America Plunges on World Happiness Report Due to Trump...or Not

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The United Nations ranks countries according to personal  satisfaction — yours may be adversely impacted if you are the type to be influenced by the UN.

Each year the world authority-on-everything-but-master-of-none — The United Nations — issues an annual report measuring happiness on a national basis. You may not have noticed this ranking of global glee in recent years, due mainly to who was running this country, and the results. However as we are starting to learn, when there is a party change in the White House it also brings a responsibility change.

When President Obama took office we saw an end to the regular media practice of tabulating troop casualties from the War On Terror on a weekly basis. Once Donald Trump was elected the press was eager to heap blame upon the man for a number of issues; sometimes he was cited as the responsible party before he had even taken the Oath of Office. This has also become the case in reference to the UN release of The World Happiness Report.

This is an annual study where citizens across the atlas are given questionnaires to indicate their impressions on a number of issues concerning their lives. These responses are also coupled with other data and through deeply arcane processes a ranked list of “happiest” countries emerges. (Spoiler Alert: Norway came in #1.) The United States logged the fourteenth position, and according to most reports this is distressing.

 

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Along with that bad news came the insinuation that it was directly attributable to the newly installed President. Yahoo News declared, “The U.S. drops in the World Happiness rankings. Trump policies won’t cheer us up.” The Washington Post took it a step further, declaring “The World Happiness Report is out and the U.S. has Fallen. Sad!”.

In the overly lengthy document accompanying this list is a sub-section titled “Restoring American Happiness”. The author of that chapter goes on to involve Trump in the malaise:

  • Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which published the report, said President Donald Trump’s policies were likely to make things worse. “They are all aimed at increasing inequality – tax cuts at the top, throwing people off the healthcare rolls, cutting Meals on Wheels in order to raise military spending. I think everything that has been proposed goes in the wrong direction,” he told Reuters.

The numerous factual errors in his accusation aside, Sachs is also omitting another detail entirely from his assessment: This report concerns the year 2016. To blame Trump here is going beyond something as facile as projection; it is sophistry. Nothing involving Trump could be ascribed to this list, save maybe the final month of the year, which followed the election. But even then you have the anxiety of less than half the electorate in play for less than 10% of the year.

Digging into some of the explanation of the ranking of our country there is a revealing detail, and with understandable irony, it is one the media does not want to reveal. Most of the metrics for this report show that there was a distinctive peak in US happiness some years ago, and then there has been a steady decline. As they report: “While the US ranked third among the 23 OECD countries surveyed in 2007, it had fallen to 19th of the 34 OECD countries surveyed in 2016.”

I will interpret something the report, and most in the media, refuse to here. That steady decline tracks directly with the two terms of President Obama. Note the desperation needed for journalists to not only override the blatant reality of eight years of decline under Obama but then attempt to deposit the blame on a President in office for just two months, and after the study had concluded.

Then again, we are talking about a group who places an inordinate amount of import on this organization. I would ask the rhetorical, Who bases their happiness on anything the United Nations has to say about their daily lives? The obvious answer to that is: A) Journalists. There is all the explanation needed for this sad coverage of a Happiness Report.