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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

International impacts?

I readily admit to a very provincial perspective, having never traveled much and actually not enjoying being away from home when I left it for a while. We hear a lot from friends who fly to Europe every so often how much more civilized their cultures are, esepcially in terms of providing for extensive vacations and leave time for family needs. While I would be the first to say that is fine, I would add "as long as they can afford it.". Watching the Greek - and now the Italian - economy dragging the entire Eurozone to the brink of bankruptcy, I have to ask, "Can anyone afford such luxuries anymore?" If a $300 billion economy ( Greece) has every in the world in a panic,what will happen if one almost tenfold larger (Italy- $2.7 trillion, the world's eighth largest economy) folds like a cheap tent? With the prime minister bowing out - a sex scandal wasn't sufficient tomget him gone, but MONEY problems - who will steward the ship of state in these dangerous shallows? I have heard that even the austere Germans can't stop this freefall, if it commences. Would love some input from you more worldly minds....how can anyone justify European standards of leisure under present conditions? Will the leaders there tell their citizens to suck it up and set things on a more conservative economic course, or is this just the beginning of the tumble of a set of dominoes, with the US at the end of the line.
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9 Replies
tree fmr
Advisor

Re: International impacts?

Kay,

Being in the Navy for 22+ years I have seen my share of the world.  All 50 states, central and south America, I have spent most of my time in and around southeast Asia and currently live in Japan.  I have never been to Europe but hope to visit one day.  Cultures do do things differently, some things better some not so good.  I can say IMHO it seems the poor are generally happier.  I find it interesting how I can visit a third world country and the poor communities is where I find the nicest people who are willing to help a stranger. 

I don't live by "can you afford it" moreover I like to say "do something fun that you can afford".  Many times the most fun I have is by jumping on the bicycle or public transportation and just going.  I always find interesting people this way and have a lot of fun cheap. 

I went hiking in Japan and was introduced by a friend to what they call a "hikers cabin", it was a 2 bedroom 1 bath house, fully furnished (japanese style so I stept on a mat), and it only cost 800 yen (about $10) per night.  Hotels are expensive so places like this are way more interesting and affordable, had to bring our own food, the bath was wood fired heat so had to start a fire, and it was next to a creek just deeping enough to wade in.  Stayed 2 nights, 10 americans in my group and 10 Japanese joined us, we exchanged food, beverages, and conversations, just a great time and CHEAP!  You are probably wondering about sleeping arrangements, find a place for your mat when you get tired and go to sleep, that is all there is too it.

Singapore; had a stranger, his wife and child, pick us up and give us a ride to the train station.  They just saw us standing outside the resturaunt and offfered, had a great conversation on the way.

So I must say overall money is not as important to many as americans make it out to be.  The memories are what counts!

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: International impacts?

You post reminds me that, along with being the most affluent people on Earth as a rule, weAmericans are also the most obese, depressed, and I think dissatisfied. I feel that we are so far removed from what is truly necessary to live and enjoy life, and not grateful enough that we enjoy so many freedoms - thanks to guys like you! What irks me about Europe, I think, is those citizens rioting over not being able to continue such a cushy, generally pampered state of affairs. Who ought to expect to retire at fifty, or have off more than a month for vacations every year? Maybe this worked form the WWII generation, when the world was working differentlynthan it does today...but, we inherited a new reality. Your stories encourage me that some peoples of the world still welcome Americans as gracious guests. Too many of them, I feel, want us to maintain order and safety, at our expense of money and manpower, then talk trash about us once we 've protected their freedom of speech.
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Jim Meade / Iowa City
Senior Advisor

Re: International impacts?

I've lived in Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Germany (and Hawaii, if you count that).  My time in Germany was basicallyl on the economy.  The Germans have some very nice customs and some very nice amenities.  Yes, they have great benefits.  On the other hand, it is hard for a small business owner to afford to hire help as the cost and government regulations are so onerous.  In Germany, the bureaucracy really rules.  It may be an iron fist in a velvet glove, but they run things their way and there is no getting around the rules.  You have to become very adept at knowing what question to ask what person lest you elicit a "no" that you could have gotten around.

As bad as it is getting here, America is still less restricted, less hidebound than Germany.  And, here you can actually hope to go out and buy 10 acres and have a horse.  In Germany the very idea is ludicrous.  You could never find or afford the land and you probably couldn't get it zoned if you did.  In Germany, you'd have to join some club and abide by their rules to have your pet horse.

There is much that is better in Germany, but all-in-all, you don'ty see many Germans who live in the U.S. going home. 

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smokeyjay
Advisor

Re: International impacts?

I've not traveled outside the North American borders.  Canada has been my only "foreign" travel experience.  However, as I work with and rub shoulders with people in my organization that has offices worldwide, I do have a perspective that is generally reasonable. 

 

In Italy, the majority of citizens have rarely paid their income taxes.  Tax evasion is a national past-time.  It's a thing of pride that they will boast about evading the "big guy".  Yet, they support every social initiative that increases their social safety net and that pays people while not working.  Corruption is systemic.  If there's a way to avoid paying duties, even by paying off officials, they do it.

 

Greece has always been lavish with their social programs as well.  There's no sense of moral, personal responsibility for managing public finances that will pay its way.  Tax enforcement policy is lax as well.

 

News stories and public television programs like Charlie Rose are great sources of information on this.  Last night, a financial expert explained that both countries have plenty of money to pay down public debt, but until now, they've not had the public will to enforce tax laws and initiate spending cuts that reduces the burden of deficit spending.  They don't have much time left to begin reforms that will put them on the right track.  New leadership, though needed, must now follow through on reforms and prosecute tax deadbeats and bring revenues and expenses into line.

 

Which brings us to U.S..  To date, nobody has been prosecuted for instigating the greatest financial meltdown since the great depression.  Too many politicians are playing politics and accusing the other party for bad behavior and for the most part are refusing to negotiate with each other to get our financial house in order.  Some are using agriculture as a whipping boy to make it appear like they are doing something, while the deficit ammounting to more than a trillion dollars will never be reduced until they get serious about cutting the big ticket items, like defense, social security, welfare, other social entitlement programs and our public debt.

 

December 23 is a target date to get a plan agreed to and put into legislation.  My guess is they will not have the will until their butts are in the flames and the heat goes up.

 

Lastly, Canada, my only foreign travel experience, is actually on pretty sound financial feet right now.  Americans love to criticize their higher tax rates and their social health care system, yet they have money in the bank, have conservative banking laws regulating lending practices, prohibiting questionable lending practices that bankers in the U.S. love to use and right now, are about the most stable free market economy in the world.

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: International impacts?

Thanks for that perspective. It seems that the practice of failing to pay into the system, then expecting it to pay out, is the crucial element of these failures, as I suspected. Hadn't realized the scofflaws on taxes were so blatant, though. Canadians have to be just plain sick of us....
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smokeyjay
Advisor

Re: International impacts?

Yeah, I have some close relatives living in Ontario.  For years, their jabs about us Americans were more like jealous siblings trying to just make some trouble.  Now, they have a different attitude, one that's somewhat justified; a smug, "we told you so" look.   

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Nebrfarmr
Veteran Advisor

Re: International impacts?

I don't think that they ever could afford the luxuries that they have.  However, like a kid with a new credit card, they got to live pretty good, as long as they were making the minimum payment.  Now the chickens have come home to roost, so to speak, and the realization is begenning to hit, that the money has to come from SOMEWHERE, to pay it back.

I notice you called the European point of view more 'civilized', because of their long vacations, and extensive family leave.  However, google some news items about 'European heat wave' or more specifically, 'Italian heat wave' and read what you find. 
People, who are on 'family' leave were going to the beach, and coming home to find grandma with heat stroke, complaining that the government isn't watching out for the elderly.  Well, what the heck was 'family' leave for, if not to take care of your family????

I agree, it is fine, 'as long as you can afford it'.

I see plenty of this personally, as well.  Someone gets a new car, or remodels their house, and suddenly the neighbors all have to do the same, for fear that they will fall behind somehow.  I guess it all depends on your priorities.

Here, we have 2 elderly brothers as neighbors.  They both inherited the same amount of land from their father.  One had a new car every 2-3 years, and was always 'remodeling'.  The other bought a new car, and drove it until it became unreliable.  Machinery was the same way, one always 'upgrading', the other 'making do'.

Now, fast forward some years, both are in their 70s.  One has been semi-retired since about 55 or 60, just helping out his boys during the rush, but otherwise doing what he wanted, but has enough to live off of, if he doesn't live too lavishly, and the other is still working to dark every day, not seeing his grandkids much, because he has 'too much to to', like make the payments on yet another new combine.

Which one, really, is better off.

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: International impacts?

Aesop's fables were my favorite stories as a child...forget fairy tales. I thus tend to think of the world in terms of hares and tortoises, ants and grasshoppers. All of mt life, until recently. I felt driven to move " forward" as fast as I could. Now, I see that slow and steady is a smarter path. The European model has been touted as making for a better quality of life - extended leaves for family events, far more liberal vacation times than in the US - and we are largely deemed to be workaholics by comparison. Productivity is our clam to fame, in Western circles. From what friends who travel frequently in Europe tell me, we are seen as fools for working too hard. I am exhausted with being an An't, and having the grasshoppers of the world put me down, while at the same time seeing me as their safety net. They won't even be grateful when we save their tails...they will still look down their noses at us.
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Homer000
Friend

Re: International impacts?

Definitely I share your opinion. Economical problems in Greece will have also international impacts. What is more important? These problems are not only economical, but also moral! Many european politics don´t offer any pragmatical solutions for Europe.

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