Norwegians vote to keep the welfare state

Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, a Christian Democrat, announced today he will step down after his party lost majority rule in the country’s national assembly in yesterday’s election.


Jens Stoltenberg (above, thinking, "Why is there a weird flower swirly over my head? Oh, what, that’s our logo? Crap! Damn lefty hippies!"), a left-wing Labor leader who ran under the three-party Red-Green alliance, which includes the Labor, Socialist Left and Center parties, will take over on Oct. 14 provided his party has formed a government by that date (hey, progress takes time!).  


What’s interesting is that Bondevik’s platform called for tax cuts, owing to the country’s vast reservoir of wealth thanks to high oil prices ( Norway is the world’s third largest oil exporter, after Saudi Arabia and Russia). Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?


Norwegians had a different idea: Stoltenberg’s platform calls for using the country’s riches to increase funding for the socialist country’s welfare state, including increasing spending for education, health care and the elderly, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.  


The Times reported that, “The most important thing the Americans will notice is that the main lines of Norwegian foreign policy will remain fixed,” Mr. Stoltenberg, 46, said in a pre-election television appearance. “But they will also notice that we pull back our soldiers from Iraq.”


Norway has a token 10 officers in Iraq, helping with reconstruction.


Stoltenberg will now be able to expand Norway’s focus on environmental and social protections, and repeal some of the previous tax cuts. The Times explains it well:


Under Mr. Bondevik’s fragile coalition of Christian Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, Norway experienced a surge in prosperity, with the stock market tripling since early 2003 on the strength of oil exports. Interest rates fell sharply, personal incomes rose and the United Nations Development Program designated Norway the best country in the world in which to live.


But letting the good times roll is not really the Scandinavian way. Even at the cost of moderately higher taxes, most Norwegians on Monday seemed intent on protecting or expanding generous sick-leave, pregnancy-leave and job-security policies along with subsidized day care and free college tuition.


What a concept: Looking to the future, anticipating the needs of the entire population, not simply the proverbial haves, to hell with the have-nots (as the glaring example now plays out in New Orleans) and social benefits such as health care, education and a work environment that actually allows for time off—whether it be for sickness, childbirth or, gasp!, vacation.


And this is why, if I am ever forced to choose between my two passports, I will choose Norway. And, considering the scary trajectory this U.S. empire seems to be following, I may have no choice!


I’m thinking of holding a lottery for some poor sap to marry me and get the citizenship, too!


On second thought, scratch that—I’d rather just do it the old-fashioned way and get knocked up … bwahaahaah! Oh, I kill me … I can’t even keep a plant alive…


Fortunately for me, and the potential demon spawn, being a Scandinavian I’m too responsible for anything like that to happen, and, being me, too enamored with being irresponsible to want to be tied for the rest of my life to anyone or anything.


Well, except for maybe a puppy … and, you don’t go to jail if you leave them at home in cages while you go to the pub …