HILL: Want to love America? Go to Europe

A statue of Pope John Paul II is seen in front of the main entrance of the Agostino Gemelli hospital, where Pope Francis was hospitalized Sunday, in Rome, Friday, July 9, 2021. The Vatican says Pope Francis is walking, working and has celebrated Mass at a Rome hospital where he also will deliver his Sunday weekly blessing while recovering from intestinal surgery. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

Many young Americans are rose-colored glassy-eyed in love with European socialism.

They should go to Europe. They will come back loving America more than John Wayne and Ronald Reagan. 

My wife and I recently returned from a two-week tour of Italy which has been a lifelong dream. Italy is spectacular for many reasons, mostly its three-thousand-year history of wars; conflict; culture; architecture; art; wine and landscapes. Without the Italian Renaissance that erupted in Florence in the 15th century, the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome would have been lost forever. 

The same studio where Michaelangelo learned to sculpt is still operational near the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence for goodness sakes. 

As to whether European democratic socialism is “better” than American democratic free market capitalism, as many young people believe, the answer depends on who is paying for it, of course. There are not enough fabulously rich people in Italy to pay for everything like progressive left-wingers in America want the Elon Musks of the world to do.  

In Italy, even the most modest of income-earners, those who “report” over 70,000 euros of income ― or roughly $80,000 per year ― pay an income tax of 55%.  I say “report” because much of Italian business transactions are done in cash and not reported as income. The black market thrives in Italy. 

This is on top of a VAT (value-added tax) on every purchase that ranges from 11% to 27%. An American really doesn’t know how much it is until the transaction is complete. 

This is on top of a property tax if someone is fortunate enough to own a small piece of a larger building, a condo in effect. One host had his property tax increased not just 10% last year but 10 times from 500 florins to 5400 florins because of an arbitrary ruling based on the discovery of one teeny-tiny bathroom a tax inspector found in the home his family has owned since 1872.  

On top of all that taxation, the cost of gasoline in Italy was 2 euros per litre ― which sounds pretty good until an American does the math and finds out that there are 3.5 litres to a US gallon.  The price of gas in Italy is $7.50/gallon compared to the “sky-high” average of $4.69/gallon in the US today. 

Progressive Democrats believe high gas prices will force everyone to buy an electric vehicle overnight. Europe has had exorbitantly high gas prices for 30 years.  Only 1% of all European vehicles are plug-in electric today. 

It isn’t happening. 

Italy, as in most European nations, does have universal medical care which sounds great on the face of it. But is universal health care really “universal” if you can’t get it when you need it?  

My wife had a sinus infection so we looked for a doctor to help. The Farmacia near our place in Florence sent us to a Farmicia at one corner of the Plaza del Fiore who sent us to the Misericordia at the other end of the plaza where we found out, much to our American chagrin, that “the physician has left (at 5:00 p.m.) and won’t be back until 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning ―but you can walk (halfway across Florence) to find another Misericordia” which we declined to do. 

We searched for a Tylenol PM to help get some sleep only to be informed that we needed a prescription for such a medication in Italy. So, no antibiotics or sleep for us that night. 

As to COVID relief, no one in Italy got any income assistance. One mask-maker said he only survived by drawing down savings and help from his parents. “Democratic Socialism” can only be stretched so thin before it runs out of money. 

Europe and Italy are great places to visit and vacation, don’t get me wrong. If the dollar appreciates by 50% versus the euro, Americans can go to Europe for half-price one day in the future. 

But America is America and Europe is Europe. Turning America into Europe West would be a huge mistake because progressives are not telling the whole story about democratic socialism.