As I watch the debt burden being thrown on my children's back - I think back to the time when we harumphed the Europeans' Socialist ways ... well ... we can't do that any more.
I have seen the Socialist, and he's in the White House.
First, let's visit Deutschland,
German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday painted a rosy picture of the economy, pointing to higher growth and lower unemployment.Now my favorite European country - Nederland.
"Germany is back on a growth track," Merkel said, pointing to the European Commission's forecast for growth of 3.4% for this year. Two years after the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers, a big part of the catch-up process has been done, Merkel told lawmakers in the lower house of parliament during the debate on the 2011 budget.
She added that the biggest success is the decline in unemployment and that a jobless figure of below 3 million people is possible. She said Germany is the European Union's growth engine and is therefore living up to its responsibility for the bloc.
The German economy posted quarterly growth of 2.2% in the second quarter.
The government is due to revise its 2010 growth forecast Oct. 21 and an upward revision from the 1.4% projection given in April is expected.
Still, she cautioned that "some work still has to be done to ensure a sustainable, global upswing."
The lower house's budget debate is traditionally used as a general verbal sparring between the center-right coalition and the center-left opposition parties.
The center-right coalition's budget targets EUR57.5 billion of new borrowing next year and a 3.8% reduction in spending, with overall spending pencilled in at EUR307.4 billion compared with EUR319.5 billion this year.
The Netherlands' queen and the outgoing prime minister presented an austere annual budget on Tuesday that cuts spending on health care, immigrants, and government workers -- a foretaste of more far-reaching cuts likely to come under the conservative Cabinet now being formed.... and at last - that Icon of EuroSocialism - Sverige,
At the start of an afternoon full of ceremonies, rituals and conspicuous hats, Queen Beatrix rode through the streets of The Hague in her gold-trimmed horse-drawn carriage, waving to thousands of fans who lined the route leading to the 13th-century Hall of Knights.
In her speech to both houses of Parliament, she outlined the government's plans for the year ahead -- despite the lack of a new Cabinet 104 days after national elections.
"A far-reaching package of cuts is necessary now to improve the position of our country in the long term," she said, reading a text written by outgoing Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.
Balkenende's budget targets euro1.8 billion ($2.4 billion) in spending cuts in 2011, reducing the deficit to euro19.7 billion or 4.0 percent of economic output next year.
The major savings in the budget presented Tuesday include increasing patient health care payments, slowing pay raises for government employees to below the inflation rate, and reducing a tax break for child care.
In a nod to the anti-immigrant sentiment prevalent among many Dutch, it also reduces the amount of funding for language and citizenship classes that were made mandatory for immigrants by the outgoing administration. Immigrants will have to cover the gap.
To an extent, Sweden's elections affirmed twin political trends that have spread throughout Europe in recent years: Fiscally conservative center-right parties have gained ground on social-democratic parties owing to budget crises that were exacerbated by the global economic downturn.Sigh.
"If you look across Europe, the political center of gravity has clearly moved to the right," said Charles Kupchan, senior fellow for Europe Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. "There were deep and broad structural problems on the economy that Europeans had to tackle, and the British began to tackle them under [Prime Minister Margaret] Thatcher. And then the Labor Party moved to the center and continued to tackle them. Now, that process of undoing large state-centered economies is moving to the Continent."
There is one fly in the European Stampot. The Center-Right parties in Euro are more along the lines of New England Republicans with a bit of Blue Dog Democrats thrown in. They are completely ignoring large segments of voters with Libertarian and Nationalist tendencies that exist in these countries. By keeping them out of traditional parties, they drive them more and more in to the Far-Right parties who will give them voice.
The USA does not have an equivalent of the Euro Far-Right. Not even close. You can find those elements diluted in Republican, Democrat, and Libertarian parties. We also do not have a Fascist or Communist tradition of any significant flavor - not so in Europe.
Talk to a gaggle of Europeans over a few beers about the threats they see from the "other." They are prepared to vote for and do things that just won't even be discussed in USA circles. Hard to describe ... but it is there. Ask them about their tax burden as well.
I think the major Center-Right parties are starting to see that and will try to cleave off the "respectful" parts of the Euro Far-Right's party platforms over a few election cycles - just to keep the Far-right small if nothing else. The Libertarian and anti-tax voters are the easiest to get to as they are most likely to be turned off the the statist and violent tendencies of some of the Far-Right. Remember - Fascism is an Socialist offshoot.
There is another problem that you have seen in spades in Belgium and Scandinavia especially. As the bloom has come of the Socialist rose - the Center-Left is making accommodations with its urban Islamist voters. Not a good set-up for stability with that continent's history.
This story will continue to unfold - let's hope the Europeans manage this well.