By Richardt Stormsgaard
With the holidays upon us, there will be political discussions between our family members. In the hope of avoiding discussions based on flawed information I have asked the younger 50+ Sanders enthusiasts in our family to Google “Socialist Denmark+Bernie Sanders so that likely discussions about politics will be a bit more based on reality.
When they Google “Socialist Denmark+Bernie Sanders” they will learn that Bernie Sanders is fundamentally misinformed about the economic system in Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries, and that Denmark like almost all other Western European countries have a market economy that generally works for everybody, rich and poor alike. Similar in some important ways to the US economic system for a few decades past the Eisenhower era with progressive, high income tax rates, heavy public investments in infrastructure, and political commitment from both major parties to generally work to better the lives of people at the bottom of society. This was back when the American middle class was the envy of the rest of the world and moderate leaders in both parties dominated the political agenda.
Denmark is not Socialistic, and never has been. Social Democrats have been the most influential party for almost a century and have always kept Danish Socialists on the periphery of influence. With support from other centrist parties Danish Social Democrats have been instrumental in increasing wealth and opportunities for all Danes in joint cooperation with Danish millionaires and billionaires. Despite one of the world’s highest personal income tax rates for particularly the very wealthy, high salaries for workers, and an expansive social safety net benefiting lower income Danes Forbes still lists Denmark as a better country to do business in than the US with its low salaries for workers and low income tax rates.
But it is not only the left in the US that has difficulty with the idea of millionaires and billionaires cooperating with labor unions and trade associations to hash out compromises on equal terms for the benefit of all groups in society. It is also American conservatives. The Trump White House put out a 72 page report by Kevin Hassett about the “Opportunity Costs of Socialism” and specifically pointed to the Nordic model just before the 2018 midterms as being inferior in various ways compared to the current US economy. He has since corrected some of the more outrageous claims made in the report during a recent visit to Denmark.
The Danish prime minister reacted to what he called “fake news” by the Trump White House as he previously had done when Bernie Sanders made his claims about Danish Socialism. The center-right Loekke Rasmussen wrote on his face book page: “I will compete at any time in a competition with the Americans about which country has the best societal model, Denmark or the US. I know Denmark will win every time. Contrary to the US we have found a good balance between individual liberty and the common good”.
Social Democrats have been dominant in almost all other Northern and Western European countries for many decades, and they have been an important factor in continually improving wages, working conditions, and the social safety net in joint collaboration with private enterprise for the good of all citizens. What Americans need to understand is that the US experience with massive loss of wealth and opportunity during the last decades for many Americans is a global anomaly, and this is what Democrats should be emphasizing above else in their messaging during the coming, crucial elections.
According to the 2018 World Inequality report the top 1% of both Americans and Europeans had 10% of all available income while the bottom 50% on each continent had 20% in 1980. But with total wealth having grown greatly the top 1% in Western Europe now have 12% of total European income, but at the same time the bottom 50% have increased their total share to 22% in glaring contrast to the US. As a result wages have generally increased 3 to 4 times in Western and Northern Europe since 1980. Still, European Socialists lament the neo-liberal business models of the EU that have been the main reason for the massive improvement of living standards, and in many cases even reject the idea of the EU like many on the extreme right.
According to the same 2018 World Inequality the story is dramatically different in the US. Today the top 1% has doubled their share to 20% of all US income while the share of the bottom 50% has dropped to half, only 10%. As a result lower income American today are worse off when counting inflation than they were in 1980.
40% of Americans struggle to pay for basic necessities, rent or mortgage, utilities, food, and gas and car repairs, and almost thirty million Americans have multiple part-time jobs. Up to 30 percent of Americans work in jobs with pay that would barely lift a family above the poverty line, even if they were working full-time, year-round.
Only 43% of American millennials have more than $5000 saved up for their retirement, and if Republicans succeed in dismantling social security and Medicare as is their stated intent to pay for the predictable and intentional effects of the Trump Tax Scam between 15% to 30% of retirees today deriving more than 90% of their income from social security will be cast into poverty when they no longer can work.
The Schwartz Center for Economic Policy at the New School is projecting that 40% of middle class Americans millennials will be close to or in actual poverty by the time they reach 65, and that assumes that Republicans are prevented from the massive cuts to social security and Medicare that have been their stated intent.
The very poor future prospects for perhaps as much as half of our aging population, a huge number conservatives living in red states, should be our primary message because we need to reach conservatives in the red districts and states of our country. Our flawed, outdated election system in which each state elects 2 senators regardless of population size results in smaller, whiter, older states having out-sized, clearly undemocratic political power. By 2040 it has been projected that because of future population changes 30% of voters in these smaller, white, older states will elect 70% of US senators. By 2020 we will have perhaps 200 conservative federal judges in life-time positions likely committed to dismantle women’s rights, voting rights, LGBT rights, just to mention a few. If Trump is reelected and the senate remains Republican after the 2020 election our federal judiciary may be well be edging our country toward permanent right-wing control of our country as was outlined in the 2016 Republican Party Platform:
Remove Birthright Citizenship.
Reverse Marriage Equality.
Restrict Voting Rights.
Unlimited Corporate Financing.
Destroy Social Safety Net Programs.
The vast majority of countries from our traditional Western allies to the poorer countries in the underdeveloped world have all had much better lives during the last 4 decades or so unlike lower income Americans, and that certainly would not have been possible without the rapid growth of global wealth that Socialists by definition abhor and denounce.
Global extreme poverty has fallen from nearly 35 percent in 1987 to under 11 percent in 2013.
Between 2000 and 2017 8 countries, incl. Brazil and China, have had more than 50% reduction in hunger, and about two dozen countries had more than a 25% in hunger. About three dozen countries have had up to a 25% reduction in hunger.
Between 2000 and 2017 the percentage of global child labor and dangerous working conditions has been cut almost in half.
The list continues on various major global improvements, including growing life expectancy, dropping child mortality, and even suicide rates around the world, all possible because of an increase in wealth benefiting both poorer and wealthier countries, and poorer and wealthier citizens within these countries.
The glaring exception to the over-all global progress around the world is the US. Lower income Americans have been targeted by the policies of the Republican Party working tirelessly for several decades to move resources, wealth and opportunities from poorer to richer Americans.