When President Barack Obama unveiled his budget proposal in February, many observers described it as a radical departure for the American experiment, one that put the United States on a path to become like a European social democracy. One columnist lamented that "one France is enough," and a political opponent derided the budget as "a blueprint for the France-ification of America." The new administration bears more than a passing resemblance to its European counterparts in setting aside funding for universal health care and high-speed trains, increasing federal intervention in the markets and embracing green industrial policy and greater social equality. But, is the Obama administration really taking the American model in the direction of European social democracies? If so, would that be such a bad thing?
On April 28, the Brookings Institution hosted a discussion to assess the scope and meaning of the "Obama revolution," possible reactions by the American public and an apparent narrowing of U.S.-Europe differences. Panelists include Brookings Senior Fellows William Galston and Pietro Nivola; Guest Scholar Jonathan Rauch, a senior writer for National Journal and The Atlantic Monthly; and Clive Crook of the Financial Times, The Atlantic Monthly, and National Journal. Senior Fellow Justin Vaisse provided introductory remarks and moderate the discussion. After the program, panelists answered audience questions.