February 20, 2011

Danish Politics: The Ministers Have No Clothes

After the American Century

The gap between Danish political rhetoric and Danish lived reality is reaching epic proportions. Assuming the national character has not changed too much, it is no wonder Hans Christian Andersen wrote a famous story called "The Emperor's New Clothes." Readers will no doubt recall that the Emperor thought he was being arrayed in extremely fine clothing, but actually was putting on nothing at all. Even his subjects (or the public) went along with the fantasy, until finally a child pointed out that the King was in fact naked.

Most of the Ministers in Denmark are now similarly naked. The Minister in charge of finance cannot come close to balancing the budget, and yet keeps claiming that the tax reductions for the wealthy put through just two years ago, cannot be the cause of the problem. Rather, he argues, everyone should work longer hours, many public employees should be fired, libraries closed, and retirement laws be changed, so people will work longer. Meanwhile, everyone knows that the nation has a huge problem with black market labor (typically labor in people's homes such as plumbing and electrical work), which the government has not been able to deal with. 

But the finance minister actually has fewer problems than most of the others. The government has continually insisted that its policies will raise the level of the schools and universities, but now everyone can see that in fact schools are closing, faculty are being fired, and the number of hours of teaching received by students has been in decline for years. The Ministry involved now is trying to put the blame on the schools and universities, as if they had cut their own budgets. These politicians are nakedly fools.

Then there is the pathetic figure of the Minister in charge of allowing (well, mostly preventing) immigrants and refugees into the country. She and her predecessors in the post have, for more than a decade, broken the UN guarantees to stateless persons. A whole line of Ministers from this government have consistently misinformed people who had a right to Danish citizenship, people who were born in Denmark, educated in Denmark, and are now adults working in Denmark. These people have been denied citizenship, over and over, illegally. This would seem to be a serious breach of law and call for an investigation. But the same people who broke the law will now "investigate" themselves. A few right-wing politicians are now complaining about the UN, as if it were the problem!

Then there is the pathetic government organization that is supposed to ensure that the banks in Denmark are solvent. This institution decided that the Amager Bank was credit worthy, though in trouble, and lent that bank more than two billion dollars. Given this apparent certificate of good health, many kept their money in that bank, including several local governments. One quarter of a year later, Amager Bank lies in ruins, and those who owned stock in it, and those who had deposits larger than those insured by the  government, have lost their money. The loss is the equivalent of $200 for every man, woman, and child living in Denmark. The failure also weakens the Danish kroner, forcing up interest rates. A fine government, indeed! One mistakenly had thought that a conservative government could at least manage the business side of things.

The list is by no means complete, but how much naked incompetence and mismanagement should one put into a single blog? Suffice it to say that the current Foreign Minister performed so badly that her own party forced her to resign as their leader. But she is still in office.  

Then there is the former Minister in charge of research who intervened, illegally, and leaked confidential documents, in an attempt to help a researcher whom he liked, though it is now clear that her "results" were cooked up, based on non-existent rats in a non-existent Spanish research lab.  So he, too, is naked. But will there be a real investigation?

The list could go on, but how many naked Ministers can one stand to look at?