Tomgram: Ann Jones,
Posted by Ann Jones at 7:47am, January 23, 2018.
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By Ann Jone
In the past couple of weeks, thanks to the president’s racist comments about Haiti and African countries he can’t even name — remember “Nambia”? — as well as the stamp of approval he awarded future immigrants from Norway, we’ve seen a surprising amount of commentary about that fortunate country. Let me just say: those Norwegians he’s so eager to invite over are my ancestral people and, thanks to years I’ve spent in that country, my friends. Donald Trump should understand one thing: if he and his Republican backers really knew the truth about life in Norway, they would be clamoring to build a second “big, fat, beautiful” wall, this time right along our Eastern seaboard.
A Totally different America
One thing is incontestable: a mass of Norwegian immigrants (however improbable the thought) would pose a genuine threat to Donald Trump’s America. They would bring to our shores their progressive values, advanced ideas, and illustrious model of social democratic governance — and this country would never be the same!
It’s hard even to begin to imagine what a Norwegian-ization of the United States might mean. But just for a moment, try to picture how strange our country would be. After all, based on life in Norway, you would have to assume that our beloved land would lose many of its twenty-first-century landmarks. Gone would be its precious ghettos and slums, its boarded-up schools, hospitals, and libraries in the heartland, not to speak of its heirloom infrastructure: collapsing bridges, antique trains, clogged roads, and toxic drinking water.
Trumps phrase of inequality
To grasp what’s at stake, consider how such immigrants would have reacted to the Republican tax “reform” bill, praised by the president as “the greatest achievement” of his first year in office (which, by his own account, is the greatest year in American history). That bill, filled with miscellaneous handouts meant to ensure the votes of individual Republican legislators, guarantees that the super rich and their mega-corporations will get richer still in perpetuity. It is, in its own way, a glorious hymn to future heights of economic inequality (in a country already ranked the most unequal in the developed world), as it cleverly passes on to the children of the un-rich classes a national deficit inflated by an extra $1.5 trillion.
The rich get 90 pct of the cake
It is, of course, the nature of any tax plan to redistribute the wealth of a nation in some fashion, even though Republicans use the word “redistribution” only to assail Democrats who occasionally suggest a little something to help the poor. But redistribute those Republicans did in a masterful way, surrendering yet more of our national wealth to the tiny team of people (many of whom also happen to be their donors) who already pocket almost all of it. As the Republicans were writing the tax bill, the top 20% of households were already taking home 90% of the American pie. Now, they will get more.
Inequality corrupts democracy
That’s exactly the kind of “achievement” that no Norwegian parliament would ever approve. All nine parties now in that country’s parliament, from left to right, would have joined in tearing up that Republican tax bill and replacing it with a much simpler one aimed at redistributing the nation’s wealth equitably to every last one of its citizens.
As a start, they would have tossed in the trash can the single most basic project of Trump and the Republicans: making the rich richer. Norwegians have long worked to do just the reverse, based on a well-established conviction that inequality creates elites that corrupt and destroy democracy. That’s where politics come in: devising multiple systems to regulate a capitalist economy and safeguard democracy.
Few Norwegian billionaires
For example, two national confederations, of trade unions on the one hand and corporate enterprises on the other, annually negotiate wages and working conditions, while minimizing the difference between high-paying and lower-wage jobs, between CEOs and workers. As a result, Norway’s income equality is near the top of any international list. America’s, not so. On average in 2014, for instance, American CEOs grabbed 354 times the salary of their workers. For many corporate chiefs that figure hit well over 1,000 times the salary of a median employee, while in Norway for every dollar the worker earned, the average Norwegian CEO took home 58 bucks.
Equitable paychecks may slow down the creation of Norwegian billionaires, but the country’s overall standard of living is among the world’s highest. The U.S. ranks much lower on international evaluations, although with its immense and still rapidly growing gap between the plutocrats and the rest of us, it’s hard to calculate a meaningful “standard.”
A social society
While those new Norwegian immigrants were at it, they would quickly move to simplify our tax system. That, of course, is exactly what Trump and the Republicans promised — you remember that “postcard” you were going to mail to the IRS — even as they made everything yet more complicated. In Norway, the government not only simplifies the tax system, but figures out, on a progressive scale, what every taxpayer owes and then sends out the bills.
Those dangerous Norwegians are peculiar enough to be grateful. They gladly pay up because taxes fund the country’s universal public welfare system, which guarantees that strikingly high standard of living to a whole society. (That phrase “whole society,” by the way, is the meaning of the word “social” in the phrase “social democracy.”) Keep in mind that all Norwegians have the right to universal public health care, universal public education through professional schools or university and beyond, care of the elderly and disabled, paid parental leave for mothers and fathers, subsidized early childhood education (from age 1), affordable housing, state of the art public transport, and a raft of other services that take the worry out of daily life. The catch is — and I can already hear the thundering footsteps of the Republican herd as it heads in panic for its top secret bunker — if Norwegians can’t trust the government, they kick it out and elect another.
Average Americans get robbed
We Americans, on the other hand, have been taught not to trust any government, but rather to admire our brilliant super-rich people who own this one, and so to let them pocket our tax money and think none the less of them for their dependence on Republican handouts like that tax bill. Consider the situation this way: Norwegian governments spoil their citizens, while President Trump and the Republicans despoil us ordinary Americans. And that just goes to show how much they trust us to take care of ourselves — so much so that they’re now planning to slash Medicaid and Medicare, leaving us “free” to set forth into sickness and death on our own. And if that isn’t the good old American spirit of free enterprise, what is?