Send us more Norwegians
Why would they not want to come here?
During a recent meeting on immigration reform, President Trump was criticized for referring to African countries as “s….hole” nations and questioning why we can’t get more immigrants from Norway.
While many in response made the point that America has always tended to get immigrants from countries less well off seeking a better life, I have not seen much examination of the opposite question: Why wouldn’t someone in Norway want to move to the United States?
Examining that question could shed light on what our country needs to do to improve the quality of life for all our citizens, if we truly want to restore America’s greatness. So what would a Norwegian citizen lose by becoming an American?
Norway beats the U.S. in wages for unskilled workers, median household income, Gross Domestic Product generated per hour of work, per capita spending on education, paid maternity leave, paid sick leave, paid vacation, low murder rate and just about any other measure of public well being. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranked Norway as first of 38 developed countries in its citizens’ life satisfaction. The U.S. ranked 37.
The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Norway’s universal health care system as the 11th best in the world. Adults pay the first $246 of medical costs out-of-pocket annually before government insurance kicks in. There are no deductibles required to get health care for children. There is an emphasis on preventative health care.
WHO ranks the U.S. 37th. With no guaranteed health care, an average U.S. family pays about $10,000 out-of-pocket for health care insurance (premium/deductible) with numerous uncovered services. The emphasis is on illness treatment rather than prevention.
This comparison makes it clear why Norwegians are not immigrating to the U.S. But what political forces produce the difference?
Republicans swept into control of Congress in 1994. Since then they have controlled the House for 20 of those 24 years and the Senate for 16. Their uniform mantra has been economic prosperity comes only if we cut corporate taxes, cut labor costs and get rid of regulations on industry. Then the wealth will trickle down on the masses, goes the theory. Currently about 25 percent of the U.S. GDP goes into taxes.
Norway has decided the way to high productivity and being competitive in world markets is to invest in programs to maximize the potential of its people.
Spending money on quality prenatal care, freeing parents during the first year of life to nurture a newborn with good social support, quality preschool education, preventative health care and high quality education, including technical schools for those not college bound, pays big dividends. Norwegian workers are willing to put money into these programs because they know that the social supports are in place so that if their earning potential is suddenly impacted, they won’t be stuck living under a bridge.
These programs cost money and about 42 percent of the Norwegian GDP goes into taxes. The average tax burden in developed countries is 34 percent of GDP.
I am not advocating taxation to the degree of Norway. But we must come to the realization that true prosperity will not come just from business and industry prospering and reinvesting their resources.
We as citizens must decide if we are willing to invest our own resources to develop programs that will contribute to the prosperity of all. We must also decide if we are willing to invest adequate resources to see if a program will truly have the desired impact. All too often we underfund a program to the point that it cannot be implemented well and when it fails, hold that the program doesn’t work and move to cut funding to remove “waste.”
So in this election year when you hear candidates talk about economic development as the solution to all our woes, think: Maybe it is time to elect leaders who want to invest in our citizens as much as our businesses.
Dr. Soltys is a retired professor emeritus who still teaches at SIU School of Medicine on a volunteer basis.