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Westerwelle counters US Europe-bashing

The Local · 21 Jan 2012, 09:17

Published: 21 Jan 2012 09:17 GMT+01:00

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With Republican White House hopefuls telling voters they will prevent America from sinking into a European-type malaise, Guido Westerwelle sought to dispel the notion of a region collapsing on the back of social welfare.

"When I look at the American debate over the past weeks I see mostly a caricature of Europe, the image of a continent mired in gloom and self-absorption," he told an audience at Brookings Institution.

"I beg to differ. First point: We actually overcame socialism in Europe 20 years ago," he said, offering that the United States helped that achievement.

Westerwelle told reporters that he saw the "necessity to speak up" in the face of "stereotypes" of Europe coming out in the hard-fought battle over which Republican will square off against President Barack Obama in November's election.

In a time-honoured tradition for the American right, Europe-bashing has been rife in the Republican nomination contest.

Candidates have repeatedly referred to Obama following the "socialist" path of Europe, while pointing to the current eurozone crisis as the result.

In one debate, the leader in the race, Mitt Romney, called Obama "a big-spending liberal" who "takes his political inspiration from Europe and from the socialist democrats in Europe.

"Guess what? Europe isn't working in Europe. It's not going to work here," he said.

Romney has also accused Obama of trying to create a "European-style entitlement society," saying the current administration reflects "the worst of what Europe has become."

Westerwelle's protests aside, "socialist" is a powerful slur in US politics. A Pew Research poll in December found 60 percent of people saw the word negatively, compared to 39 percent for "liberal" and 30 percent for "conservative."

Story continues below…

Rick Santorum, another Romney challenger, has also warned of taking the European socialist path, but he has acknowledged some positives across the Atlantic.

"I just read a recent study that actually income mobility from the bottom two quintiles up into the middle income is actually greater... in Europe than it is in America today. We need to change that," he said in one debate.


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Your comments about this article

10:51 January 21, 2012 by HelloOutThere
"...dispel the notion of a region collapsing on the back of social welfare."

Well, as far as I know the U.S. seems to be collapsing despite any social welfare.
10:52 January 21, 2012 by ND1000
Believe it or not the Republicans are more European friendly than the current Democrats. They just dont like welfare and entitlements. Many of them actually have some very close ties to Europe and want to keep it that way. On the other hand Europe loves Obama but Obama doesnt love Europe. He actually has no interest in Europe at all. If Europeans could vote for president in American the best option would probably be Santorum.
11:50 January 21, 2012 by coffejohn
Why is a German minister placating the US?

Why is Germany upsetting most of the EU?

Possibly because we are seeing a power shift, from most of the EU to Germany who now see their self interest in an alliance with the US!
11:52 January 21, 2012 by LiterallySimon
If Europeans liked market radical, Christian fundamentalist, homophobic, climate change-denying, creationist politicians. They don't. And that Italian heritage thing? Show.
12:44 January 21, 2012 by TheCrownPrince
The meaning of "Socialism" in the US is different from that in Europe, I think. Has Westerwelle considered this before making his statement? When a European says "Socialism" he roughly means "Communism". When a US-Republican says "Socialism" he means quite everything that nowadays is standard in most, if not all, european countries (social benefits and welfare, universal health care, etc.).
12:49 January 21, 2012 by derExDeutsche

SO let me get this Straight, All that 'Austerity' that everyone is talking about in Europe, it is all code speak for; 'Austerity' from Free Market Principles???

Yes. Yes.

And the Euro Left that claims that Islam needs to be defended and respected, who also claim that the Constitution states 'Freedom from Religion' when it actually states 'Freedom of Religion'. No, those aren't Socialists either.

And the Euro Left that has for decades now blasted the US for their not signing a heavily bias 'Kyoto Accord' or that in the US we don't have a Socialized Heath Care. No, no, thats not bashing. Either is what @ LiterallySimon says at all US Bashing. Yawn. Nice try a__wipes.
12:58 January 21, 2012 by ND1000
LiterallySimon you are literally a moronic git, probably poorly educated as well. You have no earthly clue what you are talking about and should study US politics and America a bit more before you use your tired old prejudices. I bet your head is swimming with all sorts of bizarre ill informed ideas about the world.
13:18 January 21, 2012 by Christine1
Well, Romney admits to being a capitalist, making his millions from investments; paying only 15 % income tax, and Santorum has no substance, and is a corrupt elitist (making a poor school district near Pittsburgh pay to educate his kids via cyber school when in actuality he and his kids lived in a high end Va suburban community, and Newt?? What can I say about a lying philanderer who has the ability to mesmerize voters into thinking that he has a moral character?

Politicians?? They are all narcissistic crooks who don't represent the people!
13:28 January 21, 2012 by derExDeutsche
Isn't it funny how Liberals always need to change the Words that describe what they have planned for us? Now 'Europe has left 'Socialism' behind' decades ago.

They think that if they just change the word, it will distract enough of us, long enough, to let it all come to pass once more. it certainly works in Europe.
15:04 January 21, 2012 by ATM
The truth of the matter is most Americans have no clue of what the European Lifestyle is like and really do not understand terms such as socialism. The batch of Republican pretenders are obviously so far removed from the fading middle class and working class that they continually make absurd and race bating statements. Europe is treading water economically while the US is drowning economically and will continue to do so with corrupt bankers and bought for politicians. I mean come on there is a Congress and Senate who continually cannot pass a budget.

I hope the candidates stop referring to Europe as they really have no knowledge of how Europe is working. The average American daily news relates to what is happening in their own neighborhood not what is going on in the world stage.
15:21 January 21, 2012 by derExDeutsche

The truth of the Matter is, YOU have f;ing no clue what you are talking about. Isn't there and Occupy Wall St. or Day or Raga rally for you to attend or maybe and Iraq War Protest?

Come November, the adults will be taking charge. These candidates are not perfect, not by any measure. But ANY ONE of these Candidates is a vast improvement over Obama. Come November, America will agree with me.
15:27 January 21, 2012 by X13F
obama has delivered on his promise of "Rope and Chains" for America.
16:01 January 21, 2012 by christopheuk25
Europe is a political and economic basket case and the present amatuer political encumbants running this train crash must be made to answer for it.Especially the squandering of hundreds of billions of taxpayers money(solved absolutely nothing) to persue a totally preposterous ideology that a 3 year old could see was the thoughts of an imbecile.What a gargantuan nightmare Europe is facing and no one with a clue how to stop it.

It has been said a people get the Government they deserved,having given up all their rights and freedoms to a corrupt Brussels menagerie for vague promises of wealth and security from cradle to grave they indeed have gotten what they justly deserve,i hope they realise this in the ensuing disaster that is coming fast.But then again Socialists/Liberal Left wingers always new how to spend other peoples money on their fantasies never their own.God help you for no one else will.
16:54 January 21, 2012 by KamiZ
I had a very favorable view once of the US healthcare system and used to think it was top notch which just some problems. But then I saw the documentary "Sicko" and that really made me realize how sucky the Americans have it. I mean, in Europe, you basically have the guarantee from the government to have a roof over your head, to have access to healthcare and to have an income even if you cannot find work. One may choose for any number of reasons not to take advantage of it, but they can. Sure they have problems with the welfare system here. Every system has problems. But if the European model is socialism then I'd say I have no problem with that. I'm from a third world country. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about.
17:40 January 21, 2012 by TheCrownPrince
@KamiZ - Spot on! There is something basically wrong when there are 20.5 million people officially "poor" in the biggest economy of the (first) world and 1 % of it's population owns 34,6 % of the existing wealth, while at the same time there is no public health care. And now some people there even want to intensify that situation because they think that too much welfare (!) basically is the cause of all the problems Uncle Sam currently has to deal with.
17:48 January 21, 2012 by ATM
Ex Deutscher you seem to be rude. But that is okay I have death with rude people during my lifetime. It is almost a certainty that Obama will be reelected. Many people initially said he would not be elected and he was. If those people want to protest against Wall Street they have every right to do so.
18:11 January 21, 2012 by LiberalGuy
Westerwelle could of just logged onto the Local if he wanted Euro bashing. It would of saved him the trip
18:15 January 21, 2012 by derExDeutsche
@ ATM and LiberalGuy

Where is the Euro Bashing? By saying that the EU has run up debt due to Government Policy?

But luckily, we have proof that it stinks... and just look where the glass was from ...

18:16 January 21, 2012 by ChrisRea
A good graphical representation of the situation: bit.ly/x3cvkE
18:24 January 21, 2012 by LiberalGuy

I think it was the a__wipes comment.

No judgements
19:49 January 21, 2012 by Hunner1210
Ok well first off drexdeutsche needs to crawl back into his right-wing capitalist cave with his American masters-sorry I mean business men. Also, no they don't have to go to an Occupy Wall St. because wealth inequality is not on-par with corrupt and oppressive China as America's is. Also, if Americans ever switched from MTV to CNN they would see that they too should've been protesting an expensive war that did NOTHING until guess what? The LIBERAL President came in and caught the guy you'd been trying to get your vengeance on this whole time (as if killing more and restricting freedom under the blindfold of "national security" would bring back the lives of the one's lost, oh Americans). About the article though, why does Europe even care what USA says or thinks? Let that billion-dollar-mega-yacht-of-a-country (that will soon be owned by China) sink on it's own.
20:17 January 21, 2012 by derExDeutsche

Thank you for your invitation. I will have to make sure to leave my cave and visit beautiful People's Republic of China very soon. Say 'Ni Hao' to Dear Reader for me, in the mean time.

I will also check CNN for impotant news concerneing Great Peoples Party Election in 2012. Is MS.NBC.AOL.TW.HP. also a Fair Place to hear the Truth about Evil Business man?
21:29 January 21, 2012 by Christine1
I'm starting to feel the love here!
00:30 January 22, 2012 by mike33
"I mean, in Europe, you basically have the guarantee from the government to have a roof over your head, to have access to healthcare and to have an income even if you cannot find work. ... But if the European model is socialism then I'd say I have no problem with that."

Yes, and that's what the American candidates are referring to as "socialism". And the problem with the European model is that it isn't going to work long term, and it already makes everybody in Europe poorer than they otherwise would be.
01:23 January 22, 2012 by lenny van
The best run city in America was Milwaukee, Wisconsin during the many years it was run by socialist governments.. I was born and raised under German socialist mayors. This was real socialism. It was completely democratic state with a free market system and a balanced budget. The Soviet Union and Eastern was run by tyrants and America prevented the socialist system from developing by using mafia tactics to keep it from selling its production.

The important difference between socialism and capitalism is that the minority control the system and treat the majority group of people as a commodity. Get rid of the stock exchange. Private enterprises can borrow investment and venture capital. Higher interest premiums determined by free market auctions can provide compensation for risk, like its done in the bond markets in the capitalist system.

Why do capitalists put up with socialist police forces, fire departments and armed forces?
05:24 January 22, 2012 by Naoise-Ryan Israel
I am interested (or, even, amazed) that anyone, even Bundesaussenminister

Westerwelle, would take remotely seriously any criticism of Europe from the

United States Conservative Right. This, an allegedly developed prosperous

country, which: has failed to deliver accessible, affordable, and adequate

healthcare to millions of its' own people; which, despite its' relative lack of

public transport and social welfare, has denied millions of Americans jobs;

where there are such deep social divisions, whole enclaves of the country

are virtually third-world in orientation; and where they "lock up" (or worse)

more people per capita than anywhere else other than China or Russia.

I'm not even anti-American. I've been to the USA. And quite lock a lot of it.

It's just that Conservative Republicans (and, unfortunately, some Conservative

Democrats too) are even worse than Conservatives elsewhere: they have

such a paranoia to protect their perverted sense of privilege, they'll stop

at nothing to divide/lie/twist the reputations of others including countries,

such as the Bundesrepublik Deutschland, which combine not only some

social justice but actually are a better framework for Capitalism in the long run.
07:31 January 24, 2012 by insight101
how about: none of you from any country no how to fix the mess we call a civilized world, and if you do, then shame on you for not doing it.

by the by, it is also sick to hear the comments from the individuals from certain european countries...who say that they have learned from their past (a past of hating certain groups because of race or nationality) with one breath, and then with the next voice their warped hatred of "Americans".
08:35 January 24, 2012 by McM
European insecurity is a key driver still, especially when there is a wiff of financial trouble on the wind. The hounds start baying the socialist start preying and the bankers bunker down behind a screen of crisis gossip. Meanwhile the sheep are hearded into protest camps seizing the Wall street myth and politicians read their tarot cards daily for signs of any wolf...er Wullf ..at the door.

Such a wonderful spectical as we all clamber to inject meaning into our lives to justify our existence. And they say opera is boring!
23:01 January 24, 2012 by ChrisRea
The Conservative American candidates cannot tell the difference between basic concepts like liberalism and socialism. They claim that "socialism" generated the current public debt crisis, but fail to acknowledge that the so-called welfare states are the Nordic states (who are doing very well, thank you), not PIIGS.
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