The “Smoke and Mirrors” Illusion of the Scandinavian Welfare State
Bernie Sanders claims that Finland should be an economic model for the United States; yet the cost of living in Finland is astronomical: a reflection of the astronomical taxes needed to prop up the social welfare state as it limps along.
The term “smoke and mirrors” is tossed around in the political realm from time to time. The educated layman understands that the concept involves distorting reality: presenting a carefully-crafted illusion as a reality. But where does the term come from and what does it really mean?
The technique of using smoke and mirrors was first widely attributed to German charlatan Johann Georg Schrepfer, who in the mid to late 18th century, wowed the courts of Europe with his impressive ability to summon forth ghosts and spirits. This “supernatural” ability led to acclaim and renown for the mysterious citizen from Leipzig. Of course, the reality was that the “spirits” were an illusion; the product of a secret home-made projection which used smoke and mirrors to project the otherworldly images around the room, much to the fright of Schrepfer’s unwitting audience.
How does the concept of smoke and mirrors relate to the rise of Bernie Sanders and his fond pontifications upon the wonders of Scandinavian style socialism and social safety nets?
Bernie and friends point to the eminently obvious advantages of supposedly “socialist” Finland, Sweden, and Iceland: we are told on a routine basis that they are models that we should emulate. Free of ultra-wealthy and ultra-greedy capitalists (due to astronomical income taxes), they are peaceful and productive lands where astoundingly wise and good bureaucrats and government public servants have perfected the ideal economic model for a just society.
The grateful citizens line up around the block to applaud their virtuous, compassionate, and generous leaders, to whom they owe so much for their wondrous standard of living.
Unfortunately, the reality of life in Scandinavia does not quite live up to Bernie Sanders’ and Elizabeth Warren’s starry-eyed descriptions.
Have Sanders and Warren actually visited Finland? Do they understand how the economy works in Finland?
I can tell you this. After visiting Finland, I don’t think many Bernie supporter would actually take Finland over the US when it comes to quality of life. It is true: there is no extreme poverty in Finland…but there sure are a lot of people sponging off of the government. This so-called “safety net” comes with an enormous price tag. How does Finland pay for everything?
Well…government programs are funded by outrageous taxes on just about everything you can imagine: alcohol, cars, gas, clothing, food.
Even swag bags.
Swag bags you ask?
Yes…those delightful totes stuffed to the brim with luxury items that are a mainstay of A-list film festivals and awards galas. An independent Finnish film was nominated for an Academy award, and the producers as such, were the lucky recipients of a swag bag with an estimated value of USD $60,000.
The Finnish government swiftly announced that they would owe around $20,000 euros in taxes to bring that back to Finland!
In Finland the prices are heart-attack-inducing. A car that costs $20,000 here is $40,000 in Finland. A $4 beer costs $11 there. A $2 gallon of gas costs $7. A $50 pair of shoes is $125 there.
A trip to your local watering hole in Helsinki makes New York City, Miami Beach, and Los Angeles look bargain basement cheap by comparison. Let’s send the Bernie bros and the Brooklyn socialist discussion group to a Helsinki bar for their next get-together and see how much they think of “Scandinavian socialism” when they pay their bar bill.
Yes, no one is poorly paid in Finland…BUT…the average American worker in the United States earns far more than their Finnish counterparts. So not only does Finland have higher prices, it has lower wages as well. Doesn’t sound like a recipe for a high standard of living to me.
Nothing is free. There is no free education or healthcare or food or housing or anything else. Maybe some Berniecrats would love to live in Finland, but I doubt it. You are taxed to death to fund a social safety net that really benefits those who don’t want to take responsibility for their own lives. And then the government proclaims how wonderful they are for “taking care of everyone”…when really it was the taxpayers who footed the bill for the generous social welfare state, not the government.
People like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are entirely wrong when they suggest that the root of our problems is that the wealthy don’t pay enough in taxes. The top 1% paid 39% of all federal income taxes last year, while the bottom 90% paid only 29%. We already have high income taxes for the wealthy, while a large percent of Americans pay no federal income tax at all.
Here is the biggest problem with Bernie: entrepreneurship, capitalism, and billionaires are not the problem with American society…they are the solution. We shouldn’t begrudge entrepreneurs the money they made, and I don’t believe that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren can solve all of society’s problems if they take more of it. (Didn’t AOC just say we should have 70% 80% or 90% tax rates?) Entrepreneurs and capitalists have done more to foster a middle class and lift hundreds of millions out of poverty than every government program in the world ever could.
Bernie tells us every day…if the wealthy paid more, and me and my socialists pals in Washington just had more money…everything would be better. I don’t buy it. We are USD $22 trillion in debt, and government programs have generally institutionalized inequality and poverty as much as they have fought it. For every individual that uses the social safety net to pull themselves up, there seem to be a lot that end up in a cycle of government-sponsored dependency.
Bernie will never be president, I’m sure of that. In fact, he won’t come close to winning the nomination, because the corporate Wall Street Democrats (Biden-backers who are already getting out their checkbooks) will never let it happen. It has already been decreed…so much for democracy. But he has convinced a lot of people that socialism is the answer.
I strongly disagree.
The Finnish social welfare state is hardly ideal, and is funded by an outrageous tax burden on its people. The industrious suffer while the indolent triumph. The cost of living is high, while wages are mediocre. The much-vaunted “quality of life” in Finland is hardly what it’s cracked up to be.
For me, I will take our free-enterprise system, over the Scandinavian social welfare state (which really itself is moving away from true socialism) any day.