Friday, April 03, 2009

G20 Europe: The Obama Surprise

Obama’s multiracial, nontraditional heritage seemed sophisticated and cosmopolitan in a European way that Bush’s Texas accent and Christian fundamentalism most definitely were not…Despite Bush’s efforts…to work closely with the Europeans, and the emergence of conservative governments in France, Germany, and Italy, Old Europe for the most part was all too happy to see him go….But will Europe always be happy with the Obama it wished for?…Mirek Topolánek, prime minister of the Czech Republic…, just blasted the Obama administration’s stimulus plans as “a way to hell.”…German chancellor Angela Merkel sniffed: “We must look at the causes of this crisis. It happened because we were living beyond our means. . . .”And just when President Obama announced the dispatch of…more troops to Afghanistan, many European leaders confirmed they will withdraw their own…over the next two years….Europe Got Obama -- Now What?, Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, 4/2/09

Different strokes for different folks? It is amazing, though. For the better part of three decades, spurred on by the remarkable success of the Reagan miracle in reviving an inflation-plagued, low growth, high unemployment welfare state, Europeans have been hammered by American leaders for their laggard, socialist ways. Now, as we approach the second decade of the 21st century, America and Europe are going in opposite directions again, America toward an inflated Great Society torrent of entitlements, bailouts and socialist takeover of medical care and the financial services business, while large segments of the EU strip taxes and entitlements for competitive action in the marketplace.

The difference between now and then, however, is that America is coming off a decade-long celebration of its success, has a terrible hangover (mountains of dubious credit, both private and public), a real distaste for the Las Vegas atmosphere that characterized banks and brokerages for years, and an unsurprising rebellion among the generation now entering their twenties against the material acquisitiveness of their Boomer parents. There is also a mini baby boom going on here, just beginning to be reported. The writer certainly sees it in Brooklyn, where every couple under 40 seems to have at least one new infant in a stroller and another on the way.

That Las Vegas atmosphere is a fine, middle-aged capstone to the Boomer’s own rebellion of forty years ago, when we want it now exploded over the rampagers who’d been shouting for justice. We want it now became the motto of a generation whose most representative President was William Jefferson Clinton (Nero to Bush’s Claudius?). What Boomers wanted, however, became less about justice than about more entitlements, now! now! now! That kind of thinking is a poor foundation for a rising generation worried about prospects for itself and for its children. One would expect, as the writer did, though he didn’t vote for the new President, that a new leader, held up as a great hope by the younger Americans, would step up. Has he?

Among the tsunamai of entitlement money in the stimulus, or in the current budget outline passed by Congress, is there a sign of investing in the future? Or is it more we want it now? The writer’s vote is on the latter.


No comments: