Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Americans and Europe.

In the New Yorker this week :
After the Senate passed the stimulus, which Sean Hannity, on Fox News, denounced as “the European Socialist Act of 2009,” Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, pronounced it “a dramatic move in the direction of indeed turning America into Western Europe.
Matthiew Yglesias made an interesting point in his comments on "the right-wing’s new habit of issuing constant dire warnings that we’re about to plunge into the sort of [European] social democratic" .
I suspect that only a distinct minority of Americans have been to Europe. What’s more, the minority of Americans who’ve been to Europe are disproportionately drawn from the upper-echelons of the U.S. income distribution. And rich people have it pretty good here in the land of the free. By contrast, take a look at a “bad” neighborhood in Helsinki and compare it to a “transitional” neighborhood in DC—to say nothing of a genuinely down-and-out American ghetto—and it’s almost laughable.
But the beneficiaries of something like that aren’t going to Europe. Among what you might call America’s “traveling class,” the European alternative is going to look good to city-loving cosmopolitans (i.e., me and Rick Hertzberg) but pretty bad to your typical businessman.
In other words, it just replicates the cultural divide that already exists among the American elite. The people who would be the main beneficiaries of a more social democratic policy dynamic—a couple of non-college parents who could really use some free child care and and guaranteed health care and pension, for example—are relatively unlikely to have personal experience that cuts one way or the other regards to how terrifying Europe is
.
In my experience of Americans visiting France, it is true that most of them come from the upper-classes and in cat, ironically, many Republicans who criticize Europe go there for their holidays... but it is not so true of Americans living in Europe for a good amount of time as they learn to appreciate better health care and public transports for instance. Interestingly, many missionaries sent to Europe by very conservative churches tend to become much less conservative over time, as they live outside America and they sometimes find it hard to connect with their communities (politically) as they return home.



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