The American left should take a lesson from Italian politics.
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Over there, the populists are talking economic nonsense. Two populist parties are trying to form a government. The policies they are pushing would bankrupt an already insolvent country. There's a lesson in this for America.
Cash for everyone is part of the Italian populist program: a guaranteed basic income of $960 a month. Italy does not have that kind of money. A hand-out of that magnitude would require a lot more borrowing. Italy already has the third-largest debt in the world.
Listen up America’s Democrats: your party is edging towards the same, immoral, money-for-nothing, guaranteed income policy.
Then there's the retirement age. Currently, in Italy, it is 66. The populists want to roll it back – 62 has been mentioned, but even a rollback of one or two years would be financially disastrous. Italy has a demographic crisis: it is ageing rapidly. More and more old people, far fewer youngsters to support them. They already spend 16% of their GDP on pensions: rolling back the retirement age is truly economic nonsense.
But it is politically attractive, especially over there. Italy is economically stagnant. According to The Wall Street Journal, economic output, per head, is now 5% lower than it was in 2001. Imagine that! No wonder Italian politicians are buying support with somebody else's money.
And don't forget the political impact of the migration crisis. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the doors of Europe, Italy had to handle migrants coming in from Germany, and the mass migration of people across the Mediterranean. Italy has been transformed. Many Italians don't like it. Same here. Open borders hurts the locals.
Look down the road a ways. It’s hard to believe America would go for a guaranteed income scheme or a lowering of the retirement age, no matter how enticing that is to some voters. We have not yet totally given in to the "something for nothing" mentality.
But Italy has been driven to distraction by a generation-long stagnation, a baby-bust and a migration crisis that has changed the country forever. What a shame that in their desperation they have been driven to economic nonsense. There's a lesson here for us.