Walking into the nearby supermarket, Price Chopper, you may be concerned with lettuce, carrots, maybe some tomatoes, but probably not socialism. Every time you buy a bag of arugula or a bushel of apples, you are supporting an insurgent threat to American ideals. Little do Cantonites know that with every box of discount cookies, they are walking closer and closer to a stultifying dystopia, filled with bread lines and grey skies. Well, not really…
Price Chopper is one of a few employee owned companies, a uniquely socialist idea. Other large companies also participate in this odd and often overlooked presence of socialist concepts in American society. The most notable of these subtle vanguards is the grocery Publix. The concept of employees owning the company that employs them sounds strikingly democratic and is the type of institution that would make Alexander Hamilton shiver and Bernie Sanders jump with joy. America has diet socialism in Welfare, Medicaid, Medicare, and apparently grocery stores, but we need more.
Though we participate half-heartedly, the true power of social programs, and the fiscal gains that result, can be found on the other side of the Atlantic. I am talking not of the socialist wonder twins, Denmark and Norway. No, I am referring to the polished, BMW-crested machine, at the heart of the European Union: Germany.
When comparing the total exports, GDP, and national debt of Germany with America, Germany performs demonstrably better in every category. In 2016, Germany exported $1.32 trillion while America exported a proportionally weak $1.42 trillion. Considering America’s population is 323 million and Germany’s being only fraction of that (82 million), we all know who has won. In terms of debt, with respect to GDP, America’s dues are monstrous(106.1 percent) when compared to Germany’s (68.3 percent). As we have seen, the foil to America’s slow decline into cultural and economic malaise, is Germany and Washington Post columnist, Harold Meyerson proves it when he says: “Germany’s yearly trade balance went from a deficit of six billion in 1998 to a surplus of $267 billion in 2008 — the same year the United States ran a trade deficit of $569 billion. Over those same 10 years, Germany’s annual growth rate per capita exceeded ours.”
Germany prospers by sustaining a healthy manufacturing and vocational sector. America’s ineffectuality stems from our divestment in those very industries, the same industry that sparked the post WWII economic boom. We can see this by comparing America and Germany’s number of employed persons. America employs 154.3 million workers and Germany employs 41.9 million. Germany still manages to beat the US in exports despite having less than a third of the gross workforce. Our conclusion: America is not employing its citizens in the right way.
We can also see Germany’s economic success, in cultural and practical sectors, with the low unemployment rate of 3.7 percent. Germany employs a welfare system that doubles as a job recruitment agency, pushing German citizens to find a job at the risk losing government aid. Germany’s economy withstood the batterings of the 2008 recession and decreased unemployment in the lowest income brackets: those who are most susceptible to shifts in the fiscal tides. But governmental pressure, in the wake of a large immigrant influx, doesn’t cancel the positive effect of Germany’s welfare program. The success of their social aid program, excitingly named, “Harts IV,” provides German workers with an adequate quality of living while pursuing a lifestyle that is easily accessible to the average German.
The America ideal, our Dream, has slowly undergone a transformation before our eyes. Dreams of starry-eyed youths were once filled with visions of suburbs, a steady job, and a white- picket fence. Now, our guiding star has morphed into a gluttonous black hole, and enraptured the American citizen with the attractions of rare opulence. To the delight of the current 1%, as Americans, we have developed an addiction to accruing and immediately spending wealth. Jacob Hacker articulates this in his book “The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream.” The American citizen is fed ideals containing G6 jets and Louis Vuitton trappings when in reality, they’re stuck with a suburban and the stylings of Targèt. This aspiration for extreme wealth has left the American working-class anemic, and ashamed to accept or promote government aid. Add in a fiery vein of “rugged individualism,” and you have population of people ashamed to be poor, while futilely vying for an incredibly unlikely end. The American Dream has turned to a feverish hallucination that produces a toxic stigma surrounding welfare and governmental aid in general.
Contrast the covetous aims of the neo-American dream with the popularity of occupations in Germany’s workforce. According to the OECD, “most 25-64 year-olds in Germany (55 percent) have attained a vocational qualification at either the upper secondary [high school] or post-secondary level.” That percentage is fourth highest among developed countries, and it fits perfectly with the ‘manufacturing first’ strategy.
Because of Germany’s active social security net, citizens are free to pursue vocations with little financial anxiety. The perceivably “inglorious” occupations, in American eyes, are the root of Germany’s sustained growth. If America wants to succeed, we need to invest in manufacturing sectors, which only makes up 8.8 percent of our GDP as of 2013. We need to follow Germany’s lead while also regaining the economic excellence that characterized the ‘golden years’ of the 40s, 50s, and 60s.