Arab Today, arab today eurobashing comes with risks in us
Last Updated : GMT 02:26:33
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

Eurobashing comes with risks in US

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Eurobashing comes with risks in US

Washington - AFP

With Europe\'s finances in tatters and the continent battling recession, eurobashing is resurgent in the United States, leading some to warn US public opinion is diverging dangerously from the national interest. The Greeks, according to billionaire investor Charlie Munger, \"don\'t want to pay taxes or do much work.\" Intoned in the flattened vowels of the American Midwest, it was a claim that resonated with an arena full of nodding Berkshire Hathaway shareholders in Omaha, Nebraska last April. And despite Munger\'s lack of credentials as a Hellenist, his take on Greece\'s woes -- and others like it -- have a good deal of weight across the United States. Throughout the crisis, the stereotype of lazy southern Europeans has resurfaced in the United States, as it is in northern Europe. For every person pointing to statistics showing that Greeks work on average 41 hours a week compared to Americans roughly 34 hours, there are many more pointing to government waste and cultural deficiencies perceived or otherwise. When the US media talks about remedies for Europe\'s crisis, austerity measures are as likely to be portrayed as less prosecco or panettone for Italians this Christmas than a grinding slog ahead. \"When you hear the stereotypes it is very much along the lines of, \'oh those Greeks, they lived beyond their means and now they are going to have to pay up,\'\" said Alexei Monsarrat, head of global business and economics at the Atlantic Council. Nowhere is that view more easily found than in Washington. Republicans, keen to discredit \"big government\" and social handouts, warn darkly that the United States could \"end up like Europe\" if public spending is not cut dramatically and immediately. \"There is a view that the Germans are right: make these people suck it up and tighten their belts, without any appreciation that this is a tightening of belts beyond which any American would put up with,\" said Bruce Stokes, an expert in trans-Atlantic economics at the German Marshall Fund. But Stokes and others on this side of the Atlantic now worry about the implications of blaming all the crisis on lazy and profligate Europeans. \"It confuses the debate and makes it more difficult to manage,\" he said. \"You get people saying \'we don\'t want to be another Greece,\' and the reality is Spain was running a surplus before this crisis started, Italy has a huge debt but their deficit was not that bad.\" First and foremost, this view makes US participation in any bailout politically improbable, despite President Barack Obama and others repeatedly stressing the importance of Europe for the health of the US economy. \"It is inexcusable that the US is not considering (a plan) to protect its own economic self interest, to be able to help on this crisis,\" said Stokes. According to Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, a Danish researcher now with Peterson Institute in Washington, the common diagnosis of Europe\'s problems leads to at least one fundamental mistake that continues to cause unease. \"A lot of the criticism that we hear here is about why isn\'t the ECB doing what the Fed did and why aren\'t the Europeans doing what the Treasury did in terms of its crisis management strategy.\" \"In some ways it is a legitimate criticism, if you view the European crisis as similar to that in the United States -- a financial crisis and a fiscal solvency crisis. \"I would argue that Europe\'s is a very different crisis, it is a political crisis, it is about the institutions that the euro area has.\" While financial deals may be about quickly producing a big enough weapon to instill confidence and scare the markets into submission, political deals are about brinkmanship and lengthy wrangling -- something Europe has been repeatedly criticized for. \"I think there is a very basic concern about the speed that we have seen this moving,\" said the Atlantic Council\'s Monsarrat. \"Their complaint has been... there does not seem to be a responsible adult willing to stand up and say, \'This is how it is going to be,\'\" he said. \"Unfortunately that is not how Europe works.\"

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