Every country has its own challenges and expectations from their citizens. When focusing on the humanitarian aspects of sheltering and helping people who have fled wars and hardships I believe my country have done a lot to help. It is a very troublesome situation in both the Middle East and Africa from where we have received most of the 273 000 refugees during the last three year period. Compared to per capita with the USA population that equal around 8 700 000 people or roughly the population of New York City.
We need immigration for many reasons. I believe problems occur when expectations are high from the refugees who have been sold a picture of Sweden that is not matching their experience. The people in Sweden have high expectations on access to functioning health care, schools and services that are financed by among the highest taxes in the World. A mix that can get toxic if we enter into an economic recession that risk putting great strain on the solidarity.
Politicians here are in a difficult position which have put the generosity under great pressure for some time. In 2016 Sweden accepted only the EU minimum quotation standard which led to a drop to 30 000 (in 2015, 163 000) asylum seekers. Main concern right now being the ambitious agenda to integrate the refugees that seems to be very hard to work out in reality. Many of the refugees that arrived here 2015, around 35%, do not have more than a few years in School, 30 % are not able to read which makes it more difficult to learn a new language and begin assimilation.
There are not a lot of manual labor jobs at all to begin with in this country and the labor unions refuses to lower minimum salary floors simply because many of the members with low incomes are living on different types of social allowances and grants to cope. In places where accommodation is possible to find there are very limited opportunities to get jobs. In Stockholm and bigger cities where the economy is growing faster than in many years, you need a very high income or a good fortune to get access to a home. There are no vacancies of homes in bigger cities so the hurdle for job and accommodation is high even for the refugees that are well-educated with attractive skills and experiences that are attractive. The positive side with this situation is that smaller towns and the country side actually is getting a boost when small and medium sized companies weather new opportunities and access to labor.
The ideal picture is never available but it is very difficult to see a medium term solution that does not involve a stop of the unrest in the countries involved and an opportunity for the refugees to repatriate.
Since The Great Pumpkin brought up the "horrible" thing that did (not) happen in Sweden a few nights ago, my Swedish friend who lives in Sweden (just so we're clear) and I have been trading emails about the immigrant situation there. Sweden has long had a very welcoming policy toward refugees and immigrants, to the point that people not born in Sweden make up roughly one-quarter of the nation's population. The strain on a society known for its social protections is real and there is serious policy debate about where the limits of generosity are, but there is not a rampant wave of terror-style violence in the country. Here are my friend's comments, complete and unedited.
Here is the deal-making prowess of the current government: the average family's health insurance costs are about to double. As expected, the Republican “plan” to replace the Affordable Care Act is coalescing around providing tax credits to people who pay privately for health insurance. Other than repealing the ACA and doing nothing, tax credits are the worst-possible option for the majority of Americans and disproportionately benefits the well-off.
Let's use an example of the median American family with $60,000 in annual income and two children. For grins (since there are zero details in the so-called plan), let's assume the proposed tax credits equal the actual cost of a Silver health insurance plan, or $1021/month courtesy of eHealth. In the unlikely event our hypothetical family could pay that premium, that amounts to a tax credit of $12,252, which sounds pretty good at first.
But there two huge problems in this scenario. First, this family's federal tax burden is, at most, $3648. Since the family can't owe negative tax, the actual tax credit benefit is reduced by 70% to $3648. On the other hand, families earning $100,000 and more would receive the full $12,252 credit. In fact, the well-to-do family could upgrade to the Gold insurance package, get more benefits and still deduct the entire premium. In other words, the average family's health is worth 70% less to Republicans than wealthier families.
The other problem is that a tax credit system means we are forced to front all that money to the government for as much as 18 months. Our average family, if they file taxes at the deadline, are going to see that miserly “benefit” maybe in June of the following year. Here is a cash-flow comparison between the subsidized ACA and the proposed tax-credit system:
After subsidies and tax credits, our average family faces a doubling of costs for their health insurance premiums. There can be no doubt that a tax-credit system as proposed by the Republicans will drive families off of health insurance.
Betsy DeVoss, billionaire by birth and a not-worker, not-educator, not-administrator and not-businessperson, had just squeaked by to become head of the Department of Education when Republicans offered up a bill to eliminate the Department. To justify this, they invoked the usual incantations of transferring curriculum and spending decisions to the states. Said the bill's author, Representative Thomas Massie, of the educational backwater that is Kentucky, “Unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. should not be in charge of our children’s intellectual and moral development. States and local communities are best positioned to shape curricula that meet the needs of their students. Schools should be accountable. Parents have the right to choose the most appropriate educational opportunity for their children, including home school, public school, or private school."
My disagreement with Rep. Massie and his GOP colleagues is pretty basic – none of what they say is actually true. Parents already have the right to choose public, private or home education, and state and local school authorities already choose curriculum and education and graduation requirements.
So what does the Department of Education actually do? It manages over $1 trillion in assets, 92% of which are student loan receivables. In other words, the DOE is largely a lending institution. It also provides $148 billion in student aid from preschools to trade, postsecondary and veteran education, funds special education and inclusion for students with disabilities, and provides block grants to states for disadvantaged districts and school maintenance. Oh, and the DOE spends roughly 1% of its budget on research, college accreditation and teacher education grants. It directly reduces the cost of education for 32 million students. It does all this with a headcount of 4300 and administrative overhead of less than 3%. For reference, the vaunted JP MorganChase's admin expense ratio is 56%.
Let's play a “what if” game assuming all of these activities fell to the states and play the scenario out. Graduating high school seniors and college students are in limbo for years as states try to develop the capability to service student loans. Then states would have to gain voter approval to issue tens of billions in bonds to finance student loans, including hiring staff. Since 10-year municipal bonds are running at nearly 5% interest while equivalent Treasury notes are at 2.15%, the cost of student loans just more than doubled. That's for states with actual borrowing capacity. Meanwhile, every state has to decide what to about the $3 billion education budget shortfall caused by discontinued federal grants. Do you want your property taxes to triple or close 1/3 of your schools?
No, really, those are your choices. Or you could call your elected representatives to tell them to quit believing we're stupid, cut the crap and keep the Department of Education.
This will be hard. This may be controversial. This is certainly radical thinking and may spark arguments, but today I am going to write something that is truly central to who I am.
My last post was trolled for sympathizing with people being barred from entering the country. A few days ago I saw an interview with an administration adviser who, after being asked if it is right to keep children out of the country, turned the question around by asking the interviewer if he was willing to risk his children's lives by permitting entry for the wrong person. That interview really set me off, but not just for the blatant fearmongering. Here's why.
Behind the adviser's question, and the interviewer's answer, lurks a horrifying calculus: our children, our lives, are worth more than Theirs. The answer to the adviser's question should be an unequivocal "Yes".
I love my children. I love my wife. I love my extended family. I would do anything for them. But my life is no more valuable than that of a Syrian refugee's. My children have no more worth than a Yemeni or Somali young adult. If I am unwilling to risk my life to save another's, I am giving my life more value than that of that person.
As a Christian I am commanded to love all others as I love myself, and I am taught that there is no greater love than to lay down my life to save another. The immigration and refugee ban imposed by the administration, allegedly to spare our lives, is a direct affront to my religious belief.
This does not decrease the value of my life or my family's; it elevates the value of others. People around the world are dying from persecution, from warfare, from hunger, disease, lack of education, and unequal status. Now people will die because of our policy, because of our fear, because of our lack of faith. I will not be quiet about this.
Conservatives like to talk about religious freedom and American exceptionalism. Banning people from our freedoms because of their religion is exceptional only in its cowardice.
Being unemployably disabled gives Steve time to ponder the world. With 25 years of business consulting experience and a Masters of International Business, some of these ponderings are credible.