If you think the US has problems just look at Europe’s utter mess 

So you think you’ve got troubles? A president determined to wrest control of your health care from you? Taxes that are certain to go up? Banks that won’t lend? A shaky economy?

For what it’s worth, you — we — are the envy of Europe, a fact I learned during a quick visit.

Europeans are comparing their close-to-zero growth rate in the last quarter of 2009 with our nearly 6 percent growth. Never mind about details like the effect of the inventory buildup in the last quarter and other stuff of pedants’ comments.

We are growing and they are not. That contributes to the overwhelming gloom that dominates the conversation of Europeans I have met — admittedly, not a random sample. Large numbers of shops in London are shuttered, students see no prospect of work when they graduate, and businessmen are groaning under rising tax burdens.

Throw in rainy, gray, cold and gloomy weather that would make a paralyzing snowstorm a cheery break, and you have personal, if not economic, depression on a large scale.

Then, there is transport. Don’t complain. Hop on the Eurostar from London to Paris and risk sitting in a dark tunnel for hours, yearning for a safe, comfortable Acela trip from Washington, D.C., to New York. Or try boarding your scheduled Lufthansa flight, canceled because of a strike.

Or plan to fly British Air, styling itself as the world’s favorite airline, and find that you will get to your destination only if the cabin crews do not trigger the strike they have voted overwhelmingly to call when it suits them, and inconveniences you.
Upset with the performance of our government? Cheer up. It could be worse.

In Britain, several members of Parliament have been found cheating on their expenses, some even getting reimbursed for mortgage payments on second homes that don’t exist.

In Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who in any other country would be rattled by scandals and a divorce action by an angry wife, just nominated his dental hygienist/model for a seat in parliament.

In Greece, the government has been caught selling off future income streams and then concealing the liabilities.

Spain has a 20 percent unemployment rate, Portugal is close to broke, growth in Germany has stalled, and the European Union is reeling from President Barack Obama’s refusal to attend its spring summit meeting.

I know. Europe’s woes should not make our problems any more bearable. Were we saints, they would not. But we aren’t. 

Examiner columnist Irwin M. Stelzer is a senior fellow and director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Economic Policy Studies.

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Irwin Stelzer


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