Monday, February 11, 2013

If Only We Were Swedenizing

by James Pethokoukis

National Review

February 11, 2013

In President Barack Obama’s Election Night and inaugural speeches, he made it clear there would be no centrist pivot in his second term. Forward, 51 percent of my fellow Americans, to a more egalitarian, tolerant, and communal future!

The president’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday will likely flesh out that vision as it applies to the federal budget, income inequality, and the environment. The era of Big and Getting Bigger Government is here to stay, he’ll surely admit. Higher taxes on the rich and business will be presented as a small price to pay for an expanded safety net and greater economic security. Don’t worry, middle-class Americans, the “dad of the country” — to use comedian Chris Rock’s recent description — will make it all better.

Given all that, it seems like good news that The Economist has just published a paean to Nordic-style, cozy capitalism, calling the Viking on its February 2 cover “The Next Supermodel.” After all, isn’t that what Father Obama is hell bent on accomplishing, the Swedenization of America with a supersized welfare state, confiscatory taxes, and greater income equality? The next thing you know, Michelle will be hiring Ikea to remodel the Oval Office. Out with the stuffy Resolute desk, in with the clean, modern lines of the Vika Gruvan model.

We should be so lucky. While America is moving left, Scandinavia is moving right. As The Economist points out, Scandinavia’s socialist image is badly out of date. Sweden is the largest of the Nordics and perhaps the best example of their embrace of market capitalism. Over the past 20 years, Sweden’s public spending has declined from three-quarters of GDP to just over half. Its corporate tax rate is half of America’s, its annual deficit a rounding error of just 0.3 percent of GDP.