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“Becoming More Like Europe”: Romney Right-Pander, Good Policy Goal

Mitt Romney's campaign slogan, as repeated for the umpteenth time in last night's New Hampshire debate, is, "We're becoming more like Europe!" On so many fronts, one can only wish that were true.

Former Madison, Wisconsin, mayor Dave Cieslewicz explains why:

  1. We spend 16% of our GDP on health care. Most of Europe spends 10%.
  2. We leave 45 million Americans without health insurance. The European Union enjoys nearly universal coverage.
  3. For all of our extra spending, America and Europe have nearly identical life expectancies, and Europe keeps more babies from dying.
  4. Europe generates wealth more efficiently. "The U.S. uses about 221 tons of oil equivalent to produce every million dollars of GDP, while the comparable number for Britain is 141, for France 170 and for Germany 164."
  5. Europe has lower gun ownership, but it also has a much lower murder rate.
  6. Europeans save 10% to 13% of their income. Americans average saving rate is zilch.
  7. Europeans enjoy more upward mobility than Americans: "...42% of American men who grew up in households in the bottom fifth of incomes stayed there as adults. The comparable figures for Denmark (25%) and Britain (30%) demonstrate the point."

Dissing Europe is Francophone Mitt Romney's parade-float candy tossed to ill-read voters conditioned to respond to fantasies of American exceptionalism. As Jon Huntsman would say of Romney's understanding of Europe, "Ta bu tai liaojie zhege qingxing." As my students would say, "Il ne comprend pas la situation." America is an exception... to many of the living-standard successes that the Europeans are enjoying while we shoot off our guns and our mouths.


  1. Michael Black 2012.01.08

    You are very conveniently ignoring the current financial disaster in Europe. They are not better than we are.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.01.08

    Really? Would you care to quantify that compared America's economic situation? And would you care to quantify how that statement negates any of the facts presented by Cieslewicz? And heck, even if the European economy does run aground, European working folks have more money in savings to ride out the storm. Show me why we would not want to be more like Europeans in terms of personal savings, infant mortality, health care spending, murder rates, upward mobility, and energy-efficient wealth creation. If you can show that those gains come at the cost of "the current financial disaster," and if you can show me that "the current financial disaster" does more harm than the advantages listed, you and Romney win the point that being like Europe is bad.

  3. larry kurtz 2012.01.08

    Republicans have broken the Black Hills.

    The BHNF, Custer NF, and the Nebraska NF should be moved to the BIA and the trust money should finance the formation of a non-contiguous 51st State.

    While the Forest Service has been blamed for the collapse of the pine monoculture, GFP has ordered the slaughter of its apex predators essential to forest health.

    red state failure on parade.

  4. Elliot Knuths 2012.01.08

    Hi! I love Europe, and I love studying the variation between the "European Method" and "American Method" when it comes to things. I would throw out some of the other Europe stats, though, to show both (extreme) sides of the picture:

    * Sweden has 168 sex offenses per 100,000 residents
    * Denmark, The UK, Spain, and Belgium are just some of the countries in Europe with worse poverty rates than America
    * The Shanghai Rating states that 18 of the 20 best universities on earth are in America
    * America is second only behind outlier Luxembourg in terms of Median Household Income
    * America has a terrible 8.6% Unemployment rate. Yes, terrible, unless compared with Macedonia's 32%, Spain's 21.5%, Montenegro's 20.3%... and Ireland's 14.5%, Hungary's 10%, and France's 9.5%.

    Finally, I would say that, from personal experience, most people in Europe think America is a better place to live, while there are certainly many in America who think Europe is the better place to live. Personally, I enjoy living in France a lot, but I'd say America is just as great a place to be. There are great things about America and things I don't like so much. The same goes for France. I think it all comes down to the old "The grass is always greener on the other side of the road" anecdote. If anyone really wants to determine which system works best for them, I encourage them to spend some time living on both sides of the pond, and to stay where they fit best.

    P.S. I think the biggest benefit of "becoming Europe" would be getting even cooler art museums and more pro soccer teams.

    P.S.S. I love to correct teachers, when I can, because it's so rare. I won't let this opportunity slip by. The French should be, "Il ne comprend pas," in the third person.


    [CAH: Oh! The shame! Merci, Elliot! J'ai corrigé l'erreur. :-) ]

  5. Michael Black 2012.01.08

    There is no such thing as a free lunch Cory. Europe has issues just as we have issues. Some of the countries like Germany have amazing economies while others like Greece...not so much.

    Put the blame on the career politician in Washington - republican and democrat alike that only believe in re-election.

  6. Bill Fleming 2012.01.08

    Is Romney kidding? When haven't we been like Europe? Name any other continent we've been more like in the past besides Europe. Why does he say things like that? What's the point?

  7. Bill Fleming 2012.01.08

    Oh, wait... I guess he could be talking about India and Asia, huh?

    His history in business seems to suggest maybe we should do hostile takeovers of struggling American companies, fire all their workers and send all the jobs overseas so he and the stockholders can make more money and send it offshore to the Caymen Islands (instead of Switzerland maybe?)

    Yeah, we sure don't want to send those jobs to Europe.

    Their workers want even more money than ours do, for heaven's sake.

    But... but... wait, isn't that a European idea too? Get people from other countries to do our labor for us on the cheap?

    Sorry, I guess I still don't see where the Mitt man is going with this.

  8. larry kurtz 2012.01.08

    @NatGeo: "team estimates that the Native American population was at an all-time high about 5,000 years ago.

    The population then reached a low point about 500 years ago—only a few years after Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World and before extensive European colonization began."

    We the People sure don't have any relationship with Europe, by golly.

  9. Stan Gibilisco 2012.01.08

    Most Americans, I suspect, recoil at the thought of becoming "more like Europe." Much of the population of our country comprises, or descends from, people who came from Europe to find better things here.

    Romney is cleverly playing to ingrained fears. Sort of like Obama spooking seniors with the idea that they might not get their Social Security checks if the government went into default because of Republican intransigence.

    So will we toil under President Romama or President Obamney in 2013? Only Donald Trump knows for sure.

    In one respect, Cory, assuming that your statistics reflect the truth, we Americans would do well to emulate Europe. You say, "Europeans save 10% to 13% of their income. Americans average saving rate is zilch." Yes, we ought to save more. I'm sure glad I did when times were good to me! But that is an individual characteristic, not a government characteristic.

    When people expect to get something for nothing, it doesn't matter, does it, whether their government is socialist or capitalist, communist or fascist? On this planet, the free lunch is a myth.

    I suspect that the United States will evolve into a society more like Europe than we are now, largely because of the aging population. We'll simply have to spend more to care for those who cannot care for themselves. I hope we do it the way Germany does it, though, and not the way Greece does it.

    I don't mind helping people who cannot care for themselves. I do mind enabling people who can, but will not, care for themselves. I know three such people right now. One of them asked me last Friday night for ten dollars so he could go get his diabetes medication.

    On a related note, I heard something interesting on the BBC show (National Public Radio, midnight mountain time) the other night. Some immigrants to Europe who came from Africa are now opting to go back to Africa, in the hope of finding better work opportunities there.

    Is that the sort of system we want to emulate -- where people start fleeing to the Third World to improve their lots?

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.01.08

    Stan, you know that I'm not expecting something for nothing. On health care, I want us to move our spending from private insurance to a more efficient single-payer system. I could pocket the difference and make some progress toward that European personal savings rate.

  11. Donald Pay 2012.01.08

    Cory's right. This is just Romney pandering for the slobbering dunderhead vote. Romney knows better, or if he doesn't, he's not qualified to be President.

    A lot of what we think of as American has European roots. The political philosophers that our Founding Fathers were reading were Europeans, after all. Certainly most of our legal system was based on British jurisprudence. We relied heavily on European ideas when developing our systems of education, particularly the university. A lot of American science had strong European influence. The light bulb was a European invention. Thomas Edison just improved on it. We've been borrowing from Europe since the first whites decided to steal this land from the First Peoples.

    Everybody ought to be open to influence from other places, other ways of living. People come here from all over, and bring their cultures and way of life. That's really what American exceptionalism is about. We take the good ideas from everywhere and make them American

  12. Stan Gibilisco 2012.01.08

    Cory, I'm with you on single-payer! In that regard we most definitely should (in my opinion) not only emulate, but improve upon, the European model.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.01.09

    There's always room for improvement and adjustment for unique local cultural circumstances. But to dismiss the models of an entire continent is just dumb. As Don says, it's perfectly healthy (and American!) to borrow and learn good ideas from others.

  14. Elliot Knuths 2012.01.09

    I would expand on my belief that Romney's Europe is different than Europe Proper. Romney is trying to show himself as, "A doctrinaire supporter of Greco-French-American ideas of democracy and liberalism as opposed to Middle-European socialism," (Corollary of a Louis Bromfield quote.) American ideals are certainly usually based more on the preceding (Greco-French) concept of liberty as opposed to the school of German Idealism.

    It's the clash between the two schools ("Continental Socialism" and "Greco-French-American democracy and liberalism") that differentiates modern American politics from the modern Continental politics that Romney speaks against.

    So while I think Mr. Heidelberger and Mayor Cieslewicz get it and are at least arguing the points (whether or not I FULLY agree with them), I did want to clarify to those of you who remind us that America is heavily European influenced, that Mr. Romney is stating we're becoming like MODERN Europe, not becoming increasingly European influenced.

    I'll close this with an interesting quote from one of my favorite authors (and thinkers), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who said, "Amerika, du hast es besser—als unser Kontinent, der alte." (Translation: America, you have it better than our continent, the old one)

    Happy January 9th,

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.01.09

    Elliot! Europe is clearly not clouding your intellect. Great explanation! (Now, can you do that in French?)

  16. Elliot Knuths 2012.01.10

    Je peux essayer, mais peut-etre apres je fini mes etudes pour aujourd'hui.

    Aussi, si nous voulons faire les autres fous, nous pouvons parler plus en francais et moins en anglais.

    Bon apres-midi,

  17. larry kurtz 2012.01.13

    South Carolina Primary: #Romney 28%, #Gingrich 21%, #Santorum 16%, #Paul 16%

  18. larry kurtz 2012.01.28

    @MattMcGovern Rep. Tornow: we could end up like Greece if we accept 6.3 million in federal money for infant mortality programs.

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