It took a small item in my January 28, 2008 issue of Business Week magazine to do it but I finally really get where John Edwards was coming from in his approach to economic issues affecting the middle class. There is nothing automatically shocking, I suppose, about the British being more affluent now than we are, but the fact that it has never happened in my life time still makes it a little hard for me to get my mind around.
Chalk one up for Queen and country. For the first time since 1885, Britain’s standard of living, measured by per capita gross domestic product, is poised to overtake that of the U.S. British GDP per head will hit $46,088 this year, compared with $45,598 in America, predicts Adrian Cooper, managing director of financial consultants Oxford Economics. Thank the pound’s strength against the dollar for about 75% of Britain’s advance, Cooper says.
But economic reforms, including looser rules on hiring and firing workers and the creation of an independent central bank, were also helping close the gap in the past decade, well before the greenback began losing serious ground to sterling. And, Cooper adds, lower corporate taxes are giving Britain’s financial and business sectors a boost. The U.S. still tops Britain when it comes to purchasing power, another measure of prosperity.
One supposes that it goes deeper than having more money to invest and spend as the result of government provided health care, but consuming less wealth in that way certainly cannot hurt. Big business is actually the leader in this country in seeking to have responsibility for health care moved to the government, and it is a certainty that multi nationals are in a great position to be able to make a valid comparison.
But my main point is that our country continues to be an economic success without out people necessarily being given seats on the gravy train. Specifically Republican economic policy, as shown by this situation, is proving to be good for Republicans without also being good for the middle class. The British, at least under Labor governments, have had a higher emphasis on taking care of people than on fostering the accumulation of great wealth in the hands of a relating few, and that approach is clearly paying off in the ways that Edwards spoke to. This is just one more bit of proof that trusting Republicans to implement economic policy that is going to prove to be best for all Americans is something that just cannot be done. Republicans are clearly still very good at generating a large and growing GDP but have no commitment to making sure that the wealth gets spread around.