Letters

Yanks, Euros trade blows on "Welcome to the New Cold War": Some say the dollar's vertiginous fall is just the beginning; others give "Euro-weenies" and French snobs a one-fingered American salute.


Salon Staff
November 17, 2004 2:00AM (UTC)

[Read "Welcome to the New Cold War," by Andrew O'Hehir.]

I really enjoyed Andrew O'Hehir's piece on the EU. I work in publishing and do a lot of books on macroeconomics and foreign policy. I have been following the EU trend for some time now, and I'm glad to see that the media and high-profile writers like Rifkin and others have taken this issue up. It is my opinion that the combined impact of Bush's financial and tax policies and the globalization of transatlantic commerce are decimating small businesses in the United States and could provide a real wedge issue for the Democratic Party and other progressive elements in our society.

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Small businesses here cannot survive if they must take on an ever greater share of the tax burden from larger corporations at the same time they are unable to fund healthcare and pension funds for their employees. Eventually, these forces, combined with ideologically driven imperatives that stifle innovation and entrepreneurship in potentially lucrative health and technology ventures, will inevitably lead to erosions in productivity and competitive edge. In fact this is already happening. The grim comfort I draw from the results of Nov. 2 is that the downward spiral of American supremacy will now accelerate, and perhaps for the best.

-- Diana Witt

A very large shoe hanging over the U.S. is that the euro is a currency that has the power to be a world reserve currency. Oil priced in euros is very possible and would be bad economic news for the United States. One almost wishes for a conspiracy of Republican heavyweight bankers and Trilateralists who actually know something about the world economy and can engineer an invisible coup in Washington.

-- Richard Baer

Andrew O'Hehir is quite right about the continuing pernicious influence of class in European society, particularly in Britain. However, the expansion to 25 widely disparate nation-members will almost certainly reduce this and, one hopes, bring it to an end.

What O'Hehir's piece does not mention is European shock at the sham of U.S. democracy. For 60 years we have been prepared to believe that U.S. democracy is a beacon to the world. This is notwithstanding the horrors of racial segregation, the hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy, and the callousness of the justice system. Now we learn that the impenetrable U.S. electoral system is actually broken and cannot be relied on to produce an honest result.

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And what scares us is the United States' success in imposing globalization on an uncomprehending world. We understand how free markets should benefit us all, and we cannot square this with the apparent winner-take-all consequences of globalization -- widening disparities in wealth, disregard of the environmental impact of the actions of powerful U.S. companies (and the whole nation), and continuing subsidies to U.S. and, I am ashamed to admit, European producers that continue to impoverish farmers in the Third World.

-- Simon Sanders

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I thoroughly enjoyed Andrew O'Hehir's post "Welcome to the New Cold War" as I race to finish T.R. Reid's latest book. O'Hehir and authors Rifkin and Reid are sounding an important wake-up call to the flat-earthers who have stolen the White House for another four years. The EU has captured the high moral ground for years to come.

-- John B. Licata

I found O'Hehir's article to be a well-written and engaging endorsement of utopian Marxism -- which, of course, has never been tried before in human history -- but I would remind him that European governmental handouts are directly coming at the price of their citizens' freedom.

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In a warped perspective on the separation of church and state, France notoriously does not allow Jewish and Muslim children to wear religious symbols in public schools; likewise, "offensive" jokes and comments are punishable by two years in jail, a law worse than anything in the (admittedly shitty) PATRIOT Act. Belgium recently banned a popular political party because of its anti-immigration beliefs, instead of allowing democracy, individual reason/choice and the marketplace of ideas to conquer discrimination. (This same anti-democratic spirit is why the American left so fears state-level elections on gay marriage. God forbid that people be allowed to make up their own minds on controversial issues!)

Just today, Britain banned fast-food commercials from television, in the same "We know what's better for you than you do" spirit of the American left. This is why Kerry lost the election -- not because of "moral values," but because the American people could sense the elitist, latently totalitarian spirit festering within many of his supporters, who have genuinely fallen in love with the idea of government. (The American right has been equally guilty of this lately, but at least they're not total pussies, whining about global tests and how snooty froggy fucks feel about anything.)

If the 20th century (should have) taught the human race anything, it's that trading freedom of speech and freedom of choice for government-issued happiness is the most efficient way to destroy millions of lives. The American left has the choice of returning to the classical freedom-based liberalism of JFK, or it can keep going in the entitlement- and bureaucracy-based direction of post-World War I Russia, which celebrates mediocrity and conformity while punishing excellence and individuality. If the left chooses the latter -- and it probably will -- you'll continue losing elections, because then liberals will truly be out of touch with the American people, the American ideal, and the very concept of freedom itself.

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-- Marty Beckerman
The writer is the author of "Generation S.L.U.T."

I agree with most of what O'Hehir writes, particularly about American hubris and the lack of subtlety and nuance on our side of the Atlantic, which contrasts with the much more realistic (though oddly romantic) worldview of the EU.

My one problem with the article is that O'Hehir lacks subtlety as well, ignoring many of the issues that weigh against Europe's becoming the good superpower. Beyond the obvious internal divisions, there is also a lack of the potential for economic growth in Europe. Both the United States and Europe will be eclipsed by China. Also (though we liberals don't like to discuss such things), Europe is no match for the United States militarily. Outside of Britain and France, no European nation has the kind of advanced weaponry that makes the U.S. effectively unstoppable on the battlefield (though not in streets and houses of course).

-- Benton D. Williams

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It's a particularly snobbish leftist American conceit that somehow all things European are superior to things American. It's a wealthy offspring's longing, two, three, four or more generations removed from the poorer European immigrant ancestors, wanting to return to the old countries with those wads of American dollars that makes traveling to Europe so pleasurable. The neo-Democrats, the real party of American privilege and wealth, would yearn for things European. Saying that more Americans are living below the poverty line in America than there are Europeans living below the poverty line in Europe is leftist spin: The poverty line isn't the same for European countries and America. Indeed, millions of those living below the poverty line in America would find themselves planted firmly in the middle classes in most European countries.

The truth is the Europeans can be racist backstabbing ingrates, they always have been, and they do think they are better than us Americans. Not only do they think they are better than us, but they often think they are better than everyone else -- look at their record of colonialism around the globe the past 100 years. So they hate G.W. Bush and the religious rednecks that elected him, The USA is still the country that gave Europe the Marshall Plan and the main country that really caused the collapse of European communism. Yes, to most Europeans, we're the offspring of the poor white trash that left their shores for better lives across the Atlantic. Despite this, this won't be the century of the European Union, despite the European proclamations and legislation put forward as examples to the USA. The Europeans also loathe each other in quiet; 50 years of happy faces can't undo hundreds of years of national and ethnic animosity -- look at Yugoslavia and Kosovo. And the big Islamic Crescent of immigration is knocking at their frontiers big-time. It won't be all roses for the snobbish Euro-weenies during this century.

-- Van Souther

Andrew O'Hehir responds: The statistics on relative poverty in Europe and the United States come from Jeremy Rifkin's "The European Dream." He uses the European standard of poverty, under which those living at less than half the median income are defined as poor, rather than the U.S. standard, which is based on different criteria. One may disagree with his analysis, but his comparison seems to be fair.

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