Europe rejects austerity–how about the USA?

The countries of the European Union are voting out the leaders who had been pushing austerity measures to reduce debt, cut back the welfare states, and get their economies on a more solid footing.  French President Sarkozy was ousted in favor of  socialist Francois Hollande.  Greece, the nation in the worst shape of all, has voted out the coalition of center-left and center-right parties that accepted the tough conditions of Germany’s bailout.  In fact, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel is herself facing political setbacks.  And so is Great Britain’s David Cameron.

Now is all of this just the political dynamic of voters turning against the incumbents when the economy is a mess?  In that case, the trend might seem positive for American conservatives.  Or is it, as most commentators are saying, a reaction against the austerity measures, with voters not wanting their benefits cut, to the point of embracing politicians who promise to spend even more in order to help the economy grow.  In that case, it would herald well for American progressives.

Not that America has experienced much austerity from the current administration.  But do you think the general public would support a serious attempt to cut the budget any more than the Europeans would?

via After voters reject austerity, Europe ponders future of grand project – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Michael B.

    “But do you think the general public would support a serious attempt to cut the budget any more than the Europeans would?”

    It would go over like a lead balloon. When people talk about cutting government programs back, they mean government programs for other people. Not for themselves. How do you think a tea party member would react if he lost his Medicare? Or his kid couldn’t go to public school? Or his tax breaks for having kids or having a mortgage were removed? Both the Left and the Right are voting in new leaders in Greece, and are very angry.

  • Michael B.

    “But do you think the general public would support a serious attempt to cut the budget any more than the Europeans would?”

    It would go over like a lead balloon. When people talk about cutting government programs back, they mean government programs for other people. Not for themselves. How do you think a tea party member would react if he lost his Medicare? Or his kid couldn’t go to public school? Or his tax breaks for having kids or having a mortgage were removed? Both the Left and the Right are voting in new leaders in Greece, and are very angry.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    When do the Chinese people finally get to vote against austerity? When do they get to borrow from the west so they can buy and enjoy all the products they produce rather than having them shipped to us? When will our governments make us work like slaves so the Chinese people can live in McMansions? We can’t exactly make the argument that the reason the average Chinese person is so much poorer is due to laziness and lack of productivity.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    When do the Chinese people finally get to vote against austerity? When do they get to borrow from the west so they can buy and enjoy all the products they produce rather than having them shipped to us? When will our governments make us work like slaves so the Chinese people can live in McMansions? We can’t exactly make the argument that the reason the average Chinese person is so much poorer is due to laziness and lack of productivity.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “How do you think a tea party member would react if he lost his Medicare? Or his kid couldn’t go to public school? Or his tax breaks for having kids or having a mortgage were removed?”

    Honestly, most would be fine with that if it meant everyone had to give up theirs, too, because they actually want to have a habitable country to pass on to their kids and are willing to endure whatever to achieve it. They have high future time orientation. People with low future time orientation only care about the immediate situation.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “How do you think a tea party member would react if he lost his Medicare? Or his kid couldn’t go to public school? Or his tax breaks for having kids or having a mortgage were removed?”

    Honestly, most would be fine with that if it meant everyone had to give up theirs, too, because they actually want to have a habitable country to pass on to their kids and are willing to endure whatever to achieve it. They have high future time orientation. People with low future time orientation only care about the immediate situation.

  • Michael B.

    “Honestly, most would be fine with that if it meant everyone had to give up theirs, too, because they actually want to have a habitable country to pass on to their kids and are willing to endure whatever to achieve it. They have high future time orientation. People with low future time orientation only care about the immediate situation.”

    Ha. Isn’t this the same group of people trying to enact tax cuts as interest on our national debt soars? I would think not leaving our kids with trillions in debt is more important.

    Furthermore, not every one would need to give something up. Austerity hardly punishes everyone equally. While one family decides which of their kids will get necessarily health care, another could pick out which yacht they want to buy. A hard lesson for the tea party though is that most of them are on the losing end of the deal. They think austerity will only affect these poor suckers, and they don’t release that they end up being the suckers.

  • Michael B.

    “Honestly, most would be fine with that if it meant everyone had to give up theirs, too, because they actually want to have a habitable country to pass on to their kids and are willing to endure whatever to achieve it. They have high future time orientation. People with low future time orientation only care about the immediate situation.”

    Ha. Isn’t this the same group of people trying to enact tax cuts as interest on our national debt soars? I would think not leaving our kids with trillions in debt is more important.

    Furthermore, not every one would need to give something up. Austerity hardly punishes everyone equally. While one family decides which of their kids will get necessarily health care, another could pick out which yacht they want to buy. A hard lesson for the tea party though is that most of them are on the losing end of the deal. They think austerity will only affect these poor suckers, and they don’t release that they end up being the suckers.

  • http://zachdorman.blogspot.com/ Zach

    Oh… the US will face some austerity measures, to be sure. Just like Europe will, also. Europe and the US will see cuts in their “safety nets” at some point in the future whether it is voluntary or involuntary. It seems to me it will probably be the latter. My two cents.

  • http://zachdorman.blogspot.com/ Zach

    Oh… the US will face some austerity measures, to be sure. Just like Europe will, also. Europe and the US will see cuts in their “safety nets” at some point in the future whether it is voluntary or involuntary. It seems to me it will probably be the latter. My two cents.

  • Tom Hering

    The thing about austerity is … the people who push it don’t live it. Sarkozy sure didn’t.

  • Tom Hering

    The thing about austerity is … the people who push it don’t live it. Sarkozy sure didn’t.

  • MarkB

    Michael B, you are blatantly ignoring one thing with your assumptions. That most of the people who want to cut taxes do it because they fully believe that the way to prosperity and growth is through reducing government and taxes. This will then lead to more income to the government, all without raising taxes. When you raise taxes it hurts the economy and so as you raise the tax rates you actually decrease income to the government. Even if you don’t personally believe this as being true, they do. So it is not inconsistent for them to believe that lowering taxes would help the economy along with raising income to the government.
    Another point I would like to make is that decreasing government along with decreasing taxes is a long term view that will result in being beneficial to all people in the country, but that will happen over time. While raising government benefits or keeping them the same might help people immediately, in the long run it will cause a collapse of the economy causing much more damage to everyone except the elite who always have a way out.

    So the question for me is? Do we have enough people in the US that are willing to think long term or not?

  • MarkB

    Michael B, you are blatantly ignoring one thing with your assumptions. That most of the people who want to cut taxes do it because they fully believe that the way to prosperity and growth is through reducing government and taxes. This will then lead to more income to the government, all without raising taxes. When you raise taxes it hurts the economy and so as you raise the tax rates you actually decrease income to the government. Even if you don’t personally believe this as being true, they do. So it is not inconsistent for them to believe that lowering taxes would help the economy along with raising income to the government.
    Another point I would like to make is that decreasing government along with decreasing taxes is a long term view that will result in being beneficial to all people in the country, but that will happen over time. While raising government benefits or keeping them the same might help people immediately, in the long run it will cause a collapse of the economy causing much more damage to everyone except the elite who always have a way out.

    So the question for me is? Do we have enough people in the US that are willing to think long term or not?

  • SKPeterson

    MarkB@7 – It isn’t so much the lack of long term thinking by policymakers – it is their unwillingness to admit mistakes and reverse course. So we trundle along with past policy errors compounded by “fixes” and expansions that mask the real problems and kick the can down the road. We don’t need to modify Medicare or Social Security – we need to end them. We don’t need minimum wage laws – we need a dynamic and flexible labor force.

  • SKPeterson

    MarkB@7 – It isn’t so much the lack of long term thinking by policymakers – it is their unwillingness to admit mistakes and reverse course. So we trundle along with past policy errors compounded by “fixes” and expansions that mask the real problems and kick the can down the road. We don’t need to modify Medicare or Social Security – we need to end them. We don’t need minimum wage laws – we need a dynamic and flexible labor force.

  • DonS

    Europe hasn’t even begun to actually implement austerity:

    http://mercatus.org/publication/fiscal-austerity-europe-doesnt-mean-large-spending-cuts

    The linked charts tell the tale. Even in countries, such as Greece and Italy, where there have been tiny real cuts in government spending in the past couple of years, they came after extraordinarily large increases in the prior couple of years. Spending is way up in all countries in the past decade. In government-speak, “austerity” means having to slow down, slightly, the rate of increase in government spending. It has nothing to do with actual cuts.

    Here in California, Governor Jerry Brown has been proposing $9 billion in tax hikes to accompany $9 billion in spending cuts — a 50/50 mix that sounds fair at first. However, when you look at his actual budget proposals, he is proposing an increase in General Fund spending from $85 billion to $92 billion! How is that a $9 billion cut, you ask? Well, because he would like to have spent $101 billion, of course.

    Yeah, is that how you all do your family budgets? Maybe a media that clearly reported these things would help.

  • DonS

    Europe hasn’t even begun to actually implement austerity:

    http://mercatus.org/publication/fiscal-austerity-europe-doesnt-mean-large-spending-cuts

    The linked charts tell the tale. Even in countries, such as Greece and Italy, where there have been tiny real cuts in government spending in the past couple of years, they came after extraordinarily large increases in the prior couple of years. Spending is way up in all countries in the past decade. In government-speak, “austerity” means having to slow down, slightly, the rate of increase in government spending. It has nothing to do with actual cuts.

    Here in California, Governor Jerry Brown has been proposing $9 billion in tax hikes to accompany $9 billion in spending cuts — a 50/50 mix that sounds fair at first. However, when you look at his actual budget proposals, he is proposing an increase in General Fund spending from $85 billion to $92 billion! How is that a $9 billion cut, you ask? Well, because he would like to have spent $101 billion, of course.

    Yeah, is that how you all do your family budgets? Maybe a media that clearly reported these things would help.

  • formerly just steve

    DonS, #9, to be fair, that would require a market audience that cared about clear reporting. We don’t have that in California.

  • formerly just steve

    DonS, #9, to be fair, that would require a market audience that cared about clear reporting. We don’t have that in California.

  • larry

    I’m not saying its right but it goes back to how governments budget with the in perpetuity view of itself as opposed to an individual or family or even a company. If hypothetically in this life one thought they would live in perpetuity, sure that’s precisely how they would budget. In fact this concept of pseudo in perpetuity via ignoring the reality of death in our “cover it up” at every turn society is the number one reason why one sees persons well into their 60s, 70s and 80s plus still borrowing monies on 30 year mort. homes. The concept has somewhat de facto “caught on” even at the personal level. Mainly by ignoring the obvious, eventual death. Everybody thinks at age X, they still have 30 years out there to go, but its always a movable 30 years, moving forward with the advance of age. This is precisely how government budgets and thinks. The big difference for the person or family is that “the bell tolls for thee” eventually thereby exploding the myth. Governments as a whole don’t get the bell toll, at least it generally goes to multiple generations until it falls or wastes away in X 100 years. So they can sustain the in perpetuity fascade longer.

  • larry

    I’m not saying its right but it goes back to how governments budget with the in perpetuity view of itself as opposed to an individual or family or even a company. If hypothetically in this life one thought they would live in perpetuity, sure that’s precisely how they would budget. In fact this concept of pseudo in perpetuity via ignoring the reality of death in our “cover it up” at every turn society is the number one reason why one sees persons well into their 60s, 70s and 80s plus still borrowing monies on 30 year mort. homes. The concept has somewhat de facto “caught on” even at the personal level. Mainly by ignoring the obvious, eventual death. Everybody thinks at age X, they still have 30 years out there to go, but its always a movable 30 years, moving forward with the advance of age. This is precisely how government budgets and thinks. The big difference for the person or family is that “the bell tolls for thee” eventually thereby exploding the myth. Governments as a whole don’t get the bell toll, at least it generally goes to multiple generations until it falls or wastes away in X 100 years. So they can sustain the in perpetuity fascade longer.

  • MarkB

    SKPeterson,
    “MarkB@7 – It isn’t so much the lack of long term thinking by policymakers – it is their unwillingness to admit mistakes and reverse course. So we trundle along with past policy errors compounded by “fixes” and expansions that mask the real problems and kick the can down the road. We don’t need to modify Medicare or Social Security – we need to end them. We don’t need minimum wage laws – we need a dynamic and flexible labor force.”
    There are those in congress and in the senate that have said that we are going down the wrong road and proposed solutions. I can think of several in the past decade that proposed major changes to Medicare and Social Security, while at the same time trying to keep the commitment to those who depend on it now. What happened to them? They were destroyed by other politicians and the media who portrayed them as uncaring and willing to push grandma over the cliff. I think you probably have seen that ad. There are politicians who have the willingness to admit what was done in the past was wrong and unsustainable, but will the electorate be willing to take a long term view and put them in power and keep them there.

  • MarkB

    SKPeterson,
    “MarkB@7 – It isn’t so much the lack of long term thinking by policymakers – it is their unwillingness to admit mistakes and reverse course. So we trundle along with past policy errors compounded by “fixes” and expansions that mask the real problems and kick the can down the road. We don’t need to modify Medicare or Social Security – we need to end them. We don’t need minimum wage laws – we need a dynamic and flexible labor force.”
    There are those in congress and in the senate that have said that we are going down the wrong road and proposed solutions. I can think of several in the past decade that proposed major changes to Medicare and Social Security, while at the same time trying to keep the commitment to those who depend on it now. What happened to them? They were destroyed by other politicians and the media who portrayed them as uncaring and willing to push grandma over the cliff. I think you probably have seen that ad. There are politicians who have the willingness to admit what was done in the past was wrong and unsustainable, but will the electorate be willing to take a long term view and put them in power and keep them there.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Ha. Isn’t this the same group of people trying to enact tax cuts as interest on our national debt soars?”

    They want budget cuts.

    We need to end the wars. Reduce military and domestic spending. Bring home troops from all over the world, not just the wars. Let Europe and Japan and others defend themselves. They aren’t children. Reduce taxes and social spending.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Ha. Isn’t this the same group of people trying to enact tax cuts as interest on our national debt soars?”

    They want budget cuts.

    We need to end the wars. Reduce military and domestic spending. Bring home troops from all over the world, not just the wars. Let Europe and Japan and others defend themselves. They aren’t children. Reduce taxes and social spending.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @10

    Sounds like blaming the victims. Californians are not to blame for media and politicians lying to them. Notice that when Californians are left to their own devices, they come up with conservative ballot initiatives and they pass.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @10

    Sounds like blaming the victims. Californians are not to blame for media and politicians lying to them. Notice that when Californians are left to their own devices, they come up with conservative ballot initiatives and they pass.

  • Michael B.

    @SG

    “We need to end the wars. Reduce military and domestic spending.”

    The same people who put George W. Bush into office.

  • Michael B.

    @SG

    “We need to end the wars. Reduce military and domestic spending.”

    The same people who put George W. Bush into office.

  • formerly just steve

    sg #14, I don’t know how you get that Californians aren’t to blame for politicians lying to them. They vote for the people lying to them time after time. Those “victims”–at least the minority who cares enough to vote–have voted in liar after liar after actor after liar. Most of those liars have been re-elected many, many times.

    Fool me once, shame on you, fool me a gazillion times… well… at some point the victim needs blaming.

  • formerly just steve

    sg #14, I don’t know how you get that Californians aren’t to blame for politicians lying to them. They vote for the people lying to them time after time. Those “victims”–at least the minority who cares enough to vote–have voted in liar after liar after actor after liar. Most of those liars have been re-elected many, many times.

    Fool me once, shame on you, fool me a gazillion times… well… at some point the victim needs blaming.

  • DonS

    formerly @ 16: I get your point, but I actually lay the blame on our state media. Most people have only a casual interest in politics. They aren’t junkies, like many of us on this blog. California media does the worst job I’ve ever seen at reporting political news. The Republicans have practically no political power in this state, but somehow it is reported that everything wrong is their fault. You will never see the charts and information I posted above in the LA Times. To read the Times, our intrepid state government is working overtime, cutting, cutting to the bone, and yet those evil Republicans, using that evil Prop. 13, are thwarting reasonableness by voting against needed tax increases, for balancing all those deep spending cuts. Find me an LA Times article reporting with any kind of clarity that Brown’s budget calls for $7 billion in spending increases (about 10%!) this year.

    The voters have the right to think that a news media claiming to be serious and objective is actually doing their job holding our single party government accountable. Unfortunately, however, they are participants in the cabal of petty government stooges, public employee union bosses, and media hacks. It’s too bad, and while I do not hold the naive public blameless, its lack of understanding of the realities of CA government is certainly understandable.

  • DonS

    formerly @ 16: I get your point, but I actually lay the blame on our state media. Most people have only a casual interest in politics. They aren’t junkies, like many of us on this blog. California media does the worst job I’ve ever seen at reporting political news. The Republicans have practically no political power in this state, but somehow it is reported that everything wrong is their fault. You will never see the charts and information I posted above in the LA Times. To read the Times, our intrepid state government is working overtime, cutting, cutting to the bone, and yet those evil Republicans, using that evil Prop. 13, are thwarting reasonableness by voting against needed tax increases, for balancing all those deep spending cuts. Find me an LA Times article reporting with any kind of clarity that Brown’s budget calls for $7 billion in spending increases (about 10%!) this year.

    The voters have the right to think that a news media claiming to be serious and objective is actually doing their job holding our single party government accountable. Unfortunately, however, they are participants in the cabal of petty government stooges, public employee union bosses, and media hacks. It’s too bad, and while I do not hold the naive public blameless, its lack of understanding of the realities of CA government is certainly understandable.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @15

    Non sequitur

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @15

    Non sequitur

  • Michael B.

    @18

    What I meant was, while George W. Bush was spending money like a drunken pimp who had been given 8 weeks to live, where was the tea party then?

  • Michael B.

    @18

    What I meant was, while George W. Bush was spending money like a drunken pimp who had been given 8 weeks to live, where was the tea party then?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Just because the media doesn’t cover people complaining about spending doesn’t mean they aren’t complaining. The media just plain doesn’t cover the anti war protests now that Bush is out of office. They have their stuff they promote and libertarians are despised by the media. They are far more hated than Republicans because they are more independent and make more sense, which is why they are largely ignored. Libertarians are closer to the true left than either Democrats which aren’t really left or Republicans which aren’t really on the right. The media, Democrats and Republicans are all aligned with the rich. The media hate Ron Paul more than Romney. They try not to even cover Ron Paul. Even comics and Bill Maher have noted how weird it is.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Just because the media doesn’t cover people complaining about spending doesn’t mean they aren’t complaining. The media just plain doesn’t cover the anti war protests now that Bush is out of office. They have their stuff they promote and libertarians are despised by the media. They are far more hated than Republicans because they are more independent and make more sense, which is why they are largely ignored. Libertarians are closer to the true left than either Democrats which aren’t really left or Republicans which aren’t really on the right. The media, Democrats and Republicans are all aligned with the rich. The media hate Ron Paul more than Romney. They try not to even cover Ron Paul. Even comics and Bill Maher have noted how weird it is.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Bush was spending money like a drunken pimp who had been given 8 weeks to live”

    So, what does that make Obama’s spending like, a pimp with 8 DAYS to live?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Bush was spending money like a drunken pimp who had been given 8 weeks to live”

    So, what does that make Obama’s spending like, a pimp with 8 DAYS to live?

  • Michael B.

    @SG@20
    “libertarians are largely ignored”

    That’s because libertarians aren’t common. Most people who call themselves libertarians are generally either conservative or liberal. Speaking in a general sense, conservatives want less government control over the economy (free market), but greater government control on social issues (i.e. gov’t restrict abortion and gay marriage). Liberals want the reverse, with more gov’t control over economics (more gov’t spending and social programs), but little government control over issues like abortion, pornography, and sodomy-laws. Libertarians presumably want little government control in both areas.

  • Michael B.

    @SG@20
    “libertarians are largely ignored”

    That’s because libertarians aren’t common. Most people who call themselves libertarians are generally either conservative or liberal. Speaking in a general sense, conservatives want less government control over the economy (free market), but greater government control on social issues (i.e. gov’t restrict abortion and gay marriage). Liberals want the reverse, with more gov’t control over economics (more gov’t spending and social programs), but little government control over issues like abortion, pornography, and sodomy-laws. Libertarians presumably want little government control in both areas.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X