Is Progressive Europe Envy good for America?

Reasons to hold your PEE

Jeffrey Denny
5 min readMar 23, 2024


Jeffrey Denny

“The case for a 32-hour workweek with no loss in pay.”

So goes the headline on the The Washington Post op-ed by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and UAW president Shawn Fain.

“The sad reality is, Americans work more hours than the people of most other wealthy nations,” they note.

Of course they cite Belgium, France, Norway, Denmark and the UK, not more complicated wealthy nations like Singapore, Qatar, Brunei, or UAE.

Days later came this Euronews headline about the new World Happiness Report: “The Nordic countries are always winning when it comes to the happiness race.” Finland topped the list, followed by Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Australia.

Progressives often ask, why can’t America be more like Northern Europe? Like:

For healthcare

Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, UK and Belgium put America to shame (after Canada does) with top-notch, high-quality, no-wait, free care, everything everywhere all at once.

For childcare

Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland and Norway care more about kids. Even after they’re born, unlike in America.

For free college

Norway, Finland, Sweden, Germany, France and Denmark stand out. Americans should be freed from saving up, pulling strings, paying SAT coaches, taking out student loans, and stressing getting a $500,000 social justice degree from an exclusive private U.S. college just to live back home and school regressive parents. A free degree from the American College of Norway should look just as good on AI-scanned resumes.

For cyclists

Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands are the best countries with some of the best cities where cyclists rule the streets. Not like America’s hateful car-addicted, traffic-violent, child- and climate-endangering motor mania privileging car mobility and “car-storage” aka parking.

For the climate

Europe, especially Greenland, is far greener than America. Only 20% of US energy is renewable while the EU boasts a massively superior 22.5% and depends on fossil but brands green better.

Progressive Europe Envy, or PEE, makes you feel like you gotta go right away.

And book the first nonstop to Ängelholm–Helsingborg or Växjö-Kronoberg.

But it may be bad for America.

Progressives pout that President Joe Biden has failed to deliver their Northern European utopia. (He’s also too old — although a year younger than Sanders — and not “from the river to the sea” enough.) So they threaten to withhold their vote.

In doing so, they’re helping to reelect a twice impeached, criminally indicted racist, xenophobic, LGBTQ-phobic, treasonous, divisive, revenging, retributing, morally and financially bankrupt wannabe dictator and neo-Nazi hero. One who promises to reverse progress if he’s elected and a bloodbath if he’s not.

Look kids: Your own relatives shed blood and treasure in two World Wars and a Cold War to free Northern Europe — and us — from fascism. You protest against fascism. You can’t vote against fascism?

Of course, America is nothing like the Northern Europe we saved.

We’re sadder, sliding from 15th to 23rd on the World Happiness Report.

We’re also much bigger, with 3.8 million square miles versus France (210,000), Sweden (174,000), Norway (148,000), Germany (138,000) and Finland (130,000). The U.S. is roughly the size of the entire European continent with its 44 countries versus our one.

We’re a lot more populated, with 340 million people versus Northern Europe’s 107 million. The populations of California and Texas, 39 million and 30 million respectively, combined are bigger than UK’s 67 million and seven times Sweden’s 10 million.

Our incomes are roughly equivalent while — as we all know — their taxes and government spending are much higher.

Take Sweden, where the median household income is roughly equal to the U.S., around $75,000.

The top Swedish national 52% personal tax rate kicks in if you make over the equivalent of $62,000 (versus 22% here). The Swedish government takes up nearly 47% of its economy (versus 38.5% here). Sweden also has a 25% national sales tax while we don’t have any, and our state and local sales taxes range from zero in liberal states like Delaware and Oregon to the conservative Louisiana’s 9.5%. Add Sweden’s 31% payroll tax (versus 15% here, half paid by the employer). All figures from Canada’s Fraser Institute and the International Monetary Fund if you wonder.

So, two inconvenient questions:

First, while young college-educated progressives are proud to stand up for America’s struggling working class, are they willing to hand over a bigger chunk of their paychecks? Are they sure our less privileged workers want to? For Northern European government benefits they may not want, need or trust?

Could this explain why Democrats and even Blue Collar Joe are losing the working-class vote to … Trump?

As young progressives age, buy homes and build families, careers and incomes, will they still be willing to fork over half their paychecks? Are current adult liberals willing?

The easy answer is, tax the super-rich a lot more. Sure, why not? Tax fairness is right. But the devil’s in the details and won’t make much fiscal difference. A columnist for the liberal Washington Post warns, “Think twice before changing the tax rules to soak billionaires.”

On top of doing that, the Biden tax plan would boost rates for anyone making over $400,000, considered wealthy. As a Biden supporter making less, my ox is happy to avoid goring. Trump’s working-class MAGAs should be happy too.

But many Biden-supporting professional-class liberals married to the same file incomes well over $400,000. Especially if they’re Washington lawyers, lobbyists, cable news talking heads, execs at politically connected PR firms or even liberal nonprofit executives.

Heck, the top 10 executives at the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund each made over $400,000 in 2022, led by president Fred Krupp who garnered over $900,000. says the optimal compensation range for the ACLU president is between $730,000 and $1.2 million.

Not to pick on my fellow libs — conservatives are a lost cause on these matters — but if anyone wants to pay more taxes to make America more like Northern Europe, the U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service accepts gifts to the federal government to reduce our public debt.

Second irksome question: What about diversity?

This is America’s greatest strength and should appeal to progressives.

The U.S. is about 60% white. Then 12.6% Black, 19% Hispanic/Latino, 6.2% Asian and then other nonwhites.

By 2050, about when young progressives hit middle age, the Census Bureau projects America will have a new minority — white people.

Meanwhile, Finland is over 99% white. Norway, 98%. Denmark, 97%. Sweden, 91%. So it goes for the UK, Ireland, and across the northern continent. The Netherlands is a diversity hero, only 82% white. Northern Europe’s whiteness may not change much, especially as white nationalism tightens immigration policies.

Point is, Northern Europe is a ridiculous model for America.

It’s much harder to create a more perfect union of 340 million diverse people from all over the world holding myriad and divergent views. Especially as a self-governed democracy with an independent, self-sufficient streak that’s hinky about central government command and control.

No other such large, populous country has made real democracy work. Many — led by Russia and China — are dictatorships or democracies in name only. Real democracy is messy and can’t deliver everyone’s dreams.

A common vision, a North Star, certainly beats no direction. Just beware: Utopia usually isn’t.

Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.



Jeffrey Denny

A Pullet Surprise-winning writer who always appreciates free chicken.