Whilst perusing the interwebs this morning, I happened upon a Facebook group that claims to be exposing Bernie Sanders for the fraud that they think he is. As expected, most of the posts are along the vain of Capitalism (‘Merica) vs Socialism. Like this meme.
Which has nothing to do with Bernie but claims to point out how horrible things really are in Denmark. This got me to wondering what the numbers really look like. I take all memes with a big grain of salt as they are usually out of context, often not based on facts and a good chunk of the time, completely false. Here’s what I found.
Let’s start with the big one, taxation. Denmark does have some high taxes. 51.5% high actually, at least that is what their max allowable income tax which includes their 8% tax for their nationalized health care. That seemed pretty high, although I could not find anywhere that suggested or confirmed that Danes paid 80% of their income back in taxes. And yes there is a VAT that can be up to 25% on things like cars, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s use the high number of 51.5% for income tax.
The average US household makes right around $51,000, just under actually. The average tax for that bracket is 25%, just under half of Denmark’s. And if you stopped there, it would look like the Danes are getting raked over the coals and should probably rebel. However, when you consider that their tax rate includes many things that Americans are required to pay for separately, the comparison doesn’t hold. The average US household that makes that $51,000 a year, pays $16,800 for health insurance premiums equally 32.9% of their income. That puts the strain on average households at 57.9%, slightly higher than their Danish counterparts.
Let’s look at education, one of the other freebies mentioned. Danes get free schooling all the way up to and including higher education. Not only is tuition free, the government will provide a stipend to eligible students to help keep them afloat while they are attending and if that isn’t enough, they can get low interest loans. Of course, this isn’t free. It is paid for by the taxes mentioned above, but education in the US isn’t free either. Tuition alone will set you back just over $15,000/year.
The meme continues to counter the commonly repeated idea that Denmark is the happiest country in the world. Saying that Danes kill themselves at a rate of 20.8 per 100,000. I could not find any studies that supported that claim. However, the number given for American suicides was close to what I find here. The World Health Organization put Denmark’s suicide rate at 8.8, well below ours. In further searching to find rates of antidepressant use, I found that studies showed that both countries have very similar rates of depression. Denmark and the US populations suffer from major depression at a rate of 3-4%.
Next I looked into the claim that the Danish, due to their over taxation, were unable to ever own anything for themselves.
I found that about 40% of Danes did not own their own homes. This was a whopping 1.5% below the US rate. Continuing along these lines, I wondered what their disposable income was. I felt this would give a pretty good idea of how the Danes were doing. Well, according to what I found out, Danes beat us out by right around $11 even with our significantly lower taxes.
And what about that pesky Value Added Tax. Well, it looks like the numbers are fairly representative of the situation, albeit a little exaggerated. In 2002 (the only numbers I could find), Americans paid 77 cents per liter of gas. The danes? A whole $1.66 or just over double. Assuming the numbers have trended in the same direction, our current gas price of just over $3/gallon would put theirs at $6.46. I couldn’t find any numbers for a Honda Accord, but a VW Golf that would cost $20,000 in the US would set you back just over $45,000 in Denmark.
What I find interesting about the products chosen as indicators for the VAT is the fact that Denmark has one of the highest rates of people not using a car. 18% of all trips made are done on the most efficient form of transportation known to man, the bicycle. In the capital of Copenhagen, 37% of all trips are made by bike and the local municipalities are hoping that number hits 50% this year.
And finally, it claims that due to these taxes anyone who makes any money leaves the country taking their businesses with them causing scarce employment opportunities. In 2015, Denmark has an unemployment rate of 6% and the US sits at 5.3%. Not exactly what I would call out of control unemployment.
This post is an absolutely perfect representation of what is wrong with America — people rely on memes to confirm what they already believe instead of looking up the information themselves. If people were willing to do what Mooseknuckler did, and do the research, they would realize how completely full of bullshit that meme was. But people don’t. They just accept that the random meme on facebook is the gospel truth. Which is not a very good sign for the health of our collective society.
Not to sound like an alarmist, but people refusing to do the research is what makes it so easy for politicians to do whatever the fucking hell they want. They have us arguing about shit like abortion and gay marriage and whether the bible is more legally authoritative than the fucking constitution. (For the record, even the bible says the answer to that question is no. Apparently Ben Carson’s not as familiar with the Bible as he wants people to think he is. Also, this is a damn representative democracy, not a theocracy. The bible has no part in our legal framework, so can everyone please stop trying to shove it in there?) All the while, they’re instituting procedures like civil asset forfeiture or introducing legislation to overturn landmark NLRB cases that would hold major corporations jointly liable for labor violations.
I’m not saying that the issues discussed by Mooseknuckler aren’t important. They absolutely are. What I am saying, is that we would all be much better off by doing our research, paying attention, and not accepting as truth everything a politician says or everything we see on facebook. This is especially important as we gear up for the next Presidential election. Candidates will say a lot of things; don’t just accept that what they say is true. The information is so easily obtainable; we all have access to the truth. We just have to go find it, and it is shameful that in this age of information, we just refuse to do it.
So kudos to Mooseknuckler for being part of the solution and not part of the problem. I hope you’ll join him because the solution needs you.