Europeans Gushing over Obama's Economic Policies
USA Today's Richard Wolf reported the other day that Europeans gushed over Barack Obama; they think the president's economic policies are just swell. Should Americans gush, too?
Mr. Obama's illusionary economic successes win the praise of none other than France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, who in that inflated French style said: "We need the leadership of Barack Obama." And then Sarkozy added, unctuously, "He [Mr. Obama] is much loved and much liked here in France."
No reports that the typically cool Mr. Obama gushed about Mr. Sarkozy in return. One wonders if a year from now, should Europe's financial system crash to the floor like dishware in an Oklahoma earthquake, Mr. Obama would have even one kind word for Sarkozy or any European leader. Europe's crash would lead to an American crash; an American financial crack up would spell political doom for Mr. Obama, the nation's Sun King.
Who knows what Sarkozy understands about pro baseball, but there are plenty of Americans who would trade Mr. Obama to the French for a member of Parliament to be named later and cash -- or freedom to run up a billion dollars on France's national credit card. Hey, what's a billion bucks to the French when a massive financial collapse looms?
Compared to where most European nations currently stand -- near their financial systems' cratering -- President Obama's economic "success" would seem a relief.
Yes, there's a consistent official 9% unemployment rate in the United States (a higher rate, though, when other factors are considered, like Americans who've stopped looking for work or like the underemployed). But welfare state Europe is used to high unemployment rates. Yes, American businesses -- especially small businesses -- aren't creating many jobs due to the climate of uncertainty and hostility manufactured by Mr. Obama. But hostility toward free enterprise is nothing new in Europe. And, yes, U.S. debt is through the roof, but a tipping point hasn't been reached yet, which must cause envy among European elites, whose own debt crises are close to toppling over.
Mr. Obama has some political breathing room compared to what the likes of Italy's pleasure-seeking Silvio Berlusconi and Greece's failed Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou had. Perhaps Berlusconi and Papandreou could have smartly declared the debt crisis over like Spanish Prime Minister -- and full time court jester -- José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has done. What the heck? Might as well declare victory and take a Mediterranean cruise.
European elites are having to do to one of their own what their beloved Mr. Obama hasn't been forced to do to Uncle Sam: make a government -- poor little Greece, in this case -- peel back its welfare state to get its financial house in order (we'll see if Greeks actually have the discipline to do what they haven't done historically).
The fact is that all European countries need to shrink their welfare states extensively. What's good for the Greeks isn't necessarily good for the Italians or French or Spanish, huh? The Germans show more discipline in financial matters, but even Germany is top-heavy with government; it, too, will have the need to restructure and downsize its government.
Will French and German elites ultimately do voluntarily what they insist Greeks do? Doubtful. The ruling classes in France and Germany and throughout Europe are too heavily invested in the status quo. A downsizing of Europe's welfare states translates into a downsizing of the ruling classes' power and prerogatives. The Germans and French will stick it to the Greeks -- both nations have a weight advantage. But any real restructuring of the Italian, German, French, and Spanish welfare states, among others, won't come until financial disaster strikes those countries.
Make no mistake: unless Washington politicians take remedial action sooner rather than later, the U.S. is heading inexorably toward a debt disaster of its own. The warnings of impending doom have been sounded so frequently that they're losing their alarm. But, by Ludwig von Mises, the sky is actually likely to fall, thanks to the narrow self-interests and fecklessness of European and American elites. If Europe's ruling class can't turn the timer back a tad on its own debt mega-bomb, its explosion will cause more than collateral damage in the U.S.; it will trigger a financial explosion much sooner here, one that rips right through America's fragile economy.
Mr. Obama, the anti-Reagan president, with his anti-Reagan economic policies and wild spending, has managed in less than thirty-six months to make America more, not less, vulnerable to a European debt disaster. Perhaps it's this sense of shared doom that so enthralls Europeans with Mr. Obama.
Even if Mr. Obama woke up one morning and started to channel Ronald Reagan, enacting remedial reforms to entitlements, significant budget cuts, and other actions aimed at ending Uncle Sam's orgy of borrowing and spending -- near- and longer-term -- Americans would still experience acute pain. A transition to more responsible smaller government, necessary as it is, won't come without sizable dislocations and adjustments across the spectrum. But it's always wiser to take less pain upfront than more pain on the tail end. Tail-end pain is more what Americans should expect, unless a GOP president and Congress are elected in 2012 that actually show real guts once offices are assumed in 2013.
One wonders if Sarkozy would gush over a Republican president in the same way he gushes over Mr. Obama. By January 2013, Sarkozy might be occupying a cell in the Bastille, thereby dampening his enthusiasms. The swooshing and thumping sound Sarkozy hears from outside won't be a Dial-O-Matic Food Slicer in action. France -- and Europe -- in the process of collapse wouldn't be kind to the continent's ruling classes. Very Bad Things happen to Europe's top tiers when systems fail -- or so history indicates. Perhaps in these more civilized times, Sarkozy would simply be exiled to a villa in the South of France.
With a smashed economy, the American ruling class wouldn't be immune to a restive public's anger, either. Fortunately for America, the nation has only experienced systemic failure once, albeit on a stupendous scale: the Civil War.
Americans wouldn't necessarily face systemic meltdown, but would face nothing short of the end of an era. That's big stuff. The wreckage you'd see scattered across the republic would be more than failed government and broken banks and businesses; at the bottom of the heap would be progressivism, the once-throbbing heart of the entire statist experiment in America.
Yet don't be fooled. Progressivism's death wouldn't mean the death of statism. Those elites inclined to want control over others' lives, and those portions of the American public that welcome control, would seek ways to repackage their anti-liberty beliefs and assert dominance.
Mr. Obama may just be midwife to progressivism's coming thunderous demise and to an ultimate confrontation between statist and pro-liberty forces. Nicely done, Mr. President. Lap up Sarkozy's praise while you can.