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Bernie Sanders has made the jump from fringe candidate to formidable contender in the race for the Democratic nomination for President! I wouldn’t have predicted this, but election year always holds a few surprises.
Central to the theme of his stump speeches is the notion that all of the rest of the civilized world, especially the Scandinavian nations, Denmark, in particular, are serving their citizenry far more fairly and effectively than we, in the stodgy, stingy old U.S. of A., are. Life is so much more enjoyable and carefree over there, the State caters to your every whim, you only work 35 hours a week with a minimum wage of $20, with a heaping helping of benefits and paid time off. Where do I sign up?
Like all silver linings, however, there is always a cloud to cut through. First of all, Denmark doesn’t have a “minimum wage” dictated by the government. The unions and employer associations negotiate wages, and the average minimum wage, of all employed people in all jobs and sectors is DKK 110, or $16.35 at current exchange rates. Some people, however, are paid less than even that, and the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) of a dollar in Denmark compared to a dollar in the USA is 1.4 in our favor, so you must divide the market exchange rate by 1.4 for an accurate representation of what the wage will buy, and you end up with about $11.70 as the average minimum wage. According to a report by the US State Department, Denmark’s legal workweek is 37.5 hours, not 35. Another thing to keep in mind, is that the personal income tax rate in Denmark is 55.6%, quite a bit higher than US rates. In Denmark, the Personal Income Tax Rate is a tax collected from individuals and is imposed on different sources of income like labor, pensions, interest and dividends.
Another notable difference between the US and Denmark is the level of personal debt (credit card, etc.) relative to disposable income. Danish households owe their creditors 321% of disposable incomes, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That’s the highest ratio in the world and a level that has prompted warnings from both the OECD and the International Monetary Fund to rein in borrowing. In contrast, the US populace owes creditors a mere 77% of disposable incomes, down from a high of 128% a few years ago. Other obvious differences are things like population. Denmark has a population of 5.5 million people, roughly the size of Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas put together. The US population, in contrast, is 321,773,631 people. One cannot even accuse Sanders of comparing apples to oranges; it is more like apples to blueberries.
Denmark has a defense budget of $4.8 billion, or 3.2% of their budget, in contrast to the US $598.5 billion, or 54% of all federal discretionary spending. Why is that significant? Well, if Denmark is invaded by an enemy, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that we will be sending troops over there to save them rather than them sending troops to save us if the converse were true. I am happy for them, that their little socialist heaven is so wonderful, but as Ezekiel noted, sometimes you need a man to stand in the gap. “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” Ezekiel 22:30
Free university is not proving to be the long-term benefit it was once believed to be, as students choose, in droves, to pursue “fulfillment” degrees like music and arts, as opposed to technology and science. It is simply not sustainable. Denmark spends more proportionally on education than any other country in the OECD club of 34 advanced nations. A large number of graduates choose to spend their lives on welfare benefits, because they cannot find jobs they deem “meaningful.” Recently, there have been calls to institute a tuition fee to discourage this trend. Overall, only 48 percent of Danish graduates end up working in the private sector, compared with an EU average of 60 percent.
My take-away from all this is, level heads will bring to light the inherent inconsistencies in Bernie’s message, hopefully sooner, rather than later, and people will realize that, indeed, it is better to #Bern out, than to fade away.