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Au Revoir, USA? - Tom Purcell

President Obama has been faltering of late, but I still hope he turns America into France. I have been to Paris -- ah, Grand Paree! I have sat for hours at sidewalk cafes sipping cafe au lait (that's milk and coffee, you uncultured Americans) and nodding approvingly as pretty women stroll by.

There is plenty of time to do such things in France.

The French know better than silly Americans what life is really about. It is about pleasant thoughts and sipping Courvoisier and knowing that no matter what happens, your government will take care of you. French politicians made this promise during the 1970s. They massively expanded government entitlements of every kind.

Unions are ultra-strong in France, where many people work for the government and everyone enjoys five weeks or more of paid vacation -- and 22 paid holidays on top of that! French employees need not worry about much. It is nearly impossible to be fired in France. Even if an employee screws up royally, he cannot be canned until an exhaustive and costly dismissal process is carried out.

Even now, months after the world economy has tanked and demand for products has crashed, French employers are still struggling to adjust their work force; French labor laws make it difficult to lay off employees.

Employers are wary of hiring for these reasons. Even when the world economy was booming, French unemployment rates were still hovering between 8 and 11 percent. Sure, I know France's high taxes and high regulation have hampered economic growth for years -- and growth and wealth generation are the only ways any government can meet its lofty promises.

I know, too, that the world has changed. Advances in technology have ushered in a truly global economy. Manufacturing plants and service centers can be set up and run efficiently almost anywhere in the world. Every country is now in competition with almost every other, which doesn't bode well for places such as France. If you needed to build a plant, would you choose a place where the tax rates, regulations and costs are reasonable, or France, where you'll face burdens, costs and obstacles of every kind?

It is true that most European nations know they are on an unsustainable path. They have begun to turn back government spending. They are reducing taxes to attract badly needed investment and growth. I know it is odd that just as Europe turns away from big-spending policies that have proven not to work, Obama is eager to rush America toward similar policies.

I know Americans should pay closer attention to what he is up to -- and, if they don't like his proposals, be more active in stopping or shaping them before they become law.

But I hope he succeeds. I hope he does cap carbon emissions -- essentially taxing the bejeezus out of them -- which will drive up the cost of utilities and everything that is manufactured and transported. I hope he and Congress succeed in getting their mitts around the throat of our health care system -- and borrow a trillion dollars more in the process. I hope he succeeds in raising tax rates much higher -- beyond those currently paid in many European countries.

Such measures will drive investment out of the United States. They will kill innovation and invention. They will damage our economy. And then we can be more French!

Sure, I may find myself without gainful employment, but it will be OK. My government will take care of me. I will enjoy free health care, food, housing and generous stipends. I'll never be rich, but I'll have enough to sit at sidewalk cafes sipping cafe au lait and nodding approvingly as pretty women stroll by.

Before Obama became president, America already was on an unsustainable path (big deficits, Social Security, Medicare). There is no way we can take on trillions in new debt to support European-style programs. But I prefer not to worry about the future. I prefer to live in the moment.

C'est la vie, America!

Tom Purcell, a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. E-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.