The Regressives in the GOP, who would like their Fox-fed minions and Tea Party zombies to bring us back to a white America that existed around the time of the Model T Ford, bash Sweden and Europe's economic and social programs. Yet they are doing far better in just about everything than we are.
Education should make you smarter, but even a U.S.-made doctoral degree or two cannot apparently shed the ignorance, the ability to ignore what is right under your nose, of some of the dogmatic Reaganite economists, "business experts," and tea-bagging twits trying to pedal the Halcyon haze of a great white American yesteryear to independent voters.
The good news is that we're not doing much worse in a lot of key categories for our future than before George W. Bush and the Rubber-stamp Right in Congress tanked our economy. The bad news is that, while Ronald Reagan was spending on defense to bankrupt the old USSR, everyone else was spending on modernizing their economies and infrastructure.
Start with life expectancy. According to the CIA, hardly a "liberal source," of the top countries for life expectancy in 2010 a child born this year in Monaco, Macau, San Marino, Andorra, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada and France will live on average almost 11 years longer. Sweden was 11th. As a matter of fact, the good ol' US of A ranks 49th in life expectancy.
You can hear Sarah Palin out there waving her big American flag: "We're 49th! Woo hoo!"
Reagan Regressives who still favor "trickle down" economic theory and "stimulating" the economy by handing over more money to the wealthy are trickling on their tea-bagger buddies who don't seem to get that they're being sold a bill of goods.
Reganites like to tell you that our "free market" economy which isn't "Sweden" is superior in every way to those horrible socialized countries of Europe.
Yet these so-called Socialist cesspools make up the majority of the world's most competitive countries, according to the World Economic Forum's annual report. The U.S. was No. 2 in the 2009-2010 rankings, but the rest of the top ten included Switzerland (1), Singapore (3), Sweden (4), Denmark (5), Finland (6), Germany (7), Japan (8), Canada (9), and the Netherlands (10).
These other countries sport better health care than we have. The World Health Organization's last stab at keeping such a list reported in 2000, the year that George W. Bush was President, that the US was only 37th in quality. European Union countries and even poverty-stricken Greece passed us up. For GOP Sweden-bashers keeping score, they were 23rd.
By contrast, in the same year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) did its decade ranking of health care spending. The United States, at $4,631.00 per capita, was the most expensive in the world, and, as we all know, that number has escalated since the insurance companies padded their rates by as much as 48% prior to the Obama Health Care plan going into effect.
The Republicans routinely complain about about what we spend on education and demand that we spend millions with educational testing companies that lobby them to account and test what we get for it, yet according to the CIA the US is 57th spending on education relative to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while Germany and Japan, which spend far less, both kill us in turning out top graduates in all academic fields.
The educational edge that we used to enjoy by bringing in the best and brightest from other countries has eroded since 9/11, when we closed that door on many students who would be educated and often seek to stay here and contribute.
To what do we owe the prosperity which the GOP touts? We didn't fight the two World Wars on our soil, and we supplied much of the world's needs through the rebuilding of Europe and Asia. A white paper compiled from the book "Where We Stand" by Michael Wolff (Bantam 1992) slaps Republican realities in the face:
The economic supremacy that the U.S. has enjoyed in the second half of this century owes much to the good fortune it enjoyed in the first half. Two world wars destroyed Europe and Japan, while the prosperity that comes from running a wartime economy turned America into an economic superpower. America held this advantage for decades, but in the last 20 years, Europe and Japan have been rapidly catching up, and in many areas overtaking us. There is a mundane explanation for this: developing nations grow much faster than already developed nations, much like a child grows faster than a teenager. But the fact that they are catching up and often by-passing us with societies that are more equal, democratic, liberal, pro-environmental and pro-labor presents a serious challenge to conservative thought.
We have lower governmental taxes, but phenomenal corporate "taxes" by way of crushing health care costs, usurious interest rates on credit debt, and the inability to save much.
What causes us to lag in pretty much every major economic metric that leads to real prosperity, good roads, schools, mass transit, and cleaner air and water?
Other democratic countries have higher voter turnouts, and lower political lobbying of their governmental bodies.
Lobbying, or corruption, according to an unusually frank white paper produced by the German Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), are effectively one in the same:
What is the relationship between lobbying and corruption? In a general sense, both are ways
of obtaining help from the public sector in exchange for some favor. Indeed one could argue
that lobbying is just a special form of corruption focused on legislative bodies or some other
Total lobbying spending in the United States has risen from $1.44B in 1998 to $3.49B today according to OpenSecrets.org . Even adjusted for inflation, the numbers have soared. The number of registered federal lobbyists in 2009 was 13,660 compared with 10,404 in 1998.
The U.S. ranks 101st in a 2003 study of voter turn out for elections in parliamentary or congressional/legislative contests world-wide. Australia was third, and, for all you GOP-Sweden-phobes, the nation you love to hate was 43rd. Presidential elections we rank 55th. Parties select PMs in royalist republics like Sweden.
This article is evidence of why we have this problem. If you read through it, congratulations! Only about three out of ten of you likely will. The other seven will be content to tune into Fox News, listen to their digest of the world around them, and live in a blissful TV trance, an ignorance of the real world around them. In Rupert's happy Foxland, America is still great, and we can be "No. 1" in everything.
Until we can wake up, and remove the shackles of the corporations who put billions into the political system to allow them to control everything from what we think to the unhealthy things that we eat in the name of keeping the Golden Arches profitable, we will be doomed to being a second-rate nation with decaying standards of living and life expectancies.
Unless, of course, we get a good World War going somewhere else. Historically, it's been the only thing that's been especially good for business in America in the Industrial Age.
What's wrong with being Sweden? Take away our corporate and insurance debts and add in their taxes. I'll still take hot dogs over herring, but in a lot of other ways, we could learn a lot from how Europe pieced itself back together over the last fifty years.
My shiny two.