On Tuesday, Transparency International released its 2018 Corruption Perception Index, and the U.S. is not among the Top 20 "cleanest" countries for the first time since 2011. The U.S. dropped four points from 2017, ending with a score of 71 on a 100-point scale.
"A four point drop in the CPI score is a red flag and comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balance, as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power," Transparency International said. "If this trend continues, it would indicate a serious corruption problem in a country that has taken a lead on the issue globally — this is a bipartisan issue that requires a bipartisan solution."
The U.S. still fared better than most countries — two-thirds of countries had scores below 50, and Turkey and Hungary have been dragged down to 41 and 46, repetitively, from the mid-50s five years ago. Fellow watchdog group Freedom House now scores Turkey as "not free," from "partly free," and Hungary is at its lowest freedom level since the fall of communism in 1989, Transparency International noted. The average score for full democracies was 75, flawed democracies averaged 49, and autocratic regimes scored an average of 30 points. Denmark was the cleanest country, scoring 88, while Somalia was judged the most corrupt, at 10 points.
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The Berlin-based group drew a line between corruption and authoritarianism. "Our research makes a clear link between having a healthy democracy and successfully fighting public sector corruption," said Transparently International head Delia Ferreira Rubio. "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."
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