Saturday, December 24, 2011

Retirees, Not Millionaires, Will Pay For Extension Of Unemployment Benefits

I read the bill recently passed by Congress which extends the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. The Republicans demanded terms that were unrelated and unacceptable to the Democrats and a few moderate Republicans. First the Senate then the House Republicans finally agree to extend the benefits and cuts for two months so that they had more time for debate. The Democrats accepted some of the Republican terms in order to get the temporary extension.

The Republicans wanted to require that all unemployment recipients take a drug test every month as is already required of some welfare recipients. I can't imagine my Mom having to submit a urine sample every time she picked up free food when we were on welfare. Congress compromised, the extension allows (instead of requiring) each state to determine if it will test all recipients for drugs and whether to deny benefits if drugs are detected. Florida required its welfare recipients to pass a periodic drug test. Only 4% tested positive but they spent more money than they saved by testing everybody. I’ll bet the incidence of drug use among temporary unemployed persons is lower than 4%. This is, in my opinion, a way of vilifying the unemployed. A favorite pastime of the self-righteous.

In order to pay for the extended benefits the Democrats wanted to tax people who earn more than one million dollars per year. Republicans disagreed with taxing the Rich - the Republicans demanded that retired persons who earn more than $88,000 a year pay more for Medicare in order to pay for the extension of unemployment compensation and tax cuts. Therefore, I will be paying more for Medicare so that millionaires don't have to pay more income tax. The bill doesn’t state how much more I will pay for Medicare but I am already paying twice the base amount so my guess is that they will probably triple the base amount.

Raising the cost of Medicare for fixed income retired persons instead of raising taxes on those that work and especially those that can afford it is immoral. I don’t really mind that I now pay $1,200 more each year for Medicare because I spent (not earned) more than $88,000 of my IRA savings. And, I don't mind paying $2,400 more for Medicare if everyone is paying a share based on their ability, but the cost is not being shared by all. Only retirees who make more than $88,000 will pay more -multi-millionaires will contribute nothing. I hate any politician who would rather charge the elderly more for their healthcare insurance than increase the tax rate of people who earn more than $1,000,000 per year.

Based on a past proposed rate hike, a person making $1,000,000 per year would not pay an additional tax. The additional tax would apply only to the earnings over $1 million. A person making $2,000,000 per year would pay an additional $5,000 or (0.25% of their total income). Instead, retirees who spend $88,000 of their savings will probably pay an additional $1,200 (1.4% of their income). That doesn’t seem fair to me but it sure makes sense to our congressional Republicans

146 million Americans live in poverty -less than $22,000 for a family of 4; less than $10,000 for a single person. The majority of these are employed or are members of a family with one or more employed people. Most of the people in poverty are working but earn less than $10 per hour. While the working class is making less this year than the year before, the average CEO earns 36.6% more this year than last year. The 10 highest paid CEOs earned a total of $770 million this year. Next year they are expected to earn more than $1 billion but they will not share in paying for the extension of unemployment benefits. I will.

Remember this when you vote in the next election.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hypocrite Rick Perry Draws Huge Pension And Salary While Firing Teachers And Cutting Education

Rick Perry is being attacked for drawing a $92,000 annual retirement pension on top of his annual salary of $133,000.  Seems hypocritical when the state is trying to cut expenses by reducing salaries and benefits, reducing retirement pensions and increasing state employee payroll contributions toward their health care insurance and retirement.  Rick Perry says that he has earned his retirement benefit through payroll contributions during his 25 years of public service.  He says he is withdrawing what he contributed.

Sounds good doesn’t it.  But it’s not true.  I calculated how much he has probably contributed to his retirement and he doesn’t even get close to what he is and will receive.

Assume that his starting salary was $42,000 30 years before he started drawing his pension.

Assume that he got a 4% raise each year to reach his current salary of $133,000 per year when he started drawing his pension.

Assume that his retirement savings earned 6% annually.

Assume that he will draw a pension $92,000 per year, which he does.

If he only contributed 6.5% of his annual salary to his retirement, his retirement savings will be exhausted in less than 4 years.

Perry would have had to contribute 37% of his annual salary to his retirement fund in order to save enough to receive a pension of $92,000 per year for 30 years.  If he only contributes 6.5% his retirement savings at the time he starts drawing a pension will be SHORT $1,450,000.

So, Rick Perry is lying.  He will have spent much more than he has contributed to his retirement before he is old enough to qualify for Medicare and Social Security.  After that Texas taxpayers will be paying for 100% of his retirement for the rest of his life.

The same year that Perry started drawing his generous pension he cut education funding by $4 billion, plans to fire 43,000 teachers, eliminated scholarships for 29,000 low-income college students, reduced or eliminated financial assistance for 43,000 college students, eliminated the state’s medical primary care residency program and reduced funding for the family-practice residency by more than 70 percent.  All this while Texas has the lowest percentage of adults with high school diplomas and the highest percentage of uninsured residents.

Rick Perry puts Rick Perry first. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Newt vs. Union Janitors

In the Iowa debate Gingrich again proposed to give poor kids an opportunity to work by replacing half the union janitors in our schools, who, says Newt, make too much. Newt said that the starting salary for union janitors is twice as much as the starting salary for teachers.

Does anyone believe this? Is this part of his jobs plan or his unemployment plan?

The average starting salary for teachers in the US (NY Times) is $39,000. So Newt wants us to believe that the average starting salary for school janitors is at least $78,000! I bet that most of the audience, which expect to vote for one of the GOP's elite candidates, believes this lie.

Where will all the unemployed janitors work after Newt fires them? There are about 120,000 public schools in the US. I can only guess the number of school janitors. I'll guess 500,000 (feel free to disagree). Newt has made two different proposals regarding school janitors. First, he said we only need one master janitor per school. Last night he said we only need half as many as we currently have. In the first case we would fire 380,000 janitors. In the second case we would fire 250,000 janitors. That will raise unemployment by about 0.2%. Nice job plan!

We'll have to hire 4 times as many children, especially in elementary and middle schools, as janitors we fire. The adult janitors will only have time to supervise the children. So, we'll have to hire perhaps 1.5 million students as janitors. How many after-hours school bus routes will we need to transport these students?

Newt's janitor proposal like many of his ideas are no more thought out than the other candidates' ideas, like 9-9-9. After all, its just red meat for the GOP base. These ideas don't have to be real they only need to stimulate an emotional response.

The Iowa debate audience applauded Newt's proposal. Do these people ever consider what they see and hear with an open mind or is all input pre-filtered according to stereotype?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Newt Gingrich: "Use poor children as school janitors"

When I was 14 my father abandoned me and my mother, sister and brother. We got free lunches at school. To hide that from the other students I would not go to the cashier until there was no line but I still often got caught and the look on the faces of the other students was painful to me.

The memory of those times came back when Newt Gingrich proposed to eliminate or relax child labor laws, as was done in Maine this year, so that schools can hire poor children, ages 9 and up, as janitors to "mop floors and clean restrooms" in their schools.

It wasn't hard for me to imagine how I would have felt when other students saw me cleaning bathrooms in school. The work would not have bothered me but I would have been ashamed.

I’m more disappointed with the audiences that have applauded each time Newt has made this proposal.

Gingrich also said that poor children don't know what its like to work for money unless its illegal. More than 15 million American children are living in poverty. Does Newt really believe that none of them know what it is like to work?

Gingrich is leading in the polls. He may be leading not in spite of his proposal but because of his proposal.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Means-Tested Congressional Salaries

The Republicans recently failed to pass a bill that would have reduced federal employees and salaries. I don't support such cuts in our poor economy because it will slow the recovery. But, I have another proposal.

I suggest that the salaries of elected personnel be adjusted according to their financial means. I think citizens should participate out of a sense of duty to their city, state and country. Citizens who chose to serve should be fairly compensated for their service but only to the extent that they need it. Medicare is available to every elder citizen at no cost except for citizens that have the means to pay for a portion of their Medicare coverage. Let's apply the same rule to our representatives.

If the majority of our 535 voting and 6 non-voting members of Congress want to reduce the cost of our federal government then they should start with their own salaries.  Members with significant assets and/or other incomes will have their congressional salaries reduced by an amount proportional to their assets and other incomes.  Members with assets greater than $3 million or other income greater than 150% of the congressional base pay will only receive refunds for reasonable travel, office and staff expenses.

Since 261 members of Congress are millionaires, I estimate that we could save at least $50 million per year by using a means test to determine the salaries of our federal representatives from the president down. If we applied the means test to all local, state and federal elected and appointed office holders, taxpayers could save hundreds of millions, greatly reduce the number of career politicians and eliminate the financial incentive which begets much of the financial corruption in our government.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Same Old Slavery

In a recent post I estimated how long slavery could have been legal in the US had the South not attempted to secede. I am convinced that it would have survived into the twentieth century and the US might have been the last country (instead of one of the last few countries) to ban slavery had circumstances not intervened in spite of the greed and inhumanity of the controlling class in the slave states.

I think social justice and political freedom in America have long been under attack by the same sort of people that felt entitled to enslave blacks. In fact, I don't think the slave owners would have had a problem with enslaving people of all races. They didn't enslave blacks because they were black. They did so because they felt entitled to enslave anyone they could. Since blacks lacked wealth and political power they were the last people to be protected from slavery as the working class took political power away from the ruling class and the property owners.

Economic and political oppression replaced slavery in the latter half of the 1800's and the early 1900's. Social and political enlightenment and organization of labor gave birth to the middle class. This transfer of power eventually crept into the South, which finally yielded to the demands of the Civil Rights Movement.

But the class of people that had bodily enslaved the blacks and later economically enslaved the working class of all races, did not vanish. During the last 40 to 50 years they slowly, persistently and invisibly regained the wealth and political power they held 100 years ago. They feel entitled to take and hold all the wealth and political power. They are no more concerned for others than the slave owners were concerned for their slaves. They are committed to each other only by necessity. If they could achieve their goals alone they would.

These people are sociopaths. Their objectives are purely selfish. There goal is not to destroy others but they wouldn't hesitate to do so to get what they do want and maintain what they have. The Koch brothers are two such people. To further enrich themselves they must minimize their costs by driving down the cost of labor, eliminating their competition and charging more for their products and services. Destroying labor unions or, at least, their right to bargain collectively, is one of the means by which they further enrich themselves. Repealing anti-trust laws is the means by which they eliminate their competition (this is why the FCC's Net Neutrality regulations must be reversed). Eliminating all banking regulations is the means by which they can drive up costs. But they need to gain and hold political power in order to enact laws that benefit themselves and repeal laws that limit their activities. To this end they must control the legislature and the Supreme Court. Elections are controlled by dividing the electorate and vilifying the opposition who are lazy, non-Christian and un-American. And, by suppressing the votes of those who support their opposition, through re-districting and Jim Crow laws.

My rant sounds like a wild conspiracy theory. Most people chose to ignore the evidence or excuse it as a passing insignificant aberration of our political and social systems. But, the current congressional obstructionists, the inexplicable rulings of our Supreme Court and the unbelievable GOP candidates for the presidency are not glitches in the system. They are evidence of the corruption wrought by those who will, if we let them, enslave us all.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Do Iowans Only Receive FOX news?

I think everybody who's concerned with who is elected to represent us in Washington D.C. knows that Michele Bachmann declared in the Iowa debate, "I wish the federal government had defaulted."  Yet, in spite of that declaration more Iowans, participating in the Ames Iowa straw poll, selected Michele Bachmann as the 2012 Republican candidate for the presidency.

Surely the Iowans that voted in the straw poll were watching the debate when Bachmann wished that the government had defaulted.  Do these people not see what has happened as a result of the S&P downgrading the U.S. because it toyed too much with defaulting?  Can they not imagine what would have happened had we actually defaulted?  Or, perhaps, they think the aftermath of defaulting would be a good thing and, if so, how?  How?

But, there is another possible explanation for the Iowans choice.  Perhaps the Iowans that voted for Bachmann are too deaf, dumb and blind to see not only that Bachmann has done NOTHING good for America but also that she could never do anything good for America except if she were to bow out of politics.

Bachmann is an idiot.  Her single "significant" legislative proposal was to repeal the future ban on incandescent light bulbs, which the Republican lead House defeated.  Regarding global warming she said, “Carbon dioxide is natural, it is not harmful, it is a part of Earth's lifecycle. And yet we're being told that we have to reduce this natural substance, reduce the American standard of living, to create an arbitrary reduction in something that is naturally occuring in Earth.”  The list of shockingly stupid Bachmann statements is too long to include here.

What kind of person wants Michele Bachmann to be the President of the United States?  How can there be so many of these people that Michele Bachmann can get elected to Congress?  Thanks to these people the Republicans control the House and Michele Bachmann and dozens of like-minded members of Congress control the Republicans.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Should The FAA Be Re-funded?

I've heard of two issues that are preventing Congress from re-funding the FAA.
I support the Republican's decision to stop subsidizing flights to/from several airports. I have a lot of experience with traveling to Johnstown, PA - one of the airports that is at issue. I have never flown to Johnstown although I have traveled to Johnstown dozens of times. Like most people I fly to Pittsburgh and drive for 2.5 hours to Johnstown, because It takes me as much time to fly from NY to Pittsburgh and drive to Johnstown as it takes to fly from NY to Johnstown AND because it is too costly to fly to Johnstown from NY. If the State of PA wants to maintain and expand air travel into Johnstown to promote business development in Johnstown then the State of PA should subsidize the flights but it will only be worthwhile to the business traveler if there are more direct flights in Johnstown. Currently the only airport directly connected to Johnstown is Dulles in Washington D.C. That's not going to help the business traveler. They would need directs to/from LaGuardia, Atlanta and one in the mid-West Chicago, Dallas or St. Louis. Otherwise, business travelers will continue to drive to/from Pittsburgh.
I assume the circumstances at all the other small airports at issue are similar to Johnstown's and  the Fed should stop subsidizing flights to them.
The second issue is over the terms for unionizing air transportation industry employees. Employees can unionize if more than 50% of the employees cast a yes vote. Employees who do not vote will be counted as a no vote. That is not how unionization is determined in all other industries; it is not how Americans elect their government representatives. The Democrats want to change the rules so that the outcome is determined only by the votes cast. If only 60% of the employees vote, then only 1 more than one-half of the votes cast are needed to unionize. I agree with the Democrats: the outcome should be based only on the votes cast.
Why? I agree with the Democrats on the voting process for the same reason that I disagree with them on Card Check. The voting process for unionizing must be secret, otherwise, the company and other employees can and WILL use intimidation to control the voting. Employees actually threaten each other over unionization. Card Check makes known which employees want to unionize and which do not. Card Check would modify the current unionization process by taking the secrecy out of the voting. This gives an unfair advantage to the employees who want to Unionize. In the transportation industry, the employee that wants to unionize must vote. The employee that does not want to unionize only has to abstain from voting. Employees that want to unionize but fear reprisal from their employer if they vote to unionize will abstain from voting. There is no secrecy in this process. Employees know that by casting a vote, the company and other employees will assume that they are voting to unionize becuase anybody opposed to the union only has to abstain to be counted as a NO vote.
I'm not a big supporter of unionization. The need for a union varies by employer and by industry. However, any change to the unionization process that eliminates the protection of secrecy is wrong regardless of who benefits.
I suspect that the unionization process is the single important issue over which the FAA re-funding has not been approved.
Furthermore, it is a waste of time and taxpayers money to require re-funding votes periodically. The FAA should be funded until such time as Congress determines that it is no longer needed. If Congress had approves the FAA funding in July it still would have only been funding into September. This is a make-work, waste money process.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A thought about Slavery in the United States

Did you ever wonder how long slavery would have endured in the United States if the federal government had not opposed it or if the Confederate States of America had been allowed to secede?  When in 1865, the United States outlawed all slavery in all states, without exception, freeing its last 40,000 slaves, most nations and most of their colonies had already banned slavery, some about 100 years earlier than the U.S.  In case a Bulgarian history buff is reading this,  Bulgaria did not ban slavery until 1879, however, Bulgaria was not a free nation until 1879 and banned slavery in its first constitution.

The success of the agricultural economy of our Southern states depended on slavery.  When the Southern states were forced out of slavery, the plantations failed.  They could not exist without slave labor.  The slave states' governments knew that their economies would collapse without slavery.  Thus secession and the Civil War.

But let's assume that secession had been accepted by the United States and there had been no Civil War.  How long would slavery have existed in the Confederacy?  The Confederacy would not have voluntarily banned slavery at least until its economy no longer depended on it; until the rich plantation owners found an equally profitable business that did not depend on slavery or a technology that significantly reduced the need for labor on the plantation.

The first technological impact on agriculture in the South was the cotton gin, which, instead of reducing slave labor, significantly increased it.  The gin was invented in 1794, after which the production of cotton in the South exploded.  Between 1830 and 1850 it quadrupled.  Before the gin there were 700,000 slaves in the South.  By 1850, the slave population had swelled to 3.2 million.  So, technology wouldn't have brought an end to slavery.

Perhaps enlightenment!  The Southern slave states would have voluntarily ended slavery when the majority of its citizens decided that it was morally wrong in spite of the negative impact to their economy.  How might we consider moral enlightenment as the cause to end slavery?

How has the black population been treated in the South since they were freed?  They were segregated and oppressed in every way until the enactment of the Civil Rights laws of the 1960's.  Blacks were routinely lynched in the South for acting equal to a white person even after the 1960's.  Public lynching of blacks in the South were condoned through the 1920's.  By 1910, all the Southern states had modified their constitutions to disenfranchise blacks.  In 1920, the Republican Party promised to enact a federal anti-lynching law.  However, the Southern white Democrats in the U.S. Senate used a filibuster to prevent its passage.

Organized labor regardless of color, was not accepted in the South.  In the 1930's, Southern local and state governments, in support of industry owners, used deadly force to prevent unionization.

So, obviously, self-enlightenment would not have ended slavery.  Could external economic pressure on the South have caused Southerners to quit slavery?  Perhaps apartheid in South Africa is an example of how and when the world would have dealt with slavery in the Southern States.  All sanctions against South Africa intended to end apartheid were weak and half-hearted.  Not all countries supported the sanctions and not all companies complied with it.  Thus, South Africa did not end apartheid until the 1990's.  Since the first democratic election in South Africa in 1994, less than 20 years ago, there has been some progress toward educating, employing and raising the standard of living of all black citizens.  However, the effort has been costly and slow and, today, it still has many critics who believe that ending apartheid and the political disenfranchisement of blacks and other citizens of color destroyed South Africa.

So, the world wasn't quick to free the black "citizens" of South Africa, and would not have done more to end slavery in our Southern states.

When, then, would slavery have ended in the Southern slave states or the Confederate States of America?  Surely, not before the early 20th century even if the Southern states had not seceded.  Had the Southern states seceded and formed the independent nation of the Confederate States of America, I think slavery would have persisted beyond the mid-20th century.  Had slavery ended then, there is no reason to expect that the blacks of the Confederacy would have obtained political equality sooner than the blacks of South Africa.

If Southern slavery had not been forcibly ended in 1865, it could easily have continued unchanged until the 1950's with some form of disenfranchisement still persisting today.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Redistribution of Wealth in America: Obama or Reagan?

There is large scale social injustice in the U.S. Addressing these injustices requires intervention and large expenditures by the government. Opposition to these programs has always existed but it has grown significantly during the current recession, when many of the people affected by the recession are easily convinced that such programs have overburdened employers resulting fewer jobs and lower pay, as well as, higher personal taxes. All such programs, especially when the head of the federal government is black, are labeled by those who oppose them as "wealth redistribution" schemes. Similarly, other uses of tax revenues, except those that enrich government contractors and big business, are also under attack: all local, state and federal employees, especially those that are unionized. Both public and private employee unions are being attacked. The opposition claim: all such programs and organizations are intended to take money from the workers and give it to the non-workers; to take jobs from the unorganized and give them to the organized.
South Africa, used as an example of how "redistribution of wealth" is destructive, has the second largest wealth inequality gap among all nations. Although South Africa has not succeeded in closing the gap, I don't think of any of it programs are unjust. Taking property from some white South Africans and giving it to some black South Africans after apartheid seems like blatant redistribution but in reality the only property transferred to the blacks had been confiscated from the blacks under apartheid. Although there are many successes that have come out of South Africa's efforts to correct the injustices of apartheid, many changes have yet to yield improvements in the lives of the black South African. Take for example, the transfer of lands back to the black South African. Giving a person the deed to land used for farming and herding, does not enable the poor, uneducated black South African to be a successful farmer/rancher. The land must be returned to its original and rightful owner but the government must also pay to train and equip the new landowner for farming/ranching. However, South Africa can not afford to adequately fund all the programs to support all the victims of apartheid.  Improvements are being realized but they are painfully slow.

Unified Germany experienced some of the same expensive problems that South Africa is struggling with. Many East Germans had their property confiscated by the communist government that came to power after WWII. The infrastructure of East Germany was decayed and many East Germans were poorly educated, untrained and unemployed or underemployed when East Germany was freed and united with West Germany. The only way to restore East Germany and the East Germans was through taxpayer funded government programs. Properties were restored to their original owners (in many cases the original owner was a Jew whose property was confiscated by the Nazis before it was confiscated by the communists). The decayed infrastructure was rebuilt. Programs were established to develop East German industry and the East German worker. Higher income Germans pay a "solidarity surcharge" on their income that is used exclusively to fund the Unification of Germany. After more than 20 years, the German taxpayer is still paying this special tax and great progress has been made. What would East Germany be like today if Germany had not imposed a "solidarity" surcharge. The surcharge applies to any person (or couple) making more than $10,000 ($20,000) up to a maximum of 5.5% at $1.8 million ($3.6 million).

South Africa has yet to succeed in correcting for the damage of apartheid and they have many, many more problems to deal with than did Unified Germany (high HIV/Aids infection rate, and communities without electricity, drinking water and sanitary sewers) but there is no other way than large government spending.

Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. increased during the last 40 years after having decreased in the 30 preceeding years. Prior to the rise of labor unions and banking and business regulations, the only opportunity that existed for a poor American was to "go West" beyond the interest and control of big business. Elsewhere, non-rich Americans had an opportunity to work 72 hours a week for room and board, no vacation, no medical benefits and, above all, no retirement. Americans often lived in multi-family homes (grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts and cousins) not because the family unit was so strong but because single-family homes were unaffordable for everybody but the rich.

Labor unions with the support of federal regulations brought significant improvements to the standard of living of the working class Americans. These changes and improvements were significant every where except the Southern states where local and state governments supported businesses who opposed unionization - sometimes with deadly force.

After WWII the federal government returned 100's of thousands of unemployed and largely unskilled soldiers and sailors to the private sector, which did not have the capacity to employ everybody. Government spending through veterans benefits programs provided vocational and professional training, and subsidized home mortgages. The Middle Class was born and income/wealth inequality was at an all-time low. The Civil Rights Movement and the resulting laws opened up the Middle Class to black Americans, albeit only slightly. Today intervention such as this by the government would be labeled "redistribution" of income and wealth. It would be attacked as anti-American: Socialism.

Americans elected Ronald Reagan in 1980 who promised to restore American values following our rebellious '60's and the political and military disasters of the '60's and '70's. The U.S. was struggling to recover from a recession and astronomical inflation. Conservatives and the Rich blamed government social programs. Reagan said that the best way to help the struggling Middle Class was to reduce the tax burden on the Rich and big business. Social programs for the Poor, the Elderly and the Disabled were cut. Spending to grow and maintain our national infrastructure was reduced. Safety and environmental regulators were eliminated or not enforced. Big Business was giving tax credits to subsidize expansion to offshore markets. These changes, "Reaganomics," are what I would call "redistribution" of income and wealth.

Reaganomics was enormously successful for the Rich and Big Business. The Poor got poorer and grew greater in number as the Middle Class shrank. Reaganomics, if it was intended to benefit all Americans was all but a complete failure; only the Rich benefitted from trickle-down Reaganomics.

Big Business was so unregulated and corrupt that it finally failed in 2008. Banks were broke. Businesses large and small closed or cut back significantly. Ten million American workers were suddenly out of work. To save Wall Street, the taxpayer bought the banks' bad debts. To save Main Street, a new Democratic president spent taxpayer money on the national infrastructure and the development of new industries. The Opposition said the money was wasted increasing the plight of the poor and middle class taxpayers, while supporters said too little was spent.

The Opposition labeled the effort a "redistribution of income and wealth" from the successful (the Rich) to the undeserving, i.e. those left jobless or underemployed after the distruction of the American Economy by the Rich.

The only unjust redistribution of wealth in the U.S. resulted from the changes that began with Ronald Reagan and continue today.

One would think that the abundance of evidence that Reaganomics does not work would cause Americans to demand that our governments reverse the changes enacted for Reaganomics. But, Conservative propaganda laced with hate and race-baiting directed at the poor, the minorities, the illegal aliens (rather than their employers) and President Obama have been very successful.

Unless President Obama retains the White House and the Democrats resume control of both Houses of Congress in 2012, and at least one conservative Supreme Court Justice retires and is replaced by a liberal, I fear the U.S. will become a country with a small and politically powerful super rich population served by an enslaved lower class.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Voter Fraud or Voter Suppression

Prior to 2011 only two states, Georgia and Indiana, required a photo ID in order to vote.  In the 2010 elections the Republican Party took control of many state legislatures and governor's offices as well as the U.S. House of Representatives.  Since then, in 2011, five more states, Wisconsin, Kansas, South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee - all Red states - have enacted laws to require photo IDs from the state motor vehicle department in order to vote.  Each of these Red states claims that they are trying to prevent voter fraud.  However, there is evidence that they really have a different objective.

Voter fraud is so rare that it makes no difference to the outcome of our political elections.  President GW Bush ordered the Department of Justice to target voter fraud during the 5 year period from 2002 to 2007.  During that time only 120 people were charged and only 86 convicted.  However, most of these were not fraud but mistakes; registration filled on incorrectly and voting by ex-convicts and immigrants who misunderstood the law.  Two federal prosecutors were even fired because the administration did not feel that they were adequately pursuing voter fraud.  The Brennan Center for Justice studied voter fraud and concluded that it was too insignificant to impact election resuts.  The results of elections in two states were inspected for voter fraud; in one case 0.0009% (less than 1 in 111,000) of the votes were invalid, in the second case only 0.00004% (1 in 2,500,000) were invalid.

Furthermore, voter fraud is a very ineffective way to cheat the system.  One or even several people could not have a significant impact on the election outcome by voting multiple times when the total number of votes is in the millions.

The real reason in my opinion for requiring photo IDs is voter suppression.  This requirement has a greater impact on the elderly, the young and minorities.  Wisconsin now also prohibits out-of-state college students from voting in state.  Although, the voters can apply for a photo ID and students can use absentee ballots to vote in their home states, a significant percentage of them will not.  Since most young people and minorities vote for Democrats and many of the elderly oppose the cuts that the Republicans plan to make to Social Security and Medicare, these requirements will benefits only the Republicans at the election polls.

Wisconsin Govenor Scott Walker and his Republican lead legislature were not satisfied with requiring a photo ID so they decided to make it harder for Democrats to obtain a DMV photo ID by closing 10 DMV offices in Democratic communities and reducing the operating hours of the remaining DMV offices those areas.  Not coincidentally Walker increased the operating hours of DMV offices in Republican districts.

While for many this is adequate evidence that the Republicans are committing voter suppression rather than defending against voter fraud, there is a significant number of people who are unwilling to admit that these acts are intended only to suppress votes for Democrats.

A corruption that we expect in a dictatorship pretending to be a democracy is being used by Republican politicians to steal elections that they cannot win honestly.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Comparing Crime and Punishment in the U.S. and Norway

I was shocked when I heard the Norwegian responsible for killing more than 90 people will face a maximum sentence of 20 years and 1 day.  That hardly seems adequate to me.  I don’t approve of capital punishment but I would sentence such a criminal to life in prison.
I wondered why Norway would limit all prison terms to 20 years and 1 day.  I believe that criminals who are rehabilitated deserve to be released from jail.  Perhaps Norway is more successful in rehabilitating its criminals and thus has less need for long sentences.  So I compared the recidivism rates of Norway and the U.S.  Recidivism in Norway is about one-third of the recidivism rate in the U.S., which is 66%.

I also compared the violent crime rates of the U.S. and Norway.  The most recent annual data that I could find for both countries was for the year 2000:

  • Violent crime rate in Norway 0.126%
  • Violent crime rate in U.S.     0.506% … about 4 times as much as in Norway.

The U.S. has a higher crime rate and a higher recidivism rate so the U.S. must have a larger percentage of its population in prison.

  • The U.S. prison population is 2,295,000.  743 per 100,000, the highest of all nations.
  • The Norwegian prison population is 3,479.  71 per 100,000.

Perhaps I was too quick to condemn the Norwegians for limiting prison terms to 20 years and 1 day.

Then I heard that Norway can actually keep a person in prison longer than 20 years and 1 day.  Norway evaluates a prisoners readiness for freedom before being released at the completion of the sentence.  If the review board decides that the prisoner is not ready the prisoner will remain in jail for at least 3 more years at which time another readiness evaluation is made.  There is no limit to how many times a sentence can be extended by 3 years.

U.S. law provides for harsher sentences for certain crimes but does permit a prisoner to be kept in prison beyond the complete of the sentence.  Most Americans would consider that unconstitutional.  I suspect that if that was lawful in the U.S. our prison population would be much greater than it is already.  Since the Norwegian prison population is not very high, Norway either does not abuse its ability to hold a prisoner indefinitely or it does so very infrequently.

Why are the crime and recidivism rates in the U.S. so high?  Obviously, greater punishment is not an answer to our high crime rate.  What is?


The comparison was published in 1992 using statistics from 1991.  I haven’t been able to find an updated version of such a comprehensive comparison.  There are more recent comparisons that are not so comprehensive and none show that the United States has improved relative to other rich nations.

The results are sobering.  As a society we haven’t performed as well as most Americans think and the trend doesn’t show hope for a better future.  This is not a partisan political attack.  These are non-partisan statistics.  It is what it is.

Should we do better in a comparison to other industrialized and affluent nations?  If not, why not?  If yes, how?


NOTE: Substantial portions of the following were reproduced with permission from WHERE WE STAND, by Michael Wolff, Peter Rutten, Albert Bayers III, and the World Rank Research Team (New York: Bantam Books, 1992). Copyright (c) 1992 by Michael Wolff & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of the contents of WHERE WE STAND may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of the copyright owner. Requests for permission should be sent to Michael Wolff & Company, Inc., 520 Madison Avenue, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10022, phone 212-308-8100, fax 212-308-7425, or email to

The following statistics are a 1991 comparison of the United States with Northern Europe, Japan and Canada. The comparison is especially revealing because all these nations are more liberal and democratic than we are. Their voter turn-outs are 50 percent higher; their corporate lobbying systems are much less developed; their taxes are higher, their safety nets larger, their societies more equal, their labor unions stronger.

And what may depress many conservatives is that these nations beat us on statistic after statistic after statistic.

Table of Contents:
Standard of Living
Income Inequality
Health Care
Work and Leisure Time


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.

First, let's take a look at overall tax rates as a percentage of the GDP. (All statistics are for 1991. See the following footnote for a comment on sources.
1) Keep in mind that the two columns measure different things: the first, GDP, the second, personal income.

                 General rate        Top rate
                 (percent of GDP)    (percent of income)
Sweden           53.2%                45.0
Denmark          48.3                 40.0
Norway           47.1                 23.0
Netherlands      47.0                 72.0
Germany          39.2                 56.0
Finland          37.7                 51.0
Canada           37.3                 29.0
Japan            30.9                 60.0
United States    29.8                 34.0

You might be surprised to learn that the United States has long had the lowest tax rates of any industrialized nation. And how does the level of taxation compare to each nation's standard of living? There are three general ways to measure standard of living: earning power, purchasing power and individual worker productivity. The U.S. has lost its lead in the first and is losing its lead in the other two.

Earning power is defined as GDP per capita, or how much the average citizen earns in a year. It is an important statistic because it measures how advantageously nations trade on the global market. After the Second World War, the U.S. was number one for 40 years. But in the mid-80s, the U.S. suddenly began dropping down the list.

1991 Earning Power

Switzerland    $35,490
Japan           27,300
Sweden          26,900
Denmark         24,230
Norway          24,150
Finland         24,110
United States   22,550
Canada          20,840
Germany         19,830
Netherlands     19,310

Purchasing power, however, is a rather more accurate measure of standard of living. It shows how much each country pays to buy the same item, say, a loaf of bread. With its large, diverse and well-functioning market, the U.S. has generally enjoyed the lowest real prices in the industrialized world. But, as the chart below shows, it is also true that the purchasing power of other nations has been growing more rapidly than the U.S.' For this reason we should also look at each nation's percentage of the US purchasing power in 1970, and again in 1991.3

               Purchasing     Percent of    Percent of
               Power, 1991    US, 1970      US, 1991
United States  $22,204        --            --
Germany         19,500        75%           88
Canada          19,178        72            86
Japan           19,107        57            86
Denmark         17,621        71            79
Norway          16,904        54            76
Sweden          16,729        77            75
Netherlands     16,530        72            74
Finland         15,997        58            72

The third measure is individual worker productivity. The following chart shows how other nations have been catching up to the U.S. over the decades:

Percent of U.S. individual worker productivity (U.S. = 100%)

                1950s  1960s  1970s  1980s  1990
United States   100%   100    100    100    100
Canada          77.1   80.1   84.2   92.8   95.5
Italy           30.8   43.9   66.4   80.9   85.5
France          36.8   46.0   61.7   80.1   85.3
Germany         32.4   49.1   61.8   77.4   81.1
United Kingdom  53.9   54.3   58.0   65.9   71.9
Japan           15.2   23.2   45.7   62.6   70.7

Unfortunately, the above figures give only a crude measurement of how well each nation lives. There are severe problems with measuring a nation's well-being by productivity alone; perhaps the best analogy is that of a millionaire who wastes all his money on cocaine, compared to an average person who spends it on food, clothing, shelter, education, etc. (More) When one considers exactly how each nation spends its GDP, the weakening of the U.S.' number one position in the world becomes even more apparent.

Where We Stand publishes an index of economic prosperity that takes into account all the following factors: productivity, salaries, equitable wealth distribution, luxury-goods consumption, trading strength, poverty, personal and national indebtedness, inflation control, business strength and credit-worthiness. And the best-off nations are:

Germany         1382
Japan           1363
Switzerland     1332
Canada          1216
United States   1178
Netherlands     1087
Sweden          1079
Norway          1061
United Kingdom  1049
Denmark          920
Finland          910

But let's break down these broad comparisons into their components. Perhaps the most appropriate statistic to begin with is home ownership, the central part of the American Dream: (More)

Home ownership: 
Ireland         82%      Japan           60
Spain           80       Portugal        59
Luxembourg      77       United States   59
Norway          73       Finland         58
Belgium         72       Sweden          55
Greece          72       France          54
Italy           68       Netherlands     46
United Kingdom  67       Germany         40
Canada          64       Switzerland     29
Denmark         60

America's decline in home ownership is symbolic of a larger erosion in living standards, which Americans have met in two ways. The first is that America has gone deeply into debt to maintain its lifestyle. The second is that families have been able to hold ground only because wives have joined their husbands in the work force. (Note: this is a comment on the difficulty of making ends meet, not on working women!) Europe and Japan suffer much less from either of these problems:

Percent of families earning two paychecks:
United States   58%
Japan           33
France          33
Italy           20
Germany         18
Netherlands     16
Average Household Debt
United States   $71,500
United Kingdom   35,500
Germany          27,700
France           27,650
Netherlands       5,000
Switzerland         800
Average Household Savings 
Japan           $45,118
Switzerland      19,971
Denmark          18,405
France           17,649
Germany          17,042
Norway           15,196
Netherlands      14,282
Finland          12,387
Sweden           10,943
United Kingdom    7,451
United States     4,201
Percent of income spent on credit cards:
United Kingdom  12%
United States   10
France           8
Japan            4
Switzerland      3
Netherlands      2
Germany          2
Government debt per person:
Belgium        $16,423
Japan           14,049
United States   12,433
Sweden           9,541
Netherlands      9,368
Canada           8,597
Norway           5,498
United Kingdom   4,635
Finland          2,798
Germany            977
Trade Balance (millions):
Japan          +$77,110
Germany         +76,713
Netherlands      +7,990
Canada           +5,047
Norway           +3,769
Denmark          +2,426
Finland            -250
United Kingdom  -37,958
United States  -113,240
Current Account Balance (millions):
Japan          +$56,783
Germany         +55,477
Netherlands      +6,962
Norway             +226
Denmark          -1,402
Finland          -4,895
Canada          -16,593
United Kingdom  -34,065
United States  -105,900
Investment (percent of GDP):
Japan           30.6%
Norway          28.8
Switzerland     26.6
Finland         24.8
Canada          22.0
Netherlands     21.4
Germany         19.9
Sweden          19.7
United Kingdom  19.2
Denmark         18.0
United States   17.1

As mentioned earlier, America has the greatest inequality of income and wealth in the industrialized world:

Inequality of income (0 = most equal society, 100 = the least equal):
United States   99
Canada          83
Netherlands     82
Switzerland     79
United Kingdom  78
Germany         66
Norway          60
Sweden          60
Average CEO's pay as a multiple of an average
worker's pay:
United States   17.5 (More)
United Kingdom  12.4
Japan           11.6
Canada           9.6
France           8.9
Germany          6.5
Percent of Union Membership in Workforce:
Sweden          85.3%
United Kingdom  41.5
Canada          34.6
Germany         33.8
Japan           26.8
Netherlands     25.0
United States   16.4
Size of Middle Class (More):
Japan           90.0%
Sweden          79.0
Norway          73.4
Germany         70.1
Switzerland     67.2
Netherlands     62.5
Canada          58.5
United Kingdom  58.5
United States   53.7
Poverty level (More):
United States   17.1%
Canada          12.6
United Kingdom  9.7
Switzerland     8.5
Germany         5.6
Sweden          5.3
Norway          5.2
Children under the poverty level:
United States   22.4%
Canada          15.5
United Kingdom   9.3
Switzerland      7.8
Sweden           5.0
Germany          4.9
Norway           4.8
Deaths from malnutrition (per million):
                Men  Women
United States    7    13
France           4     9
Canada           5     7
Japan            2     1
United Kingdom   1     2
Norway           0     1
Head Start (percent of age group enrolled in preschool)
             2-year olds  3-year olds  4-year olds
France          35.7%       96.3         100
Norway          22.8        31.6         44.1
Finland         20.2        16.0         19.6
Germany          9.1        32.3         71.6
United Kingdom   1.3        25.9         69.2
United States    0.0        28.9         49.0
Health Care Expenditures (percent of GDP)4
United States   13.4%
Canada          10.0
Finland          9.1
Sweden           8.6
Germany          8.4
Netherlands      8.4
Norway           7.6
Japan            6.8
United Kingdom   6.6
Denmark          6.5
Doctors' incomes:
United States   $132,300
Germany           91,244
Denmark           50,585
Finland           42,943
Norway            35,356
Sweden            25,768
Percent of population covered by public health care:
ALL NATIONS (except below)    100%
France, Austria                99
Switzerland, Spain, Belgium    98
Germany                        92
Netherlands                    77
United States                  40

Average paid maternity leave (as of 1991; this changed with Clinton's signing of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act):

Sweden          32 weeks
France          28
United Kingdom  18
Norway          18
Denmark         18
Japan           14
Germany         14
Netherlands     12
United States    0
Life Expectancy (years):
                Men    Women
Japan           76.2   82.5
France          72.9   81.3
Switzerland     74.1   81.3
Netherlands     73.7   80.5
Sweden          74.2   80.4
Canada          73.4   80.3
Norway          73.1   79.7
Germany         72.6   79.2
Finland         70.7   78.8
United States   71.6   78.6
United Kingdom  72.7   78.2
Denmark         72.2   77.9
Infant Mortality Rate (per 1,000 live births):
United States   10.4
United Kingdom   9.4
Germany          8.5
Denmark          8.1
Canada           7.9
Norway           7.9
Netherlands      7.8
Switzerland      6.8
Finland          5.9
Sweden           5.9
Japan            5.0
Death rate of 1-to-4 year olds (per community of 200,000 per year):
United States   101.5
Japan            92.2
Norway           90.2
Denmark          85.1
France           84.9
United Kingdom   82.2
Canada           82.1
Netherlands      80.3
Germany          77.6
Switzerland      72.5
Sweden           64.7
Finland          53.3
Death rate of 15-to-24 year olds (per community of 200,000 per year):
United States   203
Switzerland     175
Canada          161
France          156
Finland         154
Norway          128
Germany         122
Denmark         120
United Kingdom  114
Sweden          109
Japan            96
Netherlands      90

Note: the murder rate for the above age group is 48.8 per 200,000. Even subtracting this entirely still puts the U.S. near the top of the list.

Premature Death (years of life lost before the age of 64 per 100 people):

United States   5.8 years
Denmark         4.9
Finland         4.8
Canada          4.5
Germany         4.5
United Kingdom  4.4
Norway          4.3
Switzerland     4.1
Netherlands     4.0
Sweden          3.8
Japan           3.3
Percent of people with normal body mass:
                Men   Women
Germany         53%   37
Finland         51    37
United Kingdom  46    38
Canada          52    29
Switzerland     49    30
France          44    30
Denmark         44    25
United States   47    22
Sweden          44    25

Percent of people who believe their health care system needs fundamental change (More):

United States   60%
Sweden          58
United Kingdom  52
Japan           47
Netherlands     46
France          42
Canada          38
Percent of all children born out of wedlock:
Sweden          46.4%
Denmark         41.9
United States   21.5
United Kingdom  19.2
Canada          12.1
Germany          9.4
Netherlands      8.3
Switzerland      5.6
Japan            1.0

Having children out of wedlock, however, does not mean that the father is not living at home and offering support. Here is the actual percentage of families headed by single parents:

United States   8.0%
Germany         6.7
Netherlands     6.7
Canada          5.6
Denmark         5.1
France          5.1
United Kingdom  4.0
Sweden          3.2
Japan           2.5

Sex education is more prevalent in Europe than America, where conservatives oppose it on the grounds that it condones sexual behavior. The statistics show the unintended consequences of this policy:

Sexually active teenage population:
Norway          66%
United States   65
United Kingdom  57
Germany         56
Canada          53
Italy           34
France          34
Percent who have not had intercourse by age 20:
               Boys  Girls
Belgium         61     63
Netherlands     58     62
Germany         33     28
Norway          33     25
United Kingdom  24     23
France           9     25
United States   12     16

Percent of sexually active single 15 to 19-year olds using birth control:

Germany         95%
United Kingdom  92
Netherlands     88
Norway          87
Sweden          79
Denmark         70
United States   56
Teen pregnancies per 1,000 teenagers:
United States   98.0
United Kingdom  46.6
Norway          40.2
Canada          38.6
Finland         32.1
Sweden          28.3
Denmark         27.9
Netherlands     12.1
Japan           10.5
Total teen abortions per 1,000 teenagers:
United States   44.4
Norway          21.1
Sweden          19.6
Denmark         18.2
Finland         17.9
United Kingdom  16.9
Canada          16.2
Japan            5.9
Netherlands      5.5
People per police officer:
Sweden          328
Canada          358
United Kingdom  400
United States   459
Netherlands     553
Japan           556
Denmark         594
France          632
Finland         643
Norway          661
Annual reports of police brutality (per 100,000 people)
United States   92.5
United Kingdom   6.0
France           0.7 
Prisoners (per 1,000 people):
United States   4.2
United Kingdom  1.0
Germany         0.8
Denmark         0.7
Sweden          0.6
Japan           0.4
Netherlands     0.4
Death row inmates:
United States     2,124
Japan                38
Europe and Canada     0
Percent of households with a handgun:
United States   29%
Finland          7
Germany          7
Canada           5
Norway           4
Europe           4
Netherlands      2
United Kingdom   1

Looking at the above statistics, one would think that Europe is soft on crime, while the U.S. approach to law and order is based on no-nonsense deterrence. In reality, Europe is relatively crime-free, and the U.S. has the worst crime rate in the world:

Murders committed with handguns annually:
United States   8,915
Switzerland        53
Sweden             19
Canada              8
United Kingdom      7
Murder rate (per 100,000 people):
United States   8.40
Canada          5.45
Denmark         5.17
Germany         4.20
Norway          1.99
United Kingdom  1.97
Sweden          1.73
Japan           1.20
Finland         0.70
Murder rate for males age 15-24 (per 100,000 people):
United States   24.4
Canada           2.6
Sweden           2.3
Norway           2.3
Finland          2.3
Denmark          2.2
United Kingdom   2.0
Netherlands      1.2
Germany          0.9
Japan            0.5
Rape (per 100,000 people):
United States   37.20
Sweden          15.70
Denmark         11.23
Germany          8.60
Norway           7.87
United Kingdom   7.26
Finland          7.20
Japan            1.40
Armed robbery (per 100,000 people)
United States   221
Canada           94
United Kingdom   63
Sweden           49
Germany          47
Denmark          44
Finland          38
Norway           22
Japan             1
Travel on public transportation as a percent of all travel:
Japan           18%
Finland         16
Denmark         15
Portugal        14
Germany         11
Norway           9
United Kingdom   8
Netherlands      8
United States    1
Annual air miles per person:
United States   1,698
Canada          1,105
Netherlands     1,014
United Kingdom    902
Norway            829
Sweden            575
Finland           506
Denmark           476
Japan             425
Germany           344
Average price of a gallon of gas:
Sweden         $4.85
Denmark         4.46
United Kingdom  3.56
Germany         3.05
Netherlands     3.02
Japan           3.01
Canada          1.40
United States   1.07
Energy Units of oil burned annually:
United States       791.5
European Community  501.4
Japan               234.3
Germany             108.5
United Kingdom       81.3
Canada               80.4
Netherlands          24.1
Sweden               16.3
Finland              11.1
Norway                9.3
Denmark               9.0
Carbon dioxide released per person per year:
United States   5.8 tons
Canada          4.8
Germany         3.2
United Kingdom  2.9
Japan           2.2
OECD Europe     1.8
Total Carbon Monoxide emitted annually:
United States   60,900 tons
Canada          10,100
Germany          8,926
France           6,198
United Kingdom   5,264
Sweden           1,754
Netherlands      1,229
Norway             649
Switzerland        621
Total chlorofluorocarbons emitted annually:
United States   332 million tons
Japan            95
Germany          71
United Kingdom   67
Canada           34
Netherlands      17
Switzerland      10
Denmark           6
Finland           6
Sweden            4
Norway            1
Major oil spills (1976-89):
United States   16
France           6
United Kingdom   5
Japan            4
Canada           2
Sweden           2
Finland          1
Germany          1
Forests cleared (thousands of cubic yards):
United States   808,421
Canada          379,500
France           95,964
Sweden           84,612
Finland          72,864
Japan            57,272
Norway           14,810
United Kingdom    6,600
Acid rain (the lower the pH number, the worse the acidity):
Japan           3.9 pH
Sweden          4.1
United States   4.3
Canada          4.3
Norway          4.4
Denmark         4.5
Finland         4.5
Netherlands     4.9
United Kingdom  5.1
Energy Units of coal burned annually:
United States       458.0
European Community  299.0
Germany              73.9
Japan                73.2
United Kingdom       64.0
Canada               27.6
Netherlands           8.1
Denmark               5.5
Finland               4.1
Sweden                2.5
Norway                1.0
Debris inhaled per person per year:
United States   81 pounds
Finland         44
Sweden          44
Europe          26
Netherlands     24
Germany         24
Denmark         20
Norway          15
United Kingdom  11
Japan            2
Government spending on pollution control (percent of GDP):
Japan          1.17%
Netherlands    0.95
Canada         0.89
Germany        0.78
Sweden         0.66
United Kingdom 0.62
United States  0.60
Norway         0.54
Finland        0.52
Municipal waste per person per year (kilograms)5
United States   864 kg.
Canada          632
Japan           394
United Kingdom  353
Germany         331
France          304
Italy           301
Percent of all glass recycled:
Netherlands     50.3%
Japan           49.6
Germany         41.2
Sweden          40.0
Denmark         31.0
Finland         30.0
United Kingdom  27.0
Norway          21.1
United States   20.0
Percent of all paper and cardboard recycled:
Netherlands     62.0%
Japan           54.4
Germany         37.0
Denmark         32.0
United Kingdom  13.0
United States    8.4

Note the position of economic powerhouse Germany in the next two lists.

Average hours worked per year:
Japan           2,173
United States   1,890
Sweden          1,808
United Kingdom  1,771
Netherlands     1,756
Finland         1,744
Norway          1,725
Denmark         1,699
Germany         1,668
Average paid vacation per year:
Finland         35.0 days
Germany         30.0
France          25.5
Denmark         25.0
Sweden          25.0
United Kingdom  25.0
Netherlands     24.0
Switzerland     22.0
Norway          21.0
United States   12.0
Average hours spent watching TV per day:
Japan           9:12
United States   7:00
Canada          3:24
United Kingdom  3:10
Germany         2:13
Sweden          2:00
Finland         2:00
Denmark         1:54
Netherlands     1:42
Switzerland     1:34
News as a percent of all TV programming:
Denmark         43%
Sweden          35
Canada          32
Netherlands     25
Germany         20
United Kingdom  17
Japan            6
United States    2
Annual employee turnover in manufacturing:
United States   40%
Finland         35
Germany         25
United Kingdom  20
Sweden          18
Japan           18
France          14

How employers rate their employees (100 = strong identification with company objectives):

Japan           84.7
Switzerland     70.8
Denmark         68.4
Germany         64.3
Norway          60.7
Finland         60.4
Netherlands     58.5
France          57.9
United States   56.4
Sweden          56.0
Canada          52.2
United Kingdom  48.1
Percent of employees fired for cause:
United States       52%
European Community  43

The U.S. may be the oldest existing democracy in the world, but it is also the weakest, and one of the only democracies where voting is not required by law. It shows:

Voter participation:
Germany         87%
Sweden          86
Norway          83
Netherlands     80
Finland         76
United Kingdom  75
Canada          75
United States   49
Average number of national referenda per year:
Switzerland    169
Australia       18
Denmark         11
France          10
Ireland          8
Italy            4
Sweden           3
Norway           1
United Kingdom   1
Canada           0
Finland          0
Germany          0
Japan            0
Netherlands      0
United States    0
Number of political scandals since 1945 (More):
United States   53
United Kingdom  42
France          16
Canada           5
Germany          3
Japan            2
Sweden           2
Netherlands      1
Norway           1

Number of politically motivated demonstrations, strikes, riots and armed attacks over 30 years:

United Kingdom  5,136
United States   4,258
France          1,566
Germany           622
Japan             524
Canada            260
Finland            63
Netherlands        57
Denmark            55
Switzerland        39
Sweden             33

The United Nations Human Freedom Index (0 = least freedom, 40 = most freedom. More.):

Sweden          38
Denmark         38
Netherlands     37
Austria         36
Finland         36
France          35
Germany         35
Canada          34
Switzerland     34
Australia       33
United States   33
Japan           32
United Kingdom  32


These statistics are shattering to those who believe that greater individualism and less government somehow produce better societies. And they should serve as a wake-up call to every American that this country is headed in the wrong direction.

These statistics evoke two common responses from conservatives and libertarians. The most natural response is to blame them on 40 years of Democratic government. This, however, is a giant non sequitur. The very point of this list is that nations with far more liberal governments than ours have created better societies, even with somewhat less productivity. If liberalism were really harmful to a nation's standard of living, then these nations should be doing worse, not better.

Moreover, as mentioned earlier, America's truly liberal government was replaced in the mid-70s by the corporate special interest system, which introduced a conservative agenda of tax cuts for the rich and massive deregulation of business. Corporate lobbyists, and not the interchangeable "Republicrats," have influenced legislation over the past 20 years.

The second most common response is that minorities drag down America's statistics. Of course, blaming minorities for society's problems is an old game in American politics, but it is especially dismaying in this case because it is not even true. Take infant mortality rates, for example. White infant mortality rates still place America near the very top of the list. (The following chart deviates slightly from the chart above because it is taken from the year before, 1990, and from a different source using different methodology. But it shows the same trend nonetheless.)

Infant mortality rates (per 1,000 live births, 1990)6
U.S. (average)  9.2
Italy           8.3
U.S. (white)    7.7
United Kingdom  7.4
France          7.3
Germany         7.1
Canada          6.8
Sweden          6.1
Japan           4.6

And consider crime. In 1992, blacks were arrested for 35 percent of all serious crimes.7 But even if you remove blacks entirely from the statistics, America still has the worst crime rate in the world, and by far! (It should also be emphasized that that these were 35 percent of all arrests; debate rages as to whether the police target blacks for arrest more than whites.)

The same generalization holds for all the statistics, but it is important to realize why minorities are not responsible for America's worse showing. And that is because society's most visible problems do not stem primarily from race; they stem from poverty. The poor, both white and black, share the same approximate rates of crime, welfare, teenage and single parenthood, substance abuse and other social problems. The rich, both white and black, share many of the same admired social qualities in the same general percentages. Race is only important in that discrimination against minorities has relegated a disproportionate number of them to poverty. (More)

Ultimately, the fact that America's white statistics are still worse than Europe's should put the race card forever to rest. White Americans are, after all, transplanted Europeans. If their statistics are worse, then it must be for a social reason. And that reason is obvious: polarized wealth in America has enlarged its poor population, and dragged down its averages despite gains among the rich. Clearly, rising tides do not lift all boats.

Next Section: Final Summary
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1Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics come from the international encyclopedia Where We Stand, by Michael Wolff, Peter Rutten, Albert Bayers III, eds., and the World Rank Research Team (New York: Bantam Books, 1992). The year 1991 was selected because after these dates, the U.S. turned slightly to the left and Northern Europe slightly to the right (although one could plausibly argue that very little changed in any of these nations). Therefore, 1991 provides the best date for comparing a decade of Reaganomics with 30 years of social democracy. Although Where We Stand compares dozens of nations on most lists, I have limited my comparisons to the U.S., Northern Europe, Japan and Canada. I have included every nation from this group I could find; omissions in my lists reflect omissions in Where We Stand.
2Earning power is calculated by deflating each nation’s GNP to local 1991 currency before conversion to U.S. dollar equivalents. GNP figures from U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers, 1991. Data for exchange rates from International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
3Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, France, National Accounts of OECD Countries, annual.
4 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, France, OECD Health Data, 1993; OECD Health Systems: Facts and Trends, 1993.
5 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, France, Environmental Indicators, 1991.
6 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, France, OECD in Figures: Statistics on the Member Countries (supplement to the OECD Observer, June-July 1993).
7 U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States, 1992.