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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

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  • Sunday, January 16, 2011

    More Lessons from Germany

    I recently wrote about how Germany took a completely different economic approach to dealing with the Great Bush Recession. Instead of handling it with failed trickle down policies like America did, the German government took a very active role, ensuring people kept their jobs and insurance rather than allow mass lay offs and the fall in spending that leads to. The result is that Germany's economy has almost completely recovered from the Great Bush Recession while we remain mired in stagnation.

    Trickle-down policies failed under Herbert Hoover and they failed under Bush...and the Teabaggers want to keep going with the same failed policies. But we need to learn from Germany. Seems Germany realizes that they, and the EU in geneeral, are beating us economically. This is covered on Alternet in a recent article. Some excerpts:

    ...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 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.

    That's right...in Germany, and elsewhere in Europe, there is no talk of "laziness" when it comes to helping the unemployed. There is a strong social safety net and this means a STRONGER economy in Germany than here. And a much faster recovery.

    When you hear Republicans arguing against extending unemployment benefits, they are basically dead wrong. They are following the same failed ideas that we had under Herbert Hoover...and under George Bush.

    The article goes on:

    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; 40 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.

    I have also covered this several times over the years: Americans pay FAR more for healthcare than almost any other nation, yet the outcomes we get from that system are on par with nations like Slovenia and Albania.

    Let me repeat some of the statistics on this:

    The US ranks 29th for healthy life expectancy. That is right between Slovenia and Portugal. Keep in mind, America is a far wealthier nation than EITHER Slovenia or Portugal, yet our healthy life expectancy is only 69.3 years. Slovenia beats us slightly with 69.5. UK, with a more socialized system, ranks 24th. Netherlands with a more socialized system ranks 18th. Canada, the system Republicans most like to denigrate when nationalized health care is suggested, ranks 11th. Sweden, which is almost synonymous with socialized health care, ranks 3rd with 73.3 years. We are beaten by nations with much lower levels of wealth (like Slovenia and Italy and Greece).

    How about the probability of not reaching 60 years old? In the US there is a 12.8% chance of not reaching 60 years old. That is slightly better than Portugal and slightly worse than Albania. Again, we are far wealthier than Portugal or, for god's sake, Albania, but that is where we rank. In "socialist" Sweden, a person has only an 8% chance of not reaching 60 years of age. Canada, the UK and the Netherlands all rank better than us on this measure as well.

    How about the probability dying before 5 years old (female): United States: 8 per 1000 people. Interestingly, that is identical to the rate for Cuba. Sweden again out does us, with 3 per 1000 people. Canada is in between with 5 per 1000 people.

    How about Respiratory disease child death rate: we are at 40.43...similar to Syria, the Philippines, Armenia, North Korea, and Khazakstan. Canada is at 0.62, Japan at 1.52, Netherlands at 0.88, Sweden at 1.03 and United Kingdom at 1.78.

    Intestinal diseases death rate: United States is at 7.35%, right between Tunisia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Canada is at 0.3%, Netherlands at 0.28%, Sweden at 0.39%...interestingly Poland and Greece do best. Not sure why, but we still are not getting our money's worth!

    It goes on. I am not saying our health care is the worst in the world. Far from it. But when our peers for healthcare are Bosnia, Albania, North Korea and Cuba, perhaps it is time America start to emulate those at the top: Canada, Sweden, Netherlands etc.

    Also keep in mind that Americans SPEND more on health care than most of the nations mentioned that outperform us. We pay more for a worse outcome. That is, by any business model definition, failure. Is that how we want to approach education as well? And I haven't even addressed the inequities in our system, another major flaw.

    America has to break its addiction to trickle down economics. It NEVER works. We need to finally learn from our European and Canadian allies and reject Republican trickle-down economics. Even too many Blue Dog Democrats accept these failed policies.

    Too bad the Teabaggers get so much press time, as if they are anything more than a fake populist movement funded by billionaires to push pro-billionaire, anti-working class and anti-middle class policies.



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