Businessweek has an article up with pretty strong accusations of anti-Americanism against Europe, with a pretty unambiguous title: More Fodder for the Yank-Haters: The spreading U.S. credit crisis is turning up the heat on Europe's simmering anti-Americanism.
This is worth deconstructing in detail, as it has direct relevance for you guys here on the US left, as it seems to me that you are the real targets of the article:
(From European Tribune)
Dietmar Bartsch doesn't consider himself anti-American. A basketball fan, the 49-year-old from the East German city of Stralsund just returned from New Orleans, where he caught the NBA All-Star Game. "The people were really friendly," he enthuses. But Bartsch's feelings about the U.S. aren't uniformly warm and fuzzy, and he finds Wall Street's shenanigans especially galling. The big subprime losses at banks "confirm a broad feeling that something's not right," says Bartsch, general secretary of Germany's Left Party, which rode discontent with the global economic order to unexpected success in state elections this winter. "The elites are making decisions that aren't tolerable."
That's pretty sneaky (if not down right unporfessional) to use the general secretary of the Left Party for the obligatory introductory anectode. It's also a bit strange to use "East German" to present him - a not-too-subtle suggestion, via a no longer existent entity, that he is a communist leftover.
And the main message of that paragraph, which, remember, introduces an article about "Yank-Haters", is that anti-Americanism is not defined by your attitude to basketball or to New Orleans, or even to American people (because absolutely everybody, even East German communists, loves them), but by your position about Wall Street. and not just about Wall Street in general, but about Wall Street today.
And it's totally unexpected (ie there is no rational reason for it). Thus is must be basic anti-Americanism.
As credit woes endanger the world economy, they're giving Europeans another reason to resent U.S. influence. Anti-Americanism was already simmering because of the Iraq war, dislike for President George W. Bush, and mistrust of rampaging buyout firms. Now, Europe's pundits and politicians are feeding public perceptions that ordinary folks will be left paying the bill for the financial missteps of big banks. "This crisis shows why the market must be regulated. Left to itself, it often produces the worst," says Jean Quatremer, the Brussels correspondent for French daily Libération.
So, not thinking the Iraq War was a good idea is anti-Americanism. Disliking George Bush (approval rate in the US: 25% or thereabouts) is anti-Americian. Mistrust of rampaging buyout firms is anti-Americans. As we say in France, les Democrates sont habillés pour l'hiver... ie it very much looks like Dems are being labelled as anti-American.
I also very much note that the article makes the stupendous claim that ordinary people will NOT be paying for the follies of the banks - in fact, that's just a perception (ie a false one) fostered by pundits and politicians. Europe, like the US, is in the throes of an evil liberal conspiracy.
It's always hard to measure the practical impact of anti-Americanism on U.S. businesses abroad.
I was initially wondering why, in the paragraph above, Libération is not identified as a left-wing paper. But that first sentence of the next paragraph makes it obvious: by moving on, it suggests that the case that anti-Americanism exists is closed - and thus that discussing regulation of capitalism - any regulation - is anti-American. In that context, making Libération a leftwing paper would weaken the case: you expect lefties in Europe to want to shackle freedom, but maybe not all pundits - so when an apparently moderate, reasonable, unlefty pundit says these things too it is notable - and as the sentence above shows - proof positive that the whole continent is in the throes of the disease.
But this latest outburst could have repercussions. For starters, the Continent's distaste for what it sees as the Ellbogengesellschaft, or "elbow society," found anyplace west of the English Channel is aimed squarely at financial fat cats, who do tons of business in Europe and often face off against regulators there. The atmosphere gets even more charged with actions such as the EC's record $1.3 billion fine against Microsoft (MSFT) on Feb. 27.
"outburst", as in disease, of course. And the battle lines are clear: France and Germany standing in for Europe, and the UK still on the right side of the evil divide.
And, of course, punishing lawbreaking Microsoft is not a sign of enforcing the law, but one, again, of anti-Americanism - duh, Microsoft is American, so any European decision about them is, by nature, anti-American.
As popular European attitudes against the American and British brand of capitalism harden, governments may tilt left (it's already happening in Germany) and economic nationalism will get a boost, as it has in France.
Again, the current financial capitalism is seen as the Anglo-Saxon capitalism, as if it had not changed from the version 30 years ago. what we have today is the "right" kind of capitalism, of course.
And I sense that European governments are seen as wimps for daring follow the opinions of their population, instead of sticking to their guns. Ah, Europeans are such losers - commi populations, cowerdly governments - anti-Americans all. Of course, after attaching the "reactionary" label to the left, now it's the turn of the "nationalist" one, so that yet more traits of the anti-big-business right can be pinned on the left to disparage it.
The resulting backlash could make it harder for U.S. firms to make acquisitions in Europe, and high-risk, high-reward financial products from Wall Street will be ferociously scrutinized.
Ah yes, it's the popular backlash that blocks US companies in Europe, not the fact that they can no longer borrow to pay for acquisitions, or the fact that the euro-dollar rate makes acquisitions in Europe kind of pricey these days...
And yet another jibe at backward Europeans who don't appreciate the innovations coming out of Wall Street, and don't understand simple risk-reward calculations. Stupid paysans... No mention that the high risks have blown up the financial system (notably because the rewards were not commensurate to risk), and I should probably not even note that most of the quants in US and UK banks that have invented all the fancy new products that Businessweek brags about are European mathematicians, notably French ones...
And as Europe's Left uses anti-business sentiment to press for an advantage, it will be much harder for companies to restructure or negotiate globally competitive wages.
- anti-business = anti-American (because that's all America is about);
- the left "presses its advantage": how dare they? Don't they know they're supposed to be the brave opposition that shows that we're a democracy but does not prevent business from happening as it should?
- "globally competitive wages"... ahh, there we are. This is code, of course, for "lower wages", and being anti-lower-wages is, naturally, also being anti-American. As usual, the interests of the population are discreetly replaced by that of the economy, the economy is conflated with the very rich, and the very rich of any country have the same interests as those in the US. Thus, anti-American behavior to not strive for "global competitiveness".
In recent years, Europeans have grudgingly accepted U.S.-style reforms as necessary to compete in the global economy. The French elected vocal Americophile Nicolas Sarkozy. Germans in 2003 swallowed cuts in jobless benefits, while for years unions agreed to below-inflation pay hikes.
Again, progress associated with "reform", which are necessarily "US-style". I wonder what recent policy choices in the US one should look to in practice... the ballooning budget deficit? The pork-laden budget? The destruction of FEMA? Of course not - the only reforms are the tax cuts for the wealthy and the dismantlement of pesky regulatory agencies like the EPA, the FEC or the MSHA. And, of course, the holy grail: lower benefits and lower wages - as explicitly noted above by BusnessWeek, along with the claim that a vote for Sarkozy was thus a vote for lower wages (the French might beg to differ, as Sarkozy's plummeting popularity right now, on the back of massive unhappiness with stagnant purchasing power, suggests...)
But even as economic growth surged and unemployment plummeted, many people felt the benefits went mostly to the wealthy—who critics say failed to pay their fair share of taxes. Suspicion of the rich runs deep in Europe, where labor leaders and left-leaning politicians still speak the language of class warfare.
As was noted above, the article refuses to even acknowledge that inequality is growing, presenting that as something "felt" by many people, ie something not real. And it's only "critics" who say that the rich are not paying a fair share of taxes (a particularly ironic claim in the middle of the biggest tax-evasion scandal in Europe).
And of course, it's just that Europeans are still unrecontructed commies (well, you'd expect reactionaries not to change, heh), hate the rich - and freedom, and America, becuase America is all about the rich.
Of course, Europe's elites are doing plenty on their own to bring the moneyed classes into disrepute. Many of the tactics that led to the subprime crisis were cooked up in London, and European banks such as UBS were among the most avid buyers of the loans. France has Jérôme Kerviel, the trader blamed for $7 billion in losses at Société Générale. And German police have been raiding the homes of people suspected of hiding assets in Liechtenstein. The cover of the left-leaning weekly Stern features a caricature of the most prominent suspect, former Deutsche Post chief Klaus Zumwinkel, clutching a fistful of euros. "What feeds the Left?" columnist Hans-Ulrich Jörges writes in the magazine. "Capitalism—its excesses, its greed, its shamelessness."
It's getting boring to flag this, but again, the article is supposedly about anti-Americanism, and that paragraph talks about the "moneyed classes" being in disrepute. (And I thought "classes" no longer existed, except in the imagination of Europe's lefties?)
Did it sink it, by now?
Criticizing the moneyed classes = being anti-American
But Europeans are so stuuuupid that even their moneyed classes are dumb, get caught in silly scandals, and bring disrepute to capitalism (the only kind there is, cf above). Thus the obvious hint that even rich Europeans are anti-American, through their incompetence in that case. What a sad, sad continent.
This article reads like a parody, but it's not - it just incorporates more of the usual tools of the pundit class to get their propaganda across - the repeated use of buzzwords (with both positive "much needed reform" "US-style capitalism" and negative "class warfare", "left-leaning", "populist" signifiers), the easy conflation of disparate notions (America = prosperity = dynamism = business = moneyed class) to have them all in one camp and claim that any attack on one is an attack on all others, and the permanent steroetyping about both the US and Europe.
But Europeans don't really care about being labelled anti-American, so that would seem to be part of an attack, yet again, on the US left, to associate it with commie, wimpy, reactionary, close-minded and empoverished Europeans.
In any case, the propaganda has only one goal: continue the transfer of wealth from the middle and lower classes to the very rich, and all arguments are good. But hey, as many even on DailyKos seem to agree with that, given how I'm seen as a hard lefty on the site, maybe that's what America really wants.
But it's so easy to ignore that by calling me, in turn, lefty or anti-American, as it's become essentially the same thing.