Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
The United States is the greatest country on earth, different from others and better than the rest in all respects. Or so the great majority of its citizens believe, in good times and bad. Two new reports might dent that self-image.
One is the World Bank’s annual ranking of how easy (or not) it is to do business in 183 countries. The other is from the Bertelsmann Foundation, a German think tank, and examines social justice in the 31 of the 34 countries of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Economic Development (OECD), often dubbed the rich-country club.
It shows the United States as the country with the biggest rich-poor gap of those examined, except for Mexico and Chile. On providing health care, it ranks 23rd; on access to education 20th. Five Scandinavian countries – Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland – topped the list, prompting the conclusion that social justice and economic performance are not mutually exclusive.
(This is not a concept embraced by most of the Republican presidential hopefuls. Herman Cain, a front-runner, made headlines with a punchy comment on the growing anti-inequality Occupy Wall Street movement: “Don’t blame Wall Street. Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you are not rich, blame yourself.”)