Townhall.com Michael Barone November 28, 2005
Will the United States become more or less like continental Europe? That’s one way to frame the central question of domestic policy. In Europe much higher percentages of gross domestic product are absorbed by government; welfare state protections and restrictions on labor markets are greater, health-care and pension provisions are dominated by the central government. The result, say advocates of the European model, is greater leisure and greater protection against risk. The result, say advocates of the American model, is economic stagnation and high unemployment. Over the last 25 years, the number of jobs has increased by 57 million in the United States. The figure for Europe is 4 million. Unemployment is around 5 percent in the United States. In France and Germany it tops 10 percent.
Given those numbers, Americans, through the workings of the political marketplace, are not likely to choose the European model. But certain features of our society — the aging of our population, the increasing percentage of gdp any affluent society will spend on health care — move us in a European direction, unless some effort is made to counter that trend. One question to ask, as we approach the end of the fifth year of the Bush administration, is to what extent it has countered that trend.