Monday, November 15, 2004

The Other Superpower

So, socialism never works, eh? Are you sure about that? Read this article before you answer.

I've been going on about this topic for a few years now. Europe is quickly catching up, if not passing us, in the battle for the title Supreme Economic Superpower. Do you remember when they ripped Howard Dean a new one for the mere suggestion that the United States wouldn't sit up top forever? Well, don't look now, folks, but it's happening sooner than even he expected. And the way we pump money into China, I'm thinking in a generation, we'll be down to number three. Bush would have a bit of a different attitude if he had to make nice with at least a few countries wouldn't he?

Anyhow, here's a taste of the article. The whole thing is a good read...

Whatever your intellectual and emotional responses may be to this burgeoning transatlantic conflict, it's difficult for any American to read Rifkin's book and not feel ashamed. The U.S. has fallen significantly behind the EU's Western European nations in infant mortality and life expectancy, despite spending more on healthcare per capita than any of them. (While 40 million Americans are uninsured, no one in Europe -- I repeat, not a single person -- lacks some form of healthcare coverage.)

European children are consistently better educated; the United States would rank ninth in the EU in reading, ninth in scientific literacy, and 13th in math. Twenty-two percent of American children grow up in poverty, which means that our country ranks 22nd out of the 23 industrialized nations, ahead of only Mexico and behind all 15 of the pre-2004 EU countries. What's more horrifying: the statistic itself or the fact that no American politician to the right of Dennis Kucinich would ever address it?

Perhaps more surprisingly, European business has not been strangled by the EU welfare state; in fact, quite the opposite is true. Europe has surpassed the United States in several high-tech and financial sectors, including wireless technology, grid computing and the insurance industry. The EU has a higher proportion of small businesses than the U.S., and their success rate is higher. American capitalists have begun to pay attention to all this. In Reid's book, Ford Motor Co. chairman Bill Ford explains that the company's Volvo subsidiary is more profitable than its U.S. manufacturing operation, even though wages and benefits are significantly higher in Sweden. Government-subsidized healthcare, child care, pensions and other social supports, Ford says, more than make up for the difference.

The new EU constitution ... bars capital punishment in all 25 nations and defines such things as universal healthcare, child care, paid annual leave, parental leave, housing for the poor, and equal treatment for gays and lesbians as fundamental human rights. Most of these are still hotly contested questions in the United States; as Rifkin says, this document all by itself makes the European Union the world leader in the human rights debate. It is the first governing document that aspires to universality, "with rights and responsibilities that encompass the totality of human existence on Earth."

Again and again I have to explain this to die-hard capitalists, but as you can see from the European example - when we look out for the least among us, whether it's social security, medicare, unemployment insurance, universal health care, it elevates the country as a whole. It's not just some sappy, bleeding-heart, feeling sorry for them policy. It's purely selfish. When the whole country is fed; when the whole country is cared for - the whole country prospers. Look to the Europeans! If we don't, they'll soon be telling us what to do.

No comments: