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A Trip To Oz

by Ed Raymond | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Gadfly | May 17th, 2020

Something Is Not Rotten In Denmark
William Shakespeare, writer of my favorite play Hamlet, was born in Stratford-on-Avon, England during a plague year. Thomas Nashe, a contemporary, wrote a short poem A Litany in Time of Plague to commemorate serious plagues in England during 1564, 1582, 1592-93, 1603-04, 1606, and 1608-09. These are lines from the first stanza:

“Rich men, trust in wealth,/ Gold cannot buy you health,/ Physic himself must fade.
All things to end are made,/ The plague full swift goes by;/ I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!”

These were bacterial plagues called bubonic, not a new viral as COVID-19. Bubonic plagues quickly transferred bacteria from rats to fleas to humans. Victims woke up with fever and chills with feelings of extreme weakness and exhaustion. Quickly came diarrhea, vomiting, bleeding from the mouth, nose, or rectum. It was called the Black Plague because lymph nodes in the armpits and groin turned black. An agonizing, and very painful death followed. If you wish to know more about these plagues read Daniel Defoe’s “Journal of the Plague Year” published in 1722.

Almost every one of Shakespeare’s plays has references to plagues that often closed the theaters of London for months during his prime years. The word “plague” appears hundreds of times in his plays. The most famous quote from Shakespeare’s works is from Hamlet when he utters: “To be, or not to be, that is the question” in his soliloquy questioning suicide and life itself. Another famous quote from the play comes from Marcellus telling Horatio: “Something is rotten in Denmark.” I’m using it in the headline because today very little is rotten in Denmark for the Danes who are often listed as being the happiest and the most productive on the planet. The information below comes from a recent article by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and files I have kept for 27 years.

How Does Denmark Keep Unemployment Low During A Pandemic?
Denmark’s unemployment rate during the pandemic is between 4-5 percent while ours is between 15-20 percent. How come? Let’s start with facts about Danish fast food workers. A McDonald’s burger flipper in Copenhagen is paid about $22 an hour in cash and benefits. His or her benefits include universal health care, life insurance, a year’s paid maternity leave, a pension plan, paid sick leave, and six weeks of paid vacation. Workers get their work schedules a month in advance—and it’s against the law to assign them back-to-back shifts. No Dane hesitates to seek medical care because of bills. Danish employers demonstrate it is possible to have a flourishing economy while paying workers a living wage and treating them with respect.

Let’s get another thing straight. Scandinavian countries are not socialist. None own all the means of production. They generally own less production than the state of North Dakota which owns a big bank and the biggest mill, elevator, and milling operation in the United States.

Here’s what Denmark does during the COVID-19:
1. The Danes test twice the number of citizens per capita and have fewer than half as many deaths per capita than the U.S.
2. Denmark reduced infections so successfully it has reopened elementary schools, day care centers, barber shops, and physical therapy centers in April.
3. Denmark helps hard-hit companies pay fixed costs—on condition they suspend dividends, stock buybacks, and avoid all foreign tax havens.
4. To keep employees on the payroll, it reimburse up to 90% of worker wages of those laid off.
5. Denmark employs stay-at-home policies and Sweden doesn’t. As a result Denmark’s death rate by COVID-19 per million is less than one-third of Sweden’s.

Think safety nets provoke laziness and welfare queens? Almost 80% of Danes between 16 and 64 are in the labor force. The U.S. rate is only 74%.

Danish workers pay an extra 19 cents per dollar in taxes, but here’s what they get for those 19 cents: (1) free health care, (2) free education from kindergarten through college, (3) subsidized high-quality preschool, (4) a strong safety net and very low levels of poverty, homelessness, crime and inequality, (5) Danes live two years longer than Americans, and they earn about the same after-tax income as Americans although they work 22% fewer hours. The Danes have built a country that works by combining capitalism \tempered by democratic socialism.

Quit The Political Bullshit—We Are Not The World’s Richest Country Per Capita
Why have we swallowed the lie that we live in the richest country in the world? Yes, we have 621 billionaires, the most of any country. They now have gone into hiding at their huge estates and tax havens around the world during this pandemic—and kept their wallets tightly closed. Yes, we have about 19 million millionaires who have gone into hiding at their estates around the world—and kept their wallets tightly closed. The problem with the economy is half of the families in the United States can’t come up with $400 to cover a sudden emergency. One record we do hold: the greatest income inequality in the world.

The organization 24/7 Wall Street, using information from the World Bank, has studied the Gross National Income of 200 countries and has determined the top 25 countries with the richest incomes per capita. The group states the following qualities for the top 25: the wealthiest countries tend to have complex and diverse economies, export goods and services, and have a variety of industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and aerospace.

The United States ranks #12 in wealth but ranks first in income inequality among the top 25. We rank 57th among developed countries for citizens living in poverty with a rate of 17.6% Please Google for the complete list. It’s an interesting study. This is a list of some of those in the top 25 with an accompanying note.

(8) Norway has the best health outcomes in the world with the lowest rates of maternity mortality and child mortality for children under five.
(11) Switzerland’s biggest export is gold—and has a well-developed universal health program.
(15) The Netherlands has a life expectancy of 81.6 years, among the highest in the world.
(16) Denmark is rated as the least corrupt country in the world.
(17) Sweden invests more money in education as a rate of GNP than any other major country.
(18) Germany is the third largest exporter behind China and the U.S.
(19) Austria is famous for innovation and research and development.
(20) Canada exports oil and accepts over one million immigrants a year.
(24) Finland has the lowest poverty rate in the world, superior health outcomes, and excellent income equality.
(25) France has a very diverse economy and a life expectancy ten years above the world’s average.

I’m surprised Japan did not make the top 25. The other top countries n the list of 25 are either oil countries or island tax havens loaded with money by the world’s rich.

Obama Is Right: Our Government Is “A Chaotic Disaster”
There’s a song in The Wizard of Oz that Trumplicans obviously believe applies to our workers. Dorothy sings it along with Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion as they visit Oz (Trump is probably hiding behind the curtain with the Wizard!). The workers of Oz live so well they “get up at twelve, start to work at one, take an hour for lunch, and then at two they’re done!”

Donald the Lyin’ King keeps claiming we had “the greatest economy in the world” before the pandemic. Why didn’t this great economy create jobs, wages, and benefits that would have solved the problem of one American child in five being hungry all the time? The Top Ten Percent is doing very well. The bottom 80% not so well. In May we have 46 million people—or 1 in 7—depending upon food banks or other meal service programs for sustenance. In the state of Washington 800,000 people needed help in food security prior to the COVID-19—but now, three months later, it has 1.6 million in need.

Texas, New York, and Louisiana are states that have seen a doubling of applications for food stamps. Did you see the thousands of cars lined up in El Paso to receive food from a local food bank? San Antonio had 10,000 wait for hours at a food bank. It required the help of the Texas National Guard for distribution, in the “richest country in the world.” In Sunrise, Florida cars were lined up for two miles waiting to get food at a local food bank. Even families eligible for food stamps, to have enough to eat, waited in the food bank lines for hours for additional food. There are only 200 food banks in the country to provide food to families that do not qualify for food stamps. How far does a $1.40 per meal go for food stamps for a family of four? Bought a small jar of peanut butter for $3 lately?

God Doesn’t Wear A Mask, And “Regular People” Don’t Catch The VirusI wonder if Trump and Pence would wear masks every waking and sleeping moment if the press kept reminding them that, if they are both ill and indisposed by COVID-19, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would be president and take over the Resolute desk in the Oval Office. I suspect “The Chosen One” would think that God wouldn’t dare. Pence evidently has already chosen the God he is going to follow.

Who would have thought three and one-half years ago that in 2020 most Democrats would be wearing masks in public, observing six-foot spacing, and abiding stay-at-home rules-- while most Trumplicans would not wear masks, violate six-foot spacing, bring dozens of Confederate and American flags and firearms to protests, carry signs with “Freedom” inscribed in red, and push guards into ditches when asked to put a mask on.

The Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Patience Roggensack revealed her Republican white supremacist background when she responded in a case involving a meatpacking plant with 800 cases of COVID-19: “These were due to the .meatpacking plant, That’s where Brown County got the flare. It wasn’t just the regular folks in Brown County.” The “irregular” folks were black, Hispanic, many undocumented—and some whites evidently from “other places.” This is a person who makes momentous decisions about the lives of many people?

Another Trumplican wrote this about the requirement to wear masks: “This seems a blatant violation of an individual’s right to choose—of an individual’s right to self-govern. America, after all, isn’t a nation founded on collectivism (Communism!) but rather individualism—on the right of individuals to exercise their God-given authorities absent government tinkering and intrusion. What gives government the authority to order citizens to cover their faces?” I say this. It’s the same government that does not allow you to go 120 miles per hour on the freeway or park in a handicapped spot. Think that’s fair? Or as one Floridian said upon the opening of beaches: “We love our beaches. Now we can die for them.”

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