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Sweden LO -Swedish Trade Union Conference: Attacking conservative government

LO has produced a unique infomercial with nearly a quarter of a million views on youtube. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt is seeking re-election for a third term with his conservative Moderate Party. And as in the previous two elections, he’s running on a platform of tax cuts, designed to stimulate the economy and tackle our persistent unemployment problem.

It’s a seductive argument for many Swedes, but at the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO) we’ve been looking into the impact that two terms of tax cuts have had on our economy and society, and what trying his political experiment for a third time might mean for Sweden. Of the tax reductions proposed by the government in the current year’s budget, over 25% would go to the 10% of the population with the highest income, whereas the 10% with the lowest income would only get one per cent. It is also obvious that those who gain the least from the tax reductions are those who have paid the hardest price for them, in the form of reduced unemployment insurance and sickness insurance.

What is most striking though is that despite it being the rationale for tax cuts, unemployment is actually higher today than it was when his government first came into power in 2006 and that there are 100,000 more people out of a job today. At LO, we’ve produced a critically acclaimed short film, Reinfeldt’s Sweden (Reinfeldts Sverige), to exposes the truth behind Reinfeldt’s claims. The film – slightly over 20 minutes and consisting of two parts – gives a voice to the members of LO unions who express their concerns, hopes and wishes. You can watch Reinfeldt’s Sweden here (in the lower right corner of the Youtube player you can adjust to English subtitles!).

The first part presents statistics on the consequences of the governmnent’s tax-lowering policies. In the second part of the film we meet people who live, work and struggle on in today’s Sweden. Real people who have experienced the changes that have taken place in the country over the last 8 years. People who have dreams about changing job but who do not dare to do it because of the probationary period. People who are anxious about their children’s future, as unemployment is growing and insecurity spreading.

Our film starkly shows that Sweden needs to choose between more of Reinfeldt’s damaging tax cuts and investment in welfare and more jobs. This project is unique in political campaigning in Sweden. It’s the opposite of short YouTube-oriented 90-second clips or twitterfied 140-character slogan. But it has exploded in popularity, with local screening around the country and over 170,000 views on YouTube. The fact that our Prime Minister himself is attacking the movie before he has even seen it shows that the film’s content is something that worries Fredrik Reinfeldt.

The government seems afraid of numbers, facts and statistics, which provide evidence of how Sweden has changed over the last eight years. It is difficult for the Prime Minister to face the fact that the gaps have increased most in Sweden for all OECD countries. The original promises of overcoming social exclusion, reducing unemployment and simultaneously protecting welfare are long gone. Most of all, however, it seems to be reality itself that frightens people. A reality that does not consist of numbers and statistics, but of people who feel the changes to the skin, and are starting to realise that the dream of tax cuts to build new jobs is just that – a dream.

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