It turns out that restructuring the European lifestyle may be much more difficult than many EU members expected.
ARIS -- Across Western Europe, the "lifestyle superpower," the assumptions and gains of a lifetime are suddenly in doubt. The deficit crisis that threatens the euro has also undermined the sustainability of the European standard of social welfare, built by left-leaning governments since the end of World War II.
Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism.
Europeans have benefited from low military spending, protected by NATO and the American nuclear umbrella. They have also translated higher taxes into a cradle-to-grave safety net. "The Europe that protects" is a slogan of the European Union.
But all over Europe governments with big budgets, falling tax revenues and aging populations are experiencing rising deficits, with more bad news ahead.
Restructurings (a term that is a euphemism for changing bad habits into good habits) are always difficult. Sometimes governments take it upon themselves to change owing to internal political pressures; other times it requires something far different, like a war, to bring about change. The lifestyle polemic currently at center stage in the EU crisis looks awfully familiar and there is a readily identifiable suspect right here in the United States that deserves some serious scrutiny.
Public employees now earn on average more than private sector employees in the U S. Their wages are higher, their insurance benefits are superior, their retirement plans are gold plated and they have an uncanny ability to avoid layoffs and unemployment. Mort Zuckerman made the point again in the Wall Street Journal Friday that approximately $250 billion of the $780 billion Stimulus legislation passed in 2009 went to preserve public employee payrolls, benefits and retirement plans. And you ask why there is no economic rebound evident from the stimulus? The riots in Greece, and the anxiety Germans have about bailing out the Greeks, is a perfect picture of what awaits the U S in the next several years as private sector employees (and unemployed) continue to experience in a very personal way the divide between them (the tax payers) and the SEIU protected public employees (the benficiaries of the tax payers).
Democratic policy, especially among its most liberal sponsors, has unapologetically promoted various forms of class warfare for over fifty years. This month's debacle in Europe is a preview of the real class warfare that will occur here. U S political trends and the recent increased violence of the Left shows indications of an evolving conflict, from civil disobedience to what might be called a "hot war" between the private sector and the political class. When even the New York Times begins to take note of the crumbling of big government socialism in Europe then everyone should pay attention. The gig is up. It's only a matter of time before there is actual conflict in the streets here.
But wait, there already is. Please go to the link and watch the videos and view the pics. The SEIU sent four busloads of Washington D C protestors to a Bank of America attorney's home last week, where they stormed his property and had the homeowner's teenage son hiding in a bathroom until they left. Fortune Magazine's Nina Easton lived next door and documented the attack. As one blog commenter noted, there are thousands of towns and cities in flyover country where this sort of assault would not have ended well for the SEIU thugs. The union's leadership knew that, however (they had a District of Columbia police escort) and terrorized a citizen's home safe in the knowledge that no violence would be visited upon them.
We have reached a point in this country when cooler political heads need to take charge before the natural instincts of citizen self protection kick in. This country has been at this precipice before and almost always found a peaceful solution. But that requires real leadership and courage which is sorely lacking in Washington DC today.