One of Donald Trump’s favorite pastimes, aside from screaming at the TV and tweeting, is claiming he’s the best at everything. “Nobody builds walls better than me,” he famously declared while announcing his candidacy for president. “I understand money better than anybody,” he insisted, several months later. “I know words, I have the best words,” are a collection of words that once tumbled from his mouth. Unfortunately—and this is true—the United States is not the best at everything. For instance, in an annual ranking released last year, America clocked in as the 16th least corrupt country in the world. (Somalia took the top prize). This year, however, thanks to Trump’s efforts, the U.S. jumped to number 22, our “most corrupt” level in seven years.
According to watchdog Transparency International, it’s the first time the U.S. has dropped out of the top 20 least-corrupt nations since 2011. The group uses data from 13 different sources across 12 separate institutions to gauge perceptions of corruption within the previous two years. Transparency attributed the hit to the U.S.’s ranking to “threats to its system of checks and balances as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power.” Under its “countries to watch,” the group listed the United States, the Czech Republic, and Brazil, the latter of which also received its worst score in seven years, partially on account of its new president’s threats to democracy. (Trump, naturally, is a big fan of Jair Bolsonaro.)
“Our research makes a clear link between having a healthy democracy and successfully fighting public-sector corruption,” the watchdog’s chair, Delia Ferreira Rubio, said. “Corruption is much more likely to flourish where democratic foundations are weak and, as we have seen in many countries, where undemocratic and populist politicians can use it to their advantage.” Zoe Reiter, the group’s acting representative to the United States, saidthat while Trump is a “symptom, not a cause,” and “concerns were already mounting before the election . . . they have been highlighted by the actions of a rich president who defied precedent to keep his personal tax affairs secret and retain his business holdings in office.” She added that “conflict of interest wasn’t a new problem, but it was illuminated in its glory when you have someone who is basically breaking norms.”
Of course, it‘s not super surprising that the U.S. would fall out of the top 20 least-corrupt nations under the tutelage of one Donald J. Trump, whose administration is, at least anecdotally, the most corrupt executive branch in modern U.S. history, and who gives Democracy the finger on a daily basis. Perhaps before his first term is up, we’ll leapfrog past North Korea (2018 ranking: 176)!