Skip to comments.Are We All Europeans Now?
Posted on 01/04/2013 7:05:58 AM PST by SeekAndFind
Following the fiscal-cliff melodrama, Senator Richard Shelby appeared on television to declare that we are becoming European. Were always wanting to spend and promise and spend and borrow, but not cut. Weve got to get real about this. Were headed down the road that Europes already on.
Theres no heading about it. Were there. John J. DiIulio, writing in National Affairs, outlined the true size of American government. When state and local government expenditures are added to federal outlays, government spending as a share of GDP easily competes with European nations. In fact, per capita government spending in the U.S. is higher than in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, and our debt to GDP ratio is higher than in most European states.
The Obama administration has set records for deficit spending in peacetime, but there is no question that the growth of government at all levels has been a decades-long process. In 1960, total government spending (local, state, and federal) amounted to 27 percent of GDP. In 2010, it was about 42 percent. State spending has been almost as irrepressible as federal, leaving only nine states that can now boast AAA credit ratings. Many states are facing crises over unfunded pension liabilities that have the capacity to engender strikes and social unrest in the not-too-distant future.
Though President Obama and the Democrats are fond of citing the two wars on a credit card and the Bush tax cuts as drivers of our debt, the truth is that the first Obama term added $4.5 trillion to the national debt in just three years more than the total debt amassed by the United States government in two centuries. DiIulio writes: Add our annual debt per capita (about $49,000 in 2011) to total annual government spending per capita (about $20,000 in 2011), and we have a rough big government index of nearly $70,000 for every man, woman, and child in this country.
The difference between Americans and Europeans is that we arent honest about our appetite for big government. We hide it through a variety of proxies, private contractors, and public-private partnerships. Leaving aside the Department of Defense, which employs 3.2 million Americans, government employs more than 20 million civil servants. Only 2 million of those are full-time federal workers. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, employs 188,000 federal bureaucrats, but also 200,000 privately contracted employees. Medicaid doesnt employ an army of civil servants but instead pays private employees of medical practices, hospitals, and nursing homes.
The EPA employs between 16,000 and 18,000 full-time personnel. It has been able to expand its regulatory reach, though, by cooperating with 50 state EPA equivalents and by hiring tens of thousands of private contractors.
Most non-profits receive few government subsidies. But the largest ones with the biggest budgets are heavily government-dependent. One-third of all non-profit dollars come from government. Catholic Charities USA, for example, a marquee private-sector charity, received two-thirds of its funding in 2009 from Uncle Sam.
Americans prefer small government to big government in the abstract. But 60 million receive Medicaid benefits; 54 million collect Social Security; 48 million participate with Medicare; 45 million receive food stamps; 7 million are in prison, in jail, or on parole or probation; more than a million have de facto government jobs working for defense contractors; nearly a million children participate in Head Start; and about 40 percent of K12 students receive free or reduced-price meals. Theres some overlap in those categories, but it still adds up.
Taking a government check goes down much more easily when you can persuade yourself that youre only withdrawing money that you have faithfully paid in over the course of a lifetime. Indignant elderly callers to C-SPAN constantly invoke the I paid for my Social Security myth. They didnt. The average beneficiary will receive far more in Medicare and Social Security benefits than he paid for in taxes.
We are, in short, a socialist-style society just like Europe. And Obamacare has yet to kick in.
The road to recovery begins with admitting you have a problem.
Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnis
In one sense, we are worse than Europe. In Europe, everyone — rich, middle class and poor — pays a huge chunk of their income in tax to pay for Welfare State benefits. In the US, middle class Americans still believe they can have Socialism and have “the rich” pay for it.
Oui. Da. Ja.
And we are importing, as our number one and rapidly growing immigrant population, Hispanics from Mexico who have been voting socialist in that failed country for 75+ years. These people are politically ignorant, have no understanding how free markets work, have no clue what made America great, etc. They are natural Democrat voters and most of the population growth is made up of these people who will reliably vote Democrat for years to come.
Just like Europe, and because human nature is what it is, there is likely no recovery till our economy eventually implodes. It could take a few years or perhaps another generation or two to rack up enough debt to collapse the economy, but that is the likely outcome. Is it arguably much harder to shake off the horrible effects of socialism when a society has voluntarily gone down that road.
We can’t be Europeans. Europe was able to thrive, until lately, as a socialist system only because The world powerhouse freemarket society backstopped them economically and allowed them to abjure self defense by being Europe’s Defense. With the USA gone socialist there is no Powerhouse freemarket economy to backstop the illogicalities of that socialism. And the USA does not have someone else to pick up the tab for its own defense. The decline will be rapid and it will not stop at the sort of genteel socialism that USA has supported in Europe for 6o years. It will fall right into the abyss of shattering or of totalitarian dictatorship or both.
No. For so long as they remain uneducated which, in the USA will be forever. The government schools do not teach History nor even much math. No Civics. Where are later generations of Latinno immigrants to learn how to think and what to think about?
I don’t think it will take more that 10 years, or one major world crisis. i.e. war between Iran & Israel. The problem isn’t that our debt is out of control, it’s that the whole worlds debt is out of control and we are the underlying support for that debt. In a world of collapsing economies the last one that could collapse seems like the safe bet, unfortunately when we go the whole system comes crashing down!
A big pet peeve of mine for years now.
Discussions of US vs. Europe spending always compare European spending to US federal spending. This drastically distorts things, as about one third of government spending here is state and local.