The Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal released their annual "economic freedom" index Monday, ranking the U.S. No. 11 out of the nearly 200 economies the study examined.
Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) told TheBlaze that one reason the U.S. didn't even crack the top 10 is because of slower than normal economic growth, citing trillions of dollars worth of unfunded liabilities and an annual federal budget deficit projected to reach $544 billion by the end of Fiscal Year 2016.
"You cannot have economic growth without economic freedom," Brat said.
The Virginia congressman credited America's inception for the rise of economic freedom around the world, which he said began around 1700, when average individual incomes rose from about $500 to $50,000 per year today. Before then, Brat said, "all of human history" saw no economic freedom."
Today, however, 10 other countries tout economies that are more free than the world's largest.
According to the index, the 10 most economically free countries are:
1. Hong Kong
3. New Zealand
10. United Kingdom
The 10 least free economies, according to the study, are:
178. North Korea
172. Rep. of Congo
170. Equatorial Guinea
The results are based on 10 key criteria: property rights, freedom from corruption, fiscal freedom, government spending, business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom, trade freedom, investment freedom and financial freedom.
The ranking equals the worst score ever for the U.S. in the annual index. Brat, who has introduced a bipartisan bill for a federal balanced budget amendments, says the news could mark the beginning of an "unending avalanche of bad economic news" if Congress doesn't act soon.
Brat said his proposal would balance the books within 10 years of its ratification, which, he added, is “both a practical and moral imperative.”
Among the bill's Republican co-sponsors are Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Trey Gowdy (S.C.), Daniel Webster (Fla.), Raul Labrador (Idaho) and Mia Love (Utah). Rep. Dan Lipinski, a Democrat from Illinois, has also signed onto the bill.
The study was released on the same day the national debt topped $19 trillion for the first time in the nation's history.