The Norwegian Government and our money: The oil fund

Before we, the Norwegians, found oil in the Norwegian sea and the North sea, we were one of the poorest countries in Europe.

That changed fairly quickly. We were quite clever, so 85 % of the profit remains in the coffers of the Norwegian state; as direct money earned through ownership in the oil and gas companies or through the tax system.

So, what do we do with all this money?

We put it in a fund ( the “oil fund”) so that we can care for the elderly that is a growing group in Norway. What an empathic and noble reasoning. BUT, is it necessary?? Let’s do the math. We are only just above 5 million people and we are actually growing fast. But, the oil fund is growing faster.

The government has a rule, called “handlingsregel”, which means “rule for action”. It states that the Norwegian state cannot use more than 4 % of the oil fund every year.

BUT, as the oil fund is growing (passing 3.500 billion NOK despite the crisis in the world economy),

I will spell it so there is no misunderstanding: The oil fund is now three thousand five hundred billion NOK.

Norway has a number of serious challenges that the state do very little about. The key word is the economy of the Communes (Municipal areas). The state has more than enough money, but the Communes are almost all struggling. The main reason is that the state is giving them more responsibilities, but to not follow up with the necessary funds. This, of course is a simplification of the situation, but is at the hart of the matter.

So, Norway, one of the richest countries in the world, has a long and difficult backlog when it comes to maintenance of public buildings (most important schools), caring for the elderly sick that cannot care for themselves, the road system, public transport, innovation, land based industry (in a long term perspective), the quality of our school system…………..the list is long.

Don’t misunderstand me. We are quite well off and I do understand that we cannot overuse money, but we are on the positive side when it comes to the state’s budget and foreign trade, and substantially so.

We have MORE than enough money, and we are underusing them. — An example. Last year, 2011, the states budget showed that we had an added profit of 29 billion NOK. Money that was not in the government’s calculations. So, what do we do? We put them in the oil fund.

Why don’t we use this money to fix our schools, take care of those who need it, upgrade our road system, expand and streamline public transport and all the other major tasks that has been neglected for so long.

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Healthcare System in the US

So now the law passed. A big step for Obama and a tiny step for the American people.

On the one hand, this is a complicated issue. On the other; a very simple one.

We can approach it from different angles:

  • Legal
  • Political
  • Economical
  • Social

Well, this was the legal part of it. But still, if you only look at the Law, why did four of the five Republican members of the Supreme Court vote against it? That is politics. The Supreme Court of the US has become a political vehicle in the power game, and that is very unhealthy.

Democracy is based on the principal that you divide the Power of the State in three: The lawmakers (the Parliament/Congress), the implementers of the Parliament (the Government) and the Law, with the ultimate decision maker: the Supreme Court. BUT, they stick to the LAWS of the country.

In the US, this principal is merged into a gordian knot that nobody seems able to cut through. It is a horrible mix of lobbyism, political money to several layers of candidates, including the Presidency and because of the two party system, it is so polarized that all kinds of extremist are forced into one of the two parties. Does this sound like a healthy political system? No, it does not, and it is not.

Let’s move to the economy of this. I can dazzle you with all kind of numbers about the cost of the war(s) and the cost of medical care in the US. What do we know? We know that: The United States of America, the Super Power of the world, CANNOT AFFORD THESE WARS.

President Bush sent the US into one of the most unfounded (I would prefer unnecessary and stupid), war in the history of mankind, based on some flimsy satellite pictures. On top of the enormous loss of lives in Iraq, USA definitely could not afford this war. The economy suffered greatly and the US State had a double deficit: The budget (they used more money than they had) and the international trade (they bought more from other countries than were sold to them). A dangerous situation, also internationally.

At the same time, the Americans use the equivalent of 18.2 % of their GDP on medical care (Source: Article in September 12, 2011 National Coalition on Health Care)

Compared to other western countries, who use 9-12 %. The difference is that those countries give free medical care to ALL their citizens, whether you are a bus driver or the CEO of a major bank.

I can hear the scream across the Atlantic: SOCIALISM!!! The government paying for our health care??? No way, man!

Well, it is THE ONLY WAY out of the mess that the US is in now. If the US cling to a basically privatized health care system, and is prized as such, untreated sick patients, premature deaths will grow, and, from a cynical point of view, the productivity will decrease.

So, where are we? The Social Aspect of life………...

In short, “we” the basic Western World do not understand why the United States of America, Super Power, cannot take care of its own citizens. 46.2 million are without health insurance, 15.25 of the American people are below the UN’s standard off Poverty (United States Census), the US is at the ultimate bottom of the illiteracy in the western world. And I could go on, and on…….

What we do NOT understand, is that this supposedly Super Power, is NOT able to take care of their own citizens. — An American said to me that people had to deserve health care……

Well, DESERVE?? Let us think of a person that is laid off because his/her company goes bankrupt caused by the dwindling economy. The person had medical insurance through the job, but is now without a job and without health care. Does he or she deserve health care?? – Of course, but that is not the case in USA.

So, to the heart of the matter: Do the American people really accept that people can and will be sick and die because they cannot afford some kind of medical insurance?