Governments that tax work and subsidize sloth are committing a form of slow-motion suicide, and the Greek fiscal crisis is the canary in the coal mine of this phenomenon. Interestingly, some European governments are trying to halt the downward slide, though I suspect that most of them will fail to take the necessary steps. But it’s nonetheless good news that this is getting coverage since it is equally important that the United States learn the right lessons so we can reverse the reckless big-government policies of the Bush-Obama years. Here’s an excerpt from a thorough AP story:
…the welfare state — cherished by many Europeans as an alternative to what they see as dog-eat-dog American capitalism — is coming under its most serious threat in decades: Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. Deep budget cuts are under way across Europe. Although the first round is focused mostly on government payrolls — the least politically explosive target — welfare benefits are looking increasingly vulnerable. “The current welfare state is unaffordable,” said Uri Dadush, director of the Carnegie Endowment’s International Economics Program. …”We have to adjust our social security systems in a way that they motivate people to accept regular work and do not give counterproductive incentives,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told news weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung on Saturday. …Demographers and economists began warning decades ago that social welfare was doomed by the aging of Europe’s baby boomers. Some governments had been trimming and reforming, but now almost all are scrambling to close deficits in order to prevent a wider collapse of confidence in the euro. The [British] government has promised to raise the age at which citizens receive a state pension — up from 60 to 65 for women, and from 65 to 66 for men. It also plans to toughen the welfare regime, requiring the unemployed to try to find jobs in order to collect benefits. …Ministers are reviewing the long-term affordability of the country’s generous public sector pensions. …France’s conservative government is focusing on raising the retirement age. Many workers can now retire at 60 with 50 percent of their average salary. …Unions in France are organizing a national day of protest marches and strikes on Thursday to demand protection of wages and the retirement age. [Spain] has proposed hiking the retirement age for men from 65 to 67. …After sharp cutbacks imposed as the condition of an international bailout this month, Greeks must now contribute to pension funds for 40 instead of 37 years before retiring, and the age of early retirement is set to 60 at the earliest. Civil servants with monthly salaries of above 3,000 euros ($3,750) will lose two extra months of salary — one paid at Christmas, the other split between Easter and summer vacation.