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Sanders writes: "In Denmark, social policy in areas like health care, child care, education and protecting the unemployed are part of a 'solidarity system' that provides strong opportunity and security for all citizens."

Sen. Bernie Sanders thinks we can learn a lot from Denmark. (photo: AP)
Sen. Bernie Sanders thinks we can learn a lot from Denmark. (photo: AP)


America Needs Denmark's "Solidarity System"

By Senator Bernie Sanders, Reader Supported News

18 May 13

 

oday in the United States, unemployment is too high, wages and income are too low, people are struggling to find affordable health care and the wealth and income gap is growing wider. Millions of working families are finding it hard to make ends meet and maintain a dignified standard of living.

In Denmark, social policy in areas like health care, child care, education and protecting the unemployed are part of a "solidarity system" that provides strong opportunity and security for all citizens. Danes pay high taxes, but in return enjoy a quality of life that many Americans would envy.

Denmark is a small, homogenous nation of about 5.5 million people. The United States is a melting pot of more than 315 million people. No question about it, Denmark and the United States are very different countries. But are there lessons we can learn from the social model in Denmark? If you're interested in the answer, please attend one of a series of town meetings that I am holding throughout Vermont this weekend with Danish Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen. On Saturday, the ambassador will join me for town meetings at 1 p.m. at Burlington City Hall and at 7 p.m. at the Brattleboro Museum in Brattleboro. On Sunday, join us at 10:30 a.m. at Montpelier High School in Montpelier. Admission is free, questions and comments are encouraged.

Health care in Denmark is universal, free of charge and high quality. Everybody is covered as a right of citizenship. The Danish health care system is popular with patient satisfaction much higher than in the United States. In Denmark, every citizen can choose a doctor in their area. Prescription drugs are inexpensive. They're free for those under 18 years of age. Interestingly, despite their universal coverage, the Danish health care system is far more cost-effective than ours. They spend about 11 percent of their GDP on health care. We spend almost 18 percent.

When it comes to raising families, Danes understand that the first few years of a person's life are the most important in terms of intellectual and emotional development. In order to give strong support to expecting parents, mothers get four weeks of paid leave before giving birth. They get another 14 weeks afterward. Expecting fathers get two paid weeks off, and both parents have the right to 32 more weeks of leave during the first nine years of a child's life. The state covers three-quarters of the cost of child care, more for low-income workers.

At a time when college education in the United States is becoming increasingly unaffordable and the average Vermont college graduate leaves school more than $28,000 in debt, virtually all higher education in Denmark is free. That includes not just college but graduate schools as well, including medical school.

In a volatile global economy, the Danish government recognizes that it must invest heavily in training programs so workers can learn new skills to meet changing workforce demands. It also understands that when people lose their jobs they must have adequate income while they search for new jobs. If a worker loses his or her job in Denmark, unemployment insurance covers up to 90 percent of earnings for as long as two years. Here benefits can be cut off after as few as 26 weeks.

It is no secret that in our country many people are living under great stress. They work long hours with relatively little time off. In fact, a growing number of businesses provide no vacation and can force workers to work long and irregular shifts. In Denmark, adequate leisure and family time is considered an important part of having a good life. Every worker in Denmark is entitled to five weeks of paid vacation plus 11 paid holidays.

Recently the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that the Danish people rank among the happiest in the world among some 40 countries that were studied. America did not crack the top 10.

Are there lessons that we can learn from the social model in Denmark? You be the judge. Please join us on Saturday in Burlington or Brattleboro, or Sunday morning in Montpelier.



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+52 # dquesnell 2013-05-18 22:31
Thank you so much, Bernie! --Yes, the Universal Health Care, and employment benefits in Europe are excellent. That tiny littlecountry of Denmaark invented those solor panels...Yet, wwe are always, "the best in the world."

I lived in Europe for five years, and know of its benefits. They believe in a strong society. Like the French say..."Some of us are rich, some of us are poor, some smart, some not so smart, but we are ALL FRENCH." TO ME THAT IS BEAUTIFUL.

Interesting isn't it, that the Republicans call us "socialists" whenever we bring up the 'benefits citizens of Europe have,' as if it's evil...yet Rove's group claimed to be a non-profit group (CROSSROADS GPS) under the category of "Social Welfare" when they want to spend tens of millions on their candidates, claiming "Crossroads" (churchie sounding.)

NOW they are claiming they were "unfairly targeted!" I wonder how much of that money they spent helping society!
Thanks for everything you do -- You are my hero!
 
 
+40 # PABLO DIABLO 2013-05-18 22:48
THANK YOU Senator Sanders. Wake up America. Take back our government. The corporations, military spending, and divide and conquer are killing us.
 
 
+37 # tm7devils 2013-05-18 23:13
...did not crack the top 10 in happiest...? Hell, we don't crack the top 10 on any subject or criteria.
But hey, most of the people in this country think we are the greatest country in the World.
Somethings rotten...but it's not in Denmark!
 
 
+33 # Regina 2013-05-18 23:51
European countries are civilized in their social programs. Our "right-wing" know-nothings call them socialIST, but they sling words around without any concept of meaning. We're still playing Cowboys and Indians on a frontier that vanished at least two centuries ago. Europeans, being civilized, have nowhere near the gun-murder rate that we have. Guns must be the preferred Amurrican method of population control, because actual contraceptives are anathema to that ilk. I learned about Denmark specifically from American ex-pat friends who moved there for professional career purposes and later became Danish citizens. Their kids (born American, now bilingual) and grandkids (native Danish) are very successful and happy there.
 
 
+18 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-05-19 00:04
Bernie, I like you. I contributed to your campaign. You spread the good word enlighten the citizenry. Now, just quit talking about "ain't is aweful," a losing game. Address the real issue. Why the hell are you not talking about HOW Republicans are traitors to this country. They have become more "treasonous" since Obama took office.
 
 
+39 # ladymidath 2013-05-19 00:48
It's not just Denmark, New Zealand and Australia have similar systems. So does Canada. In fact most developed countries have something like this in place, so why doesn't the States?
 
 
+16 # tswhiskers 2013-05-19 10:38
We have the Republicans! Lucky us.
 
 
+12 # ladymidath 2013-05-19 00:48
It's not just Denmark, New Zealand and Australia have similar systems. So does Canada. In fact most developed countries have something like this in place, so why doesn't the States?
 
 
+16 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-05-19 18:01
1960. When I studied business math, major university, the instructor was very intense. He would pursue business math like a dog pursuing a rabbit. Suddenly he would just stop and talk about "Guns vs. Butter." That is, military spending vs. consumer goods. When a country somehow convinces a great percentage of the population (particularly those who are lacking in science, math, economics)that "America is the greatest country in the world," it is like "The Kid" saying in the movie, "The Quick And The dead:"how can you improve upon perfection?" (Remember, in the movie, his ego got him killed) If a significant percentage of the people do believe that their country is the "greatest country in the world" they fall for the delusion of those who market war machinery, and those corporations win the money that would normally be provided for infrastructure, bridges, roads, college tuition, decent teacher pay, Medicare patient care advances, Social Security cost of living adjustments. When the U.S. spends more than the next 13 countries combined on military hardware and personnel, that countries' social and infrastructure simply starts going to hell. And a country which throws that much money into the killing of others finds that that country also sets a bad example for its citizens-they, I believe become more divided and become much more violent. How does America treat one another as citizens? what is our murder rate per 100,000 citizens?
 
 
+7 # RLF 2013-05-20 05:15
Problem is ...it is the wrong people getting murdered!
 
 
+45 # seeuingoa 2013-05-19 02:52
Long live Denmark !

But remember that Denmark is not
fighting stupid, illegal and
unnecessary wars in other countries,
and is not trying to kill other people
with droneattacks, and is not trying
to destroy the nature with fracking.
Denmark has money left to be used
for its welfare system and its happy,
likeable citizens!

Next time you go on vacation, go to
Denmark and have a look yourself.
 
 
+6 # RLF 2013-05-20 05:16
Denmark did have people in Afghanistan, I believe. I was just there and that is what they told me.
 
 
+35 # WestWinds 2013-05-19 05:17
As long as this country keeps kow-towing to the corporate coo-coos on the Right, I don't see this going anywhere.

I agree with Sen. Sanders, this is a really good model and one that this country would be well advised to have a closer look at, but as long as we keep treating the Right as respectable and viable leadership, nothing but nothing is good is going to happen in this country.

We have only had a couple of decades of this New World Order and I, for one, am sick to death of it. These people have ruined my life and gutted decades out of my life for their BS. I despise every last one of them.
 
 
+25 # Arden 2013-05-19 08:11
The Danes are so sensible. Thanks, Bernie.
 
 
+18 # Rita Walpole Ague 2013-05-19 08:35
Dear Bernie: If only I could come to your town halls. I certainly will be there with you and yours in spirit. Please record/edit it, and make it available for sale. What a great way to educate our high schoolers, to instruct 'em on what works and works well in Denmark. We need such a potent ray of hope in this so broken country of ours, where so many of our young ones have only one future: to enlist in the military in order to survive. No jobs to be had, no money available for college or advanced ed.. I call it:
DE FACTO DRAFT.
 
 
+4 # karenvista 2013-05-20 22:05
Quoting ritaague:
Dear Bernie: If only I could come to your town halls. I certainly will be there with you and yours in spirit. Please record/edit it, and make it available for sale. What a great way to educate our high schoolers, to instruct 'em on what works and works well in Denmark. We need such a potent ray of hope in this so broken country of ours, where so many of our young ones have only one future: to enlist in the military in order to survive. No jobs to be had, no money available for college or advanced ed.. I call it:
DE FACTO DRAFT.


I call it THE ECONOMIC DRAFT. It's a draft either way,
 
 
+20 # futhark 2013-05-19 08:36
As Senator Sanders mentions, news stories a few months back featured reports that Denmark has the happiest, most satisfied people of any nation. The Netherlands has the tallest people. Both are indicators of good mental and physical health. Both Denmark and the Netherlands have government operated health care delivery systems. No one has to worry about being bankrupted by medical bills or being shuffled off in old age to some substandard residential care facility. If this kind of system has been proven to work so well, why can't we have something similar in the United States? Are we stupid or something?

(P.S. - My son is a programmer at Google. He works hard and is well regarded for his productivity. Google does not make its employees work nose-to-grindst one, but encourages them to take recreational breaks, provides food at work, field trips for employees, generous parental leave, etc. Google is a leading company in its field and shows that, even under a capitalist system, fair and decent treatment of workers actually operates to the benefit of both employer and employee.)
 
 
+33 # tedrey 2013-05-19 08:41
Unfortunately, the doctrine of "Americanism" demands that Americans must never admit that other countries surpass us in some areas, and that we cannot learn from those that do better. This is a large part of the reason for our nation's downward spiral. I thank Senator Sanders for trying to bring this to our attention.
 
 
+9 # karenvista 2013-05-20 22:11
Quoting tedrey:
Unfortunately, the doctrine of "Americanism" demands that Americans must never admit that other countries surpass us in some areas, and that we cannot learn from those that do better. This is a large part of the reason for our nation's downward spiral. I thank Senator Sanders for trying to bring this to our attention.


That's because of "American Exceptionalism. " When I hear that term it makes me ill. It proves the point that "those who think they know everything can never learn anything."

Can't you just hear them screaming anytime it is remarked that we might look to other countries for ideas, or, worse yet, governmental or legal opinions we might consider adopting.

OH THE HORROR!
 
 
+21 # Kathymoi 2013-05-19 09:14
This is an intelligent and humane, civilized, social system. The United States has alot to learn, starting with the idea that "every man for himself" is not a foundation for a successful society. You didn't mention crime, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the crime rate in Denmark is low, much lower than in the US, and that police brutality is also not even an issue there. I'd be interested to have those thoughts confirmed.
 
 
+21 # tswhiskers 2013-05-19 09:26
There are many lessons we can learn from Denmark; unfortunately the wealthy would far rather be kings of the mountain than share any of that wealth with the peasants below. It has been pointed out time and again that if the wealthy took less and left more we would all be better off and the U.S. as a whole would be much wealthier than it is now. But that would smack of real socialism. I guess the U.S. was a socialist country in the '50s, '60s and '70's and it was our national loss that the Reps. forgot to tell us that fact. Well, they've made up for that loss in spades; and they apparently like to see the serfs hard at work for them. I can't get to Montpelier this weekend but my heart is with you, Bernie. Funny, banks are too big to fail, but is America the same?
 
 
+8 # reiverpacific 2013-05-20 12:08
Quoting tswhiskers:
There are many lessons we can learn from Denmark; unfortunately the wealthy would far rather be kings of the mountain than share any of that wealth with the peasants below. It has been pointed out time and again that if the wealthy took less and left more we would all be better off and the U.S. as a whole would be much wealthier than it is now. But that would smack of real socialism. I guess the U.S. was a socialist country in the '50s, '60s and '70's and it was our national loss that the Reps. forgot to tell us that fact. Well, they've made up for that loss in spades; and they apparently like to see the serfs hard at work for them. I can't get to Montpelier this weekend but my heart is with you, Bernie. Funny, banks are too big to fail, but is America the same?

It's already failing, especially morally (Don't worry, I'm not gonna preach at you -I'm about as pure as the driven slush myself).
But as Sitting Bull (Hunkpapa Lakota) once wisely observed, "The White Man can make many wonderful things but he has never learned how to share them"!
Hasn't changed since his time, has it? In fact in these times, it seems to be getting worse and escalating towards a cliff.
 
 
+2 # tedrey 2013-05-25 12:15
The Danes are White Men. Maybe there's hope for the rest of us yet. But how long it takes!
 
 
+12 # reiverpacific 2013-05-19 09:38
It would be good to have a transcript of one of these meetings as most of us don't live in Vermont.
Otherwise, it sounds a lot like Richard Wolff's (The People's Economist") "Capitalism Hits the Fan". You can get the book or catch one of his many talks given between 2007 and the present day (but not on the US corporate media) on YouTube and he particularly addresses the point that since the 1970's Americans are working more and more hours to just keep up including doubling he amount of spouses and teenagers, doubling the divorce rate in this nation of much-touted "family values" with the stress of foreclosure and homelessness looming on the horizon just one paycheck away and as Wolff mentions, the poor and middle are approaching breaking point, the already rich flourishing.
He offers some solutions too.
And I've said my piece many times about the criminal for-profit blackmail called the US health care (non) system.
Denmark may be high on the list of happiness quotient but a small Himalayan country most Americans have never heard of, Bhutan, whose former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, realized in 1972, that instead of relying on Gross Domestic Product as the best indicator of Bhutan's progress, it should instead consider its "Gross National Happiness", to be measured by its peoples' sense of being well-governed, their relationship with the environment, satisfaction with the pace of economic development, a sense of cultural and national belonging.
Simple wisdom, innit?
 
 
+12 # jwb110 2013-05-19 11:59
The linch pin is all of this is that the GOP will do everything possible to stop Solidarity in this country. They have been using a divide and conquer strategy to drive the country apart.
They are looking for a society of beehive mentality that will lockstep anad work for crummy wages and never question the heal on their necks of the Oligarcy.
Pay taxes and get no services back from the oppressive Gov't they must support.
 
 
+12 # MidwestTom 2013-05-19 12:20
I wonder what percent of Denmark's budget foes to military expenditures.
 
 
+23 # Eliza D 2013-05-19 13:25
Thank you Mr. Sanders for showing Americans how a country can and should be. One of the many ironies in America is the nightmare of trying to parent in this "family friendly" country. Most employers offer zero paid days off for employees giving birth and zero paid child care. I will never forget how stunned I was the first time I became pregnant and found I had to use sick days to have my baby. The "bonus" was that I could take six weeks of unpaid leave without getting fired! Lucky women! In today's two income society there are so many women working until the day or week before they give birth, which much research has shown is so unhealthy and even dangerous. Will we ever see a more enlightened truly, family-friendly society? Only if people like you (and me,in a less powerful way) keep shouting from the rooftops.
 
 
+12 # Penelope Jencks 2013-05-19 15:18
Dear Bernie,
WE LOVE YOU!!
 
 
+13 # diacad 2013-05-19 15:34
Sweden has a similar social system to Denmark with the same virtues. Two years ago, my wife (a retired physician) took a tour with Canadian medical professionals interested in comparing Swedish health care to their own. As a layman, I was along for the ride. It is quite an impressive and comprehensive system.

By the way, Sweden today is to the world today what the US appeared back in the 19th century - a land of freedom and opportunity. Fully ten percent of the population are now immigrants, and Sweden has still the lowest population
density in Western Europe. Unlike Norway, they do not belong to NATO, and
they are not responsible for the Nobel Peace Prize (Norway awards that, and
to some pretty repulsive creatures lately, too. Many Swedes are not happy about this, since Nobel is a revered historical figure there).

We learned that any private political campaign contribution whatsoever, whether from an individual or a corporation, is illegal. The state maintains a modest budget from which it subsidizes campaigns based on the respective political parties' past electoral performance. How sensible, like so much else in Sweden!
 
 
+4 # suzyskier 2013-05-21 19:46
Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands sound like Heaven on earth. I would move to any one of them if I could. I am so discusted with the USA and the right wing. They are ruining this country, it looks nothing like it did 40 years ago. What happened? Why is there so much greed? The Robber Baron of the 19th century is back in spades.
 
 
+9 # abdullahiedward 2013-05-19 16:49
The problem is Bernie America doesn't "learn" anything form anybody. Even if it works better than what they have.
 
 
+5 # djnova50 2013-05-19 18:56
When I was much younger, my dad was in the USAF. He got a temporary duty assignment to Denmark. He was stationed in England at the time and during our summer break, my mom took us to Denmark to see our dad and spend time traveling and getting to know the people. The Danes were wonderful hosts. Of course, I was just a child; so never really payed attention to the health, education, and welfare system. But, we got to see so many places that we would not have been able to see if we hadn't gone.
 
 
+4 # thekidde 2013-05-20 09:37
Thanks!!!
 
 
+6 # bingers 2013-05-21 09:50
I heard on the Thom Hartmann show a couple of years ago a couple of guests who were the leaders of the Danish conservative political party. When they heard the US conservative agenda they came to the conclusion that our conservatives were just plain stupid.
 
 
+5 # Buddha 2013-05-21 14:25
The problem is that so many Americans have been brainwashed into opposing a political and economic social system that would be beneficial for them and their family, and instead they fight to keep our current status quo that is sending their jobs overseas, stagnating their wages, leaving them uninsured, unrepresented, with the worst economic mobility of any of the OECD nations, all to enrich a very thin slice of Capital Class Oligarchs because they have been convinced that this is "Freedom".
 
 
+1 # jamjr40 2013-05-22 22:08
Yes, I agree that on paper Denmark seems to have its social agenda and political processes lined up correctly. What is terribly wrong with Denmark is their overwhelming support for GMO agriculture. They are another Monsanto pawn and we can certainly do without that.
 
 
+2 # joe_me 2013-05-23 19:09
Get rid of the extreme right in the USA & we will have a good start to copying Denmarks social system.

Dont know how anyone that can think straight and reason would vote for a REPUBLICON??
 

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