America really is nothing like Denmark… | #DemDebate, Optimism vs. #Neoliberalism on Blog#42

Hillary Clinton took swipes at both Bernie Sanders and Denmark in last night’s debate and Bernie did a good job of highlighting what Scandinavia, not just Denmark, offers its citizens. Was the jab deserved? Was Clinton right to say that America can’t be compared to a country of 5 million? Well, let’s see…

Let’s first deal with the comparison itself, based on population size. In America, just like in Denmark, taxes are taken from earnings, from people and corporations. The difference between the two countries is that, in Denmark, the tax code doesn’t allow for corporations to get out of paying their fair share. So, were all American citizens and denizens to pay their share in taxes, could we provide for ourselves as the Danes, Swedes, Germans, Danes and all but the British do? You betcha! What these five million people do for themselves and each other is relative to their income. What we don’t do for ourselves, and each other in America, is both relative to our collective income and the out-sized power of corporations to influence our elected officials.

With that bit firmly in the front of our minds, let’s see what we’ve allowed corporate Democrats and Republicans to convince us we don’t want:

  1. Healthcare
  2. Free *quality* public education
  3. A safety net that supports a dignified life not only for retirees, but parents (single or married), the disabled. There are no hungry or poor citizens.
  4. Childcare is provided to all who need it. A woman doesn’t have to choose between work or family.
  5. There is no War on Women.
  6. There is no wide inequality in wealth and income even though there are wealthy people and big corporations based there.

On healthcare, what no one is talking about is how terribly hard it is for many to pay for it. Premiums have risen. The states have not kept their promise to keep prices low and have acceded to the demands of Big Insurance to raise premiums. None of the candidates are addressing this most impolitic of issue within the healthcare debate. Be that as it may and pricing aside, what the enactment of Obamacare has done is to give millions of people a taste of what having health insurance is like, and millions more – those who were kept outside looking in, hopefully, the knowledge that extending benefits that we all share the cost of is neither bankrupting or back-breaking. The Republican lie that Obamacare would lead to job losses has been debunked. That doesn’t mean that we should continue to keep a system that mostly profits Big Insurance, only serves a portion of the population and allows states to discriminate against American citizens by keeping them out.

Finland provides an excellent public education to its citizens. Illiteracy and innumeracy are unheard of in Finland and elsewhere in Scandinavia, including Denmark. The humanities and the arts have not been cut to the bone as they have in the US. There has been no parceling out of the education system to semi-private entities. There is no pushing of STEM or agonizing over low scores in reading and math. No one graduates from college straight to a life of indentured servitude to student loan servicers. The entire population not only believes in science, but understands how it works and doesn’t engage in denialism. There are no low-information voters. Even though there are different political parties, there is no polarization. There are no alternate histories or interpretations that depend on political bent.

On banking reform, Hillary Clinton’s answer follows, almost to the last argument, Ben Bernanke’s rationale in his answer to Senator Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor, when she pressed him on Wall Street reform. Watch:

As I explain in my previous post, while Bernanke has done the right thing as Chairman of the Fed, you don’t have to listen too closely to see that many of the reasons for his actions are rooted in a set of principles that are decidedly not progressive. When Hillary Clinton calls herself a progressive who gets “things done” and sounds exactly like former moderate Republican and now newly independent Ben Bernanke, you know she will continue the Clinton tradition of triangulating away. Scapegoating a few bankers by putting them on flashy, well-publicized trials for fraud all the while keeping banks deregulated as they are, Too Big To Fail in place, and leaving it up to the Fed whether or when to break up a bank, should not be acceptable to American voters.

Hillary Clinton has been in the public eye for decades. If she really were a progressive, she would have no need to reaffirm it.

Childcare for all and universal pre-K should be free to all who need it, and paid for out of the taxes we all pay. Bernie Sanders has said he would raise corporate taxes significantly.

Clinton has proposed a series of adjustments here and there, rather than just raise taxes, when they are already so low. Closing loopholes just won’t do this time around, and paying close attention to the differences in approach between Clinton and Sanders and Clinton and Warren and other progressives on economics will be key.

Calling yourself a progressive means you have to have the voting and policy record to match. Clinton can’t make that claim. Playing catch-up to others and making last-minute policy announcements that really aren’t progressive upon close examination does not constitute a progressive record. Clinton showed a ridiculous amount of swagger when not only claiming to be a progressive, but also one who gets progressive things done.

Hillary of 2007 and Hillary of 2015 are different in that she has adopted the GOP playbook of bait and switch. It doesn’t look good, especially when the main opponent is nipping at your heels after having come from very, very far behind. It also makes Hillary’s neoliberalism all the starker against Sanders’ brand of progressivism.


Additional materials:

After the debate, CNN announced that Bernie Sanders had overwhelmingly won its online poll. All the graphics and data seem to have been taken down from the CNN site. There are many grassroots groups that have taken screenshots. Here is one of them


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4 thoughts on “America really is nothing like Denmark… | #DemDebate, Optimism vs. #Neoliberalism on Blog#42”

    1. I think the unprecedented number of people who’ve been showing up to his rallies is testament to the fact that the excellent commentary of economics experts and other public intellectuals reached vast segments of the public and people now understand what happened and what must be done to correct it. I think they also understand how precarious our Democracy has become.

      Thanks so much for reading my post and leaving a comment, Bob!

      1. Please take a look at my site http://www.middlerising.org which addresses the one critical yardstick that economists seldom talk about — the ratio of non-supervisory payrolls to GDP. Without wages to fuel our economic engine, we face another global depression.

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