The sun only shines on the upper class
ON THE EDGE
An opinion column about current issues in Norway and the United States
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Linn Chloe Hagstrøm
The Norwegian American
Criticisms surround Norway’s proposed state budget, which, if approved, will contribute to greater economic inequality and hamper Norway’s obligation to the Paris Climate Agreement. Norwegians are eager to see who gains support from the Christian Democratic Party (KrF), which will determine the outcome of the budget for 2019.
On Oct. 8, Minister of Finance Siv Jensen (Progress Party/FrP) presented the government’s proposal for Norway’s state budget for the year 2019. Jensen used the expression “today the sun shines again,” referring to the Norwegian economy when the state budget was made public. Jensen’s comment is but a symptom of the hardline neoliberal thinking that guides right-wing politics and economics both in Norway and abroad.
In broad brush strokes, neoliberalism can be viewed as an economic ideology that supports privatization, deregulation of the corporate sector, reduction of income and corporate taxes, free trade, and reduction of public spending as solutions for how the economic world should be governed. In neoliberal terms, the main characteristic of human relations lies in the concept of competition wherein people are viewed as consumers, while the market governs who gets what with the “invisible hand.” This metaphor describes how “in a free market economy, self-interested individuals operate through a system of mutual interdependence to promote the general benefit of society at large” (Investopedia).
Neoliberalist ideology and its influence on the global economy has been widely criticized, especially following the 2008 economic crisis—but its replacement still seems far away. We can see this through the decision to cut the tax rate on Norwegian businesses from 23 percent to 22 percent and reduce property tax from 7 percent to 5 percent. This will only serve to make the rich even richer. In addition, Jensen wants to spend more Norwegian oil revenue next year compared to this year, a total of NOK 4.5 billion.
The leader of the Socialist Left party (SV) critiques Jensen’s sunshine story by arguing that “the government’s sun only shines on the rich. For most people, the upper class’s tax party blocks out the sun while the government’s uneven distribution politics throws shade on those who have the least,” Auden Lysbakken told NRK. This statement counters the government’s narrative and reflects the Norwegian Left’s general sentiments.
In addition to the issue of increasing socio-economic inequality under the Norwegian “blue-blue” government (the coalition of Høyre or Conservative, which uses light blue as its color, and the Progress Party, which uses dark blue), environmental organizations increasingly criticize the government’s commitment to reach the 1.5-degree goal and foster sustainable development. The environmental movement argues that Norway is miles away from the goal. The United Nations climate panel recently released a report calling for drastic changes on a global scale and extreme measures to reach the 1.5-degree goal. Yet, the blue-blue government’s climate policy remains largely unchanged in the proposed 2019 budget.
The world’s greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 50 percent by 2030 to reach the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require ‘rapid and far-reach
ing’ transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.” The ‘blue-blue’ government chose not to focus on environmental issues when it decided to continue the current Norwegian oil and gas policy, and triple oil exploration licenses.
An approval of the proposed budget hinges on whether the Christian Democratic Party (KrF) joins a red-green coalition with the Labor Party or the blue-blue coalition to create a majority government.
“IPCC Press Release,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: www.ipcc.ch/pdf/session48/pr_181008_P48_spm_en.pdf.
Linn Chloe Hagstrøm is The Norwegian American’s opinion editor and studies international relations at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. She is the Academic Responsible for SAIH-Ås and middle player on the university volleyball team.
This article originally appeared in the November 2, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.