Tag Archive: Denmark


“To liberals, the US is not good enough for the world. To conservatives, the world is not good enough for the US.” — Pulitzer Winning Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018)

My dear wife Jeanne and your author walked 125 miles, an average of 6.8 miles per day, during the course of 20 August vacation days, spanning three European nations: Austria, France and Germany.

We even dared visit  Paris in Verboten August, and were greeted by beautiful weather, easy access to restaurants and virtually no lines for Versailles and The Louvre. Wasn’t anything and everything supposed to be closed for vacation?

One never missed the living Renoir-style impressionism of the sidewalk cafes in France and the beer gardens in Austria and Germany, and could easily come away with the conclusion that all Europeans are happy, content and satisfied.

Touring the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, visitors are easily impressed with the union of 28 countries, speaking 24 separate languages, and serving as the home of 512 million people working together — sometimes in harmony — as members of the European Union (EU). Europe for the most part recorded almost 75 years of sustained peace since the establishment of the EU, rather than being at each other’s collective throats.

And yet there are storm clouds that won’t go away easily, namely Brexit.

A plethora of higher moral ground activists point to Denmark, Norway and Sweden as “happy little” royal countries. They rhetorically pose: ‘Why couldn’t the US be more like them?’ Almost DailyBrett must reply: We rebelled against monarchy (telling King George III where to put his royal scepter), so why wouldn’t we automatically reject monarchy, even constitutional monarchy?

If the expressed goal is true socialist justice, then how can one accept all the state-sponsored extravagance being bestowed upon the ultimate winners of a biological lottery, those born into a royal family? Versailles in France and Neuschwanstein in Germany are vivid examples of monarchial excesses, which ended with the King Louis XVI being guillotined and Mad King Ludwig II mysteriously drowning.

And yet dynastic monarchy is still being practiced in the three aforementioned Scandinavian countries, plus Belgium, Netherlands, Spain and of course, the United Kingdom. If the social justice types complain bitterly about the top 1 percent in America, how can they tolerate the birth-right exclusive … 0.000000000001 percent … in Europe?

Certainly, America has its own issues particularly when it comes to personal health, namely obesity, Diabetes, Opioids and more. Does that mean the vast majority of Europeans are better when it comes to waistlines and personal health? For the most part the answer is, yes.

However, the collective European commitment to the environment and public health abruptly ends with smoking. The deadly habit and its directly related second-hand smoke is right beside you in Europe, literally everywhere.

The warnings on packs of smokes are not mushy as is custom in the states. Even a non-German speaker can easily understand Rauchen kann ist tödlich sein (e.g., Smoking can be deadly), and still one can easily conclude the filthy practice is alive and dead on the European continent (some reportedly inhale to stay skinny). Most likely, they will have beautiful corpses.

Visiting Strasbourg in Alsace Lorraine in France and Baden-Baden in Germany’s Baden Württemberg, it’s easy to reflect on how many times these French-German towns have traded management teams at the point of the bayonet, particularly the former. The Germans took control in 1871, the French took it back in 1918, the Germans again in 1940 and then the French in 1944.

Is there any place in America that has been the subject of that many repeated wars in the 150 years? The answer is an obvious, no.

Let’s face it, a huge reason why Europe has remained peaceful for the past three generations has been the continued placement of U.S. troops and weapons systems in Western Europe during and after the Cold War. Europeans should write thank you notes to US taxpayers. Time for Europe to pay up in the form of their required 2 percent annual GDP equivalents to fund the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, otherwise known by the acronym, NATO

The French in particular were notorious (read: Charles DeGaulle) for not acknowledging our leadership in the liberation of France. Thankfully, French President Emmanuel Macron, gladly speaking English, has pointed to the countless U.S. GI graves in Normandy and recognized our role.

Sorry to say, Denmark did not liberate France and end Nazi and Communist tyranny in Europe. It was the United States in the forefront … of course.

Some complain about the presence of US corporate logos all over Europe, particularly Starbucks, McDonald’s, Apple, KFC, Amazon, Nike etc. The same concentration of European brands is not seen (exception: legendary German cars … BMW, Daimler, Audi, Porsche) other than French cosmetics and Spain’s Zara.

Let’s face it, there is no Silicon Valley in Europe and the entrepreneurial venture capital culture is not the same, maybe with the exception of Germany’s business software provider, SAP or Systemen, Anwedungen und Programmen (Systems, Applications and Programs).

According to The Economist, America’s top five companies in market capitalization (stock prices x number of shares) are technology firms with an abundant focus on services provided. Together, they average 30-years of age, generate $4.3 trillion investor capital and trade at 35 times last year’s earnings.

Conversely, Europe’s top firms are goods-oriented were founded a century ago (i.e., Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever). Collectively, they worth less than $1 trillion (Microsoft alone is larger) and trade at 23 times last year bottom lines. When it comes to “unicorns” or innovative privately held start-ups, think USA not Europe.

In terms of market performance you can’t beat America’s NYSE and the NASDAQ … sorry Britain’s “Footsie,”France’s CAC-40 and Germany’s DAX. And if you want to tie up your disposable investment income for 10 years in government bonds, which guarantee a certain loss … Europe (e.g., 10-year BUND) is at your beckon call.

Buy high and sell low?

Having traveled to Europe four times in the last five years for holiday, and many times before for business and pleasure (no one goes to Brussels for kicks), Almost DailyBrett qualifies as a spirited Europhile. Having said that, your author is a proud American.

Denmark may be happy. Good for the Danes and their lovely harbor mermaid.

When it comes to changing the world for the better, there is no contest. Europe en-masse cannot compete against the U.S. when it comes to being truly exceptional. This reality may drive certain elitists crazy, but your author has to call ’em as he sees ’em.

https://beta.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/charles-krauthammer-pulitzer-prize-winning-columnist-and-intellectual-provocateur-dies-at-68/2018/06/21/b71ee41a-759e-11e8-b4b7-308400242c2e_story.html

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/g12797004/current-monarchy-countries-in-the-world-list/

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/travel-guide/g19733989/happiest-countries-in-the-world-2018/

https://www.economist.com/briefing/2019/09/12/the-economic-policy-at-the-heart-of-europe-is-creaking

 

 

 

How much intellectual heavy lifting does it take to raise a tax?

Prioritizing and carefully reducing expenditures requires mental gymnastics, but one doesn’t need an Ivy League degree to increase taxes…even though most of these collegiate thoroughbreds advocate doing just that.

Once you have decided to hike taxes to fund even bigger government, more spending (and borrowing), the obvious question is whom should you tax? The answer is oh-so-easy, those who have the worst public relations.

Let’s put on our social justice hats and indulge in a little Schadenfreude and/or sadism.

Who do we most want to suffer? Here are some predictable candidates and potential targets…all in desperate need of better brand management.

Tax the Rich: This is obviously not a new subject (e.g., class warfare) or a new target for increased taxation. Congress recently passed and the president signed the latest tax increase on the rich. Last November, Californians approved Proposition 30 with its “temporary” tax increases on the wealthy, prompting the second best golfer on the planet, Phil Mickelson, to complain (and later to apologize for daring to question taxation in the Land of the Free).

philmickelson

Maybe we should be apologizing to him for imposing a 39.6 percent federal rate, a 13.3 percent (California) state rate; 1 percent state mental health surcharge; 3.8 percent state Medicare surcharge; San Diego County property taxes on his $15 million home; 8 percent sales tax and 20 percent on any capital gains. Essentially, Phil works from January 1 to at least August 31 to pay all of the governments with their hands out.

In the 1970s, the Rolling Stones fled England to escape its punitive 98 percent tax rate (e.g., working from January 1 until December 15 every year to pay the government). Should Mickelson at least move out of California to no-income tax Texas or Florida to reduce his personal tax bite by at least a third? Sounds like a good idea.

Some mocked Phil for complaining about his taxes, insinuating that he had not achieved or earned his income. Let’s see: he won four of the PGA’s grand slam events and 40 tournaments. That fits my definition of achievement. Let’s celebrate it…Oh…Sorry I didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings…

Tax the Endomorphs: Isn’t it fun to snicker at those who can’t push themselves away from the dinner table? “Do I look fat in my outfit?” “Do you have to ask?” “Why do you live to eat as opposed to eating to live?”

There is no doubt that obesity is a major societal problem, so do we “solve” it by making the government obese? Some have suggested a “fat tax.” My first question is what constitutes “fat?” Is this restricted to people who are overweight or obese according to the Body Mass Index (BMI)? That would be one fat tax.

Denmark recently rescinded its fat tax because the heavy dynamic types were going across the border to Sweden and Germany to satisfy their caloric fix. The tiny Scandinavian country was also inadvertently punishing its fine cheese and meat industries, making them uncompetitive in the face of foreign competition.

Tax the Smokers: This dwindling group (for more reasons than one) is probably the most unsympathetic in the eyes of the general public. For example, they are permanently illiterate when it comes to the warnings on the side of each pack.

John Daly

There is little public relations can do to save them from themselves and/or the nicotine. How much further can the government extract from these addicted people? It seems the government is just as hooked on nicotine-stimulated revenues even in the face of more smokers biting the dust.

Just four years ago, Congress passed and the president signed the sweet sounding, “The Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009.” The key was a tax increase on smoking, increasing the federal tax on a pack of smokes from $0.39 to $1.01. This tax is levied on top of the myriad of state taxes on cigarettes, such as $0.87 per pack in California; $1.18 in Oregon; $3.02 in Washington and a whopping $4.35 in New York.

Tax the Lawyers: What do you call 500 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start.

Whenever a group has earned being the butt of bad jokes with impunity, you know they need help from a public relations standpoint. But do they really need help? Those most inclined to raise taxes on them are the ones that are the political allies of the powerful trial lawyers. Don’t plan on reading about a lawyer’s tax anytime soon, particularly when Democrats control at least one house of Congress and the White House as well.

Tax the Pale Males: There are no greater symbols of white privilege than the pale male (e.g., 43 of America’s 44 presidents). Can you imagine being a rich pale smoking male endomorph attorney?

How many times can you tax this bastard? Ah heck, let’s just confiscate all of his income in the name of “the public good.”

http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/California_Proposition_30,_Sales_and_Income_Tax_Increase_%282012%29

http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/28/opinion/navarrette-mickelson-freedom/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewcampione/2013/01/25/phil-mickelson-is-moving-from-california-a-mistake-actually-he-should-have-moved-sooner/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Mickelson

http://economist.com/news/europe/21566664-danish-government-rescinds-its-unwieldy-fat-tax-fat-chance

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cigarette_taxes_in_the_United_States

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tobacco_Master_Settlement_Agreement

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/taxing-the-fab-four-exiling-the-stones/

“Information is power.” – Activist, Author, Journalist, Lecturer Robin Morgan

Consider my visit to McDonald’s this past weekend.

The Angus mushroom burger with Swiss cheese looked mighty tempting, but then I saw the calorie count beside it: 770 calories, 360 of which comes from fat.

Hmmm…I am follicly challenged, and to some, I may be vertically challenged. Damn it all, I will not be horizontally challenged. No convulations hanging over my belt thank you very much.

Okay, then no Angus mushroom burger with Swiss cheese.

What were my alternatives? Looking at the McDonald’s scoreboard, I selected a bacon ranch grilled chicken salad (230 calories, 80 calories from fat) and a small wild berry smoothie (210 calories, five calories from fat). If you are scoring at home, I said “no” to 770/360 and “yes” to 440/85.

mcdonaldsmenu

Best of all, I made this decision without New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg or some other nanny state politician or bureaucrat interceding, regulating or taxing on my behalf. Some may question my decision to go to McDonald’s in the first place, but that was my independent choice as a liberty-loving American.

My point here is not taking an ostrich-burying-its-head-in-the-sand approach in the face of the skyrocketing instances of obesity in the United States and around the world. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.  According to the World Health Organization, the UN and The Economist, 35 percent of the global adult population of 4.4 billion in 2010 was overweight and 12.4 percent were obese (obviously, the US percentages were higher). Projected out to 2020, 39.7 percent of the adult population of 5.1 billion will be overweight and 15.4 percent will be obese…more than half the adults on the planet.

The Institute of Medicine estimates that obesity related illnesses cost about $190 billion annually or one-fifth of total health spending in the US. Houston, we clearly have a problem. Is more government the solution? Or does the solution lie with public information? Can the global public relations/advertising/marketing industry be the answer?

Denmark tried the predictable and intellectually vapid command-and-control response of imposing a tax on fatty foods. Last month, the country rescinded the unpopular tax based upon the law of unintended consequences.

Besides belting the country’s high-end Danish cheese and meat industries with higher selling prices, driving down demand, Danish consumers also voted with their cars, boats, bikes and feet. Forty-eight percent, up 10 percent, bought their fatty foods from neighboring Germany and Sweden to the tune of $1.8 billion in lost revenues to the country’s retailers and tax coffers.

Doesn’t every answer that requires a new tax, potentially resulting in higher revenues and thus more spending and debt, also result in an unintended consumer response? Why do increased tax champions conveniently always seem to ignore the dynamic response to their policies? When something seems so simple, in reality it is much more complicated.

Mayor Bloomberg’s prohibition against stadiums, movie theatres, restaurants and (gasp) food carts selling sugary drinks above 16-ounces, while inexplicably still allowing the selling of 24-ounce beers (fat, carbs and alcohol all in one), strikes one as being hard paternalism and/or nannyism gone wild.

Isn’t another answer social marketing that deftly employs social and conventional media a better answer? We have more information tools to move data about smart choices to more people than ever with unprecedented speed and range. Why not more horizontal informational approaches to a flattening world as opposed to vertical command-and-control edicts from the all-knowing elected or non-elected Politburos?

The Texas State Department of Transportation (yes, the public sector) has used social marketing for a generation to convince the Bubbas to not litter from their trucks with its wildly successful, “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign. Alpha males (e.g. George Strait, Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Too Tall Jones, Randy White) implored the truckers and other manly (and womanly types) to not litter Texas highways.

dontmesswithtexas

Even though there are still more than 1.1 million pieces of litter each year on Lone Star State highways, one can only imagine how much worse that number would be without the program. It worked by providing information, skillfully delivered with a terrific campaign: Message, Candidate(s), Campaign.

Is it any wonder that Texas with its public information approach scores among the best for small business, while New York with nanny Bloomberg and (Proposition 30) tax raising California score near the bottom? And didn’t the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors consider banning and fining those who had the audacity of throwing a Frisbee or a football on a county beach this past summer?

Instead of requiring already overwhelmed LA County Sheriffs to go on the prowl for those in swim trunks and bikinis who dare to throw a Frisbee, why not hire California PR talent to ask those to be cool with Frisbees and Angus mushroom burgers with Swiss cheese. One message could be that you will look so much better in your swim trucks and bikini with six-pack abs and no extra love handles caused by mushroom Angus burgers with Swiss cheese.

http://www.aboutmcdonalds.com/content/dam/AboutMcDonalds/Newsroom/Electronic%20Press%20Kits/Nutrition%20EPK/McDonalds%20USA%20Adding%20Calorie%20Counts%20to%20Menu%20Boards.pdf

http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/nutritionfacts.pdf

http://economist.com/news/europe/21566664-danish-government-rescinds-its-unwieldy-fat-tax-fat-chance

http://dontmesswithtexas.org/

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Blogs/Business-Buzz/2012/05/09/The-10-Best-and-Worst-States-for-Small-Business.aspx#page1

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/nov/17/local/la-me-plastic-bags-20101117

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2012/02/14/la-county-updating-beach-regulations/

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/31/nyregion/bloomberg-plans-a-ban-on-large-sugared-drinks.html?pagewanted=all

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/confessions-of-an-ex-box-boy/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Morgan

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