On “Meet the Press” this morning Newt Gingrich gave a nod to the German economy. He is right. Of all the developed nations, the German economy has done well to weather the current downturn. Some would even say that the German economy is thriving when so many economies around the world seem to have lost their way.
The sick irony here is that conservative republicans have been predicting the demise of the German social welfare system since the days of Ronald Reagan. For pointing to a German economic model as a lesson for the U.S. economy, Newt deserves the equivalent of a Nobel Prize for hypocrisy.
Whenever a progressive (or anyone for that matter) would point to the success of the German capitalist welfare state over the last 30 years, conservatives would scoff that Germany is on the path to socialist ruin.
The truth is that the Germans have a long history of balancing social welfare programs with a strong capitalist economy. It was Otto Bismarck, Chancellor of the German Empire, who instituted the world’s first welfare state in the 1880s. Maybe Glen Beck needs to put Bismarck on his chalkboard next to President Wilson.
The German people enjoy universal health care which is financed mainly by an employer mandate. The German economy does not rely on part-time and temporary workers in the way that the US economy does. Their health insurance companies are all not-for-profit. Germans have mandated vacations, generous unemployment compensation, an education system that prepares young people for real jobs in well paying industries, without student loans and workers enjoy high levels of union membership. Yet unemployment is among the lowest of all developed nations (far lower than the US), wages are high and Germany enjoys a positive trade balance.
This is all because Germany, as Newt pointed out, doesn’t believe it can have a strong economy without a strong manufacturing base. And they understand the economic drain that comes with high trade deficits
So where have Newt and his Republican friends been on the issue of trade deficits, our manufacturing base and fighting for quality jobs with quality benefits for US workers? They have been wasting their time (and ours) denouncing the German model as a socialist system on the verge of collapse.
This is not to say that Germany does not have economic issues, all countries do, but if you ask the question of right path vs. wrong path it makes total sense for us to look at the German model. It is just too bad conservatives like Newt Gingrich could not look past their ideology long enough to consider this 25 years ago.
See Newt Gingrich’s comments on “Meet the Press” at the following link, 3:00 minutes into the video clip: