A Level Gaze

"What effect must it have on a nation if it learns no foreign languages? Probably much the same as that which a total withdrawal from society has upon an individual."
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Saturday, June 04, 2005
 
Decent Living Standards Are So 20th Century

As the economic security of the American middle class grows more and more tenuous, some people have been saying that living standards in Europe are better than ours. Europeans take six weeks off a year and don't have to worry about going bankrupt when they get sick. If they lose their jobs, they don't wind up homeless. When they retire, they get guaranteed pensions they can actually live on.

Oh yeah? Well David Brooks says their system is failing, and they'll all be broke and disillusioned before long. Who do they think they are, anyway?

Thomas Friedman laughs at the stupid French voters who don't want to give up their living standards. They should have approved the EU constitution and started to take their medicine.

Knuckle down, Europe. Quit your whining. You're going to have to work longer hours, give up your vacations, your medical care, and retirement benefits. The Chinese and Indians can do your jobs better and cheaper, and Capital is going to drop you like a warm bag of shit. Ha ha, stupid Europeans. Get over yourselves. You have no human dignity.

Ok, fellas, just keep telling the proles that. I'm sure you'll convince a lot of them. As things get worse and worse, they'll just bend over and take it, like the good little sheep they are. They won't vote this whole crowd out on their asses. They won't demonstrate. They won't put restrictions on the corporations they themselves built taking their money out of their countries. Nope, nothing like that has ever happened.

Oh, wait, it's always happened. When people's livelihoods are threatened, they take action.

Jesus, how stupid do these two think people are? Europeans know that the Indians and Chinese earn barely a fifth as much as they do. Even if they give up all of their perks, labor in the developing world is still going to be much cheaper than theirs. Brooks and Friedman tell them that this is what's coming, and that nothing can, will, or should be done about it. Great message, guys.

And all this talk about how Europe is living a pipe dream doesn't really do much to advance the unstated but obvious premise that everything's hunky-dory here in the good ol' US of A. It's not going to take Americans very long to figure out that, even with our expensive* and for shit medical system, our piss-poor minimum wage, our inadequate and precarious pensions, our near-total absence of labor protections, and our long working hours, even we're way more expensive than Chinese and Indian labor. Looks like we're going to have to work a lot harder, too, and at the end of the day, we'll be making a lot less money, no matter what.

Nowhere in any of this pedantic blather is there any mention of anything we should be doing to increase the value of our labor and protect our standard of living. Nope, in Washington, we're busy cutting government investment in research and education, two of the main reasons we had an advantage over other countries in the first place. Unfettered capital, and its complete disregard for social welfare, has to have its way. Um, and we need smaller government.

If this is the new Republican talking point, I say let them run with it. They're doing our work for us.

*Hey David, how well do we stack up against Europe per capita GDP-wise after you take into account how much more we spend on medical care than they do? How about after you put a value on all of those extra days off? I'm just saying.

Update: Avedon Carol at The Sideshow got there first.