Saturday, February 04, 2012

The GOP's False Attacks on Europe

Having visited Europe last October (not to mention my extensive travels there when I was in-house counsel for an oil company), I continue to find it amazing how the leading GOP presidential candidates depict Europe as some socialist nightmare far inferior to the United States. They apparently get away with such demagoguery because too many Americans haven't traveled to Europe and hence don't know any better than to believe the deliberate lies. The other reason, of course, is the growing level of ignorance and lack of education that are the norm of the GOP base. Bible beating, the embrace of ignorance, and the need to feel better about one's self by looking down on others seem to be the main characteristics of these folks (and a low IQ if one believes the research I referenced last week). The Washington Post has an op-ed that takes on the GOP presidential clown car and makes the case that it the USA that is socially inferior. Not to mention highlighting the fact that most European countries nowadays are far less inclined to view their citizens as a throw away commodity than is the case in this country, especially in GOP circles. Here are some highlights:

Lately it seems that not a day goes by without a Republican presidential candidate portraying Europe as a socialist nightmare. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum paint a picture of the Old World as unfree, strangulated by bureaucratic and inefficient welfare systems, and unable to reform and modernize. To these Republicans, Europe seems to be the antipode to everything America is meant to be.

[W]hen Romney, Gingrich and Santorum warn about “socialist Europe,” they sound as though they are talking about the Soviet empire, which vanished long ago. Europe is the European Union, a modern entity of 27 democratic countries that, despite many commonalities, greatly differ in history, culture, language, sociology and politics. Europe is difficult to comprehend, but viewing it through a single lens is like calling the United States a Third World nation because there are very poor areas in the South where some people live in shacks or have little access to health care . . .

My problem as a European living in the United States is that it is not Joe the Plumber who is bashing Europe but three longtime politicians who want to be president — people who should know better. . . . those who seek to be president of a global superpower — and may perhaps one day sit at a table with leaders of the Old World — should know a few things:

All 27 E.U. members believe, more or less, in mandatory health-care insurance and public education. They believe that government should offer a helping hand to struggling businesses and people during economic downturns.

[S]ome countries have carried out necessary economic reforms, engineered their comeback and managed the storm of the Great Recession quite well. To some extent they can now present better results than the United States.

Several European states run their mandatory health-care systems more efficiently and at lower cost than the United States while guaranteeing every citizen access to affordable and up-to-date services. The population’s health remains an important economic factor.

Romney pointed out in New Hampshire last month that, despite the economic downturn, the average U.S. worker still takes home a bigger monthly paycheck than the average European (and even the average German, who makes more than, say, Romanians). That’s true, but the comparison doesn’t take into account the much greater wealth gap in the United States nor the fact that Americans have to spend larger portions of their income on medical care and education.

A college education is still free in most Old World countries and produces generally better results than in the United States.

[H]igh school students in a number of E.U. countries scored better in reading, math and science than their U.S. counterparts. Another OECD report shows that it is much easier for Germans, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and Spaniards to climb the socioeconomic ladder than Americans.

[F]raming Europe simply as inflexible and outdated, or backward and socialistic, is shortsighted and wrong. Romney, Gingrich and Santorum should know as well as anyone that the globe is no longer flat.

Yes, they ought to know better. I guess when one has to court the votes of idiots and bigots, telling the truth isn't always too helpful for the panderers.

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