Last night’s agenda on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart was: Socialism is awesome!
As more and more Americans worry about the growth of government in their lives here in the U.S., the Daily Show travelled to Sweden to put those worries to rest. They wanted to show us that we should embrace Socialism rather than fear it. Well, by playing fast and loose with the facts, as usual, we fear even one person believed their nonsense.
So yes, while the Daily Show is very astute to notice that President Obama is embracing a regulated labor force, high taxes, nationalized medicine, increased welfare and an economy built around government spending; they missed the point that Sweden is desperately trying to turn the opposite direction.
Here are some things they didn’t tell you about Sweden…
- Our Index of Economic Freedom shows that Sweden has some of the lowest scores worldwide in fiscal freedom and government size. The wealth tax has been abolished, but taxes are still a huge burden. The top income tax rate of 57% is one of the highest in the world. Total government spending is still more than half of GDP. The labor market’s inflexible regulations have caused the labor freedom score to dip below the world average.
- In 1970, Sweden was the world’s third-richest nation, but it fell in the rankings to #18 as the welfare state expanded. And these statistics don’t even accurately measure living standards, such as per capita disposable income, where Sweden falls even further in the rankings.
- Indeed, Swedes had less per capita disposable income than the average Western European in 2006 and also trailed the U.S., Canada, and several Pacific Rim nations. And, although the official jobless rate is about six percent, independent estimates suggest the real unemployment rate is between 15–20 percent.
- Sweden requires mandatory paid sick leave where the government pays sick workers 80% their salary while on leave for an indefinite period of time. However, abuse is rampant and at any given moment, 10% of Sweden’s workers are on sick leave, and over three-fifths tell pollsters that they take the leave when they have no health problems.
- President Obama campaigned on a tax plan that would give us a higher top rate than Sweden’s 57%. And these sorts of tax rates clearly slow the economy, which is why Sweden cut their taxes from the punitive 1970’s level of 87%. Currently, only 6 of the top 30 industrial nations have a tax rate for all levels of government combined that adds up to more than 55%, and Sweden is one of them.
- Comparing European nations between 1995 and 2004, the average income grew by 29% in Sweden, 37% in EU-15 countries, and 72% in Britain. The income of the poorest 10% of the population grew by only 10% in Sweden, compared to 59% in Britain. The worst off were better off where the labor market was freer.
- But there are some bright spots in Sweden. For example, they eliminated their “Death Tax” while America’s remains at a staggering 45% rate. President Obama and Congressional leaders have delayed scheduled cuts to the death tax, and have proposed keeping it high.
- While corporate tax rates haven’t been cut in the United States in over a decade, Sweden recently cut theirs from 60% to 28%. High tax rates deprive companies of both the means and the incentive to take advantage of new market opportunities or technological changes that can improve productivity. Most advanced countries in the world have responded to new global economic realities by slashing corporate tax rates. The U.S. stands almost alone in having resisted such cuts, and our corporate tax rates are now among the highest in the world.
- The Daily Show promotes Sweden’s “free” health care. While this is based on the unbelievable logic that anything you pay taxes for is “free”, it also ignores that Sweden is actually moving away from a highly centralized, bureaucratic health care system where doctors are salaried employees of the government. They are realizing that this system has not provided better care for their citizens or reduced costs, so they are slowly bringing the private sector back into the health care business.
- The people of Sweden are also not admirers of Jon Stewart’s take on their country. In 2006, Sweden’s Social Democrats were ousted from power after receiving their lowest share of the vote since 1914.
So, there you have it. Jon Stewart loves Sweden, and he loves Socialism. Too bad Stewart didn’t find a Swedish citizen to speak with; they would’ve told him that Socialism didn’t work for them, and it won’t work for the United States. Socialism is not awesome.