"Once it was plausible to argue that the European quality of life made up for the economic underperformance, but those arguments look more and more strained, in part because demographic trends make even the current conditions unsustainable. Europe's population is aging and shrinking. By 2040, the European median age will be around 50. Nearly a third of the population will be over 65. Public spending on retirees will have to grow by a third, sending Europe into a vicious spiral of higher taxes and less growth."David Brooks has been making this point for weeks now. European leaders have failed their people by establishing a welfare state that is unsustainable. Too many entitlements have bred a generation unable to work its way out of the dismal, lackluster performance of the last deacde and a half. (46 of the 50 states have per capita output higher than Europe according to Brooks). Europeans realize that in the 21st century they need compete not just with the American economy, but with India and China too.
This, Brooks claims, is the reason for the no vote on the European Constitution: A failure of leadership, recognized by the plebeans who were finally allowed to vote.
The lesson for Americans should be applied to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Unless we are willing to examine these entitlement programs in a fair and honest way, the US is on the way to the same cycle of higher taxes and lower growth in which the Europeans are presently embroiled.