The Watering Hole; Thursday May 30 2013; “What Can We Learn From Denmark?”

Earlier this week I received an email letter from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a letter which I thought effectively defines the elusive concept of a societal ideal, one which makes perfect sense. In it, he speaks of Denmark and its governmental-societal relationships, and in effect proposes that ‘we the people’ of the United States should seriously consider restructuring our own society along similar tracks. I couldn’t agree more. And all we’d have to do in order to begin the process would be to dismiss and dis-empower the entire outhouse basement in which resides America’s Wingnuttistanian movement . . . including each and every Republican plus each and every “conservative” (aka Blue Dog) Democrat. If only we could engage instead in the process of building a ‘we the people’-oriented governing body, i.e. a (so-called) “leftist” “Socialist” construct that sees more virtue in helping people and in protecting the environment than it sees in enabling greed, i.e. wealth and power accumulation by only the few. The ultimate beneficiaries would indeed be we the people (well, with a small handful of exceptions, perhaps including about 1% of the population . . . who would still be likely able to live quite well anyway. No big deal, i.o.w.)

Senator Sanders’ entire (and yes, a bit lengthy) letter is included below. I decided that rather than try to excerpt and summarize I’d simply post the whole thing so as to not miss or ignore any of the significant details included therein. Personally, I could not find a single issue with which I don’t completely agree, but then I’m not a wingnut or a Republican or a Blue Dog. I am, like Senator Sanders, a Progressive Socialist, one who believes in the well-being of everyone and everything, and NOT solely in the accumulation of wealth and power.


What Can We Learn From Denmark?
By Senator Bernie Sanders
May 26, 2013

Danish Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen spent a weekend in Vermont this month traveling with me to town meetings in Burlington, Brattleboro and Montpelier. Large crowds came out to learn about a social system very different from our own which provides extraordinary security and opportunity for the people of Denmark.

Today in the United States there is a massive amount of economic anxiety. Unemployment is much too high, wages and income are too low, millions of Americans are struggling to find affordable health care and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider.

While young working families search desperately for affordable child care, older Americans worry about how they can retire with dignity. Many of our people are physically exhausted as they work the longest hours of any industrialized country and have far less paid vacation time than other major countries.

Denmark is a small, homogenous nation of about 5.5 million people. The United States is a melting pot of more than 315 million people. No question about it, Denmark and the United States are very different countries. Nonetheless, are there lessons that we can learn from Denmark?

In Denmark, social policy in areas like health care, child care, education and protecting the unemployed are part of a “solidarity system” that makes sure that almost no one falls into economic despair. Danes pay very high taxes, but in return enjoy a quality of life that many Americans would find hard to believe. As the ambassador mentioned, while it is difficult to become very rich in Denmark no one is allowed to be poor. The minimum wage in Denmark is about twice that of the United States and people who are totally out of the labor market or unable to care for themselves have a basic income guarantee of about $100 per day.

Health care in Denmark is universal, free of charge and high quality. Everybody is covered as a right of citizenship. The Danish health care system is popular, with patient satisfaction much higher than in our country. In Denmark, every citizen can choose a doctor in their area. Prescription drugs are inexpensive and free for those under 18 years of age. Interestingly, despite their universal coverage, the Danish health care system is far more cost-effective than ours. They spend about 11 percent of their GDP on health care. We spend almost 18 percent.

When it comes to raising families, Danes understand that the first few years of a person’s life are the most important in terms of intellectual and emotional development. In order to give strong support to expecting parents, mothers get four weeks of paid leave before giving birth. They get another 14 weeks afterward. Expecting fathers get two paid weeks off, and both parents have the right to 32 more weeks of leave during the first nine years of a child’s life. The state covers three-quarters of the cost of child care, more for lower-income workers.

At a time when college education in the United States is increasingly unaffordable and the average college graduate leaves school more than $25,000 in debt, virtually all higher education in Denmark is free. That includes not just college but graduate schools as well, including medical school.

In a volatile global economy, the Danish government recognizes that it must invest heavily in training programs so workers can learn new skills to meet changing workforce demands. It also understands that when people lose their jobs they must have adequate income while they search for new jobs. If a worker loses his or her job in Denmark, unemployment insurance covers up to 90 percent of earnings for as long as two years. Here benefits can be cut off after as few as 26 weeks.

In Denmark, adequate leisure and family time are considered an important part of having a good life. Every worker in Denmark is entitled to five weeks of paid vacation plus 11 paid holidays. The United States is the only major country that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation time. The result is that fewer than half of lower-paid hourly wage workers in our country receive any paid vacation days.

Recently the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that the Danish people rank among the happiest in the world among some 40 countries that were studied. America did not crack the top 10.

As Ambassador Taksoe-Jensen explained, the Danish social model did not develop overnight. It has evolved over many decades and, in general, has the political support of all parties across the political spectrum. One of the reasons for that may be that the Danes are, politically and economically, a very engaged and informed people. In their last election, which lasted all of three weeks and had no TV ads, 89 percent of Danes voted.

In Denmark, more than 75 percent of the people are members of trade unions. In America today, as a result of the political and economic power of corporate America and the billionaire class, we are seeing a sustained and brutal attack against the economic well-being of the American worker. As the middle class disappears, benefits and guarantees that workers have secured over the last century are now on the chopping block. Republicans, and too many Democrats, are supporting cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition, education, and other basic needs — at the same time as the very rich become much richer. Workers’ rights, the ability to organize unions, and the very existence of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) are now under massive assault.

In the U.S. Senate today, my right-wing colleagues talk a lot about “freedom” and limiting the size of government. Here’s what they really mean.

They want ordinary Americans to have the freedom NOT to have health care in a country where 45,000 of our people die each year because they don’t get to a doctor when they should. They want young people in our country to have the freedom NOT to go to college, and join the 400,000 young Americans unable to afford a higher education and the millions struggling with huge college debts. They want children and seniors in our country to have the freedom NOT to have enough food to eat, and join the many millions who are already hungry. And on and on it goes!

In Denmark, there is a very different understanding of what “freedom” means. In that country, they have gone a long way to ending the enormous anxieties that comes with economic insecurity. Instead of promoting a system which allows a few to have enormous wealth, they have developed a system which guarantees a strong minimal standard of living to all — including the children, the elderly and the disabled.

The United States, in size, culture, and the diversity of our population, is a very different country from Denmark. Can we, however, learn some important lessons from them? You bet we can.

Can we, indeed, ‘learn some important lessons’ from Denmark? Sure. But can/will we ever take them to heart and DO SOMETHING positive with that which we’ve learned? Nope. Not so long as greed rules; i.o.w., not as long as Republicans remain in control of political aspects within our midst. Why? Because the Danes recognize and accept THE  REALITY – the reality designed to enhance the well-being of EVERY person under their roof, and because of their driving thesis which Sanders clearly states, the (obviously anti-American) thesis that reads, “while it is difficult to become very rich in Denmark no one is allowed to be poor.” To any inhabitant of the American Wingnut crowd, that’s about as UNAMERICAN (probably, in their view,  TREASONOUS!) a thesis as could ever be imagined, much less proposed and implemented. Which explains, of course, precisely why this nation is no longer the model to which other nations aspire, and why it’s become, rather, an example of that which MUST be, by all of good will and by all who care about anything and/or anyone other than the already rich and powerful, eternally avoided.

Open Thread for Socialists; NO FASCISTI ALLOWED!


65 thoughts on “The Watering Hole; Thursday May 30 2013; “What Can We Learn From Denmark?”

  1. There is nothing inherently wrong with accumulating large amounts of money, but there is definitely something wrong with accumulating more money than you’ll ever need in your lifetime or your grandchildren’s. If you took half the wealth of the Koch Brothers and Walton children, they would all still have everything they need to survive and, while they’re at it, live quite happily, and millions of poor people wouldn’t starve. Nothing in our Constitution guarantees anyone the right to keep every dollar they acquire in life. Either we’re all in this together as Americans, or our Constitution means nothing. I prefer the former to the latter.

    • I’ve long thought that what’s wrong with those who have accumulated great monetary wealth is not the fact that they’ve done so, but instead it’s their all-too-common attitude, the one that reads something like, “I’ve got mine. Screw you, you loser(s).”

      It’s the greed — which drives the lack of caring about others, about the country as a whole, about anything at all that isn’t related to ‘more, more, more’.

      • I have mentioned before but it bears repeating.
        There is a prevailing mentality of: “in order for me to succeed you must fail”
        If this mentality were applied to a sinking ship with hundreds of people needing rescue, only one or two people would be rescued and the others would be left for sharks.
        Hey! wait a minute. This is already happening.

      • when money and markets become a game to be played, then you have enough

          • The super-rich perceive of themselves as a superior race (for some good reasons); they’re never going to give that up and accumulating more and more wealth is not just an entitlement but a necessary hedge against being merely rich.

            • Makes me recall an old episode of that 60’s TV cartoon classic, “Super Chicken”, the episode where where he and his partner, Fred the Lion, encountered the culprits named ‘Rotten Hood and his Merry Man Fried Tucker’ who lived in ‘Sherwood Park in the middle of Pittsburg’ and whose never-ending quest was ‘to steal from the rich, and keep it.’

              Rotten Hood and Fried Tucker — my kind of people; we need more of guys like that!

    • I know most of you do not share my religious beliefs, but if we adopted the socialist model of Denmark we would become far closer to the true christian community of the New Testament than all the theocrats in wingnutistan with their taliban style rules can ever take us.

      • Absolute truth. Religion (“Christianity”) in the Wingnut community is anchored in and based upon the fear hatred of all others of different religious viewpoint. That’s about as far removed from the Christianity in which I was raised and schooled (Minnesota’s “Norwegian” Lutheranism, very tolerant and understanding, even forgiving) as one could ever get.

      • yes, but, but, the Parable of the Talents – Jesus is explicitly saying greed is good!!! /Gordon Gekko off.

    • So had McCain been president, Osama Bin Laden could have come out of hiding and just used a fake name and gone about his business.

      The photo, released by McCain’s office, shows McCain with a group of rebels. Among them are two men identified in the Lebanese press as Mohamed Nour and Abu Ibrahim, two of the kidnappers of the group from Lebanon. A McCain spokesman said that no one who met with McCain identified themselves by either of those names.

      • Why would they identify themselves by their real names? “Hi, Senator. I’m Jeff Dahmer and this is my friend, J.W. Gacy. We’re huge fans of yours. Can we get our picture taken with you?”

  2. The economic system in the United States, Capitalism, is driven by greed.

    • I’m still waiting for the tea baggers to show me where the constitution defines Capitalism as our economic system.

    • American Capitalism is, indeed, greed defined. What I can’t quite figure is how has so much of Europe managed to blend Socialism — as in seeing to the well-being of all their people — and Capitalism to the point where their collective society is so much better off — and so less hate-filled — than our own? Weren’t we once considered by the rest of the world to be that gleaming city on the hill, or however it went? How’d we go from that to become the dregs in the bottom of the barrel?

      My recollections of Republicans in, say, the fifties is a lot different than the way they manifest themselves today. They seem to have dismissed any and all who would today be middle-of-the-road moderates (including, I suspect, such former luminaries as Barry Goldwater and even Ronald Reagan) in favor of what can only be described as a neo-Fascist P.O.V., i.e. power fueled by money fueled by power, in a never-ending circular manifestation. As for “We the people”? Fuck y’all. Go eat dirt. We don’t need you. Worthless bums.

      • Two words.
        Ronnie Raygun.
        Representing the 1%, began the destruction of the trade unions in America.

        • Yep. And today, Reagan would be summarily dismissed by the neo-Fascist crowd that effectively ‘runs’ the GOP. Fucking Socialist that he was.

    • Heh. My sainted mother used that line with regularity all the years when I was growing up, and for the rest of her life as well. I always had to laugh because her context invariably was the perfect fit (good teachers are like that, I guess).

    • Alas, poor Hamlet, I knew it once, zxbe. Never a borrower or lender be since all in Denmark have financial security.

      • The odd thing about that quote about borrowing and lending is that busy-body, nosey-parker Polonius is instructing his son to ‘look after number 1’ first and by ‘being true to yourself’ is not a call to be honest, but more again ‘screw everyone – your own interests count’. Polonius was a Republican.

  3. Fracking, huh, what’s that? Very few Americans know anything about fracking:

    “[A]pparently, in 21st century America, nobody pays attention to public demonstrations unless the protesters are wearing tri-cornered hats, nobody watches documentaries but film school snobs, and nobody reads those august publications anymore, period. Which is why we get this, according to the Yale study: “Fifty-four percent of Americans have heard nothing at all or only ‘a little’ about fracking.”

    Which, wow. And, “Only 9% have heard ‘a lot.’” Toss in the 13% that “don’t know” what they’ve heard about fracking in any way, shape, or form, and you’ve got yourself a portrait of a populace that’s wildly uneducated about one of the biggest energy developments in years. Really, these numbers suggest that 67% of Americans don’t really know what fracking is.”

    • They are not meant to know, about the shit they are stuffing into the ground to break the rock, that will come back in your tap water, the ‘energy independence’ promise which is more to do with exporting energy than securing cheap energy for you and me and more about …. oh wait its Kim Kardashian!

  4. Expect some unwelcome visitors very soon, Adam Kokesh, pro-gun activist and libertarian radio host:

    “This revolution has been brewing in the hearts and minds of the people for many years, but this Independence Day, it shall take a new form as the American Revolutionary Army will march on each state capital to demand that the governors of these 50 states immediately initiate the process of an orderly dissolution of the federal government through secession and reclamation of federally held property,”

    • Ding Dong Nutbags calling

      More “patriotic” insurgents; can we hear no more bullshit about the sacred Constitution from these people?

  5. From the very sketchy Daily Caller rag:

    The visitor logs do not give a complete picture of White House access. Some high-level officials get cleared for access and do not have to sign in during visits. A Washington Post database of visitor log records cautions, “The log may include some scheduled visits that did not take place and exclude visits by members of Congress, top officials and others who are not required to sign in at security gates.”

    “Shulman’s predecessor Mark Everson only visited the White House once during four years of service in the George W. Bush administration.”

    — I think we may need some splainin’ from the White House.

    • Scary scary. Umm . . . what was the name of that male prostitute who frequented the WH during Dubya’s years, that “journalist” who always wrote and posted such really nice shit about Bush and all his peoples?

      Of course, Bush wasn’t a spook born in Kenya, so I guess that could make a difference of some sort.

      • Jeff Gannon ….. inspiration for ‘Jealous of Jeff’ – my alias back in the day on TP

        • Ah yes. How soon some of us manage to forget the names of male prostitutes — esp. if we’ve never been . . . umm . . . intimately (??) associated with a Republican White House!

  6. Oh I stumbled over this again today….. I’m not sure this is not real…. “Mama gets a what-what..”

  7. The idiocy of our 24-hour news cycle as witnessed in the screen in the elevator I jut got in for 23 floors. I saw (only me as the rest of the occupants were all being Oods) two stories cycle around on my ride:

    1. Pakistan Taliban names a new #2 – the 3 line summary sounded more like a team naming a new quarterback because the last one had a career-ending injury than a being bugsplatted by an American drone on Tuesday. And did they hold a press conference, did they have a smiling coach and a #2 shirt with the guy’s name on?
    2. Grumpy Cat from Youtube gets own comedy show on TV…… say no more…

  8. Rick Perry vetoes “Buy American” bill approved 145-0 by Texas House. Money (literally) quote:

    “…this has nothing to do with buying American, supporting American-made products and creating American jobs. The only thing Rick Perry cares about is his ability to give contracts to his big corporate buddies who use cheap international labor and outsource American jobs.”

    • That is amazing! The landing has to be perfect or the injuries would be disastrous.

      • For me, the landing could be perfect and the injuries still would be disastrous!

        • I’m at the point where a fall while doing the limbo could be disastrous!

          • I’ll make a deal with you: I won’t do high jumps and you don’t do limbo! 😀

      • Falling 6 feet can do serious damage. Falling from 2 feet can be bad enough.

        • Try riding a bike and crashing. I done it a year ago, hurt myself in the process. Took me lots of nerve to fly downhill at 30 mph a couple of days ago; the only consolation is that I’m soon to turn 71 and my days are (hopefully!) limited anyway, so what the hell. Right? RIGHT?? 🙂

        • Two feet? What kind of limbo is that?

          I had cat-like intentions of twisting when I lost my balance ( it was 50 years ago) due to the alcohol I had consumed. But I got back up (with a bloody nose) and on the 2nd attempt made it under the bar.

          It was a contest. I won and received a magnum of champagne for my efforts, which I shared with my shipmates. We all got drunker, much drunker!

  9. Lincoln Chafee said on Chris Matthews that the Republican party of his father’s era is ‘not coming back’.

  10. Heki vs. Bachmann: The Real Reason Michele Bachmann Quit

    Someone from Michele Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign team stole an email list off of Barb Heki’s laptop. This list was from the evangelical home school organization for which Heki played a leadership role. She lost that role and was disgraced. She sued.

    This lawsuit was a part of the pile of ethical scandals endangering Bachmann’s political future.

    Yesterday, the court scheduled the trial.

    The trial date is May 14, 2014. Whether or not this is the real reason, it can’t help, and a negative ruling would sink her campaign before an appeal could be heard.

  11. QOTD:

    “What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?” – Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting yesterday.

    • The man who truly does not know fact from fiction.
      Danny are you still monitoring what Murphy Brown is up to these days?///

      • Hey Ebb. To answer your question, Sir Logan the Shithead was born on Feb. 27th, three months premature. I surmise that he thought he had enough swim lessons, and ready to take on the outside world. He’s that kind of guy. He now weighs over 7lbs and is doing great. I introduced him to Muddy, Charlie, and B.B.
        and he rocked in my arms with an Elvis sneer on his face. Oh yeah he’s ready for showtime. Thanks for asking.

        • Congratulations on becoming a Grandpa, nwoldguy. 🙂

          Three months premature is pretty scary, but I know there’s a truly fantastic hospital in Boise that’s doing miraculous things with premature babies.

          I think you’re giving Sir Logan a proper start in the world.

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