For much of the last 30 years the Democrat left in the United States has been professing the superiority of the socialist western European systems where the governments provide (or force what’s left of the private sector to provide) cradle to grave support in the form of everything from child care to health care to month long vacations to generous social security benefits.
What those lefty Democrats fail to mention is that the reason those European countries could heap such generous benefits on their citizens is because the United States provided the security umbrella that allowed them to do so. After World War II American troop strength in Europe didn’t dip below 250,000 until 1991, two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Indeed in some years over 25% of American troops were stationed on European soil as a bulwark against the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies. Over the course of the last 60 years the United States has literally spent trillions of dollars protecting those European socialist nirvana’s that the Democrats are seeking to reproduce here. Over much of that period many of those European countries spent less than half what the United States did on defense. It’s a lot easier to build a nanny state when you don’t have to worry about the neighborhood bully invading your country.
While the Europeans were busy constructing their socialist paradises under the security umbrella provided by the United States, they were also letting the resulting tax and spend policies eviscerate their economic growth. Over the last 30 years US GDP growth averaged 3.1% while together Spain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, the UK, Greece and Italy averaged 2.35%. That may not sound like much of a difference, but it translates to a full 20% greater economic growth for the United States over the last three decades. Tellingly, when you go back only 20 years the American advantage slips to 2.94% vs. 2.54%. The most disturbing numbers can be found by going back a mere 10 years, where American economic growth almost slipped to parity, with the US recording an average annual GDP growth of 2.86% while the above seven nations averaged 2.83%. If one steps back, what you see is that as government and the welfare state has expanded in the US, the GDP growth rate has declined to the point where it is almost identical to that of the Europeans.
That anemic growth the vaunted socialist European nations experienced came despite receiving billions of dollars annually in direct and indirect expenditures from the presence of 100,000-200,000 American troops and contracts for a wide variety of goods and services from the Department of Defense. Not only did Western Europe benefit directly from those defense expenditures, but they were also saved from having to spend their own money on their own defense against Soviet aggression. Between 1985 and 2003 defense expenditures of the seven countries listed above declined from an average of 4.1% of GDP to 2.17, far less than American expenditures which dropped from 6.1% to 3.5% over the same period. If one were to exclude tiny Greece, which sees itself in a perpetual rivalry with neighbor Turkey, the remaining six would have spent a minuscule 3.5% of GDP on defense in 1985 and that would have dropped to 1.84% by 2003.
Ultimately the relevant takeaway here is not the disparity between the defense expenditures of the United States and Europe, but rather the observation that the European nirvana that Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the rest of the Democratic party seek to establish in the United States is a mirage. It exists only because the United States provided those countries with an annual subsidy of between 2 & 3% of their GDP in the form of 6 decades of defense spending they did not have to pay for themselves and from which they benefited directly from the American checkbook. Had they been forced to spend an additional 2% of their GDP on defense every year, they would never have been able to build their cradle to grave entitlement nirvanas they have today – which, by the way, are failing. The goal here is not to criticize the way western defense played itself out over the last sixty years, but to point out that the systems Democrats hold up as models for the United States are not sustainable in the real world where self defense and limited resources force governments to make choices between guns and butter. And to those who might suggest that this is hyperbole and that Western Europe was not really threatened by the Soviets, one need look back to Hungary in 1956, Berlin in 1962, Czechoslovakia in 1968 or Afghanistan 1979.
Speaking of the real world, as the true costs of ObamaCare emerge and begin to spiral out of control – just as virtually every other government program has – often by hundreds of percent – it will become clear that the Democratic stories of hope and change, of a paradise where Americans can have everything and anything the government might seek to provide with the rich picking up the tab, are nothing but fairy-tales where reality and fantasy are interchangeable. The November elections are a mere seven months away, but that is plenty of time to debunk the socialist Mother Goose stories that the Democrats have been telling us since Walter Duranty was their man on the street. The question is, will enough people go to the polls and play to role of the hunter as we seek to slay the Democratic wolves who are dressed in Granny’s clothes and are preparing to devour what’s left of Little Red Riding Hood – or in this case, American Liberty?