No, this is not the usual cheer roared by Norwegians, but a sentiment stated by US republicans. Today’s dead-tree edition of my local paper, Bergens Tidende, has a hilarious editorial on the GOP panic in the US that America is turning into Sweden. Illustrated with a photo from the opening of an IKEA store in Brooklyn. (All quotes are my translation from the printed article. No online version yet.)
“There are terrible rumors about president Barack Obama and his family these days. They are so bad that we really shouldn’t repeat them here […]. But, what the hey, we have a duty to inform: […] According to the internet, […] the president and his family are actually – Swedish.
Apparently, the Obamas are trying to Swedify the US. According to the editorial, Mitt Romney wants the US to fight against becoming European. Mike Huckabee thinks Lenin and Stalin would have loved this latest development (i.e. Obama). Mark Steyn warns against a Scandinavian armageddon (says my paper). The excerpt quoted in our paper:
[I]f Scandinavia really is the natural condition of an advanced democracy, then we’re all doomed. And by “doomed” I’m not merely making the usual overheated rhetorical flourish in an attempt to persuade you to stick through the rather dry statistics in the next paragraph, but projecting total societal collapse and global conflagration, and all sooner than you think.
Steyn starts off his own article with a lot of wit, then throws a bunch of statistics at his readers to prove his point, but without telling us what is behind the numbers. To do that, I found an article by Dick Polman, who – unlike a lot of anti-socialist Americans – has actually lived in Europe. (Weird is in the eye of the beholder, of course.)
For me, Steyn’s Europe-bashing only reminds me of the America-bashing I’ve experienced here. So many times it has been suggested to me that the US is an awful country because we allow the death penalty, because we didn’t sign the Kyoto agreement, because we have nukes on our naval vessels, because all our actors are too good-looking (yes, really), because we voted for Reagan (a memorable argument at 2 am in the morning while waiting for someone to get their coat), etc. And yet, everyone who has been in America loves it. When they get to experience it first hand, they are positively surprised.
I think people like Romney, Huckabee and Steyn should experience Europe first-hand. I do. I live here, and I just finished my taxes. Sum taxable stuff (incl. an apartment I own): NOK 356,596. Sum all taxes: NOK 92,871. That works out to an income tax of about 26 %, which is about what I paid when I worked in California. In Norway, I pay a 25 % sales tax on most things, but unlike the anti-socialists in the US, I do not have to fork over a huge wad of dough every month for health insurance, and I get five weeks paid vacation every year, partly due to my union. Yes, this American is a member of a union, and you know what? Doesn’t hurt at all. No, really.
But just in case the anti-socialists in my wonderful country of birth and mother tongue need more fuel for their anti-Sweden bonfire, my local newspaper’s article ends with these helpful statements of gratitude any American who still believes Europe sucks can happily say out loud (again, my translation):
Thank God we have an average life expectancy that is three years lower than Sweden’s.
Thank God that we are ten times more likely to be shot and killed in the US than in Sweden. We like a little excitement.
Thank God that we have almost 50 million Americans without health insurance so they don’t clog up the system and make the rest of us have to wait longer for our health care.
Thank God that we have an infant mortality rate that is 3.5 times higher than Sweden’s.
Thank God that we are the only western nation without mandatory vacation, unlike Sweden, where they get weeks and weeks of vacation, and thank God that we are one of five countries in the world without the right to paid maternity leave, unlike Sweden, where women get 16 months off.