THE BLOG
11/13/2012 04:19 pm ET | Updated Jan 13, 2013

Taxes, Unions, and Healthcare -- Oh, My!

Despite President Obama's recent election victory, and regardless of their loss of seats in both the Senate and the House, Republicans appear just as determined as ever to thwart the Democrats' plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1% of Americans. And why wouldn't they be? After all, if there is one thing that just about every Republican truly hates -- even more than bicycles, vegetarians, and soccer -- it is taxes. According to the holy Republican faith, taxes are bad because they hinder rich people from creating jobs, they reduce the ability of businesses to expand and flourish, they stifle innovation and entrepreneurship, and they create an overall drain on prosperity.

But if taxes are so intrinsically, inimically, and always absolutely poisonous to a nation's economic well-being, then we should expect to find that those countries with the highest taxes would have the worst, most sluggish, most depressed economies.

And yet we find just the opposite.

According to a new report, released last week by the Legatum Institute, the most prosperous nations on earth today are Norway, Denmark, and Sweden -- the three nations with the highest taxes in the history of capitalism. And even though the United States has the lowest taxes out of all industrialized democracies, we rank down at #12 on this latest Legatum Index -- behind such nations as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Finland, Holland, all with higher taxes than we have. In some instances, way higher. And yet, despite their much higher tax rates, they enjoy greater economic prosperity.

But it isn't just taxes that Republicans hate. They also despise unions. Another pillar of Republican faith -- as evidenced by the legislation spearheaded by Wisconsin's Scott Walker and the recently defeated Proposition 32 in California -- is that unions cripple the free market. When workers join forces to improve their lot -- demanding better pay, better benefits, better hours, etc. -- this inevitably hinders the captains of industry, thwarting their ability to make more money, which hurts everyone in the long run.

Except that it doesn't.

The fact is that Norway, Sweden, and Denmark have the highest rates of union membership in the history of the free, democratic, industrialized world. According to data from the OECD, trade union membership in Sweden is a whopping 82%. In Denmark: 76%. In Finland: 76%. In the United States: 13%. And yet the Nordic nations (with a combined population of 25 million) comprise the most prosperous nations on earth today. With all those fettered workers in Scandinavia, their economies should be weak and sluggish, and with all our unfettered, non-union workers here in the US, our economy should be vibrant and soaring. Alas, the reality presents a very different picture.

And what about healthcare? Yes, I'm talking about the universal kind. The kind where progressive taxation makes it so that everyone is covered -- the way it is in nearly every other industrialized democracy on earth. This, too, is anathema to the Republican vision. They see Obamacare as something that we simply can't afford, at best, or as something that will destroy our country, at worst. And yet the eleven other nations on the Legatum Index that are more prosperous than us all provide universal healthcare coverage, and they are not falling apart. Nor are their citizens suffering; according to the U.N.'s Human Development Report, the countries with the best overall quality of life all provide universal health care to their citizens. It's basically a first world no-brainer. But not for us -- or at least the 48% who voted for Romney.

To be sure: taxes on the über wealthy, strong unions, and universal healthcare do not necessarily, in and of themselves, always boost economies. And there are countless idiosyncratic factors that account for the wealth of nations. Norway, for example, has its North Sea oil (which, however, is heavily nationalized -- so take that, free marketers!). And yet, even when admitting the above, the facts are still clear that high progressive taxation is not the economic poison Republicans claim it to be. Unions do not hinder capitalist vivacity. Universal healthcare is not impossible. All three can and do exist -- especially in the most prosperous societies on earth.

Hopefully, as we approach the fiscal cliff, Obama will prevail in raising taxes on the wealthiest of the wealthy. Obamacare will stand. And while unionization doesn't seem to be increasing, hopefully it won't decrease, either. And all of this will equal greater national prosperity in the long run, not less. And maybe this will cause at least some Republicans to rethink their hatred of taxes, unions, and universal healthcare. Or maybe not. Guess such diehard conservative ideologues can always move to Canada if they don't like the progressive turn the country appears to be taking. Oh, no, wait - Canada has higher taxes, more unionized labor, and universal healthcare. D'oh!

But at least there are lots of white people there :)