Why? Well, how about because Finland has managed to virtually eradicate childhood poverty. Or because of the “academic prowess” of Finland’s students–as recently noted by the Wall Street Journal –who receive a free education through college. Or maybe it’s the free comprehensive health care, quality childcare at almost no cost, or pro-environment, pro-labor policies that support a very competitive economy.
Yes, there are significant differences between the US and Finland, as Senator Sanders noted in a conversation I had with him last week (see below). But at this moment when we face an economic tsunami, roughly 50 million Americans uninsured, nearly 20 percent of American children living in poverty, and a growing gap between the very wealthy and everyone else–it’s time to take a look abroad at some alternative ways of doing things. Senator Sanders gets that. His openness to learning and engaging is an example America sorely needs right now, as we attempt to regain some humility and re-engage with the world post-Bush.
TheNation.com’s Greg Kauffman will be at the meeting Monday night–to hear what the Ambassador has to say and to listen to the questions being asked by Vermonters in attendance. Here is the conversation the Senator and I had about the event.
How did the initial connection with the Finnish Ambassador happen?
A number of months ago we brought him into the office in DC–just wanted to chat with him and see what kind of relationship Vermont could develop with Finland. And I’ve met with him once or twice since.
I told him very frankly that I think that in the United States in general people do not have a clue–a clue–about some of the really significant social progress that’s been made in various Scandinavian countries, not just Finland. And I think it’s not an accident. I think that corporate media really wants to keep Americans in the dark about some of the real achievements out there in terms of healthcare, education, childcare, because they don’t want us to look at alternative ways of doing things. You know, my colleagues get on the floor and they say, ‘Oh, the United States is the greatest country in the world…’ Well, you look at social index after social index – look at health care and longevity and infant mortality, education and vacations. One of the things that blows me away about Finland is at a time when our people are working the longest hours of any people in the world, in Finland they get 30 days paid vacation and 14 national holidays. What do you think about that?