It’s hard to keep track of all the distortions, deceptions and downright lies that have marked the Republican nomination contest, but one stuck out in the aftermath of yesterday’s bloodbath in Florida. Mitt Romney, who apparently has drifted so far to the right in his frantic attempt to stave off Newt Gingrich that even staunch Republicans like Jeb Bush won’t touch him with a ten-foot pole, was quoted as saying that he wants folks to “remember when our White House reflected the best of who we are, not the worst of what Europe has become.”
When exactly did Europe become hell on earth, a punching bag for right wing-nutters in America? And this from a guy who spent two and a half years in France as a Mormon missionary and who speaks fluent, albeit heavily accented French (although he would prefer people would forget that fact, at least until after the November election).
Europe, it seems, has sunk to such depths that it must be held up as warning to Americans to mend their ways before it’s too late. But just what makes Europe such a den of depravity? Is this maybe a Mormon thing? After all, they do have pretty weird ideas about Heaven and Hell, as anyone knows who read Forrest Wickman’s article on Slate entitled “What’s Hell is like for Mormons”.
And, more importantly, how do the United States stack up in comparison? Let me count the ways.
- Almost everyone in Europe enjoys health care provided either by the state or by compulsory private health plans. One of the results is that the U.S. rank 34th among UN member states in terms of overall life expectancy, just slightly higher than Panama and far behind any European country you choose to name. The average American male will kick the bucket at the age of 75.92, according to the CIA World Factbook, his counterpart in Germany will live to reach 77.82, a Frenchman will keep on eating snails until he’s 78.02, and in Monaco, they get to live a life in the sun until they are 85.77.
- The United States used to lead the world in the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees. Now, according to a report in the New York Times, it ranks 12th among 36 developed nations.
- In terms of car ownership, once a key symbol of American economic superiority, Europe has left America in the dust. The average of privately owned automobiles per 1,000 inhabitants in the U.S. is a paltry 535, again according to the CIA World Factbook. In Andorra, the tiny principality in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, there almost as many cars as there are people – 926.97, to be exact. In Germany, it’s 573, in Italy 605, and so on and so forth.
- America thinks it has an immigrant problem. In fact, the huddled masses are heading elsewhere. The immigration index is 3,18 per 1,000 inhabitants in the U.S., compared with 6.47 in Andorra and 4.87 in Ireland (actually, Canada has a bigger problem, if it really is one: their immigration rate is 5.85, and you don’t hear anyone calling for a border fence, do you?).
- On the other hand, the U.S. does lead the world in the number of people behind bars, if that is anything to crow about. For the record: 7.41 out of every 1,000 Americans are currently incarcerated, compared with 0.92 in France, 0.97 in Germany and 1.38 in Great Britain.
- And of course Americans guzzle way more gas than Europeans so – 25.16 barrels per person and year, a opposed to 11.89 for those car-crazy Germans and 13.15 in Switzerland.
- And just to complete the picture: Europe consistently outperforms the United States in the field of fishing. On average, every American catches 12.13 kilograms of cold-blooded aquatic vertebrates per year. Compare that with 30.94 kilos in Spain, not to mention the 299.04 kilos every Dane pulls out of the water (the world record holders, incidentaly, are the inhabitants of the Faroe Islands which belong to Denmark but are governed autonomously, and where the bountiful waters of the North Atlantic yield up 1,344 kilos for every Norseman, Norsewoman and Norsechild.22
As the American economist Thomas Sowell once remarked, the same set of statistics can produce opposite conclusions at different levels of aggregation. But you don’t need statistics to prove that, in fact, America lags far behind Europe in almost every area that counts (with the exception of military spending, of course). All you have to do is travel around the countryside on both sides of the Atlantic. After the potholes of America, it’s a real pleasure to drive along the German autobahn or the Italian autostrada. Contrast the crime-ridden wastelands of the American inner cities such as Detroit, Pittsburg or even San Francisco’s Market Street district with the teeming, spanky-clean urban centers of, say, Frankfurt, Verona or Dublin.
But Mitt Romney says they are pernicious, and Romney is an honorable man. Or is he?
In fact, not all Americans will buy his line about Europe being the hellish fate awaiting them if they vote for the wrong candidate (meaning: for anybody but him). In fact, maybe his worst enemies are those 11,103,708 Americans who actually visited Europe in 2010, according to OTTI, the U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries. Not to mention the millions of Americans who saw “Midnight in Paris” and felt, like Owen Wilson, that this would be a nice place to settle down for good.
After all, we’ll always have Paris. Romney, I ain’t so sure.