Monday, December 27, 2010

Europe and the U.S. - a comparison

We've written on occasion about how the United States, supposedly the "richest" country in the world, allows so many of its most vulnerable people fall through the cracks causing them incredible pain and suffering, and even death.

The Republican Party with its allies - FAUX News, Rush Limbaarger, the Washington Times and numerous other far-right pundits and organizations - has taken over and controlled the conversation about taxes, so-called "entitlement" programs, the deficit, government expenditures, etc. With the additional power that the GOP will garner with the new Congress, we can expect a growing gaggle of voices parroting the "conservative" line which includes no new taxes, additional tax breaks for the rich and the powerful and their corporations, less regulation of just about everything, reducing entitlement benefits, turning over Social Security to private entrepreneurs so they can bankrupt the program to further feather their own nest, and much more.

It appears that some Europeans think that Americans have collectively gone insane. From the European point of view, it is incomprehensible that people who talk so much about God act so much like the devil.

Democrats Ramshield is an American expat who lives in Europe. Here is some of what Ramshield wrote in a recent article:

Although the EU has a bigger economy than does the U.S., is spends only 9% of its GNP on medical care while the U.S. spends between 13-16% on the same. Not only so, but "the EU pretty much insures 100 percent of its population."

The Repugs and rednecks and Jesus-lovers in our country don't like to hear that but it's true.

"The U.S. has 59 million people medically uninsured; 132 million without dental insurance; 60 million without paid sick leave; 40 million on food stamps. Everybody in the European Union has cradle-to-grave access to universal medical and dental plan by law. The law also requires paid sick leave; paid annual leave; paid maternity leave."

Maybe the U.S. is just spoiled rotten. We've had no major wars fought on this continent in a couple of centuries (other than our own Civil War, and that's what it was - a civil war fought over the issue of slavery, not a war that the South instigated to ensure "states' rights"!); we have had little exposure to terrorism and except for 9/11 most of our terrorism was home-grown, e.g. the Oklahoma City bombing).

With the exception of a small portion or our population, we don't have first-hand knowledge of what it's like to live under a Hitler or a Mussolini. Thus Ramshield refers to the fact that "Some social scientists think that making sure large-scale crime or fascism never takes root in Europe again requires a taxpayer investment in a strong social safety net."

And he asks, "Can we learn from Europe? Isn't it better to invest in a social safety net than in a large criminal justice system? (In America over 2 million people are incarcerated.)"

Ramshield tells us about Germany. "Unlike here, in Germany jobless benefits never run out. Not only that -- as part of their social safety net, all job seekers continue to be medically insured, as are their families.

"In the German jobless benefit system, when 'jobless benefit 1' runs out, 'jobless benefit 2,' also known as HartzIV, kicks in. That one never gets cut off. The jobless also have contributions made for their pensions. They receive other types of insurance coverage from the state. As you can imagine, the estimated 2 million unemployed Americans who almost had no benefits this Christmas [because of Republican nastiness] (my insertion) seems a particular horror show to Europeans, made worse by the fact that the U.S. government does not provide any medical insurance to American unemployment recipients. Europeans routinely recoil at that in disbelief and disgust."

The problem is, as too few of us are aware, that the corporations run our government, routinely buying and selling our legislators. And that's true in both parties. The legislators owe their jobs and their tenure to those sitting in plush offices in high towers in the major cities of our land and they gladly do their bidding which most often includes a reduction in the tax bite for corporate entities, protection against what the corporate entities feel are onerous regulations, reduction of benefits to the poor and needy to further enrich the corporate coffers, etc.

For example, Republicans are moving in to head up Congressional committees. That will have dire consequences for everything from education to environmental protections. Lee Fang, writing at Think Progress, notes that "incoming Agriculture Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) announced the hire of Ryan McKee as the senior staffer to oversee the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. McKee is currently a lobbyist working for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's division dedicated to deregulating complex derivatives products. In her new role working for Lucas, McKee will be liaising with regulators in charge of implementing new rules under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law to overhaul the over-the-counter derivatives market."

And this is just one relatively minor instance of how the Republicans will now be able to increase their ability to stick it to the middle- and lower-classes in this country!

Which is very unfortunate. Ramshield would like the U.S. to do better; to emulate the European Union's social safety net, but it is not going to happen until the American people realize that the Republican Party and it's Tea Party adherents are not their friends; that, in fact, the Republicans and the Tea Party crackpots are working against the best interests of the American people. It's not going to happen until the American people realize the the Republican Party and the Tea Party crackpots, in spite of their religious rhetoric, are amoral and immoral; that they will continue to use their strength and power, not only to deny any further increase in the current social safety net in this country, but to dismantle and derail what little is left of it

You can read of of Ramshield's article here.


cieldequimper said...

Though technically true, try to live on Hartz IV... In France, after a while, benefits do stop and a minimum sum is allotted (a bit like Hartz Vier I guess). Better than nothing I agree but impossible to live on.

Our social security, reputedly one of the best in the world, is financially unable to continue and we are already seeing the beginning of a new social rift between those who can pay for private medical care and those who can't. I.e. if you don't have private insurance, you can't have your eyes or teeth seen to. I'm struggling at the moment with dentist's bills despite having private insurance on top of social security. Granted though, should I have a very serious condition, the cost of my treatment will be covered by social security but merely the brunt of the treatment.

Though I wholeheartedly agree, I have to add that the systems here are going straight into the wall especially if you consider that Western Europeans' life expectancy has risen well above 80 years for women and more or less the same for men. Not enough money to go round anymore.

Anonymous said...

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Bob Poris said...

The American voters have spoken, so they will reap what they have sown. Many will die from lack of health care. Huge numbers will never work again. Others will drop out of schools. Charity will have to pick up the slack when government programs are cut back. Those not well enough off to live a decent lifestyle, whatever that might mean, will simply do without. Our police and fire departments will have to be paid well enough to survive, but other services will drop out due to less funds as we cut taxes and spending.

For some of us, it will actually be better assuming we are well off. For the majority of citizens, it will mean hardships.

The income gap has widened and eventually we will be like the Third world countries were with two classes of people. The global economy works well for those with money. It is not good for those competing for jobs with the entire world.

I do not endorse what is happening, but the polarization does result in the dominance of those that have the most financial security or are in secure jobs or businesses. Eventually the loss of our middle class will be felt worldwide!

I do not know how long the process will take, but we have already seen the results of doing nothing to address some serious problems in our economy. Eventually we will have to face our debt crisis, our infrastructure needs, and our education problems.

We will still be debating abortion, church and state, gay marriage and other items that sway voters, rather than the systemic problems we tend to ignore that affect our economy, health and security in a global world where we are losing ground in many areas.

Happy New Year and enjoy it while you can.

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