Denmark isn’t a middle-class, capitalist, entrepreneurial country? Because it has universal healthcare, free college, subsidized day care, and guaranteed family and medical leave? Really, Secretary Clinton? Really?
We are not Denmark — I love Denmark — we are the United States of America. We would be making a grave mistake to turn our backs on what built the greatest middle class in the history of the world.
— Hillary Clinton, last night
Okay. When I heard that, I said, “Wow. Did she just say that Denmark isn’t a middle-class, capitalist, entrepreneurial country? And that that’s because it has universal healthcare, free college, subsidized day care, and guaranteed family and medical leave?
That struck me as a major gaffe. She is, after all, running for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, not the Republican Party’s.
Sanders didn’t respond to it because, if I remember right, he didn’t have the chance. But I expected the political analysts to point this out afterward.
Silly me. It’s being hailed as a big moment for Clinton. By most commentators I’ve read, anyway. But not by Slate’s Jordan Weissmann, who wrote last night:
The odd thing here is that, despite his preferred nomenclature, Bernie Sanders isn’t really all that much of a socialist. Yes, the man is certainly on the left edge of mainstream American politics. He would like to raise taxes significantly on the wealthy, to spend more on infrastructure, to break up large Wall Street banks. He’d like to make public colleges tuition-free, but he isn’t pushing to eliminate private universities. Fundamentally, the man isn’t really running on an anti-capitalist platform of nationalizing private industry. The one exception, you could argue, would be his stance in favor of single-payer health care—that would amount to a government takeover of health insurance. But that would also basically bring the U.S. in league with decidedly capitalist nations such as Canada and Great Britain.
In the end, left writer Jesse Meyerson, himself a bona fide socialist, put is most simplyin Rolling Stone: “For now, the proposals at the core of his platform—for the most part very good—are standard fare for progressive Democrats.” That comment was from July but still holds.
Which brings us to the Northern Europe comparison. Typically, policy types refer to Scandinavia’s “social democracies,” because of the robust social safety nets in countries such as Norway, Sweden, and, yes, Denmark. But it’s not as if these places are antagonistic toward capitalism and business—by some measures, they’re about as entrepreneurial and innovative as the United States (at least if you adjust for the size of their economies). Saying we shouldn’t emulate Denmark because we want to preserve America’s spirit of industriousness, as Clinton suggests, is a bit strange.
I clicked the “by some measures” link, which is to an October 2012 article by Weissmann in The Atlantic titled “Think We’re the Most Entrepreneurial Country In the World? Not So Fast.” It’s subtitled “We’re the venture-capital capital of the world, but start-ups and young small businesses play a smaller role in America’s economy than in many other rich nations.” A key paragraph says:
Some of the most cutting-edge young companies in the world call Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, and Austin, Texas home, partly because we have the financial backers to support them. According to the OECD, the U.S. ranks second overall in venture capital invested as a percentage of GDP, which wedges us between Israel at No. 1 and Sweden at No. 3. In sheer dollars, we dwarf everyone. That said, it’s not clear all that money floating around makes our start-ups much more creative. The OECD ranks us ninth out of 22 for the number of start-ups younger than five years old that issue patents, adjusted for the size of our economy (Denmark leads on that measure).
Weissmann’s right that Sanders isn’t really that much of a socialist. And if that statement by Clinton is an indication—and I think it is—Clinton isn’t really that much of a progressive. Or even that much of a Democrat.
Sanders now has the funds to start running internet and even television. I suggest to his campaign, should anyone from it happen upon this post, that the first ad they run shows a clip of Clinton saying what I quoted her above as saying, and juxtaposing it with the statistics that Weissmann cites in that Atlantic article, and a few statistics about Denmark’s standard of living.
If Clinton believes that venture capital for innovative startups, and bank loans for ordinary small businesses, will dry up if we have universal healthcare, free college, subsidized day care, and guaranteed family and medical leave, then she should maybe actually look into it a bit. Maybe she should even visit Denmark, which apparently on her trip there in which she came to love it didn’t notice that most of its residents weren’t living in poverty and didn’t realize that most of its businesses, large, small, and midsized, weren’t owned by the government. While she’s in the neighborhood, she also could visit Sweden and Norway. And if she can spare the time, even Germany.
But if she can’t fit a trip overseas into her schedule, well, Canada is just north of her home state of New York. She could even do a day trip there.
I mean it, Sanders campaign. Run ads of the sort I’ve suggested. Soon.
And then maybe Clinton can run ads illustrating Denmark’s, and Vermont’s, demographics. White as the driven snow.
What Sen. Sanders is proposing, however, is NOT what Denmark is doing.
First, let’s look at what he actually said last night:
“[In] terms of education, this is what I think. This is the year 2015. A college degree today, Dana, is the equivalent of what a high school degree was 50 years ago.
“And what we said 50 years ago and a hundred years ago is that every kid in this country should be able to get a high school education regardless of the income of their family. I think we have to say that is true for everybody going to college.”
(And let’s be clear, he is talking about FREE public college.)
The fact is, not everyone can go to college in Denmark. Denmark, like Germany, has a Gymnasium system. At the end of a Gymnasium education, which not all kids qualify for in the first place, one must take an exit exam which will determine whether one is eligible to go to college.
As of 2011, Denmark had lower levels of tertiary education that we do in the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_25%E2%80%9334_year_olds_having_a_tertiary_education_degree#2011_OECD_rankings
Another thing that I am sure Sen. Sanders would reject is Denmark’s grants to private schools which equalize their funding with public school per-pupil expenditures. Such private schools are funded regardless of whether they are secular or religious.
You are missing the point. The American electorate does not respond well to anyone who says, Country X does it better than we do. Voters do not care if it’s true. Even Democrats.
Here’s what voters heard:
Sanders: Honk honk honk Denmark honk honk.
Clinton: WE ARE THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, mfr!!!!!! And don’t you ever forget it! (edited by AB)
It was a killer moment for her.
One warning my friend, mf**er does not fly here.
That’s right, Little John. Only whites should have a right to healthcare and access to a tuition-free college education. I’m sure that will thrill the non-white folks who Clinton is relying so heavily on for support. Definitely, a guaranteed winning tactic for her.
Yes, Bloix. And I’m sure you also thought Donald Trump would fizzle when he made that comment about members of the military who are captured in battle are losers.
He probably did offend veterans of the Bataan Death March, the Battle of the Bulge, and the paratroopers captured when they were air-dropped into France in preparation for the Normandy invasion. But there aren’t many of them still around, so the comment just enhanced his appeal to Republicans.
Look. Denmark does not have what Clinton said it has: business owned by the government, a low rate of entrepreneurship and innovation, a small or no middle class, and high rates of poverty. It has instead a high standard of living, lots of entrepreneurship, lots of innovation, a huge middle class, and low rates of poverty. If Clinton does not know this, she’s not qualified to be president.
Then again, there’s that honest-and-trustworthy thing about her. So she probably does know this, after all.
We aren’t Denmark, mostly because we are stuck with a lot of Republicans.
No, we are not like Denmark because we have an abysmally low voter turn out coupled with an abysmally ignorant working class. Add in a mass media captured by corporatism in its worst propagandist mode and we get a government that is populated by sycophants to the rich and maybe not so famous.
When Clinton says ….
“We would be making a grave mistake to turn our backs on what built the greatest middle class in the history of the world.”
…… the correct response would be to point out that it was the policies of the 1940s thru the 1960s that created the greatest middle class in the world. Union policies , progressive income and wealth taxation policies , antitrust policies , finance policies , and so on.
Since then we’ve been deconstructing that policy regime and asset-stripping our once-healthy middle class.
We don’t need to use Denmark as the example. The U.S. works perfectly fine as the example , just not the U.S. example under Presidents Reagan to Obama , and including , notably , Hillary’s hubby.
You missed the point…as usual. I guess it doesn’t matter, you’ll end up voting for, and ultimately lauding and promoting, Hillary.
Marco, we were in an unusual situation back then, coming out of WWII as the only intact industrial country. That allowed us to absorb the higher taxes of those days. Remember also that, in 1960, about 50% of government spending was on defense, and only 20% on social programs.
Those numbers are now reversed. We spend more than 50% on social programs, and less than 20% on defense.
Well, if Clinton gets the nomination,I’m gonna be supporting her, Little John. You got that right. So will almost all Sanders’ supporters. You can bet the ranch on that.
We Sanders supporters don’t DO Nader.
“Marco, we were in an unusual situation back then, coming out of WWII as the only intact industrial country. That allowed us to absorb the higher taxes of those days. Remember also that, in 1960, about 50% of government spending was on defense, and only 20% on social programs….”
This is the boilerplate right wing response , and , as is typical , makes no sense.
The “Golden Age” was universal among the western war-torn economies like France and Germany as well as others like Japan.
“Allowed us to absorb the higher taxes of those days”- huh ? The only way that statement makes any sense is if by “us” you mean “me and my rich buddies” :
“Those numbers are now reversed. We spend more than 50% on social programs, and less than 20% on defense.”
Yes , so now we spend more on social programs , which gets immediately recycled into the economy , a great thing in a demand-starved global economy. As opposed to shooting million-dollar rockets into jungles , or sand dunes , depending on the war-du-jour. Pissing money down rat holes – yeah , that’s much better.
“Allowed us to absorb the higher taxes of those days”- huh ? The only way that statement makes any sense is if by “us” you mean “me and my rich buddies”
Uh, no. For the middle class:
“Yes , so now we spend more on social programs , which gets immediately recycled into the economy , a great thing in a demand-starved global economy. As opposed to shooting million-dollar rockets into jungles , or sand dunes , depending on the war-du-jour. Pissing money down rat holes – yeah , that’s much better.”
So how is it better to give money to someone and get nothing in return, rather than giving money to someone and getting planes, ships, missiles, etc.? Either way, the money goes to people. Some of those unemployed people you like to give free money to might actually WORK for it instead. (Heck, even FDR instituted the Civilian Conservation Corps — what’s wrong with that?)
My one complaint here is that you claimed that Hillary said that in Denmark the state owns the means of production. Actually she said nothing about Denmark at all other than that it is different from the US, although when she described the virtues of US capitalism (support for small businesses), indeed, as your sources note, that applies as well in Denmark, and maybe Bernie should have pointed that out. But maybe he would have been better off invoking the US past as some others here have noted.
Regarding his labeling, it really is unfortunate in my view that he is carrying this self-identified label of “socialist,: which will really hurt him far more than it did in this debate in a general election where the GOP will just run McCarthyite mad roughshod over him on it. In European terms he is indeed a social democrat, not a socialist, although sometimes the Nordic and German Social Democrat parties are labeled “socialist.” But in their own contexts, they are center left parties, even if they would be quite progressive/left here in the US.
So, just to note how his self-lableing is problematic, consider Germany. The dominant center-left party is Social Democrat, an old party dating to the 19th century when it was much more radical than today, indeed was socialist, with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels supporting it (Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program in which he defined pure communism was written about a program of that party). It stopped being Marxist a long time ago. There is a party to its left in German politics, whose main base is the former East Germany, this party the direct descdendant of the old Communist Party of East Germany. The name of this further left party? Democratic Socialist, the label that Bernie has unfortunately affixed to himself.
In any case, HRC’s real problem indeed is her poor ethics and dishonesty, which date back to her days as Arkansas’s First Lady, on the Walmart Board and all that icky Whitewater stuff. She and Bill are notoriously money hungry, which she has figured out she needs to damp down and cover up, but until quite recently she was exhibiting it with all her whining about how they were “broke” when the left the White House. Those Wall Street connections of hers are real and pretty ugly, even though I think she is now pushing a more progressive line because, well, it is popular.
Any thought of doing a perspective on the Democrats first debate here at AB? I enjoy reading your comments.
And indeed this is not a matter of her learning about Denmark. You are right at the end, she knows full well, but is obfuscating. Today in WaPo Harold Meyerson pointed out that back in 91 in New Hampshire Bill Clinton was pushing the active labor management policies of Sweden. They both are super wonks who know this stuff very well.
As I said before, and I think was visible in the debate. She is very very smart and very very knowledgeable. Her problems are about ethics and electability and such matters, not her brains or knowledge, which are the best of any candidate running in either party..
Oh, and also her positions. She is less progressive than Bernie (and probably O’Malley as well). That is for real and important in many areas. In future debates, Bernie is going to have to do a better job of highlighting those real policy differences.
Hilary voted for aggression and nation building and like Obama she will continue more of the same amoral, insanity paying for it with the civil society that the US could have if it were not so capitalist and entrepreneurial.
Greatest middle class in the world is a myth much a the greatest military money can buy to do failing aggression.
“Entrepreneurial” code word for market idolatry implying the deity of the market makes something possible, so do not consider the deity of the market is fickle and the probability is abysmal.
“Capitalism” is the code word for the market being good while the market craves greed. So US uses racism to apologize for its ruined market economy which failed to distribute no matter how great they say the US middle class was, nor how good the shining city on the hill is to justify its expensive failures of weapons used for national building aggressions.
If the US were only killing more, faster it could make the whole world like itself.
“Those numbers are now reversed. We spend more than 50% on social programs, and less than 20% on defense. –
The world is very different, if it were not for nation building the world’s greatest aggressor would be spending a lot less than 20% of its outlays on war.
In the 60’s the US spent too much, for the CIA sales pitches and military industry complex welfare systems
I simply cannot find anywhere in the transcript of the debate where Clinton said or implied that in Denmark, business is owned by the government, or has a low rate of entrepreneurship and innovation, a small or no middle class, and high rates of poverty. Not sure what the value is in dreaming up things she might have said when she didn’t say them.
The main takeaway from saying we are not Denmark is that a country with 320 million people of hundreds of different ethnicities and cultures is not the same a country of 5 million with little diversity. And she preceded that by largely agreeing with the substance of what Sanders was saying as it applies in the U.S.