In her quest to strike fear in the hearts of its viewers over the apparent rise of democratic socialism among the left in the United States, Fox Business host Trish Regan said “Denmark, like Venezuela, has stripped people of their opportunities.”
Regan went on to say the people of Denmark are not “ incentivized to do anything because they’re not going to be rewarded.”
Her segment attracted the attention of Denmark’s finance minister, Kristian Jensen, who tweeted that Ms. Regan should come to Denmark “if you dare be confronted with the facts.”
“Denmark ranks 12 in economic freedom, Venezuela ranks 179. It’s simply egregious,” Mr. Jensen, who is a lawmaker for a free-market party, said in an interview.
“It made me angry to see such an erroneous image of Denmark,” he said, adding: “Trish can think whatever she wants about Denmark, but on a factual basis.”
After fierce backlash — particularly over her comparison of Denmark to Venezuela, which currently faces widespread starvation and hyperinflation — Regan clarified here statements:
On Wednesday, Ms. Regan returned briefly to the subject of Denmark on the air, to offer a clarification. “I was never implying that conditions in Denmark were similar in any way to the current tragedy on the ground there in Venezuela,” she said, adding that she had merely cited evidence to show that “socialism is not the way.”
Plenty of Americans, particularly young voters and those who self-identify as Democrats, disagree with Regan on this issue -- and it's not difficult to see why.
In a New York Times op-ed, Paul Krugman noted that Denmark consistently ranks far higher than the U.S. on measures of happiness and life satisfaction.
American politics has been dominated by a crusade against big government; Denmark has embraced an expansive government role, with public spending more than half of G.D.P. American politicians fear talk about redistribution of income from the rich to the less well-off; Denmark engages in such redistribution on a scale unimaginable here. American policy has been increasingly hostile to organized labor, and unions have virtually disappeared from the private sector; two-thirds of Danish workers are unionized.
Krugman also points out that Denmark is not a socialist country — a term regularly misunderstood by both the public and those it turns to for help understanding what it means.
U.S. conservatives — like Fox’s Regan — continually and systematically blur the distinction between social democracy and socialism. In 2008, John McCain accused Barack Obama of wanting socialism, basically because Obama called for an expansion of health coverage. In 2012, Mitt Romney declared that Obama got his ideas from “socialist democrats in Europe.”
In other words, in American political discourse, anyone who wants to make life in a market economy less nasty, brutish and short gets denounced as a socialist.
And this smear campaign has had a predictable effect: Sooner or later, if you call any attempt to improve American lives “socialism,” a lot of people will conclude that socialism is O.K.
A recent Gallup poll found that majorities both of young voters and of self-identified Democrats prefer socialism to capitalism. But this doesn’t mean that tens of millions of Americans want the government to seize the economy’s commanding heights. It just means that many people, told that wanting America to be a bit more like Denmark is socialist, end up believing that socialism isn’t so bad, after all.