Newsweek Ranks U.S. the 11th 'Best Country' – Bush’s Fault, But Obama Can Stem the Slide

Newsweek, recently sold for one dollar by the Washington Post Company but still in its hands, ranked the United States 11th, just behind Denmark, in this week’s “The Best Countries in the World” cover story which put Finland at #1, followed by Switzerland and Sweden. There’s hope for improvement, however, thanks to George W. Bush’s departure from the White House and Barack Obama’s arrival. Michael Hirsh explained the beyond the top ten rank:

America hasn’t recovered from the serious blows to its stature delivered by nearly a decade of policy debacles. As Obama never tires of reminding the American public...he inherited a Herculean task: the Augean-stable-size mess left behind by George W. Bush.

The August 23 & 30 two-week edition cover story package certainly reflected Obama’s policy agenda. A sidebar (apparently not online) on the nations with the best health care, which put Japan at the top, touted fourth-best Spain where “universal coverage is a constitutionally guaranteed right, and there are no out-of-pocket expenses aside from some prescription drugs.” The U.S. wasn’t even one of the top ten countries listed (the full list online has the U.S. at #26 in health, tied with the Czech Republic and Chile and behind Slovenia.)

In a two-page spread on particular bests for a bunch of nations, Newsweek’s Karen Fragala Smith, who tagged the Czech Republic as the “Best Place for Sex” and Belgium as the “Best Place to Be a Dog Owner,” declared France the “Best Place to Have a Baby,” trumpeting “low-cost health care” and nanny state services:

Maman is sitting pretty, with as much as seven months’ paid leave, low-cost health care, and a baby nurse who makes house calls. If she’s sick, the government sends someone to do the family’s laundry.

In the introductory article, Rana Foroohar explained the purpose of the exercise was to determine: “If you were born today, which country would provide you the very best opportunity to live a healthy, safe, reasonably prosperous, and upwardly mobile life?”

The skew toward big government and corporate statism nations isn’t a surprise when you see the experts the magazine relied upon:

The effort took several months, during which we received copious aid from an advisory board that included Nobel laureate and Columbia University professor Joseph E. Stiglitz; McKinsey & Co. Social Sector Office director Byron Auguste; McKinsey Global Institute director James Manyika; Jody Heymann, the founding director of McGill University’s Institute for Health and Social Policy and a professor at the university; and Geng Xiao, director of Columbia's Global Center for East Asia.

In his accompanying piece, “We’re No. 11! America may be declining, but don’t despair,” Michael Hirsh propounded:

America hasn’t recovered from the serious blows to its stature delivered by nearly a decade of policy debacles. As Obama never tires of reminding the American public — which is listening less and less, judging by his poll ratings — he inherited a Herculean task: the Augean-stable-size mess left behind by George W. Bush. First there was the diversion of military resources and attention from Afghanistan to Iraq — a draining, misdirected war and occupation that many believe never should have been launched. Then there was the long period of fiscal, regulatory, and financial recklessness that contributed to the worst-ever downturn since the Great Depression. Finally, Washington squandered its chance to lead on climate change.
The “aughts,” The Washington Post wrote last January, were really for naught: the 2000s were “a lost decade,” the paper said, with economic output rising at its slowest rate of any decade since the 1930s and an unprecedented net job growth of zero. It’s no wonder other countries started to catch up faster.
Of course, leading or not leading on “climate change” has nothing to do with “which country would provide you the very best opportunity to live a healthy, safe, reasonably prosperous, and upwardly mobile life” – other than making it worse through higher prices and taxes.

The top 25 from Newsweek’s ranking of the “best” 100 countries (screen shot is from Tuesday’s Hannity):

1) Finland
2) Switzerland
3) Sweden
4) Australia
5) Luxembourg
6) Norway
7) Canada
8) Netherlands
9) Japan
10) Denmark
11) United States
12) Germany
13) New Zealand
14) United Kingdom
15) South Korea
16) France
17) Ireland
18) France
19) Belgium
20) Singapore
21) Spain
22) Israel
23) Italy
24) Slovenia
25) Czech Republic

Bottom three: Cameroon at #98, Nigeria at #99 and Burkina Faso at #100.

Where Newsweek placed the U.S. in some categories:

> #2, between Germany and France, in “Quality of Life Among Populous Nations.”

> Also #2, below Singapore and above South Korea, in “Economic Dynamism.”
In two categories featured in the magazine the U.S. didn’t make it into the ten countries listed: “Education” (Finland #1, South Korea #2, Canada #3 and even Estonia, at #7, beat the U.S.) and “Health” (Japan #1, Switzerland #2, Sweden #3, Spain #4, Italy #5).
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center