Tuesday, June 21, 2011

International Relationships

It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country: fewer than 2 percent of the people pay any taxes. Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs.

This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn’t imaginable, and criminals are never coddled.

The budget priority is a strong military, the nation’s most respected institution. When generals decide on a policy for, say, Afghanistan, politicians defer to them. Citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags.

So what is this Republican Eden, this Utopia? Why, it’s Pakistan.

Nicholas Kristof wrote this recently to illustrate an international example of what the GOP hopes to bring to the U.S.  It’s scary to imagine, mostly because it rings true.  Listen up, Michelle Bachmann – pretty sure Pakistan doesn’t have an Environmental Protection Agency, either.  Would you like a tall glass of water from their municipal supply?

We love to compare the U.S. to other countries when it suits our agenda.  To bring urgency to the national debt and the budget deficit, we are Greece.  We never want to look to that failed Mediterranean nation state for guidance, unless we are looking for a heart healthy diet or a place to rest for 10 days after one full week of a grueling presidential campaign schedule (how’d that work out, Newt?).  To support the expansion of nuclear power, we embrace the fine example of the Europeans.  Now that Germany has announced that they will close all nuclear plants by 2013, we should never follow their lead.  To illustrate how today’s foreign policy appeases and coddles our enemies, we are France in the 1930s, but when it comes to their leadership on digital medical records (every citizen’s medical records are digitized, creating huge savings and health care delivery efficiencies), we wish we were France in the 21st century.
When it comes to our health care system, we are like Cambodia, where only those with money can get high quality care and the state has no role.  God forbid we become Canada, according to the Right.  Wait a minute – Michelle Bachmann thinks we should be more like Canada when it comes to their fiscal prudence.  She tweeted that Canada has a lower unemployment and had NO government stimulus.  She was half right – Canada has a lower unemployment rate; however, it is false that Canada used no government stimulus money to jump start the economy of the Great White North.  When you factor in the smaller national population and the currency conversion rate for a better comparison in real terms, they spent billions.  Yes, they did not spend as much as the US, but their economic woes were not as dire, partly because their financial regulations are so strict, and the impact of the downturn was minimized.  Maybe Michelle should have thought that one through.

Mitt Romney rails against Obama’s “European style” economic agenda, so called by Romney because he hopes it will conjure feelings of socialism and state-dependency, things that are anathema to the American spirit of self-reliance and rugged individualism.  Romney said in his campaign announcement speech:

“When the Europeans were in trouble economically, they spent more money and they borrowed more money. That’s just what he did.  He has been awfully European. You know what? European policies don’t work there. They sure as heck aren’t going to work here.”

Actually, Mitt, you are half right, just like Ms. Bachmann.  You are correct; things did get worse.  In Europe, however, they did the opposite of what you claim they did.  They didn’t spend more; they slashed spending below the bone to the point of pain. 
The current GOP austerity plan closely resembles what the Europeans are doing today (Ireland, England), but that comparison will not be made, at least not by the GOP or Mitt (are they mutually exclusive categories?).  Austerity seems to be the flavor of the month in Europe, and so far, it’s been an abject failure in creating jobs or stimulating business.

We don’t want to organize our economy like the Chinese, with excessive government control and stagnant wages for the working class.  Tim Pawlenty just envies the positive gross domestic product rates that such tactics have created.  If you listen to Rick Santorum (and why would you?), we don’t even want to be like ourselves, unless we’re talking pre-1965 America.

There is a country whose history and policies can support any position we choose, and I laugh (and cry) when the same country is simultaneously an example of what is right and what is wrong. 
Just like us. 

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