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Author Topic: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?  (Read 1421 times)

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Offline TheLegionaryTopic starter

What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« on: January 22, 2010, 11:34:05 PM »
Hello everyone!
This is the first time I visited this part of and I must say I enjoyed reading it. As a non-American, I feel a bit intimidated in giving my opinion about things in the US. This is why I start my "participation" here with one question: what is bad about Sweden for Americans?
My question derives from the fact that during the debates about the reform of the US Health System as proposed by the Obama Administration, some critics  argued that the government would be willing to transform America into Sweden. To the best of my knowledge, Sweden has one of the best health care systems as well as social protection networks in the world. So what is wrong about that? I would say that 99% of mankind would love to live in a country with standards similar to those of Sweden.
I give the floor to anyone who dares solving this paradox for me.

Offline Brandon

Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2010, 11:40:45 PM »
Hard to say since I dont know a thing about Sweden except its location in Europe. I dont suppose you could give us a rundown of what Sweden's health care system is like?

Offline TheLegionaryTopic starter

Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2010, 11:45:57 PM »
First, think of any medical treatment (heart transplantation, dentist, fixing a broken finger etc). Then go to any clinic or any hospital. Talk to the doctor you chose or is available. You will be treated. In the end, they will show you the bill: 0$.

Offline Brandon

Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2010, 11:54:44 PM »
Alright my first thought is, who pays for all that? Examinations, medicines, and medical equipment do cost money. Somebody has to pay that doctor for his work as well as for all the equipment to make a proper diagnoses and for the tools/medicines to fix whatever's wrong with you.

If the government is paying for all of this then whats your tax rate and national debt like?

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Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2010, 01:55:23 AM »
March 2009 report from the US State Department site, on the Swedish economy.  (Paragraph breaks added, no change in the text.  Bold is mine.)

          Central government debt rose from 2002-2005 but fell between 2005 and 2008.  As a percentage of GDP, public debt was 36.5% (2008 est.).  The central government had a surplus of $17.2 billion in 2007 and a surplus of $19 billion in 2008. Sweden projects a deficit $10.6 billion for the end of 2009.  Corporate income taxes have decreased to 28% and are now among the lowest in Europe.

         The government has set a goal of selling some $31 billion in state assets during the time period 2007-2010 to further stimulate growth and raise revenue to pay down the federal debt.  To date, the Swedish Government has sold V&S (Vin & Sprit AB) to French Pernod Ricard for some $8.3 billion and the Swedish OMX stock exchange to Borse Dubai/Nasdaq for $318 million.  The ongoing financial crisis may require some deals to be postponed, but aside from that, privatization should continue.  The new, strict budget process calls for spending ceilings set by Parliament.  The ceiling was set at $159.8 billion in 2007 and at $140.6 billion in 2008.  These budget reforms, in combination with a constitutional change to the Swedish Central Bank, an independent entity, have greatly improved policy credibility.  The effects of this improved credibility can be seen in the long-term interest rate margin compared against the Euro, which is negligible.

           From the perspective of longer-term fiscal sustainability, the anticipated reform of old-age pensions entered into force in 1999.   The pension reform entails a far more robust system vis--vis adverse demographic and economic trends, which should keep the ratio of total pension disbursements to the aggregate wage bill close to 20% in the decades ahead.   Both fiscal consolidation and pension reform have put public finances back on sustainable footing.
In 2009, there were some negative impacts related to the financial crisis.  I don't see how it would be fair to blame the Swedish health care system for that.           

Swedish national debt was about 35% of GDP as of December 2009.

In contrast, the US national debt by June 2009 was already about $US 8.68 trillion, or 60.8% of GDP.  (It's now much higher in both terms.)

« Last Edit: January 23, 2010, 01:59:29 AM by kylie »

Offline RubySlippers

Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2010, 02:00:55 AM »
Alright my first thought is, who pays for all that? Examinations, medicines, and medical equipment do cost money. Somebody has to pay that doctor for his work as well as for all the equipment to make a proper diagnoses and for the tools/medicines to fix whatever's wrong with you.

If the government is paying for all of this then whats your tax rate and national debt like?

We do pay a great deal in taxes both regular and hidden in the US which I would argue matches Sweden or maybe higher overall. But in return they have universal health care, free education up through graduate/professional school, a social safety net second to none save maybe another Scandenavian nation like Norway and a defense that is sufficient. I think high taxes for such a payoff would be sufficient. Can Sweden take the US over please. :)

Offline TheLegionaryTopic starter

Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2010, 10:24:44 AM »

everything has a price and the Swedish Helthcare systems is clearly financed by the taxes. No dicussion about this.

If rich people do not need public health care system, poor people will need it. Maybe I should have been clearer. What I think surprises me and most non-Americans about the debate on the healthcare reform in the US is that the access to public health is not seen as a right of every citizen of a very rich country like the United States - in other words, it seems (please correct me if I am wrong) that part of the population does not "deserve" to have access to a health care system and this part of the population should depend on the charity of some. This is the paradox.

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Offline Kotah

Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2010, 11:09:13 AM »
More or less.

I'm personally an internationalist. Every country is cool with me. I have friends and comrades in Sweden.

p.s. Swedish accents are smexy.

Offline Brandon

Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2010, 12:15:02 PM »
I wont argue that our cost of living in the US is fucking ridiculous. I dunno, at first glance I don't see anything wrong with the Swedish system from what you have written here so perhaps I'm just not educated enough on the topic to give an educated opinion on why others dislike it.

From my point of view, everyone should have the rights to health care. There are ways to do it and ways to not do it though and it's my opinion that the health care in its most recent form is bad policy for a number of reasons that I wont go into (since thats not what this is about). I guess all I can say is I dont know why people rag on Sweden

Oh and in closing, Swedish women are hot ;D

Online Vekseid

Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2010, 02:03:50 PM »
A friend of mine got a lot of job discrimination because she was Brazilian. Apparently her skin was too dark (she'd pass for white anywhere in America).

She got excellent healthcare when she needed it though, and she wasn't even a citizen.

Offline Serephino

Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2010, 08:08:16 PM »
I don't think it has anything to do with Sweden being bad.  It has more to do with ignorance and greed.  You're right, in this country health care is a privilege and not a right, and that is ridiculous.  We puff out our chests and say we're the best country in the world, but we have a hellish national debt and we put money before human life.  It's the people who want health care to remain a profitable business that are pointing at places like Sweden and France and saying how horrible their systems are so people won't demand something like it.   

Offline consortium11

Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2010, 04:31:43 PM »
I can attest (anecdotally) to what Veks says about racism in Sweden. I was over there a few years ago for a conference with Rotary and pretty much any member of the group who wasn't clearly Anglo-Saxon style Caucasian got everything ranging from simple evil looks to full blown offers of fights when we wandered into the bright lights of Malmo.

I quite like Sweden's setup, but as I understand it there are still a number of issues... and beyond that further issues that mean a direct switch from a US style to a Swedish style wouldn't work.

Obviously the tax rate in Sweden in high. However you cut it, taxes in Sweden are far higher than in the US in both absolute and relative terms, which is what allows it to offer the generous welfare system it has. It's this tax and welfare system that influences nearly all the other "problems" with Sweden. As the tax rates are so high most families require duel bread winners, which on the surface is a good step for women's rights (unless of course someone wants to be a house husband/wife). There's another issue though; despite this dual breadwinners approach women seem to have far more defined "jobs" they can go for as opposed to the US (and UK) and are far less likely to break into the "traditional" male roles. I'll see if I can scrounge up the stats, but I believe it's something like of the top 100 Swedish companies only 2 have women in positions of senior management.

Also due to tax rates there are relatively few small businesses started and owned by Swedes within the country which means a large proportion of the workers are employed by either the large corporations or the government... most of the entrepreneurs end up in either Latvia or Estonia. What that means is the "American Dream" of starting your own company, being your own boss and working your way up is (a lot) harder within Sweden. The lack of a liquid employment market and entrepreneurship also causes some of the issues that lead to the racism described above. The welfare system works because of both the high taxes and high rate of employment (about 74% I believe). In recent years however there has been a high level of immigration from less developed countries (I think Sweden has taken in more Iraqis than any other Western nation), which the system hasn't been able to deal with well. The lack of a small business service sector or the chance to start their own enterprises means they're becoming more of a drain on the system (often through no fault of their own) which in turn leads to the resentment.

Statistically Sweden has some of the worst crime rates in the developed world, although that's partly down to the way they report their stats to the UN and Interpol. Even so, the crime rate appears to be roughly comparable to the US and nowhere near the levels of Japan or other "low crime rate" countries. Immigrants are vastly over-represented in the stats... partly tying in with what's seen above.

It's also worth noting that a lot of Sweden's success can be attributed to some great town planning. Public transport is affordable and reliable which means having a car isn't a requisite for working and there are large numbers of small but well made and soundproofed affordable flats for workers (something missing in the US). It's these factors, not just the welfare set up and tax rate, that make the Swedish set up work. Its health system, despite a few flaws, is one of the best in the world by any given indicator and is one of the best examples of single payer (despite small moves towards a hybrid) systems out there.

Offline Jude

Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2010, 06:01:07 PM »
The following is intended for humor only.
Sick of the Swiss

Offline general9991824

Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2010, 11:02:37 PM »
I normally don't chime in on politics but I thought I could contribute here.  Particularly one line from RubySlippers caught my attention: "a defense that is sufficient".  Sweden spends approximately 1.5% of its GDP on military expenditures, where the US spends ~4.7%.  I'm not incredibly familiar with the full Swedish order of battle, but it does appear sufficient for defense of their territory from conventional attack.  One reason they can afford a high level of social welfare programs compared to the US could be that disparity in military spending.  If the US would realign their military to Swedish philosophies (think 1910 levels), I postulate US military expenditures could drop to even below 1.5% GDP.  To put some numbers to it, that would save the US approximately $454.6 billion per year (~$1500/person).  That much money could add an awful lot towards social welfare spending without even raising taxes. 

However the US military is designed to have an expeditionary capability and the capability to fight two simultaneous wars against two near peer powers.  Stealth bombers, aircraft carriers, and highly trained soldiers don't come cheap. 

I think the key reason American's don't want to become Sweden is a concept called 'American Exceptionalism'.  (  For one reason or another a good number of Americans believe that there is something very special about the US, and that it should take a leading role in world affairs (hence high level of military spending).  Sweden, while a very lovely country I'm sure, is not exactly a world leader.  If a natural disaster hits, or major conflict erupts, the US is normally first on the scene (welcome or not).  Americans are in the process of debating which is better, spending money on universal health care or spending money for international relief/defense. 

I want to try to stress that I don't see anything wrong with Sweden, and would probably be quite happy living there.  Many Americans see 'becoming Sweden' would mean that we would relinquish that exceptionalism and become one of the crowd.  I'm sure there are plenty who would be more than happy for the US to step back and become more insular, but realize that whatever country steps forward to fill the power vacuum may be significantly worse. 

Offline Arhys

Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2010, 04:18:11 AM »
A fundamental difference between the U.S. and Sweden is the different attitudes towards government.  A leading conservative thinker said Republicans wanted to drag government into the bathtub and drown it.  There's a lot of mistrust against what the government can do, how much they do, and when--this doesn't always make sense.  if you'll recall some town hall meetings last summer people were protesting against government hands touching medicare, which is of course a very popular government program.  This dissonance is at the heart of the American political debate I believe.

Sometimes it gets ugly, like last Friday when a politician running for Governor South Carolina said, "My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed," Bauer said, according to the Greenville News. "You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."

I think Sweden's trust more in making government work for them.  I wouldn't take the situation personally as a Swede, I doubt many people using your country as a negative example are really knowledgeable enough about it, it's just a broad-based criticism of liberal/social policies, philosophy trumping a true comparative model.

Offline RubySlippers

Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2010, 09:28:44 AM »
I'll defend my statement last time I looked Sweden was a neutral nation the longest since 1814 and that is part of its defense isn't it. The international law is harsh on invasions of such nations and the world would hardly tolerate it. Add to that they do something odd that is work with other nations and talk over fight, work in the UN as a respected nation and in the EU which I believe is obligated to defend other members if attacked. I could be wrong. So they don't need a large military and it is suitable for their defense against any likely threat which is, none.

We on the other hand are fighting in three nations Iraq (for no good reason), Afghanistan (had a reason and dropped the ball years ago) and now Pakistan (who we are violating the sovereignty of every time a drone crosses the border) plus have troops stationed all over the world. Maybe we could use some of the Swedish common sense and working with others over what we are doing now.

Must I note we used to be neutral unless we were attacked and maintained a good posture of having a decent army and more importantly navy/marine capability plus the ABILITY to arm and train large numbers of men for war. The Japanese leader Yamamoto feared this he knew we were generally a moral and nice people with honor, when we were attacked we had a tendency to crush the enemy. And our engineering, industrial and raw manpower was our strength. That is also why even the Axis planned to invade us LAST they knew attacking us early was a bad idea. Japan didn't get the message and the Axis learned what we could do.

So maybe the Swedish defense of neutrality plus treaty ties like the EU plus working with the UN is better overall than the US posture of just blowing things up and killing people when we feel like it and damned what anyon elese says.

Funny though some things I don't see in Sweden: poor people with chronic medical conditions not getting care, people going bankrupt due to medical debt, homeless people freezing in the street, their citizens going hungry, students having debt from schooling, poor children not having a chance at a colege education due to lack of funds etc. And where is their $12+ trillion debt?

Offline nerdyanddirty

Re: What is bad about Sweden for Americans?
« Reply #16 on: January 28, 2010, 12:48:24 AM »
There is nothing bad about Sweden, what is bad is the idea of transferring your system to ours, because we are different countries with different situations. Some other people have given reasons why it's not workable, but the most important I think is not just our size (which I believe was mentioned) but the nature of our size.

Sweden's system is mostly just formalizing the traditional communal social services you've had for a long time.  Which is great-but not something America shares. A system like yours would require an enormous change in American culture, something that isn't happening.

That said Sweden's system may be a model for some states.

And as a side note to Ruby:

1) Sweden is also in a pretty peaceful part of the world, their interests abroad, (like open shipping lanes and free trade) are taken care of by other countries (notably the US, but not alone). They aren't spending a lot because they don't need a lot.

2) We are not at war with Pakistan, their government allows us to operate drones in their area (even if they don't do so publicly). Regardless of that fact the people we are hitting are either those engaging in attacks on US troops in Afghanistan (in which case we are on solid grounds legally) or on US soil (also solid ground).

3) America historically is actually quite expansionist-feel free to ask the Indians or Mexicans (or indeed most of latin america) how neutral we were.

You're right though that we waste a lot of money-it annoys me plenty as well.