Saturday, April 29, 2017

ANS -- The Real Reason Wheat is Toxic (it’s not the gluten)

I have no idea if this information is trustworthy, but I've been saying for years that it isn't the wheat, it's the pesticide.  This article starts by sounding like it has studies to back it up, and then devolves into a sensationalist, non-scientific load.  You'll have to take it with a pinch of salt and judge for yourself.  But I thought it was interesting enough to pass on.  If any of you know any more about how much of this is true, let me know.  
--Kim


by Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

The stories became far too frequent to ignore.

Emails from folks with allergic or digestive issues to wheat in the United States experienced no symptoms whatsoever when they tried eating pasta on vacation in Italy.

 

Confused parents wondering why wheat consumption sometimes triggered autoimmune reactions in their children but not at other times.

 

In my own home, I've long pondered why my husband can eat the wheat I prepare at home, but he experiences negative digestive effects eating even a single roll in a restaurant.

 

There is clearly something going on with wheat that is not well known by the general public. It goes far and beyond organic versus nonorganic, gluten or hybridization because even conventional wheat triggers no symptoms for some who eat wheat in other parts of the world.

 

What indeed is going on with wheat?

For quite some time, I secretly harbored the notion that wheat in the United States must, in fact, be genetically modified.  GMO wheat secretly invading the North American food supply seemed the only thing that made sense and could account for the varied experiences I was hearing about.

 

I reasoned that it couldn't be the gluten or wheat hybridization. Gluten and wheat hybrids have been consumed for thousands of years. It just didn't make sense that this could be the reason for so many people suddenly having problems with wheat and gluten in general in the past 5-10 years.

 

Finally, the answer came over dinner a couple of months ago with a friend who was well versed in the wheat production process. I started researching the issue for myself, and was, quite frankly, horrified at what I discovered.

 

The good news is that the reason wheat has become so toxic in the United States is not because it is secretly GMO as I had feared (thank goodness!).

The bad news is that the problem lies with the manner in which wheat is harvested by conventional wheat farmers.

You're going to want to sit down for this one.  I've had some folks burst into tears in horror when I passed along this information before.

 

Wheat harvest protocol in the United States is to drench the wheat fields with Roundup several days before the combine harvesters work through the fields as withered, dead wheat plants are less taxing on the farm equipment and allows for an earlier, easier and bigger harvest 

Pre-harvest application of the herbicide Roundup or other herbicides containing the deadly active ingredient glyphosate to wheat and barley as a desiccant was suggested as early as 1980.  It has since become routine over the past 15 years and is used as a drying agent 7-10 days before harvest within the conventional farming community.

 

wheat graph 2According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff of MIT who has studied the issue in depth and who I recently saw present on the subject at a nutritional Conference in Indianapolis, desiccating non-organic wheat crops with glyphosate just before harvest came into vogue late in the 1990′s with the result that most of the non-organic wheat in the United States is now contaminated with it.  Seneff explains that when you expose wheat to a toxic chemical like glyphosate, it actually releases more seeds resulting in a slightly greater yield:   "It 'goes to seed' as it dies. At its last gasp, it releases the seed" says Dr. Seneff.

 

According to the US Department of Agriculture, as of 2012, 99% of durum wheat, 97% of spring wheat, and 61% of winter wheat has been treated with herbicides. This is an increase from 88% for durum wheat, 91% for spring wheat and 47% for winter wheat since 1998.

 

Here's what wheat farmer Keith Lewis has to say about the practice:

I have been a wheat farmer for 50 yrs and one wheat production practice that is very common is applying the herbicide Roundup (glyposate) just prior to harvest. Roundup is licensed for preharvest weed control. Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup claims that application to plants at over 30% kernel moisture result in roundup uptake by the plant into the kernels. Farmers like this practice because Roundup kills the wheat plant allowing an earlier harvest.

A wheat field often ripens unevenly, thus applying Roundup preharvest evens up the greener parts of the field with the more mature. The result is on the less mature areas Roundup is translocated into the kernels and eventually harvested as such.

This practice is not licensed. Farmers mistakenly call it "dessication." Consumers eating products made from wheat flour are undoubtedly consuming minute amounts of Roundup. An interesting aside, malt barley which is made into beer is not acceptable in the marketplace if it has been sprayed with preharvest Roundup. Lentils and peas are not accepted in the market place if it was sprayed with preharvest roundup….. but wheat is ok.. This farming practice greatly concerns me and it should further concern consumers of wheat products.

 

This practice is not just widespread in the United States either. The Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom reports that use of Roundup as a wheat desiccant results in glyphosate residues regularly showing up in bread samples. Other European countries are waking up to to the danger, however. In the Netherlands, use of Roundup is completely banned with France likely soon to follow.

 

Using Roundup as a dessicant on the wheat fields prior to harvest may save the farmer money and increase profits, but it is devastating to the health of the consumer who ultimately consumes those ground up wheat kernels which have absorbed a significant amount of Roundup!

wheat graph 1

While the herbicide industry maintains that glyphosate is minimally toxic to humans, research published in the Journal Entropy strongly argues otherwise by shedding light on exactly how glyphosate disrupts mammalian physiology.

 

Authored by Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff of MIT, the paper investigates glyphosate's inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes, an overlooked component of lethal toxicity to mammals.

 

The currently accepted view is that ghyphosate is not harmful to humans or any mammals.  This flawed view is so pervasive in the conventional farming community that Roundup salesmen have been known to foolishly drink it during presentations!

 

However, just because Roundup doesn't kill you immediately doesn't make it nontoxic.  In fact, the active ingredient in Roundup lethally disrupts the all important shikimate pathway found in beneficial gut microbes which is responsible for synthesis of critical amino acids.

 

Friendly gut bacteria, also called probiotics, play a critical role in human health. Gut bacteria aid digestion, prevent permeability of the gastointestinal tract (which discourages the development of autoimmune disease), synthesize vitamins and provide the foundation for robust immunity.  In essence:

Roundup significantly disrupts the functioning of beneficial bacteria in the gut and contributes to permeability of the intestinal wall and consequent expression of autoimmune disease symptoms

 

In synergy with disruption of the biosynthesis of important amino acids via the shikimate pathway, glyphosate inhibits the cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes produced by the gut microbiome.  CYP enzymes are critical to human biology because they detoxify the multitude of foreign chemical compounds, xenobiotics, that we are exposed to in our modern environment today.

 

As a result, humans exposed to glyphosate through use of Roundup in their community or through ingestion of its residues on industrialized food products become even more vulnerable to the damaging effects of other chemicals and environmental toxins they encounter!

 

What's worse is that the negative impact of glyphosate exposure is slow and insidious over months and years as inflammation gradually gains a foothold in the cellular systems of the body.

 

The consequences of this systemic inflammation are most of the diseases and conditions associated with the Western lifestyle:

-Gastrointestinal disorders

-Obesity

-Diabetes

-Heart Disease

-Depression

-Autism

-Infertility

-Cancer

-Multiple Sclerosis

-Alzheimer's disease

-And the list goes on and on and on …

 

In a nutshell, Dr. Seneff's study of Roundup's ghastly glyphosate which the wheat crop in the United States is doused with just days before harvest uncovers the manner in which this lethal toxin harms the human body by decimating beneficial gut microbes with the tragic end result of disease, degeneration, and widespread suffering

Got the picture yet?

Even if you think you have no trouble digesting wheat, it is still very wise to avoid conventional wheat as much as possible in your diet!

You Must Avoid Toxic Wheat No Matter What

The bottom line is that avoidance of conventional wheat in the United States is absolutely imperative even if you don't currently have a gluten allergy or wheat sensitivity. The increase in the amount of glyphosate applied to wheat closely correlates with the rise of celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Dr. Seneff points out that the increases in these diseases are not just genetic in nature, but also have an environmental cause as not all patient symptoms are alleviated by eliminating gluten from the diet.

 

The effects of deadly glyphosate on your biology are so insidious that lack of symptoms today means literally nothing.

If you don't have problems with wheat now, you will in the future if you keep eating conventionally produced, toxic wheat!

How to Eat Wheat Safely

Obviously, if you've already developed a sensitivity or allergy to wheat, you must avoid it.  Period.

But, if you aren't celiac or gluten sensitive and would like to consume this ancestral food safely, you can do what we do in our home. We only source organic, preferably low gluten, unhybridized Einkorn wheat for breadmaking, pancakes, cookies etc.  But, when we eat out or are purchasing food from the store, conventional wheat products are rejected without exception.  This despite the fact that we have no gluten allergies whatsoever in our home – yet.

 

I am firmly convinced that if we did nothing, our entire family at some point would develop sensitivity to wheat or autoimmune disease in some form due to the toxic manner in which it is processed and the glyphosate residues that are contained in conventional wheat products.

 

What Are You Going to Do About Toxic Wheat?

How did you react to the news that US wheat farmers are using Roundup, not just to kill weeds, but to dry out the wheat plants to allow for an earlier, easier and bigger harvest and that such a practice causes absorption of toxic glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and other herbicides, right into the wheat kernels themselves?

 

Did you feel outraged and violated like I did? How will you implement a conventional wheat-avoidance strategy going forward even if you haven't yet developed a problem with gluten or wheat sensitivity?

 

What about other crops where Roundup is used as a pre-harvest dessicant such as barley, sugar cane, rice, seeds, dried beans and peas, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, and sugar beets?  Will you only be buying these crops in organic form from now on to avoid this modern, man-made scourge?

Credits: Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

ANS -- What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech

In all fairness, here is a good explanation of the other side of the argument about campus free speech, and why the kids who wouldn't let Yiannopolos and Coulter speak on campus had a point.  Since I have sent the argument from the other side, I thought this was necessary.  Now, I'm not sure which side I am on.....
--Kim


Photo
An Auburn University freshman, right, clashed with a supporter of Richard Spencer on Tuesday in Alabama. CreditAlbert Cesare/The Montgomery Advertiser, via Associated Press

This article has been updated to add a disclaimer.

At one of the premieres of his landmark Holocaust documentary, "Shoah" (1985), the filmmaker Claude Lanzmann was challenged by a member of the audience, a woman who identified herself as a Holocaust survivor. Lanzmann listened politely as the woman recounted her harrowing personal account of the Holocaust to make the point that the film failed to fully represent the recollections of survivors. When she finished, Lanzmann waited a bit, and then said, "Madame, you are an experience, but not an argument."

This exchange, conveyed to me by the Russian literature scholar Victor Erlich some years ago, has stayed with me, and it has taken on renewed significance as the struggles on American campuses to negotiate issues of free speech have intensified — most recently in protests at Auburn University against a visit by the white nationalist Richard Spencer.

Lanzmann's blunt reply favored reasoned analysis over personal memory. In light of his painstaking research into the Holocaust, his comment must have seemed insensitive but necessary at the time. Ironically, "Shoah" eventually helped usher in an era of testimony that elevated stories of trauma to a new level of importance, especially in cultural production and universities.

During the 1980s and '90s, a shift occurred in American culture; personal experience and testimony, especially of suffering and oppression, began to challenge the primacy of argument. Freedom of expression became a flash point in this shift. Then as now, both liberals and conservatives were wary of the privileging of personal experience, with its powerful emotional impact, over reason and argument, which some fear will bring an end to civilization, or at least to freedom of speech.


My view (and, like all the views expressed here, it does not represent the views or policies of my employer, New York University) is that we should resist the temptation to rehash these debates. Doing so would overlook the fact that a thorough generational shift has occurred. Widespread caricatures of students as overly sensitive, vulnerable and entitled "snowflakes" fail to acknowledge the philosophical work that was carried out, especially in the 1980s and '90s, to legitimate experience — especially traumatic experience — which had been dismissed for decades as unreliable, untrustworthy and inaccessible to understanding.

The philosopher Jean-Fran├žois Lyotard, best known for his prescient analysis in "The Postmodern Condition" of how public discourse discards the categories of true/false and just/unjust in favor of valuing the mere fact that something is being communicated, examined the tension between experience and argument in a different way.

Instead of defining freedom of expression as guaranteeing the robust debate from which the truth emerges, Lyotard focused on the asymmetry of different positions when personal experience is challenged by abstract arguments. His extreme example was Holocaust denial, where invidious but often well-publicized cranks confronted survivors with the absurd challenge to produce incontrovertible eyewitness evidence of their experience of the killing machines set up by the Nazis to exterminate the Jews of Europe. Not only was such evidence unavailable, but it also challenged the Jewish survivors to produce evidence of their own legitimacy in a discourse that had systematically denied their humanity.

Lyotard shifted attention away from the content of free speech to the way certain topics restrict speech as a public good. Some things are unmentionable and undebatable, but not because they offend the sensibilities of the sheltered young. Some topics, such as claims that some human beings are by definition inferior to others, or illegal or unworthy of legal standing, are not open to debate because such people cannot debate them on the same terms.

The recent student demonstrations at Auburn against Spencer's visit — as well as protests on other campuses against Charles Murray, Milo Yiannopoulos and others — should be understood as an attempt to ensure the conditions of free speech for a greater group of people, rather than censorship. Liberal free-speech advocates rush to point out that the views of these individuals must be heard first to be rejected. But this is not the case. Universities invite speakers not chiefly to present otherwise unavailable discoveries, but to present to the public views they have presented elsewhere. When those views invalidate the humanity of some people, they restrict speech as a public good.

In such cases there is no inherent value to be gained from debating them in public. In today's age, we also have a simple solution that should appease all those concerned that students are insufficiently exposed to controversial views. It is called the internet, where all kinds of offensive expression flourish unfettered on a vast platform available to nearly all.

The great value and importance of freedom of expression, for higher education and for democracy, is hard to overestimate. But it has been regrettably easy for commentators to create a simple dichotomy between a younger generation's oversensitivity and free speech as an absolute good that leads to the truth. We would do better to focus on a more sophisticated understanding, such as the one provided by Lyotard, of the necessary conditions for speech to be a common, public good. This requires the realization that in politics, the parameters of public speech must be continually redrawn to accommodate those who previously had no standing.


The idea of freedom of speech does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks. It means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community. Free-speech protections — not only but especially in universities, which aim to educate students in how to belong to various communities — should not mean that someone's humanity, or their right to participate in political speech as political agents, can be freely attacked, demeaned or questioned.
The rights of transgender people for legal equality and protection against discrimination are a current example in a long history of such redefinitions. It is only when trans people are recognized as fully human, rather than as men and women in disguise, as Ben Carson, the current secretary of housing and urban development claims, that their rights can be fully recognized in policy decisions.

THE STUDENT ACTIVISM that has roiled campuses — at Auburn, Missouri, Yale, Berkeley, Middlebury and elsewhere — is an opportunity to take stock of free speech issues in a changed world. It is also an opportunity to take into account the past few decades of scholarship that has honed our understanding of the rights to expression in higher education, which maintains particularly high standards of what is worthy of debate.

The recent controversies over the conflict between freedom of expression and granting everyone access to speech hark back to another telling moment. In 1963, Yale University had rescinded an invitation to Alabama's segregationist governor, George C. Wallace. In 1974, after unruly protests prevented William Shockley from debating his recommendation for voluntary sterilization of people with low I.Q.s, and other related incidents, Yale issued a report on how best to uphold the value of free speech on campus that remains the gold standard for many other institutions.

Unlike today's somewhat reflexive defenders of free speech, the Yale report situated the issue of free speech on campus within the context of an increasingly inclusive university and the changing demographics of society at large. While Yale bemoaned the occasional "paranoid intolerance" of student protesters, the university also criticized the "arrogant insensitivity" of free speech advocates who failed to acknowledge that requiring of someone in public debate to defend their human worth conflicts with the community's obligation to assure all of its members equal access to public speech.

It is perhaps telling that in the 1980s and '90s, while I was also a doctoral student there, Yale ultimately became the hotbed of philosophical thinking that acknowledged the claims of people who had not been granted full participation in public discourse. Their accounts, previously dismissed as "unspeakable" or "unimaginable," now gained legitimacy in redefining the rules of what counts as public speech. Lyotard taught at Yale in early 1990s, and his and others' thoughts on how to resolve the asymmetry in discussions between perpetrators and victims of systemic or personal violence, without curtailing speech too much, seeped into other disciplines.

Lyotard and others were interested in expanding the frames of discourse, as they had been before, when married women were granted full legal status after centuries of having their very being legally suspended upon marriage.

When Yale issued its guidelines about free speech, it did so to account for a new reality, in the early 1970s, when increasing numbers of minority students and women enrolled at elite college campuses. We live in a new reality as well. We should recognize that the current generation of students, roundly ridiculed by an unholy alliance of so-called alt-right demagogues and campus liberals as coddled snowflakes, realized something important about this country before the pundits and professors figured it out.

What is under severe attack, in the name of an absolute notion of free speech, are the rights, both legal and cultural, of minorities to participate in public discourse. The snowflakes sensed, a good year before the election of President Trump, that insults and direct threats could once again become sanctioned by the most powerful office in the land. They grasped that racial and sexual equality is not so deep in the DNA of the American public that even some of its legal safeguards could not be undone.

The issues to which the students are so sensitive might be benign when they occur within the ivory tower. Coming from the campaign trail and now the White House, the threats are not meant to merely offend. Like President Trump's attacks on the liberal media as the "enemies of the American people," his insults are meant to discredit and delegitimize whole groups as less worthy of participation in the public exchange of ideas.

As a college professor and university administrator with over two decades of direct experience of campus politics, I am not overly worried that even the shrillest heckler's vetoes will end free speech in America. As a scholar of literature, history and politics, I am especially attuned to the next generation's demands to revise existing definitions of free speech to accommodate previously delegitimized experiences. Freedom of expression is not an unchanging absolute. When its proponents forget that it requires the vigilant and continuing examination of its parameters, and instead invoke a pure model of free speech that has never existed, the dangers to our democracy are clear and present.

We should thank the student protestors, the activists in Black Lives Matter and other "overly sensitive" souls for keeping watch over the soul of our republic.

ANS -- I'm an American living in Sweden. Here's why I came to embrace the higher taxes.

This is about taxes, and how they can be spent to give people better lives and more choices.  The difference is the attitude -- whether taxes should be spent to improve the lives of citizens, or to get people elected to office via giving big business unnecessary perks and military unnecessary money.  read it.  
--Kim


I'm an American living in Sweden. Here's why I came to embrace the higher taxes.

I was visiting the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, a 23-island archipelago in Lake Superior, when suddenly I found myself pining for Stockholm. Why? Because standing on the boat dock in Bayfield, Wisconsin, I realized that the 23,000-island Stockholm archipelago is more accessible to me, an American, than my own 23-island national park.

These wilderness islands with haunting sea caves are accessible only by tour boat at a cost of $151 for a family of two adults and three children. There is no free 15-minute ride across the strait to Basswood Island closest to the mainland, nor a $10 shuttle between the islands, as there would be in Sweden where a heavily subsidized ferry system makes the Stockholm archipelago available to all citizens — as well as to American tourists.

Swedish taxes are easy to pay, rational, and efficient. Best of all, rather than take away opportunities, Swedish taxes expand them.

It seems that Americans would rather have inaccessibility to public places and crumbling infrastructure than pay more in taxes, right? After all, every American seems to know that taxes in Sweden are high and that they want nothing to do with high.

My wife and I have been dividing our time between jobs in Sweden and Wisconsin for the past dozen years, and I'm here to tell you that taxes in Sweden are not that high. To my surprise, I found that there are lots of things to love about the Swedish tax system. Swedish taxes are easy to pay, rational, and efficient. Best of all, rather than take away opportunities, Swedish taxes expand them.

Here are six reasons I have come to love Swedish taxes.

1) Swedish income taxes are not much higher than US taxes — but they give you an education

US critics say that Swedes pay 56 percent — so the government takes over half of your money. This is not true — 56 percent is the marginal tax rate, i.e. what high earners pay on income over a certain amount in both state and local taxes. Only 15 percent of Swedes pay tax at this rate. It turns out the average Swede pays less than 27 percent of his or her income in direct taxes. As I've written elsewhere, my wife and I pay about 22 percent of our US income in taxes. Our Swedish income tax was 31 percent. So, yes, our income taxes in Sweden were higher than in the US, but we still paid less than one-third in tax.

And you get far more for your taxes than you do in the US. In Sweden, college is free and students get a housing stipend. A colleague's daughter, Kerstin, just completed a five-year dental program. Her family paid nothing for her education. The Swedish government gave her $340 a month to live on when she was in school and the right to borrow $700 more a month, which she did. After five years, she graduated with a debt of $37,153.

In the US, dental students graduate with an average of $215,000 in debt from dental school alone.

2) Tax forms come already filled out

Our US federal and state forms tax forms were more than 30 pages long last year, downloaded completely blank. During the two weeks we'll spend in Wisconsin this summer, our main job will be to get our taxes done.

I'll wade through stacks of bank and credit card records line by line, documenting all professional income beyond our wages and scanning for every possible business or charitable deduction. Once this is done, we — like the majority of US taxpayers — will hire a tax professional who charges us $500 to review and co-sign our work.

Tax-preparation services cost American taxpayers more than $32 billion per year. My wife, Betty, and I each have a PhD, but that's not enough to understand IRS instructions. Finally, with a great sigh of relief, our marriage still intact, we'll sign the forms and send them to the IRS.

Of course, despite our great efforts, we don't know whether the IRS is going to be happy or not. We might get audited and have to dig up all this stuff again, because the government has three years to check and revise our returns.

In Sweden, the four-page tax form comes in the mail already filled out. On a Saturday morning, Betty and I take our coffee to the couch and review the forms. Seeing they look reasonable, as they always do, we "sign" with a text from our phones. In 15 minutes we are done. We don't have to hire a tax consultant, and we avoid fights about whether a print cartridge bought at the drugstore is a business expense or not.

The Swedes expect their government to be efficient, and the tax authority is. Only 11 percent of the Swedish taxpayers say it is NOT easy to fill out their forms. I can't imagine what a similar survey question would show in the US.

3) There is no property tax

Property taxes go back to the founding of the United States. They are administered by local governments and most go to pay for schools, local roads, and other services. They range from a high of 2.38 percent in New Jersey to a low of 0.28 percent in Hawaii. Property taxes hurt older citizens, whose incomes are not going up but whose property taxes are. In our great American tradition of making taxes hurt, Wisconsin property tax bills come in a lump sum just before Christmas. The envelope might as well say, "I am from the government, and I am here to make you miserable."

When the conservative government, favoring lower taxes, came to power in Sweden in 2006 one of its first steps was abolish the property tax and replace it with a fixed fee. The real estate fee for services is 7,112 SEK per house ($825 at current exchange rates).

This is the same for everyone no matter what the assessed value of the dwelling. The fee is $12 a month for our co-op apartment in Stockholm. If we owned the same property in Madison, our taxes would be $18,000 a year.

The author and his wife hiking in Sweden. (Tom Heberlein)

4) Sales taxes in Sweden are higher — but less noticeable

Swedes and many other Europeans are grumpy when they visit the US, buy something for $10, and the clerk asks for $10.55. Just as we make our income tax process miserable and the property tax bill shows up just before Christmas, sales taxes are an add-on, which makes you notice them more.

Sales taxes are high in Sweden, but you don't see them, and that makes them easier to pay. If something costs 100 kronor, you pay the 100 kronor! Only when you look at the receipt do you see that it costs 80 kronor and 20 kronor for VAT (value-added tax). Many things are taxed at lower rates — 12 percent to have dinner out or buy groceries, 6 percent (only half a percent higher than our sales tax in Madison) for books and tickets to cultural events and in-country travel. Health related items: zero percent.

It is true that sales taxes are regressive; poor people pay a higher proportion of their income in this tax. In the US, a 25 percent sales tax would have to be offset with some kind of subsidies for our many poor. But because Sweden has a narrower income distribution, its sales tax is less regressive than in the US.

5)  We get cash instead of deductions

One of the reasons US income tax preparation is so awful is that we try to reward certain activities by providing a tax deduction. If you do some good deed (like putting in a solar panel) and if you can find the receipt and documentation (I am thinking ahead to our summer "tax vacation" in the Wisconsin), then you can list a number on Form H, line 36, that will lower your taxes.

Does this feel good? Do you feel rewarded for your solar panel?  Or is it just another damn number on a tax form?

If the Swedish government wants you to do something, they give you the money. For example: Having children is good for the society and costs parents money. In the US, you get a deduction on your income tax for dependents. In Sweden, you get a check every month and you can use it to buy shoes. For one child you get $120 a month and up to $620 for four children. Every parent gets a check.

The process is simple, fair, totally clear, and you don't have to do anything on your tax form. The money comes when you need it —not a year or more later hidden in a tax refund check.

In Sweden, the four-page tax form comes in the mail already filled out. In 15 minutes we are done.

Another example: To stimulate the economy in 2008, Sweden's parliament approved a "rotavdrag" as a temporary job stimulus paying up to 50 percent of the labor costs for household repairs. As a result, the Swedish IRS paid its share of our recent remodeling bill — and I didn't have to do a bit of paperwork. When I got the final remodeling bill, there was a deduction of 50,000 kronor for my wife and 50,000 for me (the maximum allowed). I asked if I was supposed to pay this. "Oh, no," the contractor said. "Just pay the remainder, and the Swedish IRS will send me their share."

6) High taxes give me more choices and freedoms

David Brooks, in a New York Times editorial, argues that if Americans paid European-style high taxes, it would "weaken the ability of members of the middle class to make choices about their own lives."

Maybe Brooks needs to live abroad. Guys like Brooks seem to be proud that tax revenues in the US are only 26 percent of GDP (the third lowest of all countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) while in Sweden they are 43 percent.

But tax dollars are not burned — they are used to provide collective goods that are beyond the reach of any individual and that benefit everyone. These collective goods give the middle class more choices, not fewer.

Not having to pay for college gives the best and the brightest the opportunity to attend any school they choose — equalizing opportunity on merit, not parents' wealth.

No matter how rich Bill Gates is, he cannot buy a hiking trail system in Seattle like those we take for granted in Stockholm. I get to use it for free and have more choices for hiking than I can ever enjoy in Wisconsin. The family of five I witnessed waiting on the dock to visit the Apostle Islands was powerless to see them. Our national park, accessible to the few but not the many, is but one casualty of our low taxes.

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Another casualty? Our public transportation system. Betty and I used to live the village of Lodi, about 25 miles from Madison. This being America, I was free to travel to Madison however and whenever I wanted, as long as it was by private automobile. There was (and is) no bus service to Madison. Even though railroad tracks run right through the village, there is no commuter rail service either.

If this were a suburb of Stockholm or any other European city of 250,000, there would be train service and bus service several times an hour. These are the choices Europeans have that we don't, because they devote more of their income to collective goods.

If we value freedom, those of us who drive cars should pay higher gas taxes so that those who are old, infirm, too poor to have a car, or want to reduce their environmental impact can have fast and efficient bus and train service. Besides the moral issue of providing freedom of choice, there is a great economic value. If we had bus and train service to Madison, the value of all of the real estate in Lodi would shoot up, and our crumbling downtown would have a shot at a future.

The 33 million Americans who are still not covered by health insurance don't have much choice when they get sick, unless you think, "Your money or your life?" is a choice. Paradoxically it turns out the bloated, heavily lobbied, privatized US system spends more tax money ($4,437) per person than Sweden's socialized health care ($3,184).

This is due to Swedish efficiency rather than poor service. I do get to choose my doctor, have high-quality care a short walk from my home, same-day appointments and short waits when I walk in unannounced. And one day my physician himself phoned to tell me I had left my gloves in his office — it was my choice to walk back and get them.

I am not burdened by Swedish taxes. In fact, paying more allows me to increase my quality of life in a big way. That's why I believe that if we all paid higher taxes with less pain in the collection, more of us would be granted the American version of freedom we have been promised.

Tom Heberlein divides his time between Wisconsin and Sweden, where he is working on a book, Falling in Love with Sweden (One Mistake at a Time). He is a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin Madison.