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U.S. Fails to Make List of World's Freest Economies

The United States is missing for the first time from an annual ranking of the world's 10 freest economies.

The Index of Economic Freedom, published by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal since 1995, finds that the United States is letting Big Brother grow obese as other countries get lean and fit. Chile, Australia and Iceland improved enough to leave the U.S. in a tie with Switzerland for 12th place.

"The United States is resting on its laurels while innovative countries around the world are changing their approaches and reducing their roadblocks," said Marc Miles, a co-editor of the book, along with Ed Feulner and Mary Anastasia O'Grady. "The U.S. is eating the dust of countries that have thrown off the 20th-century shackles of big government spending and massive federal programs."

The index analyzes 50 economic variables in 10 categories. This year 86 countries showed improvement, 57 declined, and 12, including America, were unchanged.

Though out of the top 10, the U.S. still had scores good enough to be among the 17 "free" economies. Fifty-six nations were considered "mostly free," 70 "mostly unfree" and 12 "repressed."

The top 10: Hong Kong, Singapore, Luxembourg, Estonia (yes, the former Soviet "republic"), Ireland, New Zealand, U.K., Denmark, Iceland and Australia, followed by Chile.

Awwww: Saddam's Allies Fare Poorly

Among those that failed to make the list of the free: socialist Germany, 18th; Belgium, 21st; socialist Spain, 31st; Japan, 39th; and lowly France, 44th. Thanks to power-mad Vladimir Putin, Russia was only 124th, behind Rwanda.

The U.S. earned top scores in property rights, banking/finance and monetary policy. What hurt it: a miserable rating in fiscal burden of government, worse than all but 30 countries in the survey.

"This reflects poor scores in the area of taxation. The U.S. corporate tax rate ranks 112th out of the 155 countries scored, and its top individual tax rate ranks an only somewhat better 82nd. The fiscal burden rating also reflects the fact that federal spending that has reached levels not seen since World War II and that now costs the average household more than $20,000 per year," The Heritage Foundation announced.

Miles stated: "If we don't get federal spending under control, we'll continue to be passed by nations willing to take the steps necessary for dynamic financial growth. We all know it - now it's time for Congress to make it happen."

'Misery Has a Cure'

O'Grady wrote today in The Journal, in a column headlined "Hail Estonia!": "The lesson? Stand still on the highway to economic liberty and the world will soon start to pass you by. ...

"Policy makers who pay lip service to fighting poverty would do well to grasp the link between economic freedom and prosperity. This year the Index finds that the freest economies have a per-capita income of $29,219, more than twice that of the 'mostly free' at $12,839, and more than four times that of the 'mostly unfree.' Put simply, misery has a cure and its name is economic freedom."

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