PARIS -- If Americans want a glimpse into their possible economic future, they should look to France where there's high unemployment, low growth, more taxes, and more people on welfare.
Some are calling America's stagnant economy the "new normal." Some say America is looking more and more like Europe.
France should be a warning to Americans who have just voted for four more years of big government spending. The French are experts at big government. They've been deficit spending for decades, and it's made the country poorer.
A Welfare Time Bomb
America's exploding welfare state and huge deficit is starting to look so European that after the recent "fiscal cliff" fiasco, the Economist magazine dressed up President Obama in a French marinière shirt and House Speaker John Boehner in lederhosen.
Now the White House has decided to hire a famous left-wing French economist, Esther Dufflo, to help formulate economic policy. While France does some things well, economics might not be on the list.
France's bloated welfare state has been dubbed a "time bomb." Big government has not only weakened the French economy, it has crippled the entrepreneurial spirit.
"The entrepreneurial young people, they're going to London; they're going to Asia; they're going to the United States because they want to achieve something that is not automatically taken away by a state that says, 'you have, therefore I take it,'" said Jacob Arfwedsons, a Paris-based free market economist at the Institute for Research in Economic and Fiscal Issue.
France's Millionaire Exodus
The wealthy are fleeing, too, because of high taxes. French actor Gerard Depardieu recently collected his Russian passport, offered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia has a flat tax of only 13 percent.
France has one of the lowest numbers of millionaires per capita in Western Europe.
One clue as to why can be found in a newspaper headline over a photo of France's wealthiest man, Bernard Arnault, who threatened to leave France over high taxes.
It reads, "Beat it, rich jerk."
Some joke that France is the one country where communism succeeded. It hasn't had a balanced budget in 40 years. The government sector of the French economy is larger than the private sector.
Most French are dependent on the state not only for benefits but for jobs. Three out of four French young people say their dream is to get a government job someday.
"France is addicted to public spending like a drug," Florian Silnicki, with the Club of Entrepreneurs, told CBN News. "We turn to government spending as the solution to our problems. Businessmen are telling us, 'We can't take it anymore.'"
"The system we have is very generous. But it's also very expensive, and we simply cannot pay for it," Dr. Emmanuel Martin, a French economist with the Atlas Foundation, said.
Welfare = Stingy Society
Martin said France demonstrates that when the welfare state starts caring for people, people stop caring for each other.
The level of charitable giving in France and other nations in Western Europe is much lower than in the United States.
Martin said the welfare state "kills the natural move toward solidarity among individuals. And no wonder we're not a very philanthropic country." He says welfare makes societies "mean."
Socialism allows politicians to essentially buy votes by offering benefits paid for with money they don't have; and they won't be around when the state finally goes broke.
"More and more companies are dying, so there's more and more destruction of jobs," Martin said.
Coming Reality Check
IREF's Arfwedson said France has all but guaranteed that its future will be poorer.
"Oh, and that day is coming very soon, very soon," he warned. "There is growing awareness that we're heading right into the wall, which is called 'reality.'"
An excellent question is why American leaders would want to emulate France, or Europe, for that matter.
Polls show most Democrats now have a favorable view of socialism, and it's very popular among America's college-age young people.
Maybe they should have a talk with a French economist.
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