeks of vacation.
A recent Supreme Court decision struck a blow against clean air, allowing coal-fired power plants to emit mercury and other poisonous pollutants into the atmosphere.
Yet in 2008 Ecuadoreans rewrote their constitution to become the first country in the world to defend nature against mankind’s depredations. Ecuador’s constitution recognizes nature’s right “to exist and persist, to maintain and regenerate its vital life cycles.”
High-speed trains? Plenty all over the globe. America, the richest country in the world, doesn’t have any. Meanwhile, its roads, bridges and pipelines are in shabby condition. Congress constantly underfunds this vital national infrastructure.
Ninety-four percent of Estonians pay taxes on line. Doctor’s prescriptions are issued online. Banking too. Access to information is free.
Only one American city, Minneapolis, made the list of 150 most bicycle-friendly cities worldwide. It was ranked 18th. Amsterdam was No. 1. Copenhagen, Utrecht, Berlin and Barcelona ranked high. Studies show that every dollar spent on a new bike lane reduces pollution and cuts traffic.
The solution to America’s social woes: Congress should raise taxes greatly on the One Percent of Americans who can easily afford it.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)