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What Europe can learn from the U.S. [The convsersation]

December 15, 2011 |  2:56 pm

David Cameron
Europe wouldn't be in the financial mess it's in now were it not for the United States. In an opinion piece for Al Jazeera, Danny Schechter reminds us:

In fact, it was American firms and banks that shoveled many of the loans into European countries that they are struggling to pay back. It was they who encouraged Europe's banks to take on much of the very debt that they are now complaining about.

American companies also encouraged Europe's financial institutions to invest in fraudulent subprime loans and derivatives that cost them billions.

That's why some on the Continent were blaming the US for exporting a type of "financial AIDS," or likening the economic collapse to financial terrorism. Now that so many of these deals collapsed, plunging Europe into crisis, the US is working in a shadowy manner to put "Humpty Dumpty" back together.

That said, Europe could learn from the U.S. -- at least it could learn from our history. In October, RealClear's Alex Berezow wrote that this was "Europe's Articles of Confederation moment." In other words:

Just like America’s pre-Constitution days, the Eurozone is in a bind. Major decisions require approval from all 17 nations. Finding common ground (and making "European" decisions) is often difficult and unpopular domestically. The current debt crisis has made it abundantly clear that the structure of the European Union is such that it is not a reliable source of decisive leadership. […]

Europe lacks the common brotherhood and unity of purpose that has (almost) always kept the United States together. The conservative-liberal divide that plagues American politics looks puny in comparison to the possibly existential challenge facing the Eurozone.

Bruce Ackerman, a professor of law and political science at Yale, agrees. In Wednesday's Opinion pages, he wrote about the similarities between the treaty talks in Europe and the founding of the United States. And he warned British Prime Minister David Cameron not to get in the way of the process. From his Op-Ed:

Given these dynamics, Cameron is simply fooling himself if he really believes "that the EU institutions -- the court, the commission -- [would] work for all 27 nations" when this would compromise the euro bloc's fundamental interests. When Britain tries to undermine ongoing support for the Eurozone, it will predictably provoke a constitutional crisis -- in which the euro bloc will eject Britain to prevent its continuing acts of sabotage.

United they'll stand, divided they'll fall, right? But, of course, the Eurozone can also learn from what the U.S. has done wrong. About last week's European Union summit, Harold Meyerson writes in the Washington Post:

But the combined result of U.S. actions over the past three decades reads as though we intended to diminish America's economic edge. We offshored high-tech industries. Almost all new jobs came in the less-productive service sector. U.S. infrastructure has been allowed to sag. And as good jobs dwindled and wages declined, we retained our living standards by taking on debt --until credit dried up in 2008, compelling the government to take on more debt to keep the private sector from crashing altogether.

So while Americans decry our lack of spending discipline, our larger problem is that we have exported industries and eliminated, downgraded or failed to deliver the jobs that once made our economy vibrant. Like [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel and her minions, we misread our weakness as fiscal when, fundamentally, it is the result of policies -- financial, corporate and governmental -- that have failed to preserve, expand and reward productive work.


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--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: British Prime Minister David Cameron arrives to the European Union summit in Brussels on Dec. 8. Credit: Francois Lenoir / Reuters

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