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Finland has people-friendly social policies

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The recent article in The Atlantic about the socio-economic policies in Finland should be required reading for everyone in Washington, where the popular mantra is: ”Keep the government out of my life.”

The people of Finland appreciate greatly the policies of their government, its support for the workers, superior public schools, university education and unversal health care. It starts when a baby is born and gets a gift package that contains all its needs for the first year of its life.

The mothers have the mandatory four months fully paid maternity leave (the best place to be a mom) followed by six months parental leave (wife or husband) to care for the child. And when the child is ready for day care, a subsidized (means tested) facility, manned by trained personnel, is available.

So, it can be done. Finland is poor in natural resources. Its greatest resource is its people.

The guiding principle of the government is promoting its happiness. The state respects trade unions, which speak for the workers (80 percent are members; in the United States, only 11 percent). The employers understand that a satisfied workforce is a productive workforce. To that end, they offer free lunches and free massages.

With an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, the economy of Finland is in amazingly good shape. The GDP in 2012 was $250 billion, for a population of 5 million the GDP per capita is $50,000. The people-friendly policies demand high taxes, not only an income tax but also VAT and numerous others.

Interesting, at my countless visits to Finland, I never encountered anyone who would have complained about taxes. On the happiness scale, Finns are the second happiest after Danes (the United States is 11th). And on equality scale, they are third after Sweden and Denmark; most of the people are in the middle class.

In the meantime, Washington debates raising the student loan interest from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent (in Finland, 1 percent), cutting food stamps, eliminating long-term unemployment insurance (Finland 500 days).

And for the 38th time, the House attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, forgetting the rescued people with “pre-existing conditions” such as being a woman or having high blood pressure.

The United States was generous when it came to military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, but generosity has stopped at home. Welfare is a dirty word in today’s vocabulary.

Marie T. Zakrzewski

Watertown

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