Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To the third world on the stupid train

"What We Can Learn: An Excerpt from Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?":
". . . Where would my clients, who are not poor, who make $30,000 to $50,000 a year and yet keep coming up short, maybe by $100, $200 a month, really be better off?

That’s easy: Europe. I can answer that as their lawyer, the way a doctor could answer about their health. The bottom two-thirds of America would be better off in Europe. I mean the people who have not had a raise (an hourly raise in real dollars) in maybe 40 years, and who do not even have a 401(k), nothing but Social Security, and either have no health insurance or pay deductibles of $2,000 or more. Sure, they’d be better off in Europe. When unemployed, they’d certainly be better off in Europe. Over there, even single men can get on welfare. And in much of Europe, contrary to what we hear, unemployment is much lower than over here.

One of the ways Europe is set up for the bourgeois - including, perhaps, many readers of this magazine - is the very fact that it is also set up for people who make $50,000 or below. Since it’s set up for these people too, the bourgeois - me, maybe you - get the political cover to have it set up for them. What the people-in-the-unions get, people-from-the-good-schools also get. (And indeed, in Europe people-in-the-unions are often people-from-the-good-schools.) They get the six weeks of vacation each year and the pension like a golden parachute. And the higher up we are in terms of income, the more valuable these things are. In America, they don’t tell us: Social democracy, or socialism, or whatever Europe has, pays off biggest for people in the upper middle class, those just below the top."

"In 2005, the real hourly wage for production workers in America was approximately 8 percent lower than it was in 1973, while our national output (productivity) per hour is 55 percent higher. So it's dubious whether most Americans have gained even a penny in purchasing power since 1989. And even skewed by all this U.S-type inequality, we understate what Europeans at the "middling" level are able to get for free, i.e., publicly provided goods like education, healthcare, cities like banks of violets. Even apart from the grotesque U.S. social inequality, the net purchasing power disparity after we toss in the public goods is not so great.

Or maybe I mean this: Europe has a kind of invisible GDP, which we don't know how to count. The ambitious European who might want to work 2,300 hours may be the luckiest to escape his or her fate under the U.S. model. When that person has 700 more hours a year, to learn an extra language, to go to Sri Lanka, or just to read, it's that high achiever who may be best off under the European model.

It's no accident that the social democracies - Sweden, France and Germany, who kept on paying high wages - now have more industry than the United States or the UK. During the '70s, '80s and '90s, the Anglo-Americans, the neoliberals, The Economist crowd, and the press generally, would taunt the social democrats in Europe: "You'd better break the unions." That's the way to save your industry.

Indeed, that's what the United States and the UK did: They smashed the unions, in the belief that they had to compete on cost. The result? They quickly ended up wrecking their industrial base. But Germany, Sweden and France ignored the advice of the Anglo-Americans, the Financial Times elite, the banking industry: Contrary to what they were told to do, they did not wreck their unions.

And it was the high labor cost that pushed those countries into making higher "value-added" things. Where is Germany competitive? It's in high-end, precision machinery, made by people with the highest skills. It's in engineering services."

"10 Signs The U.S. is Becoming a Third World Country"

And yet, as far as we're being told by all the American media, the most important issue in the United States today is stopping the building of a cultural center in Manhattan. I don't think we've seen, in the modern world, a country intentionally impoverish itself through sheer unrelenting stupidity, all harnessed to make the very richest rich class who have ever lived even richer.
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