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We used to be warriors. We used to make things, and break things, and fight for our lives. We used to have farms here, the people were quiet but proud and never asked anything of anyone. They took pride in the type of honesty that never really got you anywhere fancy but made sure you ended up right. But that was a long time ago.
Last week, the Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, was interviewed in the Financial Times and the old union-boss-turned-Social-Democrat-powerhouse used this international platform to complain about the Swedish voters and what he sees as their “surreal outlook” on government finances. “All the numbers are going in the right direction,” Löfven said, and went on to say that he couldn’t fathom why everyone is obsessed with immigration when the Swedish economy is strong and immigration is far from the cataclysm we saw a few months ago.
At first glance, the Prime Minister is right, but the problem is that the numbers are a castle built upon — and hiding — a deep pit. According to the latest numbers from the Swedish Migration Agency, 163,000 refugees arrived in Sweden in 2015. The added cost for this mass-immigration is estimated to 30 billion SEK ($3.5B USD). Within two years, that cost is expected rise to 73 billion SEK ($8.6B USD). The Swedish government is financing this through loans and municipal taxes, which artificially inflate the economy, presenting false growth built on stimulus packages and miniscule interest-rates that cannot sustain themselves but make for good reports when presenting a government budget.
Within the next term, over a million people — 10 percent of the population — will be living off government benefits. The fact that fewer and fewer people are paying taxes has meant that those who actually do pay a significantly higher percentage, causing a halt in production, investment, small business-growth, and spending. Big businesses are moving their production abroad and the costs for these losses are slowly but surely being pushed onto the states to create an image of federal-level net-gain while the smaller municipalities bleed money, frantically trying to deliver the services that Sweden is known for at a level we haven’t afforded since 1985.
We used to be warriors, but now we are a country falling beneath the weight of many failed ventures and too many truths untold. Sweden was built on high taxes and high rewards and the mutual understanding that everyone contributes and everyone benefits in equal measure. This is the socialism US Senator Bernie Sanders likes to speak of in such glowing terms. The system functioned as long as the social contract was upheld, but now that the terms of the deal have been violated, the government refuses to adjust the books accordingly.
We used to be warriors, we used to be Vikings, but we also used to be closed-off and remote. The country lauded by American liberals has not existed in a very long time and what they see now is a shell being held up by an impossible tax-burden and an ideology deemed obsolete in most parts of the industrialized world.
We used to be warriors, and that distant memory is the Sweden hailed by some on the Left, omitting that what they view as the future has been the past for us for quite some time. The Swedish model, built by a loyal and diligent working-class has broken apart in the meeting with the outside world.
Memories are beautiful, as is idealism, but one cannot build a country on snapshots of yesteryear nor a society on lies excused by misty-eyed sentimentality.