WashPost Explains ‘Reality’ to Europe: You’re Rich and Must Tighten Your Belt

Working in a time-honored corporate media genre (Extra!, 9-10/97, 9-10/05, 7/10), the Washington Post‘s Edward Cody (4/24/11) tells us that Europe just can’t afford its generous social programs:

From blanket health insurance to long vacations and early retirement, the cozy social benefits that have been a way of life in Western Europe since World War II increasingly appear to be luxuries the continent can no longer afford.

Lest you think “appear” provides some wiggle room, Cody makes clear that, no, he’s talking about objective truth here:

In the new reality, workers have been forced to accept salary freezes, decreased hours, postponed retirements and healthcare reductions.

Some people, of course, haven’t gotten the message yet:

Many Europeans, particularly in left-wing political parties and labor unions, have interpreted the new winds as a triumph for ruthless free-market extremists who want to protect private wealth from higher taxes and as an aberration that can be undone by electing governments that are more worker-friendly. But many others, resigned to the new reality of globalization, have come to view the shift as the end of a golden era, perhaps never to be revived.

Note the reoccurrence of that handy word “reality.” Hard to argue with reality, isn’t it?

But let’s give it a try. Cody’s piece is largely about France, a place “emblematic of Europe’s social advances.” In France in 1960–well after World War II–the per capita gross domestic product was $7,482 (in 2000 U.S. dollars). In 2009, it was $22,820–roughly three times as much. The obvious question: Why is a country no longer able to afford the social safety net it had when it was one-third as wealthy? That’s a reality the Washington Post is not interested in exploring.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.