America: More European than Europe?

Many who oppose the mushrooming welfare/entitlement/debt-deficit state of America warn, “If you don’t get your act together, America, you’re going to wind up like bankrupt socialist welfare states in Europe.”

Columnist Mark Steyn [ 3/18/14] cites figures suggesting that America has actually surpassed Europe in this respect.

Exhibit A: Government Expenditures per person (i.e., how much each person costs the government per year):

New Zealand $12,252
Australia $13,819
Spain $14,771
Canada $16,655
Italy $16,811
Germany $17,263
United Kingdom $18,155
France $18,866
United States $19,266

Exhibit B: America now has the most progressive taxation system in the world. “Progressive” does not necessarily mean “good.” The term refers to the fact that the more you earn, the higher your rate of taxation. Although most consider Europe to be more socialist in this respect, America’s tax system is now the most socialist in the world. How well is that working out for us, by the standard of unemployment and economic growth?

Exhibit C: America is more in debt than any other nation in the world, or any in all of human history. Steyn cites columnist John Hawkins:  “It is quite literally impossible to pay off the debt our nation owes along with the commitment we’ve made to our own citizens via Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security unless inflation dramatically reduces the value of our currency which would erode savings, drive cost-of-living expenses into the stratosphere and generally decimate the economy. Meanwhile, taking even the mildest steps to safeguard the future of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid has proven to be almost impossible in the current political environment. As a practical matter, this means our country is headed towards bankruptcy or runaway inflation so bad that we might as well be bankrupt.”

The bottom line is this: America’s government is spending far more than future generations of Americans can ever be expected to pay. The only bipartisan solution being offered? Raise the debt limit. Then what? Raise it some more.

It’s just like the psychology of denial in drug, alcohol or any other kind of addiction or abuse. The only difference is that it’s on a national scale with implications for absolutely everybody.

Even if you think it’s moral to tax your great-great grandchildren decades or centuries before they’re born to pay for your Medicare, agricultural subsidies, mortgage bailout or Social Security disability/unemployment benefits now, it’s impossible to defend this as practical. Even if you think it’s moral to raise the tax on the “evil, rich 1 percent” to — oh let’s say a 100 percent tax rate — it still would not solve the problem we’re now facing.

Nobody addresses this issue. Fiscal conservatives have vastly understated the problem, and social conservatives only care about whether gay people’s unions are sanctioned by the government or not. The Democrats and their equivalents in Ivy League universities who set the agenda and policies of our nation simply evade all of these facts, proceeding as if they don’t exist. If you challenge them you’re called a “hater.” Hater of what? Fiscal and economic dysfunction or even calamity? If that makes me a hater, sign me up.

If this isn’t madness or denial on an unprecedented scale, I don’t know what is.

The truth will set us free, but only if we first face the truth. It’s time to be honest, just for once. Generations of Americans have made disastrous mistakes by signing on for welfare and entitlement commitments that never were fiscally sustainable and (in my view) were never morally justified in the first place. Yes, we have to question the most sacred of all sacred cows: Social Security and Medicare.

Rational people can debate the best long-term course out of this mess, and the most effective and reasonable way to make the transition from fiscal catastrophe to privatization. But there’s no getting around the fact that privatization has to be the goal.

Nobody in elected office, nor presently running for office with any chance of winning, is facing the truth. Ultimately, this must be blamed on a combination of ignorance and evasion on the part of most Americans. Most of us are telling our leaders: Fix this, and don’t bother me with the hard facts. That’s why we throw out one party, put another in, then throw that one out, put the other back in, etc. etc. I hear lots of complaining but no positive proposals. To state what by now should be the obvious — that Social Security and Medicare are not sustainable — is not unlike suggesting to a Muslim that Allah doesn’t exist, or telling an alcoholic that he’s a mess and has got to quit his drinking.

So I agree with Steyn’s conclusion. America is already Europe, only on a larger scale.

Irony of ironies: On our present course, in many of our lifetimes it might make more sense to live in Europe, attempting to thrive in a partially privatized economy, rather than in the fiscal calamity waiting to happen that America has become.

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