NEWSWEEK Cover: We Are All Socialists Now

Jon Meacham and Evan Thomas on Why "We Are All Socialists Now"

"Can America Adopt a More European Model, Only With a Faster Rate of Growth?"

Feb 08, 2009, 12:53 ET from Newsweek

NEW YORK, Feb. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- "Whether we want to admit it or not the America of 2009 is moving toward a modern European state," Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham and Editor-at-Large Evan Thomas write in an essay opening the February 16 Newsweek cover package, "We Are All Socialists Now" (on newsstands Monday, February 9). Meacham and Thomas write that the America of 2009 was moving toward a European social democracy, even before President Obama proposed the largest fiscal bill in American history. "If we fail to acknowledge the reality of the growing role of government in the economy, insisting instead on fighting 21st-century wars with 20th-century terms and tactics, then we are doomed to a fractious and unedifying debate. The sooner we understand where we truly stand, the sooner we can think more clearly about how to use government in today's world," they write.

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Meacham and Thomas observe that this shift towards more government intervention in the economy began not under a Democrat but a Republican. "The architect of this new era of big government? History has a sense of humor, for the man who laid the foundations for the world Obama now rules is George W. Bush, who moved to bail out the financial sector last autumn with $700 billion." The Obama administration is now caught in a paradox, having to borrow and spend to fix a crisis created by borrowing and spending. "Obama talks of the need for smart government. To get the balance between America and France right, the new president will need all the smarts he can summon," Meacham and Thomas write.

Also in the cover package, Europe Editor Michael Freedman reports on the extent to which the United States is turning European. When Obama said that it was time to get past stale arguments over whether government is big or small, he was echoing the eclectic philosophy of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and in endorsing the "Buy American" rules, members of the Obama administration were seconding the old French culture of "economic patriotism." "Until the financial crisis began last year, this kind of business bashing and protectionism was largely relegated to the far left, and it seemed axiomatic in the United States that the business of America was business," Freedman writes. "But with an urgency not seen since Ronald Reagan declared that government was in fact the problem, policymakers are now reconsidering the relationship between government and the private sector."

While it's impossible to know just what the day after the crisis will look like, the broad contours of the new economic world are becoming visible. "Now one of the big debates in the U.S. is how to bridge the gap between business and government in a way that avoids stagnation while still satisfying the intense demand for financial and social services. In other words, can America adopt a more European model, only with a faster rate of growth?" Freedman believes that if Obama can somehow forge a middle path that builds upon the best of the European safety net while also encouraging the dynamism and innovation that has helped the U.S. prosper, it will provide evidence that government can actually be a part of the solution.

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