Monday, May 24, 2010

Europe Emulating the US? It's time to pay the piper.

The debt crisis in Europe is having an odd effect. It looks like Europe may start to look more like us! In order to cut costs many countries in the European Union are looking to raise the retirement age, lower social security benefits, get rid of free money for having a baby, raise the cost college education (virtually free now) and require people on unemployment to actually look for a job.

The countries in the biggest trouble (Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Ireland) are mostly in southern Europe and generally offer their citizens the biggest perks for the least amount of taxes. Well, it's come time to pay the piper.

Northern Europe, mostly Scandinavia, is in a much better position. These countries have extremely high taxes, so their citizens are willing to pay for the benefits. They have also assuaged the unions by making it easier for an employer to fire an employee by offering job retraining along with unemployment benefits. Most countries in southern Europe are hog-tied by the unions and generally have a very difficult time dealing with negative employment issues. Cross country strikes can shut down a whole country for days.

The current economic crisis will be a true test of Europe's tolerance for immigrants and of it's citizens will to persevere. The constant strikes in Greece right now are not going to change the situation, Greece will have to make drastic spending cuts to survive in the union and possibly to even survive as a country.

People are always looking for someone to blame in a crisis situation. The blame game is a favorite with the US Congress. But does it get anything positive accomplished?? Not in the short term that's for sure. I think it's a much better policy to do as much as possible to solve a problem and to think positively and creatively about the future until the situation has improved. Then go back, not so much to point blame, as to look to see what caused the problems and do what is necessary to prevent them from happening again.

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