Dear Don Lee and Los Angeles Times,
Thank you very much for writing and publishing a positive article about the German economy that goes beyond the usual focus on our exports and also looks into the general economic model and the frugal lifestyle with plenty of recreation:
Every summer, Volkmar and Vera Kruger spend three weeks vacationing in the south of France or at a cool getaway in Denmark. For the other three weeks of their annual vacation, they garden or travel a few hours away to root for their favorite team in Germany's biggest soccer stadium.
The couple, in their early 50s, aren't retired or well off. They live in a small Tudor-style house in this middle-class town about 30 miles northwest of Frankfurt. He's a foreman at a glass factory; she works part time for a company that tracks inventories for retailers. Their combined income is a modest $40,000.
Yet the Krugers have a higher standard of living than many Americans who have twice that income.
Their secret: little debt, frugal habits and a government that is intensely focused on high production, low inflation and extensive social services.
That has given them job security and good medical care as well as well-maintained roads, trains and bike paths. Both of their adult children are out on their own, thanks in part to Germany's job-training system and heavy subsidies for university education.
While I agree that we have "extensive social services" compared to the US, I would like to point out that they have been reduced a lot in the last twenty years, i.e. the government is not anymore "intensively focused" on them, but rather focused on diminishing those services for the sake of saving money and liberalization.
I also appreciate that the article describes some of our economic problems, which hopefully helps our US and European friends to understand, why Germans by and large do not consider their country economically so successful and powerful that they'd happily support bailing out Greece and others:
Income inequality, while less pronounced than in the U.S., is rising. Most workers, including the Krugers, have seen little or no real wage gains in recent years. And the nation's population is declining.
I also find the comparisons between Germany's economy today and the US one a generation ago interesting.
American families in the 1970s and early '80s typically saved about 10% of their take-home pay, about the same as in Germany today. The U.S. savings rate these days is in the low single digits.
Read Don Lee's entire article in the Los Angeles Times.
Articles like this can change the perception of Europe. Conservative pundits and presidential candidates should not anymore get away with generalized Eurobashing ("Europe" is a Dirty Word in the United States).