This week, France elected a Socialist President, for the first time in twenty years. Big deal, right? After all, the French are pretty Leftist, even with non-Socialists at the helm. It’s the timing that scares me…scares me a LOT.
Europe has been coming apart at the seams lately, riots in Greece and demonstrations in Spain and other countries. Most of those countries use Socialist models for their economies and governments. Most of the EU is down to something like a 32-hour work week, one month vacation time per year, and, most destructive, a HUGE state-funded pension. Only now, Europe is finding out that the equation of (high taxes) x (low productivity + laziness + entitled workforce) – (large pensions) works out to be unsustainable. In a BIG way.
So several countries (i.e. Germany, U.S.) have recently called for ‘austerity measures,’ a neat euphemism for ‘the government isn’t going to pay you a 100% pension…you’ll get 90% instead.’ All based on the facts, of course, that the money in the government coffers is basically gone and they (meaning the citizens of name-a-European country) have to tighten their belts and maybe cut back to two cappuccinos per day at the local cafeplatz. And the response of our cultured and well-educated cousins across the pond?
Riots. Demonstrations. Basically, a bunch of children stomping around the streets, shouting “But it’s MIIIIIINNNE!” See, when my young kids would start asking for this doll or that candy at the store, my wife and I would calmly explain that I wasn’t spending the money on that, because there wasn’t the extra money to be had. We needed to pay rent, buy food, or save up for that vacation to Disney. And they listened…and I never had to deal with the sort of screaming, raving tantrum you see all too often nowadays. Those parents obviously give into Junior’s whims all too often, so that when someone has to say “no,” it came as a complete shock to His Most Toddling Majesty.
The same holds true for governments and citizens: buy them off all the time and they’ll love you. But say “no” after years of catering to the voters’ desires and they’ll burn you in effigy in the streets. It’s a childish response…because they’ve been treated like spoiled children for so long. It doesn’t matter that the austerity measures are merely a stopgap to postpone (not prevent) the complete collapse of the European economy. Any talk of cutbacks is greeted with horror and calls for higher taxes…in countries where making the equivalent of $100K means a 75% tax bracket.
That’s why France scares me so. The Socialist, Francois Hollande, promised during his campaign to roll back Sarkozy’s austerity measures and return France to her former glory. No mention of where the money was going to come from. And other countries in Europe seem to be following suit; candidates who promise no change to the entitlement models are leading in their campaigns. The citizens of Europe–well-educated, knowledgeable Westerners who routinely go to the polls–are planting their heads in the sand and voting for more bread and circuses while Rome (figuratively, for now) burns down around them.
This is merely a precursor to what’s happening here in America. Greece erupted when their debt reached 165% of their GDP; according to the current administration’s own figures, the USA will reach a debt of 200% GDP by 2084…the opposition claims that’ll happen by 2036 (so probably somewhere in the middle, 2060-ish). All based on the “Julia” cradle-to-grave “nanny state” model.
Think riots can’t happen here? Try saying the words “Social Security reform” anywhere the median age is above 50; even smart, conservative senior citizens will argue why it’s THEIR money and THEY earned it…no matter that it works out to 300% of what they put in over a lifetime, even including interest. Look at the Occupy movements…and fast forward to the day the government has to say, “gee, there’s no more money to prop up the student loan industry”. We’ll have entire generations up in arms, wailing at the top of their lungs and begging for their candy bar.
It’s all happening in Europe right now. Watch and see. I used to dream that my grandchildren would inhabit a world like the one in 2001: A Space Odyssey, all shiny space stations and lunar colonies. Now…now, I’m afraid that they’ll end up in The Road Warrior. It makes me bolt upright out of bed in a cold sweat some nights.