21 March 2012

Sweden’s Economy

I’m Learning

Aided by peace and neutrality for the whole of the 20th century, Sweden has achieved an enviable standard of living under a mixed system of high-tech capitalism and extensive welfare benefits.

It has a modern distribution system, excellent internal and external communications, and a highly skilled labor force.  In September 2003, Swedish voters turned down entry into the euro system concerned about the impact on the economy and sovereignty.  Timber, hydropower, and iron ore constitute the resource base of an economy heavily oriented toward foreign trade.

Privately owned firms account for vast majority of industrial output, of which the engineering sector accounts for about 50% of output and exports.  Agriculture accounts for little more than 1% of GDP and of employment.  Until 2008, Sweden was in the midst of a sustained economic upswing, boosted by increased domestic demand and strong exports.  This and robust finances offered the center-right government considerable scope to implement its reform program aimed at increasing employment, reducing welfare dependence, and streamlining the state's role in the economy. 

Despite strong finances and underlying fundamentals, the Swedish economy slid into recession in the third quarter of 2008 and continued downward in 2009 as deteriorating global conditions reduced export demand and consumption.  Strong exports of commodities and a return to profitability by Sweden's banking sector drove the strong rebound in 2010, which continued in 2011, and the government is proposing stimulus measures in the 2012 budget to curb the effects of a global economic slowdown and boost employment and growth.

Gross Domestic Production (GDP) $379.4 billion (2011 est.)  $363.4 billion (2010 est.)  $343.8 billion (2009 est.)  GDP growth rates 4.4% (2011 est.)  5.7% (2010 est.)  -5.3% (2009 est.)

Purchasing power comparison put them at 34th in the world.  note: data in 2011 US dollars

Per capita GDP estimated $40,600 (2011), $38,900 (2010), $37,000 (2009) ranks them 20th in the world.

GDP by sector; agriculture: 1.8%, industry: 26.9%, services: 71.3% (2011 est.)

Labor force, 5.011 million (2011 est.)  Unemployment rate 7.6% (2011 est.)
8.4% (2010)

Budget revenues of $293 billion, expenditures $289.6 billion (2011 est.)
Taxes and other revenue 51.3% of GDP (2011 est.)

Public debt 36.8% of GDP (2011 est.)  39.7% of GDP (2010)

Inflation rate 2.5% (2011 est.)  1.3% (2010 est.)

Agriculture products; barley, wheat, sugar beets; meat, milk

Industries; iron and steel, precision equipment (bearings, radio and telephone parts, armaments), wood pulp and paper products, processed foods, motor vehicles  

Industrial production growth rate 9.4% (2011 est.)

No proven oil reserves, no natural gas production. 

Exports; $204.2 billion (2011 est. $160.4 billion (2010 est.)  machinery 35%, motor vehicles, paper products, pulp and wood, iron and steel products, chemicals

Export partners; Germany 10.5%, Norway 9.8%, UK 7.8%, Denmark 6.9%, Finland 6.5%, US 6.4%, Netherlands 5.2%, France 5.2%, Belgium 4.3% (2010)

Imports $187.4 billion (2011 est.)  $149.5 billion (2010 est.)

Import commodities; machinery, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, motor vehicles, iron and steel; foodstuffs, clothing

Import partners; Germany 18.3%, Norway 8.5%, Denmark 8.3%, Netherlands 6.2%, UK 5.7%, Finland 5.4%, China 4.9%, Russia 4.9%, France 4.7% (2010) 6.7629 (2007)

Currency exchange rates Swedish kronor (SEK) per US dollar - 6.35 (2011 est.) 7.2012 (2010 est.) 7.6529 (2009) 6.4074 (2008)

Whew, that was exhaustive and boring, but necessary.  That’s all the economic data I can stand for now.

mer senare, hejdå

19 March 2012


I Know You Little

A significant number of people in Sweden find some of my blog articles interesting.  I began last week searching the internet for information about Swedish history, culture, politics and current events.

I’ve haven’t learned much yet, but I will keep working on it and posting what I think I’ve learned on this blog.  Hopefully, the Swedes that read this blog will correct my misunderstandings and incorrect impressions by commenting on my opinions and that way I will learn more about them.

I am a 5th generation American.  My ancestors were Norwegian and German.  My great, great, grandfather, Knute Hanson, came from Stormo near Tvedestrand, a little northeast of Arendal in southern Norway.  I visited there in 1994 and met a few of my relatives.  It is a beautiful place.

So, what have I learned of Sweden from my recent research?  I read Stieg Larsson’s books.  I enjoyed his extensive descriptions of Swedish culture and politics.  I saw the movie, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.  It followed the book surprisingly closely.

From the CIA World Factbook website I learned Sweden was a military power during the 17th century.  Sweden has not participated in any war for almost two centuries.  Armed neutrality was preserved in both world wars.  Sweden's long-successful economic formula of a capitalist system interlarded with substantial welfare elements was challenged in the 1990s by high unemployment and in 2000-02 and 2009 by the global economic downturns, but fiscal discipline over the past several years has allowed the country to weather economic vagaries.  Sweden joined the EU in 1995, but the public rejected the introduction of the euro in a 2003 referendum.

Total area 450,295 sq km, 39,960 sq km of that water, 56th in size comparison to the world, slightly larger than California and with 3,218 km of coastline.

Natural resources - iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, gold, silver, tungsten, uranium, arsenic, feldspar, timber, hydropower

A party to and signed almost all modern international environmental agreements, but has not ratified any.

Occupies strategic locations along Danish Straits linking Baltic and North Seas.  

The indigenous population is Swedes with Finnish and Sámi minorities with foreign-born or first-generation immigrants; Finns, Yugoslavs, Danes, Norwegians, Greeks, Turks.

Official language is Swedish with small Sámi- and Finnish-speaking minorities

Religions; Lutheran 87%, other (includes Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist) 13%.

Population; 9,103,788 (July 2012 est.)  STOCKHOLM (capital) 1.279 million (2009) 

Health expenditures 9.9% of GDP (2009).  Doctors were 3.58 per 1000 population (2006).  Education expenditure 9.9% of GDP (2009) 

Government; the conventional long form name is the Kingdom of Sweden, short form is Sweden.  The local language long form is Konungariket Sverige, local short form is Sverige.  It is a constitutional monarchy.  Stockholm is the Capital.  Administrative divisions are 21 counties.  Independence Day was 6 June 1523 when Gustav VASA elected king.  The constitution established 1 January 1975.  It is a civil law system influenced by Roman-Germanic law and customary law. 

Chief of state is King CARL XVI GUSTAF since 19 September 1973; Heir Apparent Princess VICTORIA Ingrid Alice Desiree, daughter of the monarch born 14 July 1977.  Head of government; Prime Minister Fredrik REINFELDT since 5 October 2006; Deputy Prime Minister Jan BJORKLUND since 5 October 2010.  Cabinet appointed by the prime minister

Elections; the monarchy is hereditary, following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition usually becomes the prime minister.

Parliament or Riksdag is unicameral with 349 seats.  Members are elected by popular vote on a proportional representation basis to serve four-year terms. 
Elections last held on 19 September 2010, next to be held in September 2014.

Election results percentage of vote by party - Social Democratic Party 30.7%, Moderate Party 30.1%, Green Party 7.3%, Liberal People's Party 7.1%, Center Party 6.6%, Sweden Democrats 5.7%, Christian Democrats 5.6%, Left Party 5.6%, others 1.3%.

Seats by party - Social Democratic Party 112, Moderate Party 107, Green Party 25, Liberal People's Party 24, Center Party 23, Sweden Democrats 20, Christian Democrats 19, Left Party 19
Supreme Court or Hogsta Domstolen the judges are appointed by the prime minister and the cabinet.

Party leaders; Center Party (Centerpartiet) [Annie LOOF]; Christian Democrats (Kristdemokraterna) or CD [Goran HAGGLUND]; Green Party (Miljopartiet de Grona) [no formal leader, spokespersons are Asa ROMSON and Gustav FRIDOLIN]; Left Party (Vansterpartiet) (formerly Communist Party) [Lars OHLY]; Liberal People's Party (Folkpartiet) or LPP [Jan BJORKLUND]; Moderate Party (Moderaterna) [Fredrik REINFELDT]; Social Democratic Party (Socialdemokraterna) or SDP [Hakan JUHOLT]; Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna) or SD [Jimmie AKESSON]

Political pressure groups are the Children's Rights in Society; Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees or TCO; Swedish Trade Union Confederation (Landsorganisationen) or LO [Wanja LUNDBY-WEDIN] others are environmental groups and media.

The flag is blue with a golden yellow cross extending to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side in the style of the Dannebrog (Danish flag); the colors reflect those of the Swedish coat of arms which is three gold crowns on a blue field; the national symbols are three crowns and the lion

That’s what I think I’ve learned so far.  In the future articles on Sweden I’ll review any comments from my new Swedish friends and try to learn about Sweden’s economy, culture and social welfare programs, and explore current events in Swedish news.

så länge för nu

17 March 2012

Less Government

Not just less Federal government, but less state government, less county government, and less local government.

I want much less regulation, lower benefits, fewer programs, fewer entitlements, much less legislation, very few new laws; and very much lower taxes.

I want less of all of it.  I use very few and very little of the things my excessive taxes pay for.  I am helping to pay for things I’ll never want nor ever use.  I did not ask for nor approve of hardly anything that has been added to the role of the Federal Government in my lifetime.

I am opposed to mandatory participation in any government benefit program.  All benefit programs should be optional to those who wish to participate and hope to get a specific benefit promised to them in the future if the conditions are met and you can trust a government provider to deliver.  I don’t like Social Security, which I receive and paid into for fifty years.  I didn’t like Medicare in 1968 and don’t like it now that I’m eligible.  In fifty years of working I was only unemployed for 2 days twice, once in 1966 and once in 1988, and didn’t get unemployment benefits either time.   

I’ve never received any entitlement support of any kind, never applied for any.  Never needed any help from government, never asked for any.  My family, friends, co-workers and associates were always available to provide just a little help when it was truly needed.

We’ve wandered far as a nation from any sensible constraints on government, far from what our forefathers envisioned, way far from what little I want the government to do.

The only things I want the Federal government to do for our citizens are clearly listed in the Constitution and its amendments, and the things I don’t want them to do to us are clearly defined in our Bill of Rights.

Stop doing anything else.  Definitely stop excessively helping those, who crave, lobby for, and who will become dependent upon extravagant entitlements, destroying their self-esteem, initiative and personal responsibility.

Excessive, unnecessary, lavish government assistance is destroying our nation and its people.


Don’t Raise Taxes

On Millionaires and Billionaires, or anyone else.

Lower everyone’s taxes to 15%.  No progressive rates, just a straight 15% for everyone.

No one should have to pay a higher or lower rate than Millionaires and Billionaires.  No one, rich or poor, should pay a higher or lower rate than anyone else.

15% for Senators, Presidents, for Warren Buffet, for Warren’s secretary, for Mitt Romney, for Bill Gates, for all businesses, for all non-profits, for all churches, for all schools, for all unions, for all political parties, for low income, for high income , for middle income, 15% for all individuals, companies, and organizations. 

Only someone or an extension of an individual, like a business or an organization; with no income or no revenue would pay no tax.

Everyone should pay the same (on non-profit revenue or profit income) tax rate, no exemptions, no exceptions, no credits, no low income credit, no high income surcharge, no subsidizes, and no deductions. 

How much did you receive? 

Send the Federal government 15%

It would be plenty of revenue for the government’s annual costs, future costs, and paying down the debt.

It would be somewhat less than they are used to getting, so they must actually CUT spending.

And that’s what I want; much smaller Federal government, much less spending, much lower taxes, much less regulation, much safer human and constitutional rights, much more prosperity and opportunity, fewer and smaller entitlements, less lavish benefits, no mandatory participation, no means test, much less bigotry and prejudice, much less envy and jealously, much more happiness with liberty and justice for all.

The only way the beast that is Federal government will lose weight, is to starve it by cutting off its revenue.  It will just keep eating away at our carcass, if we let it.

They won’t cut spending on their own.  No tax increases, no new kinds of taxes; just less, much less revenue for the Federal Government.

Equal taxation, equal liberty, and equal justice for ALL citizens

06 March 2012

Thank You, Blog Readers

Around the World

I’m honored to have readers from so many other countries.  Some from many countries I haven’t visited yet.  Most of my readers are from USA, but often there are many from Sweden, Germany and Russia, and a few from more than thirty (30) other countries.  I’m not sure why, but I’m happy they find my opinions about American life, politics and religion interesting in some way.

I wish they would comment more often.  I’m interested in their opinions about subjects important to them and their view from a different culture and history from mine about events in my country or theirs.

I have access to a language interpreter for almost any written language; so, even in their own language I can probably read and understand their comments.

I’m sorry I don’t know more about current events and issues in each of the countries where I have blog readers, but I will study each country’s current events looking for subjects that I could have an opinion about.  It might be presumptuous and a little ignorant of me to comment on issues in other countries about which I know very little, but that hasn’t stopped me from having an opinion about anything, anywhere in the world before, and it certainly won’t stop me now.

I am sure the friendly blog readers from other places will quickly inform me about their countries, and their values, and their thoughts.  

So, thank you again for reading my blog.  Please make comments.  It’s easy just click on the word comments at the bottom of each article.  Comment in almost any language.  If your comment adds to the discussion, or is your true opinion, or a link to your opinion blog, I will post it.  If it’s advertisement, or vile and offensive to me; I won’t post it.

Have fun, be well, and learn something new everyday.

Citizen Stormo

04 March 2012

Be Responsible

You Can’t Trust Government With Your Future

You can’t trust what they say they will do.  You can’t trust them with your money.  You can’t trust them to conserve any money.  You can’t trust them to hold or protect any money or anything that can be turned easily into money.

You just can’t trust any government, any institution, professionals, community, or family when it comes to your money and your future.

Manage Your Own Life.

You can’t trust anyone else with your money.  An old proverb applies, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”.  It might get dropped.  Accidents do happen.

You must, because of practical necessities, trust governments, institutions, professionals, and family members for some things, but not all of your money and not to any one of them.  Even then, you must watch them closely to make sure they are doing what you have requested and expect.  

“Trust, but verify,” as Ronald Reagan famously said of treaty agreements; applies to anything where your hard earned money is involved. 

Never let others get too comfortable with your money.  Move it around, take some of it away, and let someone new handle parts of it for awhile.  Hold some of it yourself and keep track of it and manage it carefully and responsibly.

You can’t trust your money or your future to the government or anyone else.

You cannot trust governments with anyone’s money.

Manage your own money.  Manage your own future. 

Manage your own life, if it's screwed up, at least you will know precisely who to blame.

Government Bait and Switch

“Means Testing”

For fifty (50) years I paid in for Social Security Retirement Insurance benefits, and thirty seven (37) years into Medicare benefits.  It was mandatory.  If I got paid to work I had to pay for promised benefits.  There was no widely known option.  I never welshed on my obligations, not once.

Now that I’m drawing the benefits I was forced to pay for, the government wants to change how much I get in benefits.  If an insurance company or a private business cheated millions of customers like this the US Attorney General would certainly indict them, and so would most state’s Attorneys General.

What does so called, “means testing” have to do with me getting what I paid for?  Everyone who pays for an advertised product or service, especially in advance, should receive it exactly as advertised.  Remember these are insurance benefits I already paid for.

If you are Bill Gates or Homeless Joe now; that should have nothing what-so-ever to do with whether you get the benefits you paid for and were promised by our government.
Benefits are not entitlements.

Many, if not most, entitlement recipients pay in nothing.  Entitlements are an unspecified list of assistance based on someone’s personal circumstance or condition at some point in time, hopefully for a short period, regardless if they ever paid in a penny in tax revenue.

Entitlements definitely should be “means tested”.  It’s one of the primary justification used to determine if an applicant is eligible for aid.  I don’t think enough “means testing” is being done for entitlement programs like, food stamps, child care, and aid to dependent children, Medicaid, school breakfast and lunch, or whatever names these aid programs are known by today.

Benefits come from paid up government insurance and must be delivered as promised.  In no place or time while they were gleefully taking my money did the government ever mention “means testing”. 

The fact that I worked hard my whole life, and planned, scrimped and saved, invested, took good care of myself, and carefully managed my life and what little money the government did not grab; somehow now, I should not get the benefits I paid for. 

But, someone who didn’t do anything of those things well should get some of the benefits I paid for is unbelievably ridiculous, criminal, immoral, and socially and legally unjust.

I provided for myself, they did not.  The government took some of my hard earned money while I was working and now that I’m too old to re-earn it, that they would dare to take any of the benefits that I paid for is a travesty. 

The unmitigated gall of these manipulative, backstabbing, cowardly, hypocritical cheaters, liars, and thieving elected and appointed officials to tout “means testing” is unimaginable.

Shame upon them and their despicable ways; they should be damned to hell, and if given the chance, I’ll gladly help them on their way.