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18 Oct, 2010 20:41

Optimistic Americans and pessimistic Europeans

Americans casually wait and watch as the economy takes shape, while Europeans take to the streets demanding action. What’s the difference in the economic mindsets of Americans and Europeans?

We do have a very different political culture; we kind of have two parties, we have a narrowness of political debate historically in the United States and in many ways, a nice thing, and in some ways unfortunate we do have a cultural history in this country for most of the last 100 years of being kind of positive and looking forward to a tomorrow better than today,” said Max Fraad Wolff, an economist from The New School in New York.

He explained that the movement in Europe mirrors the US. While Europeans out fighting to protect their benefits, some in the US, the Tea Party, are fighting to cut benefits and restrict social welfare.

Americans, we have a pretty weak social safety net,” said Wolff. “If you lose your job in the United States it could potentially be a death sentence for some people historically.”

Europeans have access to greater benefits even without work, while the US does not. In the US if you lose your job, you likely loose you healthcare and other benefits.


It is easier to find work in US, but also easier to lose ones job, explained Wolff.

We kind of have the exact opposite, or the other side of the universe, 180 degree difference from what you’re seeing from organized labor and left political parties in Europe,” he added.

Wolff explained the US, unlike Europe, simply does not have the same type of organizations and political parties to address these issues.

The British press is looking at the crisis and process with a more analytical view, Europe is acting in reaction to protect their labor rights and functional welfare states, the US is not because there is little to no welfare state, explained Michel Chossudovsky, the director of the Centre for Research on Globalization in Montreal, Canada.

In Europe, I think workers realize that these massive austerity measures which have been implemented and in fact dictated by the European Central Bank, the IMF and the G-20, or the G-7 in fact, and that constitutes the very sort of homogenous neo-liberal perspective that you just cut, cut, cut and you cut down the wages at the same time. Well, I think the European workers realize that this in fact goes against some of these acquired rights,” said Chossudovsky.

He explained that in the US there are few economic safety nets, by way of pensions, healthcare and benefits. In Europe the governments guarantees these entities through social democracy and the welfare state.

However, some European countries have loosened their labor laws and the people of Europe are fighting to maintain their acquired rights.

Americans are losing their homes and their jobs, and there is little to no US labor market. The crisis in US is “far more serious,” argued Chossudovsky, because there is no welfare state.