Gaining some fresh perspective by getting out of town

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On almost any given day there are demonstrations on the streets of Spain and France, focusing on high youth unemployment and the crashing economy. The conservative voices in Washington love to use France as a scapegoat, and enjoy warning Americans that they are in danger of becoming another France. In fact, they have it backward. France and England have done exactly what the Tea Party lovers want by slashing programs, and they are suffering the consequences.

A few short days in France were really a jolt to me as a New Yorker. It used to be that if you went to any major mall or flashy store in Manhattan, you’d see a large number of Japanese visitors taking advantage of the difference between the value of their currency and ours. I saw with my own eyes hundreds of Chinese visitors fighting for a place on line to buy luxury goods in Paris. We always associate China with cheap knock-off goods and tough Communist governments, but these days Chinese tourists are creating an economic boom wherever they go.

President Obama recently suggested that the country embark on a massive public works effort to restore our roads and bridges. As usual, Republicans, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, went on record opposing such expenditures. The only kind of positive, job-building work that I saw in three foreign countries were public works jobs. President Roosevelt did it with great success — why not us now?

There’s a periodic drumbeat about Muslims and the role they play in our world. Stop in Marrakesh, Morocco, and you’ll meet delightful and warm-spirited citizens who never stopped singing the praises of our great country. Much to my regret, I can’t often do lengthy trips around the globe, but the sacrifice was well worth the education.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column?

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