A few weeks ago, President Donald Trump castigated his fellow G-7 members for lopsided trade polices that placed American companies and American workers at a disadvantage, much in the same manner he excoriated our NATO partners for their military (or rather lack of) funding contributions to their own defense. Someone forgot to tell past administrations that the Marshall Plan worked and now Europe is rich. So how did the Euro-socialist nations react? With a hissy-fit like mid-20-somethings being told they have to hit the bricks, get a job and start living on their own, because the parents are not going to keep supporting them.
The live-at-home Millennial has it made, except for the monthly payment for a student loan that got them a degree without the benefit of making them employable. But, because Mom and Dad are footing the expenses for room and board, food, utilities, internet, cable, etc., the stay-at-home Millennial has lots of disposable funds for things like $100 sneakers, and $5 coffee at Starbucks, and plenty of time to engage in “socially relevant,” but non-employable activities.
Now, on to the European socialist economies: Like the live-at-home young adults, they have loads of disposable income for things like free tuition, free healthcare, a significant minimum wage. You know, those countries that Bernie Sanders and the progressives are always holding up as examples. Never mind that they have total populations of 1 to 10 percent that of the United States, and in the case of Iceland and its 334,000 people, a smaller population than Providence, Rhode Island. Just like the stay-at-home, these Euro-economies have plenty of disposable cash for loads of free stuff for their citizens because someone else is footing the bill for the expensive essentials.
The United States (that means you as a taxpayer) is paying for this, through our military and our lopsided trade agreements. A large portion of our military expenditures are being spent on countries that are far from poor; in fact, they are the richest nations that have ever existed in Europe and could well afford to expand their own militaries, for their own defense, if we reduced ours based in their countries. Once that happens, European socialism would get a cold dose of reality, much like the Millennial who, having been excommunicated from the parents’ abode, quickly realizes that social relevance does not pay the rent, a $49 Motorola Android is a better choice than an $800 iPhone and that maybe stopping at less-costly Dunkin’ Donuts instead of Starbucks might not be a bad idea. For Europe, filling the military and trade gaps created by an America that wants to take care of its citizens first may curtail the march to full-blown socialism.
As for America, there is nothing wrong with the goals and aspirations of the progressives. More money, less expensive higher education, affordable healthcare only they have to realize this cannot be legislated without a huge push-back. If we reduce our military expenses overseas, see to it that our allies, who are capable of funding their own militaries, do so, and negotiate fair trade deals; then all those wishful thinking progressive ideas will come to pass. Right now, there are more jobs to fill than there are people available to fill them. If we bring billions back into our economy, we all benefit.
Berman is a military historian and author in St. Augustine.