by Democrats Ramshield
Mon Nov 26th, 2012 at 02:33:35 PM EST
(Republished and updated: November 2012)
A look at our empire in decline through the eyes of the European media...
SPIEGEL: Notes on the Decline of a Great Nation: The United States is frittering away its role as a model for the rest of the world. The political system is plagued by an absurd level of hatred, the economy is stagnating and the infrastructure is falling into a miserable state of disrepair.
As an American expat living in the European Union, I’ve started to see America from a different perspective through the prism of the European media.
The European Union has a larger economy and more people than America does. Though it spends less -- right around 9 percent of GNP on medical, whereas we in the U.S. spend close to between 15 to 16 percent of GNP on medical -- the EU pretty much insures 100 percent of its population.
The U.S. has 59 million people medically uninsured
; 132 million without dental insurance
; 60 million without paid sick leave
; 45 million on food stamps
. Everybody in the European Union has cradle-to-grave access to universal medical and a dental plan by law. The law also requires paid sick leave; paid annual leave; paid maternity leave. When you realize all of that, it becomes easy to understand why many Europeans think America has gone insane, particularly as 2 million long-term unemployed Americans are getting ready to lose their jobless benefits as America approaches the year end fiscal cliff.
The sobering assessment of America’s unemployment rate isn’t really 7.9 percent, but close to 20 percent when we factor in the number of people who have stopped looking for work.
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. 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.) We have 4% of the world's population and 25% of the world's inmate population. Clearly this is an international badge of shame and a catastrophic loss of human potential for the American economy.
Jobless Benefits That Never Run Out
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. By contrast in America today, 2 million American long-term unemployed workers benefits are set to expire at the end of the fiscal year 2012. It should be noted, unlike in Germany, the American jobless benefits do not provide for medical care for unemployed workers and their families.
(Reuters) - Nearly 45,000 people die in the United States each year -- one every 12 minutes -- in large part because they lack health insurance and can not get good care, Harvard Medical School researchers found...
But the recession never ended for millions of Americans and many of them now face a frightening prospect: the loss of unemployment benefits.
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 (this would be unimaginable in America). They receive other types of insurance coverage from the state. As you can imagine, the estimated 2 million unemployed Americans who are expected to have no benefits this Christmas seems a particular horror show to Europeans. To reiterate, it's made worse by the fact that the U.S. government does not provide any medical insurance to American jobless benefit recipients. Europeans routinely recoil at that in disbelief and disgust.
In Germany, the Spiegel mainstream magazine reported in a recent article entitled, "" that above-ground, power lines as are common place in third world developing nations left some 8 million households without power during Hurricane Sandy. This is unimaginable to Germans who routinely bury their power cables underground in the belief that if you want good infrastructure (so as to protect the people), you have to be prepared to pay for it. In Germany there's no such thing as a free lunch for the rich, where they, along with the rest of society are expected to pay their fair share of the taxes. It's just not socially acceptable here for the rich to bankrupt the nation so as to enrich themselves. So it is that Germany sports clean streets, good infrastructure that include a world class hi-speed rail system, unlike the U.S. where trains still move at 1950s speed.
America not only refuses to upgrade its infrastructure, the hatred and scapegoating visited upon America's poor routinely leaves Europeans recoiling in disgust. When by contrast, American corporate welfare is sacrosanct.
It's important to note that no country in the European Union uses food stamps in order to humiliate its disadvantaged citizens in the grocery checkout line. Even worse is the fact that even the humbling food stamp allotment may not provide enough food for America’s jobless families. So it is on a reoccurring basis that some of these families report eating out of garbage cans to the European media....
SPIEGEL: For Pam Brown, last winter was the worst. One day she ran out of food completely and had to go through trash cans. She fell into a deep depression.
Hunger in the Land of the Big Mac
A shocking headline from a Swiss newspaper reads (Berner Zeitung) “Hunger in the Land of the Big Mac.” Though the article is in German, the pictures are worth 1,000 words and need no translation. Given the fact that the Swiss virtually eliminated hunger, how do we as Americans think they will view these pictures, to which the American population has apparently been desensitized.
This appears to be a picture of two mothers collecting food boxes from the charity Feed the Children.
Perhaps the only way for us to remember what we really look like in America is to see ourselves through the eyes of others. While it is true that we can all be proud Americans, surely we don't have to be proud of the broken American social safety net. Surely we can do better than that. Can a European-style social safety net rescue the American working and middle classes from the GOP led class warfare?
SPIEGEL: "For instance, the United States is no longer among the world's top 10 countries when it comes to the state of its infrastructure. In fact, it spends less than Europe to maintain its roads and bridges, tunnels, train stations and airports. According to the US Federal Highway Administration, one in four of the more than 600,000 bridges in the world's richest country are either "inadequate" or outdated. According to some studies, the United States would have to invest some $225 billion a year between now and 2050 to regain an adequate, modern infrastructure. That's 60 percent more than it invests today.
A Lack of Strength
It isn't hard to predict that this won't happen. The hatred of big government has reached a level in the United States that threatens the country's very existence. Americans everywhere may vow allegiance to the nation and its proud Stars and Stripes, but when it comes time to pay the bills and distribute costs, and when solidarity is needed, all sense of community evaporates."
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