Viewpoint: On defending the undefendable – European Socialism

By Fred Schnaubelt

Sometimes it seems this newspaper uses Amy Roost’s Au Contraire column as a substitute for the comics section. Her parodies are so outlandish even she cannot possibly believe what she says. Being provocative is encouraged but her nonsense on stilts is questionable if intended to be taken seriously?

Her defense last week of European Socialism and calling for a dialogue is ludicrous. How many countries have to be ruined for her to get the point? How many comparisons of Cuba with Florida, Red China with Taiwan, North Korea with S. Korea, and the USSR with the U.S. or Europe with the U.S. does it take?

Yes Amy, we could have a dialogue about Sweden’s high rates of suicide, once twice as high as the U.S. until the Swedes started popping anti-depressants. We could discuss the U.S. ranking 41 of 45 industrialized nations in infant mortality and how other countries report data entirely differently than the U.S. e.g., their premature babies that die within 24 hours are considered “stillborn.” Forty percent of all infant deaths occur in the first 24 hours, babies which American doctors do everything possible to save and if unsuccessful are considered live births by the U.S.

We might even talk about how most of Europe has a higher unemployment rate than the U.S. — over 25 percent in Greece and Spain and youth unemployment (15-24) a staggering 55 percent. We could discuss the recent riots in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and England and how capitalism in socialist countries pays for all the socialism until the governments “run out of other people’s money?” Or how in France 43,000 cars can be set afire, nearly 1,000 a week, mostly due to youthful exuberance as a way to say, “Look at me!” Yes, these countries have a lot to teach us.

Norway, according to the CIA Fact Book, is the world’s second-largest gas exporter and seventh-largest oil exporter that pays for much of its social welfare. Norway has a population smaller than the MSA’s of New York, L.A. or Chicago which goes to show what offshore drilling can do for a small country. France, Denmark and Sweden have the world’s highest capital gains tax supposedly, but Sweden allows a 50 percent deduction from profits to reinvest in future investments bringing its tax rate considerably below the U.S.

Life expectancy is worth talking about in conjunction with health care. If life expectancy in the U.S. is calculated based only on health issues and not on homicides (mostly illegal drug related) and traffic accidents, the U.S. drops from 15th to first place in life expectancy.

Agreed, health care is a bargain in Socialist countries. My wife lived in the Soviet Union for 36 years and hospitals were free and medicine also if you did not require more than sterile water. For most other medicines and treatments, you had to pay Na Leva (meaning on the left — under the table). In the World Index of Charitable Giving the U.S. ranks number one.

Yes, I guess after all, I do agree with Amy, we can learn a lot from Socialist countries.

Schnaubelt, a Rancho Bernardo resident, is a real estate broker and former member of the San Diego City Council.

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Posted by Staff on Nov 8 2012. Filed under Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

37 Comments for “Viewpoint: On defending the undefendable – European Socialism”

  1. Amy Roost

    As the saying goes Fred, statistics don't lie. Statisticians do. You are a brilliant statistician.

    Newsflash: Soviet Russia is not Sweden. Ask my husband whose parents escaped Estonia just ahead of Stalin's henchmen and made enough working in labor camps (so generously set up Sweden's government to help political refugees) to move their family to Canada buy a home and live comfortably.

    I'm sure you also have an explanation for the following: According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, Belgium and the Netherlands, which mandate 30 and 28 annual vacation days, respectively, are almost 2% more productive than the U.S. And Luxembourg, with its 32-day yearly vacation allowance, is a staggering 27% more efficient. Even France competes with America's world-leading economic productivity.

    Let me see if I can guess. Those countries are smaller? (Remember we're talking per capita), more homogeneous (have you looked at France's demographics lateley?).

    I await with bated breath for your explanation.

  2. Its a question of "scalability" — children are raised in familial socialism, and it works in a family but as engineers and scientists well know you can do things in a highly controlled environment that you can never build or bring to market because the process is not scalable in real world environments.

    Even within the US wehave vastly different social cultures, and that was recognized with the passage of the Tenth Ammendment and that is why criminal laws, marriage laws, zoning, education and a host of other items are left to the States. The nation, however, retains a certain overall culture — a culture whose economic system, free enterprise, has brought the most wealth to the most people in history.

    • Amy Roost

      We have great wealth in this country. And great poverty. When we learn that a singular focus on maximizing corporate profits comes with a great many social costs, we will begin to look to other economic models to find balance and humanity in our economic policies.

      • Ron

        One of the problems our country is beginning to realize, but the Euro's have already undergone is the age demographic change.
        As is the case in our country, both Social Security & Medicare will be swamped when the 78 million Boomers hit those systems.
        The Euro's have been depleting themselves for decades, and in some countries have reached what professionals call "lowest low fertility"
        That is where they are not even replacing themselves, and who then will support all the seniors? A country who is not replacing itself, can not go forward, or.. do anything, really.
        We are lucky in the US, we still hover just above at 2.1, whereas in Russia (the sick man of Europe) they are about 1.1, Spain is 1.2, Italy is 1.3.
        Getting the picture?
        Even in our country, Social Security stats are set up upon a "religious birthrate",
        because.. where are you going to get the money?
        If not your kids?
        Think of the tax rate your child will need to pay when the worker to retiree ratio hits 2:1.. With the average SS check being $1,077 a month, that's about $538 bucks a month. Add in Medicare at $904/month…
        Well, it's gonna be tough, on them I mean.

        Let us say.. We all got really "socialistic", like you.
        We tax the rich at 90%, and we get about $700 billion a year, if they don't leave, or hide their money.
        What's that do for you?
        Well, when your currently spending $1.1 trillion over an above actual revenues, your still negative and does NOTHING for the outstanding liabilities in both these programs.

        • Amy Roost

          So Ron. You've poked your holes. Now, what do you propose. Euthanize the old and the poor? Eugenics? (I'm going with all the words that start like Europe). But seriously, it's easy to shoot fish in a barrel, but what's your answer?

          • Eagle1776

            How about capitalism, Amy?

          • Amy Roost

            I've never disavowed capitalism. But given how it's going with some key indicators in our economy, perhaps we ought to broaden our horizons just a bit.

          • Ron

            That's my answer.

            I'm not going to forward an answer to "fix" the system, because I don't see the system as being able to be fixed.
            In the last election it was pretty clear that we've crossed over the threshold of those Americans who will gladly sell their votes for a price.
            That price might be as cheap as contraception, or food stamps, but they have voted for more.
            We have mayors with an exuberance for treating their own citizens like children, and preventing them from drinking too much soda, or eating too much salt.
            Do you sense where this all is headed?
            With citizens so unenlightened, so seemingly unable to think for themselves, that they must be instructed by those who are supposedly looking out for their best interests?

            Let's talk about those who look out for your best interest..
            Did you know, or.. were you aware that within the first Social Security bill (1937) there were 3 tax increases? See, most people don't know that.
            And since the first tax rate when they took 1%, now we are at 12.4%
            and now they are talking about working longer and paying more for the same benefit.
            On top of that, many want to lift the cap and expose all income, whereas today it's capped at $106K a year.

            Do you see the "progress" or progression?
            We are going to go in this direction until they break it.
            There is no turning back, only going forward until we are broke, busted, and without a pot to.. well.. you know in.

            Let give you an example, that I predict we will see the fruits of what I'm talking about in.. as soon as.. I don't know.. perhaps.. next year,
            Here in California.

            Prop 30 passed, and supposedly saved the schools.
            Let's make a bet… next year, this time or before.. they are broke again?
            $100 bucks, your named charity.

          • Amy Roost

            What! Not $10,000 bucks?

          • I'm with Ron

            Sounds like Ron knows what he's talking about. Perhaps you should take note Amy.

            Also, not that it matters, but I was curious what the -42p in red meant next to your name?

          • I'm with Ron

            I know now what the Red numbers next to Amys name mean. It's a reputation meter. The reputation meter is a measure of strength of all previous comments made on the Chieftains system by a certain commenter as judged by his or her peers. It is one way to tell whether the comments you are reading is written by someone well-regarded. The higher the number the better. I guess negative attention is better than no attention.

          • Amy Roost

            I'm With Ron…

            I'm sure if I were writing for a paper in the Bay Area or even North Coastal San Diego, the numbers would be reversed. In any case, I'm not one to hold my finger up to the wind to see which way it's blowing and then proceed in that direction. I stick by my values with or without your approval.

            Thanks for the attention anyway ;-)

          • Amy Roost

            Ron, I'm not sure what your religious leanings are, but if you are in favor of a government based on Christian values then you're going to need to stop talking about how you don't want tax dollars to go toward helping the sick and the poor. No amount of numbers and facts can overcome the reality that the private sector in a capitalist economic system does not provided enough charity.

          • Ron

            How did my religious views get in here?
            I never mentioned them, could it be in the face of my facts, you now need to appeal to my humanity?

            Let us try and lace the two in to context, shall we?
            Can our common humanity and cost go hand in hand?
            Or do we need to spend ourselves into oblivion to prove our goodness?
            I think that's the question before us.

            I think too many tend to focus on the poor and the elderly, and I'm not saying they are unimportant, But…
            It does seem to me that overburdening the worker is also inhuman.

            For example, we know that come 10-15 years out, the worker to retiree demographic will be down to 2:1 …
            2 workers for every retiree

            In money terms, that's half of the $1,077 monthly Social Security check ($538) and half of the Medicare cost which is $847/monthly.

            Is that compassionate? To the worker, I mean?
            And secondly…
            What has this worker done that he/she is responsible for someone else's parents or grandparents care?
            Should that not, rightly, be placed on those who have primary responsibility, and only to society second?

  3. Tom Yarnall

    Amy, with all the data you throw are you, too, a brilliant statistician?
    We may be on the leading edge of what socialism will bring to the US if the citizens and the Administration continue to support the liberal/socialistic agenda.
    "Economists from the Congressional Budget Office detailed new warnings of an economy speeding toward a so-called fiscal cliff created by a combination of government spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect Jan. 1".
    We are now at a point where government waste is supporting a fragile economy and increasing taxes for the job creators compounds the problem.
    It may be smart to get on a boat headed for Sweden.

    • Amy Roost

      Tom, we all have our own sources for what we believe, but REALLY do to cherry pick mine from non-partisan think tanks and reports, not Fox News. Also, not that it matters, the so-called "Fiscal Cliff" is what a Republican invention. We're stuck with it because they're still stuck in Laffer's bubble thinking that money at the top will trickle down to the rest of us, but when you look at the growing income gap in this country and, oh yeah, the non-partisan report that came out of the same Congressional Budget Office you quote that the Republicans conveniently managed to suppress which tells any of us interested in economic analysis that lower taxes on the highest income people does not stimulate job growth. I'm worried at you are Tom, but fixing government waste in a drop of rain in Hurricane Sandy. We need to increase (lots of) revenue and decrease (lots of) spending. Simple Simon.

  4. Eleanor Oakley

    I'd like to get back and comment on Mr. Schnaubelt's column. The tone of his column and rants against Mrs. Roost is what is wrong with our political dialogue. Can we have more civil dialogue at this point without sarcasm and caustic remarks? It certainly would make one's viewpoint more believeable.

    I'm not as knowledgeable on statistics as some of you but I do have relatives in a European country and I have learned some things from them. Yes, they do have a national healthcare system and, yes, it works for them. But I noticed several things about their lifestyle. They are healthy – they eat unadulerated foods, they do more physical work, and they are not that dependant on "daily meds". They do not waste — this includes food, gasoline, water, electricity, paper and plastic products, clothing, et al. They are considerate of their environment.

    • Tom Yarnall

      Wow Eleanor, you cherry pick one family and say they represent the European life style. Yes, I agree, you are not knowledgeable on statistics.
      You may be surprised to know that millions of Americans " are healthy – they eat unadulerated foods, they do more physical work, and they are not that dependant on "daily meds". They do not waste — this includes food, gasoline, water, electricity, paper and plastic products, clothing, et al. They are considerate of their environment". You may not associate with such families, Eleanor, but they are here, and the one ingredient they have in common, they are, in general, happy.
      If you have time, please explain why there are so many riots in Europe. Could it be the producers are no longer able to support the socialist life style?

  5. Eleanor Oakley

    To continue – I would not call their country a "socialist" country simply because it provides healthcare and elder care for all their citizens. Perhaps "compassionate" would be a more suitable word.

    Yes, we are a fine country, but to say there is nothing we can learn from other countries is somewhat arrogant. As a matter of fact, we might expand this open mind to include learning from one another in this country.

    • Amy Roost

      Ironically Eleanor, all of the ideals this country was founded on were borrowed from Europe. Last night, I was at an exhibit "Behold America!" at the MOCA in La Jolla whose whole premise was that international ideas have shaped America and made it the great country it is today. According to some of the commenters above, I guess they figure we're adults (done growing) now and ready for the decay process to begin?

      To your other points Eleanor, I just returned from a lovely three-weeks Italian honeymoon and I too was struck by how conserving Europeans are. All the toilets have two flush cycles. The hotel room light won't go on unless your room key is in a slot next to the door thus ensuring that you turn the lights out whenever you leave the room. The cars are smaller, more people use public transportation and WALK. The farmers markets are not just on Sundays but EVERY day of the week with the effect that most people eat lower on the food chain and waste much less food. And compassion is a very apt description of how the people behave toward one another. Sure the Europeans can be brusk toward the ugliest of Americans, but as Bruce Springsteen implores all of us at home, they "take care of their own".

  6. Ron

    Obviously, FACTS are considered "rants" and thus, FACTS are bad "tone" in dialogue.
    Only in the mind of the unwilling to view and consider such FACTS, is Truth bad form.

    Now France is considered a "compassionate" society, more so than our own,
    how does the math of their system square with that compassion?
    In a country who's external debt is 182% of GDP, whereas ours just passed over 100% last year, how can that be considered "compassionate?"
    ONLY in how they are serving the current stock of the "entitled"
    for the next generation get's the bill for all this compassion.

    It works the same way in our country, according to the President's own numbers..
    Social Security and Medicare cost this country $465 billion dollars a year in short fall.

    An example….
    If your the average worker, making $46K a year, in Medicare taxes that's roughly $1,334 a year. Over 40 years of working, that's $53,360 in your Medicare account.
    BUT, Medicare this year will spend $478 billion (again, according to the President's own numbers) and that breaks down to $10,170 per each recipient. (47 million)
    If each person lived til 85 (retiring at 65) and used Medicare, that's 20 x $10,170 a year, and that comes to $203,400 dollars over their senior life.

    Yes, we are a compassionate country, so is France..
    but the math, don't work.

    • Eleanor Oakley

      I think "facts" can be presented in a tone that doesn't offset a reader. Now that you have stated the problems, Ron, I would sincerely be interested in your solution. Do we raise more revenue or discontinue programs as they are? Or both.

      • Amy Roost

        Eleanor, you can't disprove opinions. And that's all chrery-picked facts amount to. There is a place for anecdotal evidence. Even in science. If you believe in such things…

      • Ron

        In your previous post, you said: "I would not call their country a "socialist" country simply because it provides healthcare and elder care for all their citizens. Perhaps "compassionate" would be a more suitable word."

        Let us agree that compassion in political talk generally means spending more money. The French have been willing to be compassionate with their money for decades, and yet they are 182% in debt to GDP.
        Also, they tax themselves at greater amounts than we do.

        For example, the individual tax is silimar to ours, progressive, except that this year they increased the top tier rate to 75%, whereas before it had been 0–39%.
        The employed pay a payroll rate of 66%, for health and social security.
        In addition, the French pay a VAT tax (value added) for both goods and services between 2.1% to 19.6%. Estate taxes are still in place, and "wealth taxes" exist for those with more than 3 million in assets, of which they pay 0.25% annually, and for those over 3 million the rate is set at 0.5%

        Now, lets think about this in regard to your question…
        More revenue? Or cuts?

        How do their taxes and rates compare to our own?
        And, most importantly.. have those taxes done what we have been told by our more liberals friends.. they would do?

        Again, if France's GDP to debt ratio exceeds ours, how would you answer that?

    • Amy Roost

      Since you won't offer anything more than a thorough critique and a amorphous plea for liberty, here's the start of a solution for the US deficit. If all we did was roll back defense spending and tax rates to Clinton-era levels, we'd save $1.7-2 trillion, cutting the deficit by half.

      • Ron

        What makes you think that a country can continue to run deficits indefinitely?
        Personally, you can't.
        I know I can't.
        But somehow, in your mind, the laws of economics does not exist at the Federal level.
        Why do you believ this?
        Because they've printed without collaspe since 1966?

  7. In a article in the London Evening Standard concerning the recommendation by the European Commission to raise the budget of the European Union’s governing body by 11%, a report that such a raise for the “Eurocrats” is being opposed by Britain. Note this description of the financial situations of the nations of the EU:

    “The UK was making budget cuts of nearly 20% in almost all departments, said Mr Clark. IMF forecasts suggested national government spending across the EU was falling by more than 8% between 2010 and 2012. With that in mind "most people around this table should recognise the need to reduce rather than increase budgets", Mr Clark said.”

    Yes, European Socialism has now caused massive austerity, and overall the European Union spending has been required by overspending to reduce their budgets by 8% and as much as 20% in Britain.

    Doesn’t sound much like a great success to me!

  8. A new data point: The Central Bank of France (Bank of France) has announced that it will soon announce that France (the second largest economy in Europe) will soon enter its "double dip" recession, because France will have produced NEGATIVE growth for the second consecutive quarter.

    Europe, depending on whether one looks at the 27 nation European Union, or the 17 nation Euro common currency group, has either a 10.6% or an 11.6% unemployment rate, and those numbers will rise bringing with them more riots in the streets.

  9. Amy Roost

    And then there's this method of eliminating the deficit as suggested by the former Sec. of Labor (who oversaw the largest expansion of the job market in 20th century), and we don't even have to raise the tax rate for millionaires to 90% as "Ron" would have us believe:

    • Ron

      That's an interesting scenario, however.. I do believe the former labor secretary's Math is a bit off.
      Instead of focusing on his particulars, lets look at the gross numbers.
      $4 trillion in offsets, is basically what he's aiming for.
      It's not enough.
      Because of this presidents own numbers.

      If you look on page 4, S-2 … What you will see is that the president has already accounted for those top tier tax rates to rise, and it's still not enough.

      In FACT, by the end of this budgets outlook he adds another $6.6 trillion in debt.
      Those are his numbers.
      So, as you can see, aiming for a measly $4 trillion will still leave you $2.2 trillion shy, with increased interest payments, over 10 years. Your done,

      Lets look at all of the Bush tax cuts, about $3.7 trillion over 10 years in total.
      $700 billion (over 10 years) to the top tiers, and $3 trillion to the middle.
      There's your cash.
      And, again, that's only $370 billion a year when your spending $1.1 trillion over revenues.
      Again, it's locked.
      Cuts, and lots of them is the only way to solve borrowing to pay off more borrowing,
      And you've done nothing, zero, nada to any entitlement, nor made any advance to paying down the now $16 trillion in external debt.
      Sure, take the $4 billion from Big Oil, it will hardly make a dent.
      $465 billion in short falls each and every year, all cited in the presidents own budget.
      Some reading is required, and much thought.

      Finally, as to the Secretary's "oversight" this expanding economy..
      I'm still waiting for your answer regarding what the Clinton Adminstration did, in particular, to advance the Analog to Digital transfer (Tech Boom) we saw in the 90's?
      It's one thing to sepia in the seat when good things happen, it's a whole other thing to have done something to advance it.
      How did they drive that Tech Boom?
      That's my question.

      • Amy Roost

        Sorry alan just trying to point out that deficits–here and in Europe can be overcome w/o gutting social programs. I should have been clearer.

      • Amy Roost

        Yes well I'm sure you know better than a former cabinet official and professor of economics at Berkeley, Ron. I don't know enough about digital transfer to answer your question. Let's just say you win. Or do you have an argument for that too?

        • Ron

          That is a shame that you are no longer willing to assess what's in front of you, in clear black and white.
          All I asked was for you to look at the Presidents number in his budget, and juxappose them to what Clinton's former labor secretary is saying.
          I'm telling you they do not intersect.
          So, you'll bug out, and hide behind the former labor sec's article,
          Which again, comes no where near close to solving what I've laid out above.
          Concurrently, this is what you need to solve…

          Stop the deficit, because every dollar goes directly to debt, which adds interest.
          Cost? $1.1 trillion, in either increased revenue or cuts, or combination.
          The President is currently talking about $1.6 trillion over 10 years, that's $160 billion a year when your spending $1.1 trillion. It's peanuts.

          Entitlements are falling short every year. $465 billion by this Presidents own numbers, I would ask you to look at page 6, chart S-4
          Notice, if you will outlays of Social Security at $773 billion (2012), and then looking below under "Receipts" for Social Security you'll see $635 billion, or $138 billion short.
          Again, Medicare under outlays $478 billion, but under receipts only $203 billion in revenue. That's $275 billion short.
          All total $465 billion short, every year.
          And that's not counting the $255 billion in Medicaid which has no revenue to fund it, it comes directly out of the general fund.

          Yes, we have some very serious financial problems, none of which will be solved by taxing someone $1.6 trillion over 10 years.
          Basic math, if you spend $1.1 trillion over and above your current spending, simple task.. Either raise taxes $1.1 trillion a year. Or cut $1.1 trillion a year, or a combination of both.
          Even if you did these things, you'd not yet make a dent into any entitlement, nor the outstanding $16 trillion we owe to other countries.
          That wil take more money.

  10. Amy, it was your subject, "EUROPEAN SOCIALISM" which has been demonstrated with current NUMBERS to be imploding.

    Since it was your subject, you might address the holes poked in your theory.

    Or not.

  11. One brief data point TODAY from Reuters: "Reuters) – Police and protesters clashed in Spain on Wednesday as millions of workers went on strike across Europe to protest spending cuts they say have made the economic crisis worse."

    "Hundreds of flights were cancelled, car factories and ports were at a standstill and trains barely ran in Spain and Portugal where unions held their first ever coordinated general strike…International rail services were disrupted by strikes in Belgium and workers in Greece, Italy and France planned work stoppages or demonstrations as part of a "European Day of Action and Solidarity".

    THIS is European Socialism!

    • Amy Roost

      This will be my last word Alan. Have to make time to converse about this week's columns.

      But to zoom out here for a moment, my point was not that European socialism is perfect. Ron-I mean Fred-I mean Ron and you have made a pretty good case that American capitalism isn't either. My original point was that we can always learn something from others. If were were #1 in all the key indicators, then we wouldn't need to look to others for better examples but we're not. Why not take the best of what others (be they European-style democracies or South American dictatorships or monarchies–wherever those remain) have to offer even it their system as a whole isn't 100% perfect. None is.

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