As of this writing, France is paralyzed. By the time you read this, it might be in flames.
In Britain, where politics is more polite but the problems are perhaps just as dire, the government is proposing budget cuts on a scale not seen for nearly a century.
In Greece, well, the less said about Greece the better.
All of these countries — and many more — are going through painful retrenchments because they spent too much money, made too many promises, and expected too little from their citizens. The era of European austerity is upon us, because the Europeans — or at least those in charge — understand the mess they’ve made of their economies.
This should present a real problem for Barack Obama and the vast (though shrinking) chorus of experts, editorialists, and activists who support his agenda. In broad terms, all of the policies Obama and the Democrats have pushed are the sorts of policies the British, the French, and other Europeans had for years, even decades.
As far as I am aware, no one has asked President Obama a simple question: If your philosophy is so great, how come the countries that have embraced it for generations are so much poorer than we are?
Nor have they asked: If guaranteed health care for everyone will make us so much more “competitive,” how come we’ve been doing so much better than our “competitors” who already have socialized medicine, high tax rates, and lavish pensions?
Nor has the president been queried about the incongruity of saying his policies have laid a “new foundation” for economic growth and job creation when the countries he’s trying to emulate are trying to dismantle the very same foundations in order to survive.
If you want evidence for all this, you don’t need to look at Europe. You need only to look at America. We’ve had the weakest recovery from a recession in memory. In Gerald Ford’s first year as president, the country rebounded at a rate of 6.2 percent. Under Reagan, it was 7.7 percent. Even Clinton’s recovery rate was over 4 percent from 1993 to 1994 (and grew from there). Obama’s recovery has not only been anemic and sputtering at around 3 percent, it hasn’t made a dent in the unemployment rate, because employers have no confidence that we’ll have reliable growth or that Obama isn’t waiting to bring the hammer down with more Euro-style policies and taxes.
Obama supporters will respond that he has, in fact, “created” jobs, but just not enough to climb out of the massive hole created by the financial crisis and former President Bush’s evil policies. The White House insists that it’s not remotely responsible for the 3.2 million jobs (2.9 million in the private sector) that have disappeared on Obama’s watch, but is completely responsible for every single new job that has been created or “saved” since then.
Forget the “saved” part since that has always been so much Bidenesque frippery. (Though for the record, I drink scotch because it keeps away vampires and ensures the moon doesn’t catch fire. You can thank me later).
But consider this about the relatively few net new jobs the economy has created under Obama. As my National Review colleague Rich Lowry recently noted, half of all the net new jobs created in the United States (from August 2009 to August 2010) were created in Texas. According to White House logic, Obama must simply love Texas, since he’s the one creating all of those jobs. You have to wonder what he has against New York or California — you know, the states that actually share Obama’s economic vision and are descending into an economic abyss as we speak. Why reward low-tax, pro-growth Texas with all of these jobs?
The contrast with Europe is stunning. The streets there are clogging with protestors who desperately want to keep perks and pensions that are driving their countries into insolvency, while responsible leaders do everything they can to impose fiscal sanity before everything comes crashing down. In America, protestors (a.k.a the Tea Parties) have taken to the streets to keep our irresponsible leaders from going in the same direction. In response, Obama says America’s irrational fear has made voters stupid.
But what’s irrational about saying that we shouldn’t be rushing into a condemned building everyone else in the developed world is rushing out of?
— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.