Monday, December 2, 2013
Swedish equality one way or another!
from knowing. There is a big inequality problem in Sweden.
And with the money up high it's easy to understand why many will do anything to keep the
road going where it is going. Any person trying to divert the road is making
"a dangerous experiment in group hate." The rich will do anything to keep their money!
Sort of noted in the Bill Hicks video It's just a Ride "Shut him up! We have a lot invested
in this ride! SHUT HIM UP! Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account,
and my family. This just has to be real." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMUiwTubYu0
~~~"Swedish equality fades away as rich get richer."
Sweden has seen the steepest increase in inequality over 15 years amongst the
34 OECD nations, with disparities rising at four times the pace of the
United States, the think tank said. Once the darling of the political left,
heavy state control and wealth distribution through
high taxes and generous benefits gave the country's have-nots an enviable standard of
living at the expense of the wealthiest members of society.
Although still one of the most equal countries in the world, the last two decades
have seen a marked change. Market reforms have helped the economy become one
of Europe's best performers but this has Swedes wondering if their love affair with
state welfare was coming to an end. The real tipping point came in 2006 when the
centre-right government swept to power, bringing an end to a Social Democratic era
which stretched for most of the 20th century.
Swedes had grown increasingly weary of their high taxes and with more jobs going
overseas, the new government laid out a plan to fine-tune the old welfare system.
It slashed income taxes, sold state assets and tried to make it pay to work.
Spending on welfare benefits such as pensions, unemployment and incapacity assistance has
fallen by almost a third to 13 percent of GDP from the early nineties, putting Sweden only
just above the 11 percent OECD average.
At the other end of the spectrum, tax changes and housing market reforms
have made the rich richer. Since the mid-80s, income from savings, private pensions
or rentals, jumped 10 percent for the richest fifth of the population while falling one
percent for the poorest 20 percent.
RICH MAN, POOR MAN
Critics say the changes have left many behind.
In a small, dim room in central Stockholm, about 20 homeless Swedes huddled
together for an hour-long radio show which they produce weekly to raise awareness
of those on the streets. "The soul of a man" - a song from the Great Depression in the
United States - plays in between speakers and poetry readings while they warm up
with free coffee and hot dogs. At a waterfront conference centre across town,
the head of the region's biggest bank defended the hefty profits banks are making
on housing loans. The CEO himself will soon be moving into a more than $3 million
apartment which the bank recently purchased in one of Stockholm's ritziest
neighborhoods. Eurostat said recently that after Bulgaria, Sweden had the
second biggest rise in the percentage of its population deemed at-risk-of poverty.
Jenny Lindroth, who runs the social department at Situation Sthlm, a magazine
sold by the homeless and addicts, says welfare changes are hurting the vulnerable.
"Some people can't live up to it, they can't take it, they can't handle it," she said.
The number of people selling Situation has more than doubled to about 500 in
five years and they are getting younger. A recent study by the National Board of
Health and Welfare showed a 25 percent jump to 4,500 in the number faced with
"acute" homeless situations - those who required emergency accommodation,
shelter or slept outdoors - compared with 2005.
These diverging pictures of Sweden are increasingly common and are also
being seen in neighboring Finland and Denmark, albeit at a slower pace.
"I certainly don't think Sweden is a utopia. Sweden has become much more
of a fairly normal European country," said Stefan Folster, chief economist at the
Confederation of Swedish Enterprise. On the class war safari, participants were
first bused through a neighborhood south of Stockholm, where some 10 percent
of the residents are on social benefits. Then they headed to "The Sunny Side",
stopping by a luxury hotel next to a marina which is packed with gleaming yachts
in the summer before viewing sprawling villas in the area.
"The differences were just so completely clear in these two areas," said 28-year-old
Anna Svensson, one of the organizers. "We wanted to show what it really looked like,
and where the money and the power can actually be found."
The tour was heavily criticized. A columnist for the daily Dagens Nyheter called it
"a dangerous experiment in group hate".
"It feels like we are being treated like animals," a teenager from the area
interviewed by Swedish television.
Some believe the latest trends in Sweden may hurt the centre-right
government, especially if unemployment, running near 8 percent, remains high
as the country heads towards new elections in 2014.
"This is going to be ammunition for the opposition in Sweden," said
Soren Holmberg, a political science professor at Gothenburg University.
He believes there is still fundamentally strong support for the welfare state
and that the jobless rate and changes to benefits such as healthcare will be
increasingly in focus. The government has defended its policies.
Finance Minister Anders Borg called the rising income gap "troublesome"
but said it was still low relative to other countries. "While it is important to have
a cohesive society, growth and social flexibility are also important, so those
must be balanced," he said. Markus Jantti, a Professor of Economics at
Stockholm University's Swedish Institute for Social Research, fears Sweden
will see a long period of rising inequality.
There was also a law many wanted to get passed it had to do with pay, for the
high up, CEO's. As in a law that they can't make more in a month than their low end
worker makes in a year!
That was a good plan vs the end road of loss jobs by the issues of inequality making
many poor. Many customers poor makes less rich, slow growth as the most are poor
to the point of shutting down smaller towns due to the fact most of the residents
can not afford much closing down many places! So saying passing the law would
drive out their most savvy workers is still the same as the result of having many poor
driving down sales to slow growth why stay there and make something the
many can't afford to buy.
All of this in the end is just pushing more Squatters and I am talking about
the South American types in the 100,000's! And that is not bad it's a start of a
need for action as the people stand together they will not be walked over to make
~~~"A 45-Story Walkup Beckons the Desperate."
The office tower, one of Latin America’s tallest skyscrapers, was meant to be an emblem
of Venezuela’s entrepreneurial mettle. But that era is gone. Now, with more than
2,500 squatters making it their home, the building symbolizes something else entirely in this
city’s center. The squatters live in the uncompleted high-rise, which lacks several basic
amenities like an elevator. The smell of untreated sewage permeates the corridors.
Children scale unlit stairways guided by the glow of cellphones. Some recent arrivals
sleep in tents and hammocks. The skyscraper, surrounded by billboards and murals
proclaiming the advance of President Hugo Chávez’s “Bolivarian revolution,” is a
symbol of the financial crisis that struck the country in the 1990s, the expanded state
control over the economy that came after Mr. Chávez took office in 1999 and the
housing shortage that has worsened since then, leading to widespread squatter
takeovers in this city.
Few of the building’s terraces have guardrails. Even walls and
windows are absent on many floors. Yet dozens of DirecTV satellite dishes dot the
balconies. The tower commands some of the most stunning views of Caracas.
It contains some of its worst squalor. “I never let my child out of my sight,” said
Yeaida Sosa, 29, who lives with her 1-year-old daughter, Dahasi, on the seventh floor
overlooking a bustling artery, Avenida Andrés Bello. Ms. Sosa said residents
were horrified after a young girl recently fell to her death from a high floor.
Some families have walled off their terraces with cinder blocks, blotting out the
sun to avoid such tragedies. Others, aware of the risks, prefer to let in the breeze
flowing off El Ávila, the emerald green mountain looming over Caracas.
“God decides when we enter his kingdom,” said Enrique Zambrano, 22,
an electrician who lives on the 19th floor. Mr. Zambrano, like many of the other
squatters in the skyscraper, says he is an evangelical Christian. Their pastor is
Alexander Daza, 33, a former gang member who found religion in prison.
Mr. Daza, commonly known as El Niño, or The Kid, led the occupation of the
Tower of David in October 2007. Back then, the building had already been vacant for
more than a decade. Its developer, Mr. Brillembourg, a dashing horse breeder, died
of cancer at age 56 in 1993, leaving behind hobbled companies.
The government absorbed their assets, including the unfinished skyscraper,
during a 1994 banking crisis. Robert Neuwirth of New York, the author of
“Shadow Cities,” a book about squatter settlements on four continents,
said the Tower of David may be the world’s highest squatter building.
Once one of Latin America’s most developed cities, Caracas now grapples with an
acute housing shortage of about 400,000 units, breeding building invasions.
In the area around the Tower of David, squatters have occupied 20 other properties,
including the Viasa and Radio Continente towers. White elephants occupying the
cityscape, like the Sambil shopping mall close to the Tower of David and seized
by the government, now house flood victims.
Private construction of housing here has virtually ground to a halt because
of fears of government expropriation. The government, hobbled by inefficiency,
has built little housing of its own for the poor. The policies toward squatters are
also unclear and in flux, effectively allowing many to stay in once empty properties.
On occasion, Mr. Chávez has called for squatters to be dislodged. But in January,
he urged the poor to occupy unused land in well-heeled parts of Caracas.
Then he qualified these remarks by asking them to have “patience” as officials tried to
build low-income housing. Many here refuse to wait. The Tower of David stands as
a parable of hope for some and of dread for others.
“That building is a symbol of Venezuela’s decline,” said Benedicto Vera, 55,
an activist in downtown Caracas. “What’s our future if our people are living
like animals in unsafe skyscrapers?”
Yet squatters, who live on 28 stories and plan to go higher, have created a
semblance of order within the skyscraper they now call their own. Sentries with
walkie-talkies guard entrances. Each inhabited floor has electricity, jury-rigged
to the grid, and water is transported up from the ground floor.
Strivers abound in the skyscraper. They chafe at being called “invaders,”
the term here for squatters, preferring the less contentious word “neighbor.”
A beauty salon operates on one floor. On another, an unlicensed dentist applies the
brightly colored braces that are the rage in Caracas street fashion.
Almost every floor has a small bodega. Julieth Tilano, 26, lives inside a small shop on the
seventh floor with her husband and in-laws.
They sell everything from plantains to Pepsi and Belmont cigarettes. Her husband,
Humberto Hidalgo, 23, has a side business in which he charges children from the
skyscraper 50 cents per half-hour to play PlayStation games on the four television
sets in the family’s living room. “There’s opportunity in this tower,”
said Mr. Hidalgo, who immigrated here last year from Valledupar, Colombia.
Some residents own cars parked in the building’s garage.
Others sanguinely point to their trim physiques, a result of going up and down the stairs
each day. For others, any roof over one’s head is better than none.
That is the view of Jordon Moore, 37, a squatter on the seventh floor whom everyone
simply calls “the American.” Mr. Moore, who speaks English with a hint of the
West Indies, regales visitors with tales of the “gang life” in Brooklyn, where he
says he lived for years, and of an attempt to break into the Venezuelan hip-hop
scene that went awry. “I ended up living on the street in this city, and this is better
than the street,” he said. A neighbor, José Hernández, 30, agreed.
Still, he said he wanted to leave the skyscraper one day.
For now, he sleeps with his wife and daughter in one bed under mosquito
netting, protection from dengue fever. In his apartment, once meant to be a banker’s
corner office, he showed the view, which included a mosque’s minaret and, in the
distance, Petare, the patchwork of hillside slums where he grew up.
Now Mr. Hernández dons a tie and jacket each day and goes to work at,
of all places, a bank. “They call me an invader and I work in the credit department
of Banco de Venezuela,” said Mr. Hernández, referring to the state-owned institution
that he says employs him. “Society hates us, and the government doesn’t know
what to do with us. Do they really think we want to be living in the Tower of David?”
Swedish equality one way or another!
Is it worth it to go as we all are heading for or just pay a living wage!
The poor has power to pull all down with them. Now if that is not a job loss what is?
Getting the word out is more than gold!