Why Obama and Merkel get on so well

Published on 2016/04/26

Obama formulated his praise for his “friend” Angela Merkel in much warmer terms than is usually the case during state visits. Obama was particularly impressed by the way Merkel has managed the refugee crisis. Why have the two become so close?

When commenting on his relationship with Merkel, Obama said that, “this is as important a relationship as I’ve had during the course of my presidency.” He added: “On a personal level, I am very proud of her […] in Europe, she’s on the right side of history on this.” Now, there are no other heads of European governments who seem to share Obama’s view, with the exception of the left-wing radical president of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, who praises Merkel with the same passion as Obama. Obama’s love for Merkel is no accident. After all, the German model of a welfare state is nothing less than Obama’s utopia. Merkel and Obama are engaged in the same project in Germany and the United States – social democratisation. Of course, Obama has a lot more to do in this regard than Merkel.

At this juncture it’s not really necessary to write too much about Merkel. The facts are there for all to see. Instead of pushing forward with the reforms implemented by Gerhard Schröder (Agenda 2010), from which the German economy is still reaping benefits, she has steadily introduced etatist, egalitarian, social democratic policies: the minimum wage, rent controls and caps, quotas for women, pensions at 63, etc. Her social and environmental policies practically mirror those championed by the Green Party (decommissioning nuclear power power stations, unrestricted migration and open-armed Willkommenskultur), which is why the Green’s Claudia Roth has become one of Merkel’s most prominent cheerleaders.

This process is not referred to as social democratisation in the USA, but is known as “Europeanisation,” as Samuel Gregg illustrated in his fantastic book “Becoming Europe”: “It is shorthand for describing what people think is happening to America’s economy, from the Bush administration’s heavy spending and fiscal stimulus programs to the acceleration of deficit spending and a general expansion of government economic intervention during President Obama’s. ‘We’re becoming,’ the sentiment runs, ‘like Europe.'”

In Germany we have a totally unrealistic image of the USA. It is viewed as the land of unfettered capitalism. This image is just as misplaced as that of an American whose first thought of Germany is of antiquated spiked Prussian helmets. In his insightful book, “Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State,” William Voegeli examines just how America’s welfare state has expanded for decades in what is supposed to be the shining beacon of free-market economies. Advancing the development of the welfare state – this is the programme Obama has followed, and which Bernie Sanders is keen to push in an even more radical direction.

Have the weakest members of America’s society benefited? No, as demonstrated by the Wall Street Journal’s Jason L. Riley in his book “Please stop helping us”: When Obama took up office in January 2009, 12.7% of Black Americans were unemployed, whereas the figure for White Americans was 7.1%. When Obama was elected for his second term in November 2012, the rate for Black Americans had risen to 14.3%, while there was no significant change among White Americans (7%), “which meant that the black-white unemployment gap had not only persisted, but widened, during Obama’s first term.” The median household income for White Americans may have fallen by 3.6% since the recession, but Black Americans have experienced a fall of 10.9%. Other key indicators, such as the number of Black Americans graduating from university or college, have not only failed to improve during Obama’s presidency, they have actually got worse.

According to Edward Klein in his biography of the president, Obama believes, “that he was chosen as president to save a wayward America from its dependency on free-market capitalism. This has led him to push clumsy and unpopular far-left policies – universal healthcare, Wall Street bailouts, cap and trade, green jobs and renewable energy – at the expense of rational policies aimed at putting America back to work.”

It therefore comes as no surprise that the two get on so well. The fact that Obama authorised the bugging of Angela Merkel’s phone has since become a non-issue.

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