Those who have been following the Democratic side of the presidential race will notice that Bernie Sanders has been directing a great deal of the discourse, whether he has been leading in the polls or not. Clearly, people want change and many of them are looking to the person advocating the most radical moves. Sanders’ staunch cries for more government-funded programs, education, and healthcare, have struck a chord with citizens and have influenced even middle-of-the-road Hillary Clinton to start talking about how she would handle these issues.
Specifically, Sanders has compared our system with that of several Nordic countries like Denmark, which all share a rather more social system than exists in the U.S. These nations are well-known for their embrace of socialized healthcare and higher education, as well as their high quality of life, notable lack of crime, and the general contentedness of their populace. Despite Denmark’s record of success, however, many Americans and financial analysts like Dawn Bennett wonder whether the same principles could be applied to the United States effectively. After all, we have some very unique conditions and demographics that many believe would foil such a system.
For instance, while Denmark’s population tops out at 5.6 million people over 16,639 square miles, America has 321.7 million people spread over 3.8 million square miles. Not only are the people more spread out, but the types of people in the country are much more diverse as well. Denmark has had a very stringent immigration policy in place for years, which doesn’t allow for the entry of as many low-income workers and also doesn’t welcome as many people of different racial backgrounds. This obviously doesn’t mean that we should be pursuing a no-inclusion policy for people of foreign origins, but it does mean that we have some complications to work out that Denmark never really has to face.
On top of all that, there is the inevitable burden of higher taxes that would accompany any move towards socialized healthcare and education. Those living in these Nordic countries pay what would be considered insane amounts of taxes when compared to those we face (about 40% of income for a single person in Denmark). The tradeoff is that when it comes time to go to college or send a child there, neither parents nor students will have to pay. That $100,000 that has become a common expenditure for college-goers here would be completely covered – as would any emergency care or regular healthcare checkups, maternity leave, dental, etc.
While these services sound good, the question of whether or not our already fragile middle- and lower-classes could handle a higher tax burden is one that cannot be lightly dismissed. Bernie Sanders has laudable ideals and some interesting notions, but finding out whether his plans are practical would involve some risk-taking that the country may not be prepared for.