How America Could Be the Happiest Country on Earth

Published on truthout, by The Daily Take, Oct 24, 2013.

And the happiest country in the world is….Denmark! That’s according to a 156-nation survey published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. The survey ranks countries on aspects like healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, and social support. I witnessed Denmark’s happiness first-hand back in 2008.

In the summer of 2008, I broadcasted my radio show live from Copenhagen for a week. with Peter Mogensen. Mogensen, an economist by training, is the chief political editor of Denmark’s second largest newspaper, Politiken. I asked Mogensen how many Danes experience financial distress, lose their homes, or even declare bankruptcy thanks to health-related issues. Mogensen gave me a puzzled look, and then replied, “Why, of course…none.” 

I explained to him how every year in the United States, millions of people lose their jobs and their homes, and have to sell off their most beloved possessions to pay off creditors, because they can’t afford to pay the co-pays, deductibles and expenses associated with developing health ailments.

He then looked at me, shook his head sadly, and said, “Here in Denmark, we could not imagine living like that.” Instead, they live their lives filled with happiness. So why are the Danes happy all the time? … //

… In fact, the rates of just about every measurable statistic, from infant mortality and teenage pregnancy to the prevalence of mental illness and homicides, are less in countries with lower inequality. So, if the United States wants to climb up the charts of the world’s happiest countries, we need to be doing more to fight income inequality, and that starts with rolling back the Reagan tax cuts.

It’s ridiculous that Americans who are struggling to survive day-to-day are paying more in taxes than the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. Similarly, we need to start making corporations pay their fair share in taxes, to help support the economy and to take the burden off of hard-working Americans. We can’t continue letting giant transnational corporations like Apple and General Electric make astronomical profits, while paying next to nothing in taxes.

Back in Denmark, they have something called hygge. Hygge is what the Danes use to survive the darkness that the country experiences during the winter. The sun shines for less than seven hours each day during the height of the winter in Denmark, meaning that it can become a very dark, dreary, and depressing place. But with hygge – a feeling of being content, comfortable, and cozy – Danes are able to make it through the dark winters with happiness and joy.

It’s time we created a little hygge of our own here in America, and that starts with giving all Americans an equal chance to succeed.

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US: Female Prisoners’ Babies Shouldn’t Be Sentenced to Life Without Breast Milk, on truthout, by Maya Schenwar, Oct 23, 2013;

Stop Treating Capitalists Like They’re Gods, on truthout, by The Daily Take, October 2013.

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