Sunday, October 07, 2007



In his Washington Post opinion piece today, Steven Hill, incongruously, never mentions Dick Cheney. Maybe that's because Cheney isn't an economist and the piece is, basically, about economics. But Cheney is a polemicist and when the title mentions "Sick Old Europe," no name should jump into one's mind before Cheney's. His clumsy attempt to denigrate our traditional allies in Europe, who opposed, presciently as it turns out, the catastrophic NeoCon agenda for the Middle East, was more political than economic. And, in fact, it has been more than somewhat ironic that while he was besmirching the name of "Old Europe," and while his government's policies have been fundamentally destroying the very foundations of the American middle class and the nation's prosperity, Cheney has been investing much of his considerable personal fortune in... Old Europe. And he's done very well, of course.
Cheney has dumped another (estimated) $10 to $25 million in a European bond fund which tells us that he is counting on a steadily weakening dollar. So, while working class Americans are loosing ground to inflation and rising energy costs, Darth Cheney will be enhancing his wealth in "Old Europe." As Blackburn sagely notes, "Not all bad news' is bad for everybody."

This should put to rest once and for all the foolish notion that the "Bush Economic Plan" is anything more than a scam aimed at looting the public till. The whole deal is intended to shift the nation's wealth from one class to another.

Hill points out that Europe has faired as well as Cheney the sharp investor, with an eye out for enhancing his own portfolio, has anticipated-- much better than Cheney the NeoCon polemicist has predicted.
In the global economy, today's winners can become tomorrow's losers in a twinkling, and vice versa. Not so long ago, American pundits and economic analysts were snidely touting U.S. economic superiority to the "sick old man" of Europe. What a difference a few months can make. Today, with the stock market jittery over Iraq, the mortgage crisis, huge budget and trade deficits, and declining growth in productivity, investors are wringing their hands about the U.S. economy. Meanwhile, analysts point to the roaring economies of China and India as the only bright spots on the global horizon.

But what about Europe? You may be surprised to learn how our estranged transatlantic partner has been faring during these roller-coaster times-- and how successfully it has been knocking down the Europessimist myths about it.

Hill then demolishes 5 myths about Europe's economy that Cheney and his pals may have encouraged but never really believed-- not when you see where they put their money (rather than their mouths). The myths:

The sclerotic European economy is incapable of leading the world. Turns out to be completely off-base. The European Union is the largest trading bloc in the world, produces a third of the global economy and is far bigger than the American economy ushered in under policies of Bush and Cheney that have been beneficial to a few hundred super wealthy families and absolutely devastating for the nation as a whole. It only took 6 years of Bush-Cheney economic policies for European per capita income to surpass our own. Between now and 2000, when Bush wormed his way into the White House, "Europe added jobs at a faster rate, had a much lower budget deficit than the United States and is now posting higher productivity gains and a $3 billion trade surplus."

Nobody wants to invest in European companies and economies because lack of competitiveness makes them a poor bet. Aside from Cheney himself, "Between 2000 and 2005, foreign direct investment in the E.U. 15 was almost half the global total, and investment returns in Europe outperformed those in the United States." Corporate America has invested gigantically in Old Europe the Bush-Cheney economic policies worked its wonders on America.

Europe is the land of double-digit unemployment. Nope. Unemployment rates are the same or better in the countries of Old Europe as it is in the U.S.

The European "welfare state" hamstrings businesses and hurts the economy.
Beware of stereotypes based on ideological assumptions. As Europe's economy has surged, it has maintained fairness and equality. Unlike in the United States, with its rampant inequality and lack of universal access to affordable health care and higher education, Europeans have harnessed their economic engine to create wealth that is broadly distributed.

Europeans still enjoy universal cradle-to-grave social benefits in many areas. They get quality health care, paid parental leave, affordable childcare, paid sick leave, free or nearly free higher education, generous retirement pensions and quality mass transit. They have an average of five weeks of paid vacation (compared with two for Americans) and a shorter work week. In some European countries, workers put in one full day less per week than Americans do, yet enjoy the same standard of living.

Europe has a "workfare" economy not a welfare economy, "Properly understood, Europe's economy and social system are two halves of a well-designed "social capitalism" -- an ingenious framework in which the economy finances the social system to support families and employees in an age of globalized capitalism that threatens to turn us all into internationally disposable workers. Europeans' social system contributes to their prosperity, rather than detracting from it, and even the continent's conservative political leaders agree that it is the best way." Properly understood? Regardless of the dividends fattening Cheney's personal portfolio from his European investments, ideological assumptions very much do get in the way, another in a myriad of reasons why it is time for American voters to retire the Republican Party for a decade or two.

Europe is likely to be held hostage to its dependence on Russia and the Middle East for most of its energy needs. Wanna guess who is "leading the world in reducing its energy dependence and in taking action to counteract global climate change?" The secretive, self-serving Bush-Cheney energy policies have made sure it isn't the United States. Old Europe, on the other hand, "is slowly being transformed by high-tech windmills, massive solar arrays, tidal power stations, hydrogen fuel cells and energy-saving "green" buildings. Europe has gone high- and low-tech: It's developing not only mass public transit and fuel-efficient vehicles but also thousands of kilometers of bicycle and pedestrian paths to be used by people of all ages. Europe's ecological "footprint," the amount of the Earth's capacity that a population consumes, is about half that of the United States."

So who's the Sick Old Man? Don't bother Cheney. He's too busy planning the next U.S. war against Iran. And Bush? Well, he's the model of modern conservatism.



At 12:16 PM, Blogger moeman said...

This could set off loo doobs.

At 7:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Howie, It'd also be interesting to see how much Poppy has invested in Old Europe.

Aren't politician's supposed to have their portfolios in a blind trust when the enter office?

At 7:59 PM, Blogger 5th Estate said...

(arrived from the link Libby provided at NewHoggers).

Taht's a good catch from Kiplingers--amazing what one can learn from boring old financial reporting!
The WaPo article is broad and starry-eyed, so don't count on it alone if you get challenged on its specifics and consequent substance.
But the thrust of the article is correct. Having grown up with such "socialism" and then having experienced the US "system" I know which is better--and the whole is proven by the stable progress of the European bloc which for the past decade has surpassed the US in health, longevity, infant mortality,and now in standard of living and average income ( as well as scoring better in international education competitions). It's no surprise that Cheney should invest in Europe. That's definetly news that deserves a wider audience!


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