Imagine a Better America

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Imagine a Better America

Postby KeithE » Thu Mar 28, 2019 6:46 pm

My travels the last few years have shown me how good life is in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and France. Most love their governments and are happy with their lives; I saw no poverty (but I’m sure it exists but at lower levels than the US - here is a comparison of extreme poverty $5.50/day). Israel was also prosperous but politically divided - not all Israelites approve of the settlements and bombardment/blockade of Gaza (this comes from articles I’ve read as I really did not talk with any Israelites except 2 people at an anti-war museum who were anti-Netanyahu). Now many workers on cruises (mainly from 3rd world countries) did not have good lives back home and I’m not advocating copying the Philippines or the other countries (Philippines seemed to be the most prevalent). I believe in capitalism (if it is controlled when it overly helps corporations, disservices people, or lets inequality grow to outlandish degrees). But the social democracy model of the Scandinavian countries seems right to me.

My travel across I-40 in last few weeks has shown me struggling Americans at truck stops, a casino and nurses. I had thought truckers made good pay - the ones I talked with are barely surviving (some living mainly in their trucks and wives who have left them because they had to be away from home). Some at the casinos were well off (e.g. a group from LaCross WI), some were getting by (e.g. the blackjack dealers, seniors) but many (perhaps most) appeared down and outers (although I did not talk with any of those). The nurses in the hospital (several of which got their training in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria) worked three 12- hour days a week at the hospital at “slightly more than min wage” (one older lady said), and have to work the other days at other jobs to feed their families/pay rent. One very good and knowledgable single guy nurse (maybe 35 yrs old) is commuting to Phoenix to try to become a doctor and going into great debt to do so. My daughter's friends lived in poverty and have depression over their plight (btw, she said she dissuaded one from suiclde). These are not all bad people, just have little opportunity.

The contrast from the upbeat Scandinavians and the people I met along I-40 is stark.

Now I do not trust these ad hoc meet ups, but the I-40 trip broke my heart. I look to academic or official government sources of whole populations to fully inform my views.

Many of the Democratic candidates are proposing remedies (proven by European experience) and we should not let cries of “socialism” derail these ideas.

Seriously consider each idea to improve the lot of Americans (the 80+% of Americans whose life has been diminished due to conservative/GOP “trickle down” policies). We can be as successful and happy as say Finland, Norway, Denmark (happiest 3 countries in the world); all have universal health care, much less inequality, elder care, childcare, paid family leave, free education (K-PHD) - they do not mind paying taxes up to 50% if they have these services. US is number 18, not bad but could be better.

There is plenty of money available for valuable social programs (health care, infrastructure/jobs, vocational education) from a portion of the excess corporate profits ($8T/year ($2T/qtr)) that is not being used to reinvest or provide jobs.
- And/or a one-time 2% wealth tax would raise ~$3T over 10 years.
- And/or a financial transaction tax which would raise $776.7B over 10 years.
- And/or a 70% tax on income over $1M/year raising revenues between $291B - $700B/year depending the degree of tax avoidance achieved.

Now I do not think we can immediately switch to full Scandinavian “social democracy” given our national debt, but we can make strides.

Imagine a better US.
Last edited by KeithE on Thu Mar 28, 2019 7:40 pm, edited 8 times in total.
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Re: Imagine a Better America

Postby William Thornton » Thu Mar 28, 2019 7:02 pm

Glad you are feeling better and that you are up to a post like this.

I'll respond tomorrow but explain the nurse pay. RNs in Phoenix are over$30/hr. Aides?
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Re: Imagine a Better America

Postby KeithE » Thu Mar 28, 2019 7:56 pm

William Thornton wrote:Glad you are feeling better and that you are up to a post like this.

I'll respond tomorrow but explain the nurse pay. RNs in Phoenix are over$30/hr. Aides?


My wife is gone tonight working a Kairos weekend so I’m free to blog. I chose to backoff the Kairos team due to fear of feeling week, but actually I feel fine. But I should take it easy (for a while). BP is not my problem, blood oxygen level is. Too much physical exertion causes me to faint.

It was an older “nurse's aid” who said she made "slightly more than min wage”.

average nurse aid pay $11.62/hr

TMI for sure - she was strong enough to remove and put on my very tight support hose when I was all hooked up - no other nurse could do it. I’ve worn those hose since June 1970. That was after surgery (vena cava clamp) that prevented more blood clots from going to my lungs which has left me with about 60% lung capacity and a big reason why I ended up in the hospital with breathing problems and low blood oxygen levels.
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Re: Imagine a Better America

Postby KeithE » Thu Mar 28, 2019 8:20 pm

Just to demonstrate further the difficulty of living on a nurses wage consider the average RN salary (a degreed position) and the living wage in Kingman AZ (where I was)

Average RN pay across the country is $26.71/hr I would guess that rural Kingman would be less. You are right Phoenix average is $31.64/hr.

Whereas a living wage is $29.19/hr for 1 working adult with 2 children in Kingman.

There are a lot of hurting/accomplished people out there in America.
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Re: Imagine a Better America

Postby William Thornton » Fri Mar 29, 2019 5:00 am

Tough to get by on 50k per year? My how the thresholds have changed.

Sweden the socialist utopia? Might read this: https://reason.com/reasontv/2018/10/23/ ... st-success
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Re: Imagine a Better America

Postby KeithE » Fri Mar 29, 2019 9:51 am

William Thornton wrote:Tough to get by on 50k per year? My how the thresholds have changed.


Yes livable wages have changed. My father never earned more than $12K/year in 1975 when he retired and we (2 adults/3 kids) survived in the high cost of living area near San Francisco in the 50’s/60’s (I have heard that the church at times helped us out with mortgage payments). It is challenging these days (and impossible in places like NYC) to live on $50K. Go to the living wage calculator and check out NYC ($40.89/hr = $85K/yr for 1 adult with 2 kids). Even in William's neck of the woods (Barrow County, I believe) a livable wage for an adult and two children is $28.50/hr = $59K/yr. Yes a single adult can Iive on $50K/yr in most of the US. Review the costs involved for reasonableness at the bottom of the links. I cannot fault their assessments of costs.

And mind you the median wage in the US is $59,039/yr meaning that nearly half of America is struggling to get by. This is not healthy. You and I may be living a comfortable retirement life; but don’t be fooled; many are not living comfortably even if they are working. They are not all lazy people; our economic system must be changed*.

Pervasive advertising these days makes debt matters worse, imo.

Millennials are having great difficulties. Summary:
Millennial Problems #1: Millennials are the largest generation at over 85-90 million people in the US, and are the most educated generation in history.
Millennial Problems #2: 40% of unemployed workers are Millennials. – US Census Data
Millennial Problems #3: Average college debt for a Millennial is around $33,000 with the median household income remaining the same since 1999. (PEW Research and USA Today college)
Millennial Problems #4. Millennials are reporting the highest levels of clinical anxiety, stress, and depression than any other generation at the same age. (Psychology Today)
Millennial Problems #5. Millennials are having children at an average age of 30 with 47% of births to women in the Millennial generation being non-marital. (PEW Research)


* A good starter at changing the system is min wage increases and max wage limits (perhaps through high tax rates on income above $1M).
A second step is a large infrastructure program creating comfortable living wage jobs, including more immigrants if needed.
A good third step is universal/more efficient health care, transferring the displaced health insurance personnel to govt/industry accountability jobs (we need this also).

Dem candidates have other good ideas.
----------------------------
William Thornton wrote:Sweden the socialist utopia? Might read this: https://reason.com/reasontv/2018/10/23/ ... st-success


If you actually read the Stoessel piece you would know Sweden is not “socialist” with the state controlling/conducting the means of production every step of the way (as Russia attempted). As the article says they moved away from being partially socialistic in the 70/80s. Since 1990 they moved to a controlled capitalism that I call "social democracy” model and are better off for it. That model is working and working well. In a “social democracy”, the state takes on social functions in a collective/efficient manner to the degree that the people agree to; I'm advocating for more collective action than we presently do.

From the Stoesell article:
Norberg says, "We do have a bigger welfare state than the U.S. and higher taxes than the U.S. But in other areas, when it comes to free markets, when it comes to competition, when it comes to free trade, Sweden is actually more free market.”

But to back this up Stoessel links the Heritage Institute's (a RW think tank that advocates for free markets and lasse-faire practices) Economic Freedom Index and said Sweden ranks higher than the US. Trouble is when you look at that Index, Sweden is actually lower in “economic freedom” than the US. In fact all Scandinavian countries have lower rankings in "economic freedom” yet they are happier, more prosperous as a whole, have less inequality and more social mobility.
Image

We discussed the difference between “socialism” and “social democracy" previously at Social Democracy vs Socialism. I am not recommending socialism and neither are any of the Democratic candidates no matter how hard Trump tries to frame the matter. It is unfortunate that Sanders describes himself as a “socialist” but he does not advocate for that kind of socialism; neither do any of the democratic candidates.

Utopia? Any place can improve and the US has plenty of room for improvement in people’s lives (now more than any other time in our lifetimes).

If you want to know more about the success of Scandinavia, read The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life. I’ll ship it to you, if you promise to read it with openness.

To William, you got a lot to unlearn and relearn brother.
Last edited by KeithE on Sat Mar 30, 2019 11:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Imagine a Better America

Postby KeithE » Sat Mar 30, 2019 11:37 am

Made some additions to the above. Please read in detail including the backup links and comment.
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Re: Imagine a Better America

Postby William Thornton » Sat Mar 30, 2019 2:01 pm

Unlearn and relearn. Whiff of reeducation camps?
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Re: Imagine a Better America

Postby Haruo » Sat Mar 30, 2019 7:36 pm

KeithE wrote:Image


Pakistan, just about identical to Switzerland in social mobility, and slightly but only slightly better in income inequality? Very odd that Pakistan is even mentioned here. India would make more sense, I think.
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Re: Imagine a Better America

Postby KeithE » Sat Mar 30, 2019 7:59 pm

Haruo wrote:
KeithE wrote:Image


Pakistan, just about identical to Switzerland in social mobility, and slightly but only slightly better in income inequality? Very odd that Pakistan is even mentioned here. India would make more sense, I think.

Don’t know why India and dozens of other countries are not on this chart. Perhaps you can research that at The Hamilton Project. Click on charts, search for and read about this chart; and look at more (yeah) data charts! Even a 65 year old can do it (I’m 68).

It is surprising that two countries as different as Pakistan and Switzerland are so close together; but remember this is only a two parameter plot. I’m sure Switzerland has more prosperity than Pakistan in term of average income.

I was just backing up my claim that the Scandivanian countries have less income inequality and more social mobility than the US.
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Re: Imagine a Better America

Postby Sandy » Sat Mar 30, 2019 9:46 pm

William Thornton wrote:Tough to get by on 50k per year? My how the thresholds have changed.

Sweden the socialist utopia? Might read this: https://reason.com/reasontv/2018/10/23/ ... st-success


Interesting perspective. Typical of the sort of thing you see from right wing extremist conservative media (John Stossel gives this one away). Propaganda, mostly. Sweden is a social democracy, a "socialist" country that fits the definition but is nothing like the "socialism" of Venezuela or North Korea. In fact, it is quite a stretch to call North Korea "socialist" when the combination of dictatorial government rule and control of the economy there is communist. I don't think the author of the piece is as ignorant as he thinks his readers are.

The know it all authority on all things for conservatives, Trump, declared that the only thing standing in the way of North Korean prosperity was its nuclear weapons development, not the fact that it is the world's most regressive communist dictatorship. According to orange hair, all North Korea has to do to be fantastically prosperous is stop building nukes, not change their economy or government.

KeithE wrote: We discussed the difference between “socialism” and “social democracy" previously at Social Democracy vs Socialism. I am not recommending socialism and neither are any of the Democratic candidates no matter how hard Trump tries to frame the matter. It is unfortunate that Sanders describes himself as a “socialist” but he does not advocate for that kind of socialism; neither do any of the democratic candidates.


Exactly.

What you won't hear conservatives talk about is a degree or level of socialism, applied to specific industries or field, such as Canada's health care (or that of any of a dozen Western European countries and many in Eastern Europe these days as well). Scandinavia has had socialized medicine for decades, it works, they have standards as high as the US, maybe even higher, and are major contributors to medical research.
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Re: Imagine a Better America

Postby Haruo » Sun Mar 31, 2019 12:44 pm

Even the United States has by and large gone for socialized (or at any rate not profit-driven) fire fighting for generations now. Public schools and public libraries have faced more serious obstacles to maintaining their socialist credentials. Mrs. De Vos may finally undo the great damage caused over the years by those two Leninist notions and the concomitant spread of literacy.
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Re: Imagine a Better America

Postby Rvaughn » Sun Mar 31, 2019 7:50 pm

William Thornton wrote:Tough to get by on 50k per year? My how the thresholds have changed...
My wife and I get by on a good bit less, and are quite happy with our lives.
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Re: Imagine a Better America

Postby KeithE » Fri Apr 05, 2019 10:15 am

Rvaughn wrote:
William Thornton wrote:Tough to get by on 50k per year? My how the thresholds have changed...
My wife and I get by on a good bit less, and are quite happy with our lives.

I do not know what county you live in in “East Texas” but I’ll take Sabine County as an example.

http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/48403

There a 2 adult (one working), no children at home “livable wage” is $17.02/hr = $35, 401.6/year. So I'm not surprised that you are "happy with your life".

Averaged over the while US, a family with two adults, no children at home as needing $40,095/year for a “living wage”. See chart below which gives a lot of information.

Image

More info about how these numbers are calculated read http://livingwage.mit.edu/resources/Living-Wage-User-Guide-and-Technical-Notes-2018.pdf.

Our median (half less/half more) income is the US is $56,516/year. Nearly half of Americans are struggling and that should not be for the richest country in history. And we have a President who is trying to cut the safety net in the 2020 budget even more than he already has. His 2019 tax cut went primarily to the very rich and corporations.

Image
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Re: Imagine a Better America

Postby Sandy » Fri Apr 05, 2019 11:15 am

The "tax cut" wasn't enough, among those who are most likely to spend money, to last very long. I've heard analysis of it call it everything from a "sugar high" to a "sub-stimulus." My refund check hasn't arrived yet, so I still have to spend the couple of extra dollars I got back so I can stimulate the economy.

In spite of the job growth numbers, which have been very irregular, unemployment keeps inching up again. So the losses are exceeding the gains.

Cost of living varies quite a bit from place to place. Expecting that someone can, or should, be able to live on what it takes for you to live on is really not a fair comparison. In Texas, there was no personal income tax. Sounds great, but we paid more of our taxable income in taxes in Texas than we did in Pennsylvania, with a personal income tax. School districts and other entities in Texas, who get less from the state than in places where there's a state income tax, wind up taking a bigger share. In Texas, our energy bill, mainly electricity, was massive, 14 cents per kwh, loaded with taxes. Here in relatively expensive Chicago, we pay 3.85 cents and no sales tax on utilities. I honestly do not see how someone could raise two kids on an income of less than $50,000.
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