mitt romney is full of shit
There is a lot to dislike about Mitt Romney, but the two things I find most grating are his repeated assertions that 1) President Obama would turn us into a European-style social democracy, and 2) that the standard of living in Europe is vastly inferior to that enjoyed in the United States. I'm going to set aside #1 for the moment, because it frankly doesn't even seem worth arguing about. Except to point out that the favorite example of Mr. Obama's putative socialism is the healthcare reform bill, which resembles nothing so much as the state reforms Mr. Romney used to trumpet as a signature accomplishment during his tenure as governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. At several points in the past weeks, Mr. Romney has asserted that "our income, our GDP per capita, is almost 50 percent higher than (it is for) the average European." Anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting the continent ought to be scratching their head, wondering if Mr. Romney has ever been there himself. (He lived in France as a Mormon missionary.) Because Europe, on the whole, is a pretty nice place. Certainly there are tradeoffs that not every American (or even most Americans) might choose--say, forgoing spacious living quarters and cheap gasoline for better, cheaper wine and superior public transportation--but by any reasonable set of standards, the standard of living there is certainly comparable to our own. But of course, that's not what Mr. Romney has said. He specifically refers to per capita GDP. PolitiFact has done the hard work of checking this out so I won't re-cap their analysis (you can read it and decide for yourself.) In short, his assertion is technically true, narrowly construed, but fails to tell the entire story. Europe contains countries that, depending on whose numbers you use, have per capita GDPs that are nearly identical to our own (the Netherlands), those that are much lower (Portugal, Bulgaria), those that are actually a good bit higher (Norway, Switzerland) and a couple that are off the global charts (Luxembourg, Monaco) because they are very small and very rich. The poorer countries really pull the average down...yes, down to around 50% of the US average. A really interesting comparison to make is actually between individual U.S. states and other countries. The per capita GDP of West Virgina and Idaho is similar to that of Italy. Arizona: Germany. Georgia: France. Pennsylvania: Ireland. New York and New Jersey: Denmark. Oh, and the only part of the US that even comes close to that Luxembourgean stratosphere? The District of Columbia. Hooray for unfettered capitalism! Of course Mitt Romney knows all of this. He is, after all, a "numbers guy". It's a naked appeal to the ignorance of the average American about how the rest of the world actually works. And sadly, I imagine it is working.