At this stage in his presidency, President Obama has become something of an amateur comedian. He only has a few months left in the White House, so every state occasion has become an opportunity for him to crack a few jokes, even though most of them end up being pretty corny.
Case in point: Friday night’s Nordic State Dinner, where the president saved his best dad jokes for a riff about how nice life is in countries like Denmark, Sweden and Norway. I think it’s safe to say that President Obama won’t be tearing up the New York comedy circuit anytime soon. But here’s the thing: the president wasn’t making this stuff up. His jokes were corny, but they were also accurate.
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Life is nice in the Nordic countries — especially for those who are part of the white majorities in these countries. The five Nordic nations (Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland), rank at or near the top of almost every single Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development human development index, and their citizens consistently poll among top 10 happiest in the world.
These countries aren’t perfect — and they do have their problems, especially with anti-immigrant nationalists — but they have made substantive gains in raising social welfare across the board. So what’s the secret to their success? Democratic socialism, of course!
In countries like Norway, basic services such as health care, child care and education are all free. The economy, meanwhile, is heavily regulated to keep corporate greed in check, and unions make up as much as 70 percent of the workforce, guaranteeing livable salaries and sensible working hours for most. Taxes, naturally, are high, but that’s a payoff the Nordic people are willing to make. Oh yeah, and their businesses are doing just fine, thank you very much.
There’s a myth out there that “big government” is bad for business, but democratic socialist Denmark, democratic socialist Sweden, democratic socialist Norway and democratic socialist Sweden are all in the top 10 of Forbes magazine’s ranking of the best countries in which to do business.
The “Nordic Model,” if that’s what you want to call it, is a success no matter what way you look at it, and we’d do well to adopt it here in the United States. After all, it’s what US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) would have wanted.
You see, the ironic thing about the “Nordic Model” is that it’s really the “Roosevelt Model.” It’s the realization of his plan for a society that guaranteed economic security for all. That plan was first unveiled in the 1944 State of the Union Address.
In that speech, FDR argued that the original Bill of Rights didn’t go far enough to protect people from the problems of the modern world. A “Second Bill of Rights,” he said, was now necessary to protect people from economic as well as political tyranny. President Roosevelt then went on to outline each and every one of these new rights.
FDR’s dream of a society based on these rights has never been fully realized here in the US. We have Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, but thanks to Republicans, not much more than that. FDR’s dream has, however, been realized in Scandinavian countries.
As my friend, the great comedian Dick Gregory once said, “If something’s good, people will steal it.” That’s exactly what the Nordic countries did with FDR’s Second Bill of Rights: They stole it. And who can blame them? It works.
Well, it’s time for us to follow their lead. It’s time for us to return to our roots and bring the Nordic model back to its rightful home: the United States.
It’s time to make FDR’s dream a reality.