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Learning from America: Philanthropy and Immigration

It is often claimed that the German media is biased and focuses on negative stories about the U.S. In recent months, however, there have been many articles in Germany praising the successful integration of immigrants in the United States, while pointing out that Germany and Europe in general have often failed to integrate the first, second and third generation of immigrants. Many newspapers argue that Germans should take Americans as role models not only regarding the integration of immigrants, but also in terms of philanthropy.
Bill Gates' decision to spend more time for his foundation, and Warren Buffett's decision to donate 30 billion dollars to the Gates Foundation have been big news in the German media. The weekly Die Zeit chose the headline "Philanthropische Republik Amerika", i.e. calling the United States "philanthropic Republic." This article wasn't buried deep inside the weekly, but highlighted next to a graphic on the front page: "Role Model America: To Endow - The Good Side of Capitalism."
Related posts in the Atlantic Review: Americans donate and volunteer a lot for good causes abroad and Immigration and Naturalization Reform in the U.S. and Germany.

Endnote: Some German papers have even praised President Bush's new environmental policy, like Der Tagesspiegel's feature about the biggest maritime national park and the plans for emission free power stations.
Some German media outlet will probably write about the latest Newsweek cover story as well: "Going Green: With windmills, low-energy homes, new forms of recycling and fuel-efficient cars, Americans are taking conservation into their own hands." The Atlantic Review likes to recommend to our German readers articles about the U.S. that help to reduce stereotypes about Americans and improve the US image. The Atlantic Review also points out to our American readers that the German press coverage of the United States is not as negative as many Americans believe it is.

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Pinkerton on :

I'm sorry, but when I saw this endnote, I almost fell off my chair laughing.... //Endnote: Some German papers have even praised President Bush's new environmental policy,...// President Bush will probably go down in History as one of the worst presidents when it comes to enviornmental policies. The key to Bush is, when he says "Clean Air Act", he really means it's time to loosen pollution controls. In fact, three members of the EPA resigned in protest of the Clean Air Act because it had the opposite effect of clean air. When he speaks of "Healthy Forest Initiative", he means clearing the forest of all those nasty trees by rolling back the rules that banned the development of 60 million acres of national forest in the US. Bush even tried to cover up research that was done by one of his own appointees in order to play down the impact of global warming. Now, I don't read German, so I'm not sure what the article you cited had to say. However, you can bet that whatever it was that Bush promised regarding the enviornment, he means the opposite. That said, I'm glad that Germany is not only focusing on the negatives that come out of the US and I hope those in Germany are able to put aside the policies of our President, and point out that the average American does not agree with Bush on most issues. Sometimes it's difficult to seperate the US citizens from the government of Bush, so we all appreciate the positive press when we can get it. I do believe that Americans are, in general, very giving people. When there is a natural disaster, the average American will dig deep into their pockets to help. It's good to see people like Bill Gates, also digging deep to help others through their foundations. It's when I read something like that, it does make me proud to be an American, which is something that I have a chance to do very often, lately.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

I hear you! Bush got praise several German media outlets for the new and huge maritime national park off Hawaii and the plans for an emission free coal power station. He got credit for nominating a passioned environmentalist as Treasury Secretary; yes that's how Paulsons was described. He got criticised for "Healthy Forests" and oil digging in Alaska etc.

Don on :

JW, RE: 'Healthy Forests' - I think the Bush initiative comes out of a shift in thinking among foresters in the US. Time was when they thought that preserving a forest meant just that - preserving trees and preventing all forest fires to the extent possible. Lately they have changed their minds about forest fires, seeing them as part of a natural process of thinning and regeneration. The problem is that the interested parties aren't limited to environmentalists and foresters. Joe Public also comes into it, including loggers living in those areas. They ask a perfectly reasonable question: If natural thinning by fire is a good thing, why can't men thin - and create jobs and useful timber in so doing? This is the thought behind 'Healthy Forests'. In the political poker game I take your bid of 'evil anti-Gaia Republicans' and raise you one 'evil opressors of the Working Man'!

Don on :

Pinkerton, I can't agree. I don't think Bush will be identified as a 'pro-environment' President, but I think the extreme anti-environment lable which has been affixed to him is suspect for several reasons, and historians in the years ahead may well see him as neutral or perhaps anti in a minor way. The 'environmental disaster' lable won't stick - because it isn't true.

Tom P on :

Why the shift? Is it in line with the thawing relations between Berlin and Washington once Merkel came to power or due to something more fundamental? To seriously look at the American model implies a willingness to reexamine and possibly repudiate the Leftist approach to things, in particular the statism, transnationalism and multiculturalism that's so emblematic of modern Europe and its failings. Is German political culture starting to lean right?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Merkel doesn't influence the press coverage of the US. I think Medienkritik was just joking, when they ran the headline [url=http://medienkritik.typepad.com/blog/2006/07/online_debate_p.html]Online Debate: Has Merkel Tamed the German Media?[/url] I would not call it a shift either. There is still plenty of negative coverage. I agree with you that "statism" and "multiculturalism" are re-examined. Many new endowments were founded in the last couple of years. Let's hope this continues and many of the rich follow Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. I got the impression that there is much more pressure on wealthy Americans (not just the super-rich) to donate money than there is pressure on wealthy Germans. I guess, "statism" (=expecting the government to take care of things) applies not only to the poor and middle class but also to the rich as well. Or did you mean something else by "statism"?

Tom P on :

I've always figure that anti-US coverage was fuelled in large part by Leftist ideology since we are an obvious example of everything they are against, ie. capitalism, imperialism, racism, zionism, nationalism, etc. and a convenient foil to promote their particular agenda. I wonder if the coverage you cite as being favorable to the US are really examples of the German political right seeking to undermine the popular perceptives the German left has cultivated and benefited from. After all, if unassimmilated immigrants are disrupting the social fabric of Germany despite the promises of multiculturalism but not happening in the racist, nationalistic USA, where the private philanthropy of greedy, socially-irresponsible American capitalists is more effective in helping the poor then the German state, then the only logical conclusion the average German can come to is that the political Left has been lying to them in order to get their vote. I'm guessing of course but perceptions, whether favorable or not, are created to serve an agenda. Far from the mark?

David on :

How do you figure that "the American capitalists are more effective in helping the poor than the German state"? Do you have relative poverty statistics to back it up? I think Katrina blew away that myth once and for all. There is a large and growing underclass in America that is out of sight and out of mind - it took a natural disaster to make them visible. In my state, 20% of residents lack any health insurance. This has consequences: people are dying because they don't get preventative care. No German citizen lacks health insurance.

joe on :

Actually if one looks at US tax returns, you would find the percentage given is almost constant at the Adjusted Gross Income levels. While big gifts make headlines each week all over America, Americans are making contributions. So I would say there is no pressure on the rich to give anymore than it is on any other American. It is part of the American culture.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

I agree. Actually I read that middle class Americans donate even more than the super rich in terms of % of income. The point I wanted to make in the post was: There seems to be more pressure on the rich in the US than on the rich in Germany to donate money.

Don on :

Joerg, I think it even works better than government programs - at least some of the time. Partially because the people on the ground are closer to the problem and partially because there is often labor and materials contributed as part of the effort. An example is Habitat for Humanity and related programs. Some of my relatives organize a yearly 'repair' outing with young volunteers from the church. They raise funds, drive to a poor town somewhere, and do repairs on poor people's houses. Usually houses of poor single mothers or old people. There is quite a bit of this kind of thing and I think it works better than having the government put it out for bid and pay private contractors do it. Cheaper and often better work, plus the kids get experience in the building trades.

Pinkerton on :

Don: Under the Bush administration the enviornmental protection agency reversed the previous wetlands protection policy and allowed developers to fill in and build on the mississippi delta wetlands that had served as a natural protection against the flooding we see in New Orleans today as a result of hurricane Katrina . The Bush administration despite evidence of melting arctic ice caps and increasing ocean temperatures from global warming refuses to pull its head from the sand and sticks to its tired mantra that global warming --and the much more powerful storms--like Katrina-- which were predicted to be global warming's result --are all unconnected events . Bush refused to even consider the reports made out by his own Administrations White House Council on Enviornmental Quality. If you look at Bush's enviornmental policies since he was in office, with an open mind, you will see the damage that has already appeared to our air quality, and forests. The very few supporters that Bush has left are the only ones who will say that history will look at Bush with a favorable view on enviornment. But then again, it's those same people who think everything in Iraq is going swimmingly and are still convinced that there are WMD in Iraq. As far as "thinning forests". Bush does not want to "thin" them, he wants to eliminate them completely in order to do excessive logging. There was a huge fire on the West Coast, I think it was about three or more years ago. Bush tried to spin this to his advantage and tell everyone it is because he wasn't allowed to log in that area. But the real fact came out that he wouldn't give them the federal funds to do the proper thinning and take away the dangerous brush that was determined to be the cause of the fire. Many people lost their homes because George Bush's only concern is making money for the logging industry, not protecting our forests. There is nothing suspect about how Bush is being viewed in the enviornmental world. He is too busy helping to line the pockets of his big corporate fat cats and cares little, if at all, about keeping our earth safe and healthy. The damage he has done, and continues to do, cannot be undone in any short amount of time. Our grandchildren and greatgrandchildren will pay the price for his enviornmental policies...or lack thereof.

Anonymous on :

Pinkerton - I agree that there is no doubt about how George Bush is regarded in the 'environmental world'. He is the Antichrist in that tight little corner of the world. The problem is that most of us don't live in that space of utter moral certainty where one can screen out other factors in the worship of Mother Gaia. Must be nice, dude. Give my regards to the other True Believers when you see them - particularly St. Al the Martyr.... ;)

Don on :

That last post was me, BTW.

Pinkerton on :

Don, You should have kept it anonymous, it would have been less embarrassing for yourself.

Don on :

Sorry, Pinkerton. Like most apostates I'm utterly shameless in the eyes of the Faithful.

Don on :

I found a [url=http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/07/the_real_inconvenient_truth.html/]interesting op-ed[/url] on what the real problem is with global warming. It's economic and social. The answer is real engineering, not social 'engineering' and national quotas for carbon emissions a la Kyoto. I suspect that the carbon-emission problem will be solved a little at a time rather than in big chunks. The ideal solutions to seek are what I would call 'market-clearing' solutions - things which are superior in most or all respects to what they replace. A perfect example is energy-saver light bulb. I'm using one to write by. It gives me a rating of 60 watts for a power draw of 11 watts, lasts several times as long as an ordinary bulb, and costs only a little more than a pair of the oldstyle incandescent bulbs. What's not to like? Market-clearing. The impetus behind a lot of this green thinking are high oil prices. Companies make much of their 'green thinking' for PR purposes but what really drives their logic is a combination of ROI and good public relations. The oil price spike has lasted long enough to be incorperated into capital spending plans. One might think that this impetus will disappear when oil prices fall again but that is not strictly true. The investments will have been made by then and will continue to be used, and some things (such as the energy-saving light bulbs) make almost as much sense with oil at $10 a barrel as at $70. The bulbs generate less heat - a boon during the summer. Replacing lightbulbs is an inconvenience and/or a labor cost. Better to do it less often than more - particularly with the !"£$£%^&* bayonet-style UK light bulbs! Much chintzier and apt to break than US-style screw-in bulbs!

Anonymous on :

Oops - bad link. Try [url=http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/07/the_real_inconvenient_truth.html]this one[/url]

Rosemary on :

Thank you, Joerg! The two people you mentioned, Bill and Warren, have different politics than I, but I admire what they do. What you said about capitalism, that is what I have been trying to say, but you said it more eloquently. I never did believe government was 'the' answer for all problems. I believe I am responsible for my neighbors. If they are hungry, what kind of a Christian would I be if I said, "Go, be well" and gave him no food? That is the way I look at things. BTW, we also breathe the same air, so we want it clean as well! lol. We just don't want politicized science involved. I would much prefer the truth, but you don't get any money for research if you do not believe a certain way. Isn't that wrong when it comes to science? Aren't you supposed to come up with a thesis, then have an anti-thesis, observe, and tell the truth? That's what I thought, but it got lost along the way...Have a great day!

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