Sunday, March 20, 2016

How we could accomplish Bernie's goals by giving Finland back to the Russians and drop out of NATO

I've gotten used to many Americans seeing Bernie Sanders' economic proposals through rose colored glasses. But I must admit I was stunned to read a simplistic, uninformed article on The Atlantic's website What Americans Don’t Get About Nordic Countries written by Finnish author Anu Partanen.

It was a defense of Bernie Sanders "socialist" policy proposals. It was an attack on the gentle arguments of Hilary Clinton attempting to lead others to the truth of why "it couldn't happen here."

I feel like someone needs to explain to Ms. Partanen directly, in a less gentle way, why her article represents so much ignorance. So I will make an attempt.

If you examine military expenditures as a percent of government expenditure as has the World Bank,what you discover is that the U.S. spends about 16% on the military, Finland and all Nordic countries less than 4%. If the U.S. were to reduce its military spending to 4%, that would be a simple 75% reduction in military spending. There would be billions available for Bernie's programs.

Why does this matter? Ms. Partanen explains: "When I lived in Finland, as a middle-class citizen I paid income tax at a rate not much higher than what I now pay in New York City." She is correct and like the teenagers and 20-somethings supporting Bernie, she basically thinks we Americans ought to be able to afford key socialist programs such as those offered in the "Nordic" countries.

Ms. Partanen simply ignores recent events this year such as U.S. Air Force to send F-15 jets to Finland and American F-15s to join 1st Finland drill over ‘increased Russian activity' which aren't in her relatively narrow-minded frame of reference. History, after all, should never get in the way of a good argument, as Donald Trump has successfully proved.

Ms. Partanen has written a lot about the Finnish education system but apparently she missed Finnish history going through that system. Russia has invaded Finland numerous times when it was part of Swedish Empire (see Wikipedia entry) and the Russian Empire eventually overpowered Sweden to make Finland a part of its empire in 1809. Currently many civilian Finns are delusional believing either Russia's Putin has no reason to annex it today or, worse, that by themselves they could repel a Russian invasion.

Finland is not the Ukraine, but Russians in Finland constitute a linguistic and ethnic minority in Finland. About 30,000 people have citizenship of the Russian Federation, and Russian is the mother language of about 70,000 people in Finland. And there is the Karelian issue.

Perhaps the U.S. could follow Ron Paul's suggestion and withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). We would save a bundle in military spending so that we Americans can enjoy the benefits the Nordic folks have. The Nordic folks could decide to pungle up an additional 20% of their GDP to pay us to share our military power. They could do that by doubling their taxes and/or sacrificing those neat benefits they seemingly can easily pay for.

In another blindness to history, Ms. Partanen dismisses Hillary Clinton's argument that folks in the Nordic countries adopted socialist programs in part because of the homogeneity of the population. She points to current problems in Sweden as evidence the Nordic countries are heterogeneous. Is it ignorance or deliberate dissembling that she neatly ignores the fact that the Nordic countries adopted socialistic programs over a half a century ago when, in fact, the populations were homogeneous?

Yes, today homogeneity is not the situation as indicated in headlines such as

And guess what. This month this headline appeared: Decade of struggle puts Finnish tradition of consensus at risk. Maybe Ms. Partanen should take a trip back to do extensive research on what's going on in Finland.

Ms. Partanen was correct in challenging the idea that the Nordic countries don't produce innovation in their private sector. They do.

She didn't mention that the collapse of the Finnish company Nokia had a significant impact on the nation's very small economy, though.

She does mention Sweden's Volvo, but not as another indicator that things are not all perfect. Volvo Cars was purchased by Ford in 1999 and sold again in 2010 becoming wholly owned subsidiary of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group of China. Volvo Aero in 2012 was sold to Britain's GKN Aerospace Engine Systems.

Finally, I'm reluctant to mention this, but Ms. Partanen has left me no choice.


Is she talking about the Nordic countries? Or perhaps all the members of the Nordic Council? I'm assuming all this Nordic brilliance has nothing to do with the concept of the Nordic race and certainly nothing to do with Nordicism.

Ms. Partanen is pretty clear on the "Nordic countries" repeating the term several times. She's not including the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania who have "observer" status on the Nordic Council.

One of her key points is "Nordic people have made their decisions out of self-interest" and she uses the term "Nordics" a number of times. I think we need some language clarity here. Perhaps some quick research could help.

Do the thousands of Somalis who immigrated to Finland 20 years ago, many Finnish citizens who have children born in Finland, think of themselves as "Nordic" people?

According to the article A New book about Finnish Somalis launched in Finland about a 2015 book titled Suomen somalit – Finnish Somalis - tells us that "young people born in Finland have difficulties in finding their true identity. Even though they are born in Finland and have lived in the country all their lives, they do not feel that the society accepts them as Finns in the true meaning. At the same time they do not feel as Somalis either, as they might have never even visited the Somalia."

Perhaps Ms. Partanen should find a way to co-write a book with Nura Farah, the the first author of Somali background to publish a novel in Finland. As noted in one article about Farah "Her new home was in the grip of a deep recession, and according to Farah there was a fair amount of racism. At school she was bullied because of her skin colour, and her classmates called her ’Neekeri’ (a racial slur that can be translated as ’nigger’ or ’negro’), rather than her first name, Nura."

I have a feeling that these Somalis do not think of themselves a "Nordic." Are the thousands of asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan who arrived in Finland in 2015 intent on becoming "Nordic"?

In other words, the Nordic people are just now discovering what a country of people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds is. And it is doubtful they live in countries that today would for the first time embrace broad socialist proposals. They are having a hard enough time keeping right wing parties from gaining control.

Ms. Partanen's article which obviously "Feels the Bern" and criticizes Hilary Clinton has much in common with most articles of that type written by Americans. Her special point is that the Nordics are a great example for Americans.

She lacks just one thing - an understanding of the truth of her own history, culture, politics, and economics. She shares that with most American writers of similar articles, and with Donald Trump.

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