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Take a Lesson from the French

October 22, 2010

All of Europe is tightening the public belt to avoid financial disaster. It’s interesting to note that President Obama has tried to talk them out of doing so. He wanted them to try a little more Keynesian economics, but Europe’s leaders knew better than that. Now they’re trying to correct mistakes of the past that have led us into the present dismal situation. Obama, in contrast, is working on pushing the US into the position out of which Europe is currently trying to get out.

Unsustainably generous social welfare programmes in the broadest sense of the term, trying to take control of supply, demand and prices in the health care market, and a large volume of redistributive activity are the recipe that make today’s painful efforts necessary. They’re also the reason why those efforts are so painful in the first place. Once you’ve established a certain entitlement, it’s very hard to take it away. At least that’s true for the big and relevant entitlements. Often they’ve been instituted because well-organised, politically powerful interest groups have lobbied for them. The same interest groups will make it very hard for you to take away what they consider to be their right.

The French Cowboy’s vacation plans are thwarted because of silly people who believe to be in their right to aggressively disrupt innocent citizens’ lives because they find outrageous the notion of raising the retirement age from one of the lowest European levels by a ridiculous two years — and that’s without taking into account the many exemptions! The whole world is shaking their heads over the all-too-predictable temper tantrum the French are throwing over this minimal, but utterly necessary piece of reform.

With a citizenry like this who needs terror threats? In fact, with a nation being so spoiled that it tears itself apart over a shy attempt of pension reform, who needs outside enemies hell-bent to destroy your way of life? We seem to be well able to do this all by ourselves.

But I digress. The thing is that Obama should be looking over to Europe and see it as a warning. As of now, Americans still are a self-reliant people who normally hate the idea of being dependent on government handouts and who — more importantly — aren’t insulated from the hard reality that what you live on someone must produce. Somehow this little fact has been lost by French public “servants”. (And, somehow, French students seem to be ignorant of it, too, even though you’d think that they still teach math somewhere in the Grande Nation.)

Social programmes are fine, as long as they help people help themselves. As soon as they become “dependency creators” they’re undermining the economic and social foundations of a functioning, free society. Of course, the biggest of all social programmes is health care when it’s more or less in the hands of government. ObamaCare is a gigantic, messy entitlement programme that has the potential to pull a critical number of Americans into a position in which they depend on government for their health care finances and therewith for their entire financial stability.

Add to that the precarious situation into which Obama is placing America with his drunken-sailor spending style, and you have an alignment of facts that spells a European future for the US: retrenchment that will be just as badly needed as it will be impossible to get through politically.

So here’s my advice, for what it’s worth: Repeal ObamaCare and reform the health care system in a way that leaves things in the hands of private households as much as possible. Then cut spending while you still can do so without having to keep riot police ready. Don’t go as California goes, instead go as Texas goes: get out of the way of business to spur economic growth. That’s what will keep you from having to tax away your very tax base.

Now, it’s very unlikely that Obama will do this. So Repulicans will have to do it as soon as they get the chance. And that’s in all likelihood going to cost them politically. It remains to be seen then, whether the GOP will be up to the unthankful task. But a lively and resolute Tea Party might be just the motivational booster that could make such discipline possible.

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