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Germany's Economic Importance for the US -- Economic Reform and Poverty

Bruce Stokes, journalism fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States, has written a feature article about Germany's economy for the National Review. He considers economic growth in Germany to be important for the United States:
Washington knows that Americans also need a successful German economy. As the largest European economy, Germany can be, and has been, the economic engine that leads all of Europe into faster growth rates and thus bolsters U.S. exports. Except for Germany's disagreement with the United States on Iraq, Berlin has been a reliable partner in Washington's European and global foreign-policy initiatives. And, looking forward, "Germany is the only dependable U.S. partner for the next 15 years," asserted Deutsche Bank's Walter. But the growing divergence in economic performance between Europe and the United States is rapidly eroding the economic conditions that have nurtured trans-Atlantic political relations and fostered U.S.-European joint leadership of the world economy.
The American Institute of Contemporary German Studies provides Bruce Stokes' in-depth article about many problems of Germany's economy as a pdf file. While Stokes argues that Germany's labor and economic reforms, although significant, have so far delivered only meager returns and that more needs to be done to remedy this situation, the Energy Banker Jérôme Guillet (European Tribune) is skeptical whether more of the same sort of reforms will help. The historian Tony Judt argues in The Globalist:
If anything, the rush of many contemporary commentators and public figures, particularly in the United States, to ignore the political origins of the welfare state reflects poorly on their understanding of Europe's difficult past. (...) The liberal welfare states of Europe were not built as a vision of a utopian future. They were built [after WWII] as a barrier to Europe's 20th century -- as it had just been experienced. In this context, bear in mind that most of the men who built the welfare states in Europe were not young social democrats. Most of the people actually implementing this program after 1945 in Western Europe were Christian Democrats — or liberals rather than socialists of any kind.
Is the US system better? After a decrease of poverty in the late 90s, "the number of Americans living in poverty has risen each year Bush has been president, increasing to 37 million in 2004 from 31.6 million in 2000. Overall, 12.7 percent of the nation's population lives in poverty, which for a family of four means an income less than $20,000 a year." writes the Washington Post.
Is poverty more accepted in the US? According to the same article in the Post, "poverty forced its way to the top of President Bush's agenda in the confusing days after Hurricane Katrina," but:
As it happened, poverty's turn in the presidential limelight was brief. Bush has talked little about the issue since the immediate crisis passed, while pursuing policies that his liberal critics say will hurt the poor. He has publicly mentioned domestic poverty six times since giving back-to-back speeches on the issue in September. Domestic poverty did not come up in his State of the Union address in January, and his most recent budget included no new initiatives directed at the poor. (...)
"The Bush administration has shown a total lack of leadership on this issue," said former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards, who has made a new war on poverty his signature issue as he travels the country in preparation for an expected 2008 presidential bid. [HT: Edit Copy]

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Don on :

One thing which has to be pointed out in any discussion of poverty in the US is how much variance there is in living costs. A family income of $15,000 would not be generous in Mississippi (or many rural areas) but would probably be decent. The same income in New York City or Washington DC would not be very good. You probably wouldn't starve. Another thing which often gets left out are in-kind benefits such as subsidized or free public housing and food stamps and 'milk aid' for parents of young children. Add this into the money income and the picture improves quite a bit. Poverty 'advocates' often don't mention these things because it tends to undermine their case for more aid. Finally, let's look at this from a historical perspective. The 1950's is oftel looked at as a period of general plenty, a kind of bland suburban tiem when the US had fewer problems than it does today, when the poor are a huge problem. Care to guess what the US poverty rate was in 1960? More than 30%. Even with the increase under Bush (assuming that it's not one of those well-cooked figures which seem to show more than they actually do) the poverty rate now is 12.7%. So. Is this a flaming crisis or a mild problem? You tell me....

Pinkerton on :

Reading the comment by Don made me sad. To hear someone actually say that the benefits such as subsidized housing and food stamps was an improvement for those who are impovershed was beyond belief. Obviously, Don is unaware of how difficult it is to get subsidized housing. The waiting list to get into subsidized housing is so long that it takes sometimes more than two years to get in(in the meantime, where does the family live?) A senior subsidized housing facility in my town has a waiting list of 8 years. Most of the time the seniors do not make it that long and end up living with their children until they end up in nursing homes. The "free" public housing? Just great, as long as you are willing to live in a crime ridden neighborhood and in a building that is a fire trap. Some people have no choice and that is where they end up raising their families. Not exactly a beacon of light for the US to brag about. Food stamps. In Illinois in order to be accepted in the food stamp program, you cannot have an income that exceeds $20,428 per year. Without subsidized housing, the average rent for a 1 bedroom and 1 bath apartment is $1,182 per month. I found these figures listed in the Illinois Rental Assoc. There are some apartments that are cheaper, so if you want, bring that figure down to $800 per month. That would be living in a really crummy apartment in a not so great area. Food stamps for a family of 3 will pay for $399 per month. They will not pay for anything that is not edible and it must be produce, no foods that are already prepared. They do not include toilet paper, garbage bags, cleaning supplies, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, school supplies for children etc. So subtract the rent from your $20,428.00 and you end up with (the cheaper rent of $800.)..$11,800 for the year. Even with the food stamps, you will need to spend about $50 or more per month for the items that food stamps will not pay for. Throw into those costs, medical care, medical insurance (which Americans do not receive for free), car (public transportation is not always available and not free) car insurance (it is illegal to drive without it in Illinois) clothes (even if you get clothes from charity, they do not supply underwear, or shoes). So, tell me again, Don. How is this a mild problem? Maybe you should try and live on $15,000 a year and tell me how it is not a flaming problem. I gave you rates of higher than $15,000 and you can see how difficult that would be. And just because there are places in some areas that are cheaper, that also means the income is not as good and the subsidies would be less. The states adjust their subsidies according to the cost of living in each area. This is the problem with the Bush crowd. No empathy for the downtrodden, plenty of tax cuts for the rich.

Don on :

When I read something like this I just shake my head with wonder. You ask "Maybe you should try and live on $15,000 a year and tell me how it is not a flaming problem." I have lived on much less than 15K. I grew up on much less than 15K a year! It's called 'working poor', Pinkerton, and my family never got past that condition until I graduated from college and a few years after that. I worked my way through college PAYING LARGE taxes so the government could provide for the 'truly deserving'. I could have used the money myself living on cheap macaroni and cheese and wearing ragged jeans and tennis shoes through Wisconsin winters. My coat was made out of a blanket. Drafty. So I know whereof I speak. Do you? Most families have more resources than what you assume. Someone is working. Grandma, grandpa, the unlisted father, whomever. If the person is tuly destitute they should put their kids up for adoption or go to one of the charities which exist to take care of the truly hard cases. What we don't need is more kids born to state-created 'victims'. I have all the sympathy in the world for people scratching their way out of a bad break, and have helped with a loan or a gift even when I was one paycheck from disaster myself. But you know something about such people, Pinkerton? They don't stay desperate long. They reach back and find a way. Sorry dude. More simpering helpless victims we don't need.

Pinkerton on :

Also, in the above post, I did not include the costs of utilities...electricy and gas for heating in the winters. You know what the price of gas is now, I assume? Good luck trying to live on that. Electricity and gas is no longer included in 99% of the apartements these days.

tcobb on :

A common complaint about the US poverty level is that the way this is calculated leads to misleading statistics. The point many have tried to make is that "poverty" is calculated purely by one's gross income, and it does not factor in the actual value of the benefits handed out to such people. The argument goes that if the fair market value of such benefits are included as income, then many of these people no longer fit the definition of living in "poverty." And then there is the question of how many people who are living below the official poverty line stay there for any significant amount of time. Many of the people who are living at or below the poverty line are young, and manage to find better paying jobs as they learn skills and gain experience. In making a comparison between the economic systems of the US and Germany determining which is superior really depends upon your underlying values. And it should never be forgotten that both countries are democracies, and their respective systems reflect a broad concensus of how their populations expect them to be. I think it is arrogant to the extreme for anyone from either country to criticize the other for not being more like them, and its even worse when such "failures" are blamed on how "stupid" and "ignorant" the population of the other country is. This accomplishes nothing. In the long run it is probably a very good thing that we and others have different systems and take different paths. So long as we are not blinded by rigid ideologies we can take the successful mechanisms of another system and blend it into our own. That's true progress.

David on :

Some appalling statistics from the US Department of Agriculture: "One of the most disturbing and extraordinary aspects of life in this very wealthy country is the persistence of hunger. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports, based on a national U.S. Census Bureau survey of households representative of the U.S. population, that in 2004 11.9 percent of all U.S. households were "food insecure" because of lack of resources. Of the 13.5 million households that were food insecure, 4.4 million suffered from food insecurity that was so severe that USDA's very conservative measure classified them as "hungry." Since 1999, food insecurity has increased by 3 million households, including 1.4 million households with children. In 2004, 38.2 million people lived in households experiencing food insecurity, compared to 33.6 million in 2001 and 31 million in 1999." Source: Food Research and Action Group www.frac.org

Don on :

So what are we talking about here, Dave? Nutritional deficiency? Going a bit shy one or two days a month due to bad planning of the food budget? Exchanging food stamps for 'in-kind' goods or services of another kind? Or Chad-style famine complete with children with bloated bellies? Hunger can mean so many things. I've gone without a few times myself - when I was a kid. I'm not sure it did any lasting harm - but then I didn't get caught up in a famine. Nothing my mom's next paycheck or a bit of scrimping couldn't take care of.

Pinkerton on :

Don Again you show your ignorance of what the poor in this country must endure. You say you lived on $15000 a year...with your parents? That's not taking care of yourself. You didn't need government assistance to supply food and shelter. You had your mommy and daddy to take care of you.In fact, you were only responsible for yourself, not a family. If you were in the situation as many working poor in the US, you never would have been able to go to college.You had a family to fall back on, so please, don't tell me how rough that was. You were able to get money to put yourself through college, many of the working poor cannot do that because they were so poor, they were unable to finish highschool. I love the way you take your situation and assume it is the same for all. Truly desititute put their children up for adoption? That is the most moronic statement you have made yet! For one thing, most of the poor who are supporting children are black. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find an adoptive home for a black child? Of course not, because you are looking at the world with your own little blinders on. You think because you had it a little tough when you were a kid that it couldn't get any worse. Give me a break. This is exactly what I meant when I said the Bush followers have no empathy for the poor. It's obvious in your comment that you have nothing but disdain for those who have it worse than you did. Most people do not have resourses of extended families who can help take care of them until they get on their feet. Most poor, especially poor blacks, are leaving homes that are in poverty and can barely sustain their own lives. You better start looking at reality and do a little research, my dear. You're living in a dream world. The attitude that poor people are poor because they are too lazy or not smart enough to find the resources is the same rhetoric that comes from the right wing. Open your eyes, for gosh sakes, and start looking at some real statistics. Your first comment was full of generalities, mine was full of fact and information that I took the time to research. Your second comment was filled with right wing rhetoric. Maybe next time you write something it will actually be based on reality. It would be a nice change.

Don on :

Please don't decry my supposed ignorance unless (and until) you have been there yourself. I strongly suspect you have not. When my mother was messed up after being divorced I supported her for several months on a wage of about $350 an hour while going to school. My dear public university noted that I was now 'living with my parents' and cut off all my financial aid the next semester. A rather stressful time. But they only did that to 'groups' they had too 'many' of. My emotionally ripped-up mother went out and got a job & we got by. It actually helped as it turned out because now she worried about the customers rather than her ex. That is the way it works, dude. Isn't much fun, but people from the better suburbs wouldn't know that, whould you? Oh, BTW. We lived in what you would call a 'rough' neighborhood. Lots of crime. I dressed down and walked around with a mean look on my face which mostly worked as an anti-crime strategy. Only got robbed twice in 3 years. These were in the days when many judges were far more concerned with the poor 'victims' doing the crime than the presumed plutocrats taking the hit.

Don on :

BTW, that was $3.50 an hour - I doubt you'de be able to work that out Pinkerton, as you seem to believe against all evidence that I was born with a platinum spoon in my mouth. On evidence I think you may have been born with a silver foot in your mouth (thanks to Governor Anne Richrds for that apposite crack)....

Pinkerton on :

Don I love the way you have decided that you know so much about me,where I live and how I grew up. I just choose not to whine about my personal life on a blog. Especially since it has absolutely no bearing on the situation today. Again, you are basing everything on your personal life and not bothering to look at current statistics about the difficulty of living on 15,000 a year, which btw, doesn't stretch as far as it did when you were in school. How much did it cost for a gallon of gas at that time? Have you bothered to look at the price of heating oil now compared to then? I didn't think so. The cost of living, if you haven't noticed has risen quite a bit since then. And for those who have had the ability to graduate from High School are faced with an enormous rise in College tuitions. That, coupled with the fact that Bush has cut 12.7 billion dollars from education in 2005. 90,000 students were cut from the Pell Grant program. See, kids today don't have it quite as good as you did, Don. Oh, and that was 12.7 BILLION dollars cut from education, in case you thought it was "million". I'm not sure you could work that out, Don, as you seem to believe against all evidence that I was born with a platinum spoon in my mouth.

Don on :

Pinkerton, your feelings are easily bruised. I reget that. Please do a little math next time before assuming I made $15K 25 years ago! $3.50 * 2000 hours a year = $7000 a year, and that was a theoretical maximum. More usually it was $5000 before tax. After Uncle Sam took his cut it was $4500-$6000. I was going to college paying my tuition on the installment plan. Tuition was a good deal for me at $1000 a year on average - but they didn't take IOU's. So I was actually living on between $3500 and $5000 a year for 5 years working (mostly) full time and taking 12 hours a semester. Two parent family? Nope. Never. A rough timeline: First 3 or 4 years I was on welfare. The welfare office decided it was best for mother the finish her teaching degree (2 years left) so that's why we stayed as long as that. Mom graduated and we moved into the lower middle class until I was about 12. Then downward mobility whacked up and we became working poor until I was three years out of college, about age 26 or so. Since then it's (mostly) been better than that - but never rich. Mom got married right after I left home at 17 and landed on my back while I was in college. And - get this. It's not a tale of woe or whining; I'm PROUD of it! Not everyone is as fortunate as I was. There are different kinds of poverty; one is minded of Tolstoy's epigram that happy families are all alike and unhappy ones are all different. Even so - the kind of long-term poverty you moan about usually isin't a coincidence. Bad things can come out of the blue like a tornado. My father was institutionalised when my mother was 5 months pregnant with me - leading to a trip to the welfare office a couple months later. It's what you do when the tornado passes which matters. The state has no business subsidising laziness among the able-bodied and able-minded - and that is what the welfare system was doing before Clinton. The state does have a business in helping people help themselves after a tornado hits. It's as simple as that; and all your moral catechisms otherwise are bootless....

joe on :

Don, At the risk of getting a stern warning from ADMIN, I have to think you are a cold heartless person. I know you really are not like that but have hung out with that evil Bush person too long. I know you cannot help this. You probably grew up in a 2-parent family. Went to high school and actually graduated. You might have even gone to college and gotten a degree. Sure maybe you had to go at night, borrowing money, working full or part time, even into the military to take advantage of the educational benefits because your parents were not rich. You chose not to do drugs or sell drugs or abuse alcohol. I bet you did not go to prison either. Nor did you probably start fathering kids when you were 17. Then again you might have just not wanted to go school and decided to become a truck driver at 60,000 dollars a year. It was an easy career to get into – clean criminal record, drug free, high school graduate – and there is still a shortage of over a million drivers. Don where you are today has nothing to do with the decisions you made about being responsible. You were just lucky. Some people are not as lucky as you are. They need the government to be responsible for them. And it does not matter that each year you chose to give away part of the money you now earn. You probably give a higher percentage of your income than say either David or Pinko but that is not the point. You have too much and besides who knows best you or the government? Don in a word your attitude is just sucks. Your value system is all screwed up. You need to reward irresponsibility and punish not only success but also being responsible. You forget you have been lucky. You just need to drink some more of that Kool aid. I bet David and Pinko will share some of theirs with you because they have good hearts. Besides David and Pinko trust the government. Well at least they trust the government when their kind are running it, not when someone like that evil Bush is. So listen to them, they have plans for you and for everyone else. But not too worry the government will take care of you and you will like it. Kick back take a break, enjoy life a bit more, don't work so hard.

Pinkerton on :

Joe You and Don always fill your comments with personal attacks and never facts. What have you accomplished in your last comment, other than to attack the views of David and I? Your lack of information shows what little you know on the subject, and you seem to need to attack the person making the comment instead of actually putting out information. It's a shame, I thought this blog was different than the others. I guess the right wing crowd only know how to attack and play silly, childish games with the names of the person posting instead of making a thoughtful commentary.

Don on :

Poverty in 1980 I want to make some general comments about the somewhat rancorous discussion that Pinkerton and I are engaged in. Pinkerton appears to believe that the old US welfare system dating from before the Clinton welfare reforms was better than what we have now. I think otherwise, having actually lived just outside that system in a neighborhood which had many welfare 'clients'. One thing that Pinkerton and critics are correct about is that it's not about the cost of the old welfare programs. They never cost much except in damaged lives - and damaged kids don't show up in Pinkerton's beloeved statistics. The problem with the US welfare state was the social injustice of it. The state made a package of benefits available worth between $6-7 an hour tax-free - in a job market where a person could earn a beginning wage of $3.30 an hour - taxed down to about $2.70 an hour. A market-clearing solution! I lived on the edge of the ghetto where there was a mixture of the working poor and the welfare class. There was a word often used about us working people 'chumps'. For those unfamiliar with ghetto slang of the early 80's think of it as a particularly contempous variant of fool. Pinkerton calls me a fool - which goes to show that some things don't change. It would hurt if I cared what Pinkerton thinks - but it doesn't. I don't care enough to call him a fool back; make your own conclusions. The hell of it was that the welfare folks were correct - working people were chumps. You could take the government check or live with a girl who did - you could deal drugs and pay no tax. Work under the table and pay no tax - even get the welfare check and work under the table; it happened a lot where I lived. The benefits of working only showed up after 5-10 years - too long a time horizon for many. There were neighborhoods 10 blocks to the west of where I lived where maybe 10% of the adults held a real job - no role models for the kids. More importantly, nobody to help you get your first job. When very few of your aunts or uncles or family friends work you have nobody to vouch for you to the foreman at the local light manufacturing plant or McDonalds. My neighborhood was better off - no more than half on welfare. But it was bad enough. A lot of people on the US left hate Bill Clinton; but I bless him for one thing, welfare reform. Clinton knew what poverty was like; his mother had been 'working poor' for a while. Clinton used that knowledge to convert the US welfare system into something which supported work. It doesn't cost a dime less today but supports successful efforts to get people into employment and help them stay there. And the working-poor are no longer 'chumps'. They are the norm, and in the longer term a lot of them rise out of the ranks of the poor altogether. Don't cut the ladders, make them stronger.

Pinkerton on :

Don //Pinkerton appears to believe that the old US welfare system dating from before the Clinton welfare reforms was better than what we have now. I think otherwise, having actually lived just outside that system in a neighborhood which had many welfare 'clients'.// Where in any of my comments did I say that the welfare system before Clinton's welfare reforms were better Please be honest with my commentary and don't put words in my commentary that didn't exist and aren't true. //- and damaged kids don't show up in Pinkerton's beloeved statistics.// damaged kids? I put out stats that show the difficulties in raising a family on the costs of 15,000 dollars a year. I did mention the fact that those babies you feel should be put up for adoption because the parents couldn't afford them, were, in the case of black families, unlikely to be adopted. //Pinkerton calls me a fool -// When did I call you a fool? Again, putting words in my comments that don't exist. I said that you were looking at your own personal experience instead of looking at statistics. I said that you weren't considering the fact that the cost of living is higher and education pell grants have been cut, along with federal funding for education. I also said you were projecting your view on where and how I lived, which is something I have never mentioned on this blog. //You could take the government check or live with a girl who did - you could deal drugs and pay no tax. Work under the table and pay no tax - even get the welfare check and work under the table; it happened a lot where I lived.// I never said there wasn't welfare fraud. There is fraud in every form of government and there are some who will cheat the system. But that does not hold true for 100% of those who depend on government subsidies in order to live. //There were neighborhoods 10 blocks to the west of where I lived where maybe 10% of the adults held a real job - no role models for the kids.// Jobes are difficult to get when you are uneducated and poor. I never said they weren't and mentioned that there were many working poor who cannot make it on the small amount they get from food stamps. I also mentioned that public housing is usually set in the poorest of neighborhoods where crime is high. This makes it easier for those children who are left home alone while their parents are working minimum wage jobs if they are lucky to get into drugs, and other crimes. There is no parental supervision. Those on welfare who have children and want to work, cannot afford daycare for their babies. The government doesn't help them with that. In Europe there is free daycare for parents to work. //A lot of people on the US left hate Bill Clinton; but I bless him for one thing, welfare reform. // I never said I hated Clinton for his welfare reform. In fact, it was while Clinton was in office that we had the fewest number of people on welfare. When Bush came into office that has changed. Fewer jobs, the refusal to raise the minimum wage to a working wage, health care cuts, the dismantaling of the Head Start program for poor families, education cuts, have all caused the plight of the poor in the US to rise. //Don't cut the ladders, make them stronger.// Bush did cut the ladder by cutting federal funding for the education program. Now these kids have less of a chance to get a higher education and the lower levelschools can't afford to give the education that these kids need to advance.

joe on :

Pinko That was not a personal attack on you. It was an assessment of what is wrong with Don. Don just doesn't get it. But I am glad you do. In fact if you read my comment closely, you will note that I am in agreement with you. And since you feel those people who do not have as much as you or Don should have more and we both know the tooth fairy is not going to leave money under their pillow then it will be the government that will do that. The government of course will get that money from Don and all his rich friends. Gee you might even contribute some yourself. How novel. Then it could be the man behind the tree. So you are for more taxes and that of course is a very acceptable position for you to take. It just proves you are a better person than that evil Bush and his crowd. They only look out for the rich, you know. Then again you know that as you stated it. But you do raise some interesting issues which I look forward to you developing. poor because of lack of education or lack of eduction because poor.. this would seem to indicate a failure of the public education system or maybe not If it is should the federal government take over education from the states as the states are failing? the poor living in public housing in high crime areas or is high crime a result of being poor. people who truly want an education and that is a focused goal cannot because of cuts in pell grants - without pell grants people cannot get an education There are no other options? Yes, we should return to the good old days of the Great Society. We would all be so much more equal and as such much happier. And David whose sons will never feel the need to serve in the military can give back something to the nation by giong to work with poor. So Don adjust get with the program.

bvxhbzx on :

ur rude!!!!!

Pinkerton on :

Joe It's obvious that you can't seem to put together a commentary without insulting or being rude, and therefore I won't bother with trying to discuss this issue with you. Perhaps you might want to re-think how you refer to me before posting again.

joe on :

Rude? Insulting? Issues - maybe those issues are just too difficult to explain.

David on :

Joe, Actually I do donate time working with the (working) homeless through my church. I'm sure you'll find a way to ridicule me for this as well...

Don on :

I'd like to open this discussion to more of what Joerg actually seems to be getting at. Thus far we've been able to establish that there is a real difference of opinion between Americans about the desireability of a 'sufficient' welfare state (as Pinkerton might call it). I'd call it something else - but I doubt I need to further explain that fact. Joerg posts two other interesting links which we have been neglecting; to the pieces by Bruce Stokes and Tony Judt. The Stokes article seems fairly straitforward - German reform is important and it's not easy. What I don't understand is why certain forms of deregulation seem to be so hard to do - things like making it easier to rent an office and set up business, which Stokes says takes 6 months in Berlin versus a week in London. Seems to me that making these kinds of reforms are a no-brainer; Germany would get some economic growth almost for 'free' by this kind of thing. One statistic Stokes cites really concerns me - how few people in Germany under thw age of 25 are working. Only 42%. It may be double that in the US. Workforce participation at an early age is pretty important in my view because it builds skills and habits which make one employable in future years - or not. Not only 'hard' skills such as literacy, numeracy, business, financial, computer, and trading skills - but something as simple as learing to show up on time - to be reliable. The Judt piece is more thought-provoking in a way. While I can accept his premise that the postwar welfare state was not 'revolutionary' I don't see the link between the welfare state and the stability of the international order? Surely things have changed a great deal since 1945? Thomas Jefferson once said that each generation neds it's own revolution; what is it about the postwar vision of Monnet, Bevan, and Schumann which is universal to every time and circumstance? These men were all adults before WWI began; haven't we learned anything new since then? Hasn't the world changed profoundly? Look at China, Japan, the US even. The world is not what it was circa 1914 - or even circa 1950.

JW - Atlantic Review on :

@ Don Thanks for getting this discussion back to the articles in the post. Stokes pointed out some necessary reforms that really should not be so difficult. Judt pointed out to the importance of the welfare state for domestic politics. @ ALL I think, it's better if we ALL discuss the issues rather than making commments about each other. A question I have: When Katrina stuck the Gulf Coast, the faces of poverty hit the TV screens big time. Many Americans were shocked. Many US papers and politicans said that poverty is now a much bigger issue for politics. That America has to confront poverty more. That it is not primarily a personal problem, but a public problem etc. Later on, some papers and bloggers wrote that the media exaggerated the poverty etc. Now, what happened? Has Katrina changed anything in US politics regarding poverty? Any polls on American views on poverty? Who else besides John Edwards is making poverty a campaign issue? Has Katrina changed the US view of the European welfare state? In general: Over the last decade: Are Americans less critical and a bit more appreciative of the European economic system and welfare state? I think over the last decade: Most European countries changed their system and welfare state tremendously and moved in the US direction. And most Europeans understand the need for reforms of the welfare state, but don't always agree on the extent and the direction.

Don on :

"A question I have: When Katrina stuck the Gulf Coast, the faces of poverty hit the TV screens big time. Many Americans were shocked. Many US papers and politicans said that poverty is now a much bigger issue for politics. That America has to confront poverty more. That it is not primarily a personal problem, but a public problem etc." I'm not sure Katrina taught us anything which wasn't apparent before - except perhaps the depths of depravity which some can descend to. You may have noticed that all the TV cameras were in New Orleans - not in harder-hit Misissippi. Because the Story du Jour was that Bush had failed! The National Guard had failed! FEMA had failed! And look what happened! Ten Thousand dead! was the headlines of the BBC and CNN. Later on the actual death figure of less than 1500 was duely reported by these fine responsible news organization. On page 26 below the fold, metaphorically speaking. Another thing which got lost in translation is that FEMA and the National Guard actually performed considerably better than in other disasters - such as Hurricane Andrew. The real story wasn't poverty. The story was that a bad hurricane hit arguably the most crime-ridden city in the US, with a complete failure of local services. Not poverty - crime. And Bush, FEMA, or the National Guard have nothing to do with controlling crime in New Orleans. Not the poorest place - East St Louis, IL or Camden NJ probably qualifies there. The other big story was the failure of the levees. Bad civil engineering and corruption endemic in Lousiana. Again not Bush's fault - though you could possibly blame his father - along with every other President dating back to Lyndon Johnson - at least. Also not Ray Nagin's fault - or the fault of the black political establishment of New Orleans. Some of them may have been complicit - but not Nagin as far as I understand. He was at worst incompetent. The established white pols and their predecessors - that is another story completely. Politics is a family matter in Lousiana and you don't have to look very far. Don't exclude the senior senator and governor of the state - their families were into the swag up to the elbows. And the Army Corps of Engineers, who screwed the pooch big time. But this mostly didn't get reported, and when the press cannot get the story right what hope is there for real reform so it won't happen again? What did Katrina tell us about poverty in America? Not that much really. Poverty does not equal depravity. Parge parts of Mississippi are poorer than New Orleans yet public order was not lost and (for the most part) the poor of Mississippi didn't go wild. "Later on, some papers and bloggers wrote that the media exaggerated the poverty etc." I think the media did exaggurate the poverty, but poverty there is. But it wasn't poverty which caused the breakdown in public order in New Orleans - it was the complete break down of the New Orleans Police Department combined with a culture of depravity and corruption from top to bottom, with a few honorable exceptions such as Nagin. "Now, what happened? Has Katrina changed anything in US politics regarding poverty? Any polls on American views on poverty? Who else besides John Edwards is making poverty a campaign issue?" Probably not in any fundamental way. A few more people may feel more strongly about it but that's about all. The fact is that poverty is much less prevalent than it was. We have solved what we could easily solve - and some whoich wasn't so easy to solve. What is left is caused by some extremely touchy facts which nobody wants to admit. The most notable fact is that very large percentages of the adult black male population in cities like New Orleans, Washington DC, East St. Louis, Camden, Newark, etc are not fit to be husbands and fathers. Lack of jobs, criminal records, virtually every problem one could imagine. Until we figure out how to change that we're not going to be able to 'solve' poverty in any general sense. Merely increasing welfare benefits to the women won't help - been there, tried that. Arguably the displacement of poor black males as breadwinner by the government was the CAUSE of the disintegration of the men in these places - so we want to try it again?!!! No thanks.

Pinkerton on :

JW: Regarding Katrina and the exposure to some of the poverty in the United States, poverty always existed in the US. It's usually swept under the rug and many who choose not to think about it have forgotten that it exists. They are treated as if they aren't really citizens of the US, just a burden that we need to "deal with". The quote by Barbara Bush during the aftermath of Katrina shows the utter lack of understanding as to the fact that these poor individuals are not just numbers but are real. "What I'm hearing which is sort of scary, is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the areana here, you know, were underprivalidged anyway, so this (chuckle)-this is working well for them." Barbara Bush/Houston Astrodome/ Septtember 5, 2005 The fact that she was scared that "these people" wanted to stay in her home state of Texas shows how it is easier to put them off in some little area so as not to have to actually look at them and know they exist. This comment caused a great uproar in the black community. As far as the media is concerned, they didn't exaggerate the poverty, they just made it more visable to those who didn't want to know it exists. The media may have been shocked by what they saw, because many of them don't cover stories on poverty, they too, have just swept the vision under the rug and forgot it was there. Look at the quote from Wolf Blitzer from CNN after he saw the pictures of the poverty: "You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals...many of these people, almost all of them that we see are so poor and they are so black, and this is going to raise lots of questions for people who are watching this story unfold." Wolf Blitzer/CNN So poor, so BLACK? Again, the black community was incensed over this remark. I'm sure Wolf didn't mean this as a racist remark, but he is clearly clueless to the plight of the poor in the United States. If people in the US are unaware of the poverty in their own country, it is because they choose to be unaware. Politicians rarely will make poverty an issure in a campaign. The reality is, that most who are poor or homeless don't vote. Politians, these days, aim their campaigns towards the issues of the voters, such as taxes, moral issues, war, etc. Each individual state makes the decisions on how they handle the plight of the poor. They get some Federal funding, but along with that Federal funding comes regulations on how it can be spent. Sometimes these regulations are so ridiculous that the red tape will delay the building of homeless shelters and will hamper the ability of those who want to help from actually getting anything done. As far as how Americans less critical of European Economic systems...to be honest, I would say that most Americans don't even know what the European Economic systems are! Other than free healthcare, which is an issue that is discussed widely in the US, most Americans don't look past their own country to compare. Health care is one of the biggest problems we have. The fact that a large portion of US citizens aren't insured, and those numbers are getting larger, shows that the US needs to start looking at Europe with a keen eye and try to implimate what has worked for you. I haven't seen any recent polls on American views on poverty lately since it is an issue that is rarely discussed in political circles. However, I did find a Pew Forum that discusses poverty in the US that you might find interesting. I'll look for the link and get it to you later, if you like.

VinceTN on :

I would think we understand poverty. We understand what usually causes it. Those sad pictures were of people 3,4 and 5 generations deep in welfare. That is not a "down on hard times" scenario. That is a dysfunctional culture at work. A culture the Democrat party promotes in its cynical bid for power. No one "deserves" to suffer for mistakes and realities that we can't control but at some point the concept of guilt and pouring more money into the problem can't be taken seriously anymore. Its time to try something new. Something called personal stewardship. A state and city run by Democrats for decades has got to take some responbility for their policies. That fiasco is a Leftist one, not America's. Its easy to fool ourselves that we can do it like Europe but none of our government actions have ever matched Europe's in efficiency and focus. Homogeneous nations with one race(in the past) and one language and culture can more easily work together and identify with others in the family who are in trouble. It just doesn't work that way in America. It does often reflect predjudice but not just racial predjudice but also the disrespect shown to all slackers. As diversity becomes the norm in Europe I don't believe you will see the same level of tolerance for indolence that you see today. Thirty years of the same mournful speeches attempting to shame the successful and productive and to throw billions at a problem that never seems to get any better just isn't getting it done. If advocates really are focused on the poor and not personal socialist ambitions, they will attempt to convince others rather than guilt them into action.

Don on :

VinceTN - I won't argue except for one thing. A general rule of mine is "Never ascribe to evil anything which might be explained by incompetence". I don't think it was deliberate.

Pinkerton on :

Vince //A culture the Democrat party promotes in its cynical bid for power. // Where in the world do you get these ideas? Are you telling me that 2,4,and 6 generations of poverty stricken families come from a Democratic rule? How in the world could you, with a straight face, blame the Democratic Party for generations of poverty? What cynical bid for power are you talking about? Perhaps we should just get rid of elections and Presidents and get ourselves a nice Republican king! Oh, I know that's what Bush THINK'S he is, but it's not true. The poverty level in the US has gone up since Bush and his Republican administration has come to power. Poverty was always there, but it had nothing to do with generations of "slackers". Giving Federal money for education is not exactly "pouring money int a problem". Supplying a nutritinal breakfast to school children who are poor is not a waste of money. Do you think these kids are "slackers", too? They should suffer because you don't think they deserve to be treated with respect and kindness? The real "slackers" are those who think you can ignore the poor and maybe they'll just die off so you don't have to worry about them. The "slackers" are those in the Republican party who think that in order to get ahead in life you have to cheat, lie, and step on whoever gets in your way. Slackers are the CEO's that are sucking in the money from Bush in tax breaks and not giving anything back to the government to pay for policies that will help those in need. They exercise their right to keep every penny they have and not pay taxes because they have the lawyers to find all the tax loopholes. It's the middle class that is stuck with all the burdens. So tell me, Vince, there was no poverty while Reagan was President? Are you telling me that this Republican President, Republican Congress and Republican Senate are helping the poor? If that is the case, why have the number of poor and working poor gone up since Bush has been President? This is how you guys are handling this "fiasco"? Like I've said in previous posts, the Republicans have no empathy for the plight of the poor and downtrodden, only hateful scorn for the "slackers", as you put it. They have plenty of money and taxbreaks for the rich, though. Not that they deserve it, most of their money comes from cheating the government out of the taxes they owe and living off our government while doing it. They aren't paying their way, the middle class is and the poor are suffering and dying because of it. The rich have off shore accounts, the poor have no hope. You guys are really gems.

VinceTN on :

Alright, daytime Emmy winner. I don't thing Republicans have empathy for the poor either. But poverty reduction is most often in the hands of localized authority. A Rep/Dem Congress isn't going to make much difference in Memphis. Grand dramatic gestures are not going to fix this. As for incompetence, I don't consider Al Sharpton's status as an actual Dem presidential candidate incompetence. Dems throwing Oreos at a black Republican is not incompetence. All I'm saying is that we have tried this the Democrat way and now we need to look at it another way. Not just some gesture from our President but in our local governments and as society as a whole. Get over the socialist centralization theory and get into a more American way of dealing with it. Come up with a viable plan. Guilt and bringing up school lunches is never going to do it. Do you want to be successful or righteous? We are not fascists waiting for your enlightenment, Pinkerton. We are people with valid questions and concerns.

David on :

It is interesting that the introduction of American (neo-liberal)Hartz IV economic reforms in Germany is now resulting in American-style poverty and economic inequality: the number of children living in poverty in Germany has doubled to 2.4 million since 2004. This report just came out tonight in the Netzeitug: "Die Zahl der in Armut lebenden Kinder hat sich nach Schätzungen in den vergangenen zwei Jahren hierzulande mehr als verdoppelt. Derzeit leben in Deutschland rund 2,5 Millionen Kinder bis 18 Jahre auf Sozialhilfeniveau, wie der Präsident des Deutschen Kinderschutzbundes, Heinz Hilgers, am Donnerstag der Nachrichtenagentur AP sagte. Er verwies auf eine Statistik der Bundesagentur für Arbeit. "

Pinkerton on :

It seems impossible to comment on this blog without the name calling and outright falsehoods from this crowd. I also don't appreciate being called a facist. This is my last comment on this blog. I won't waste my time trying to discuss issues with the low level intellegence which seems to come from this group of extremists who can't come up with facts to back their arguments and instead resort to ignorant commentary. It's a shame. The premise for this blog is a good one, but it seems to be attracting a level of hatred that I only see from right wing websites. Thanks, JW. I wish I could say it was fun.

Don on :

My word! Mr. Pinkerton has taken his leave of us unworthy folk, and some (like the blog authors) whom he would not call unworthy (I would agree with the latter). No doubt he has his reasons, but the manner of his leave-taking was - unfortunate..... I find myself harboring mixed feelings about this departure. Pinkerton could be a worthy adversary but had certain flaws (as we all do). His feelings were extremely sensitive and he professed hurt feelings on numerous occasions. Nevertheless I saw him stick the boot in more than occasionally himself. He was unfairly dealt with on occasion (I am not guiltless in this respect). But what Pinkerton failed to see was that he frequently wrote things (or added his hearty agreement with) statements which were equally hurtful. An example was a reply to one of my posts to the effect that Republicans don't possess enough intellect to belong in the Ivy League. So while I will miss much of his debate - I won't miss that part of Pinkerton at all. Nor will I miss his apparent belief that people who do not believe as he does cannot have 'empathy' for the poor. I do have empathy for the 'poor' but believe that social programs can be much like morphine and similar drugs; a life-saver in the short term in some situations but addictive in the long. In other cases long-term welfare is not necessary at all - effective help in getting a job is what is needed. Giving out welfare benefits in this case is analogous to prescribing morphine (and getting the patient hooked) when ibuprofen will do the trick. There are some cases in which more is needed, but those probably involve disability of some kind. In any case US welfare law allows for 20% exceptions to the general 'two years and out' policy, and states may of course do what they will with their own funding - and do.

Hattie on :

Ah yes, noble honest poverty. Striving, working, not taking handouts. Not being one of those people who live off the taxpaper. Living off the taxpayer is only OK for rich folks. Everyone else should struggle. Erst kommt das Fressen, dann die Moral.

Don on :

Hi Pinkerton. Nice to have you back! ;) Welfare has nothing to do with tax cuts. The US is not spending a penny less on the welfare state than it did in 1996. The money is going to do different things. 'Taxing the rich' is nonsense anyway - how much of that Kerry tax proposal would have hit billionaires like Mrs Kerry? Very little because it taxed income, not capital or capital gains. No, it would have attacked the petty 'rich' instead. Perhaps they can afford it - but so can the billionaires. The point isn't nobility, the point is that you value what you have to work for. Whether that is material, educational, or spiritual. The state should help people who hit the ground - but the idea should very much be to help them get on their feet. Temporary benefits should be the policy, and they should not be very generous except in things which help people get into work - like day care for an example. Too much state aid has the opposite effect to what is intended - it becomes a drug.

Anonymous on :

That was not Pinkerton, but Hattie

Joe on :

David, Actually I am quite proud of your personal efforts, they some what mirror my own. My hands on involvement have been to help build 3 houses under the Habitat for Humanity program. It seems I am much better in raising funds for this program and I am swinging a hammer. I also am a part of a mentoring group for mid school children and I contribute to a scholarship program for exceptional but needed students. In this discussion on the poor there seems to be an implied lack of solutions other than more government funding and more intervention. There are other solutions that individuals or groups of like-minded individuals can implement. Most of these are much more effectively than any government agency To increase funding for programs to support the poor at some point this would either mean more taxes or a reordering of current priorities. Of course, as each governmental program has its own set of advocates, they would scream just as loud if their program were reduced to fund another set of priorities. An interesting article about welfare reform appeared in today’s WSJ by the Bookings Inst. Here is the link : http://online.wsj.com/article/SB115396197707018616.html?mod=opinion_main_commentaries You might have known this but for single mothers who have transferred from being dependent on welfare to low paying jobs, when all the other income supplemental programs are added to their earned wages they come out significantly ahead in economic terms. I would also believe they have gained a degree of self respect.

Hattie on :

Self respect is so important. I have a lot of self respect even though I've always had enough money to live on.

VinceTN on :

The term fascist was not aimed at Pinkerton. I apologize that my sarcasem fell so flat. I didn't come here to destroy the discussion. I simply do not believe we can spend the same amount of money relatively as Germany and get the same results. It just won't work here. Have we not tried? For decades? Did it work? We need a more American way of dealing with this and that means flexibility.

Joe on :

Economic performance is always an interesting topic. Keeping in the spirit of being critical of the US, this has turned not into a debate about economics but the virtues of the social welfare state in Germany as compared to the social services provided in the US. What is interesting is this quote used in the introduction - "Germany is the only dependable U.S. partner for the next 15 years," asserted Deutsche Bank's Walter. Nowhere is there any support for this comment in the referenced source document. It was just tossed in. I am not sure if this group of astute analysts can agree with the concept of high rates of employment are in national interest. But assuming there is a degree of agreement on this concept then looking at some of the reasons for high rates of unemployment in certain European nations might be enlightening. And unlike most discussions, here is something to compare. Today, Denmark has one of the most flexible labor forces in the world. On an index developed by the World Bank, measuring the difficulty of hiring a new worker, the rigidity of rules on working hours and the costs involved in dismissing a worker, with a score of 100 being the worst, Denmark scores a 20, Germany 55 and France 66. One reason is that the cost of a new hire in Denmark, in terms of taxes associated with bringing on a new employee, is just 0.7 percent of his or her salary. In Germany, hiring costs 21.3 percent of salary in France, 47.4 percent. And, unlike many European countries, Denmark has few labor laws. As a result, for more than three quarters of the Danish workforce it is possible for employers to vary weekly hours of work to allow for fluctuations in production. An article in the WSJ this week highlighted a German family owned cooperation, which is actually expanding its workforce and making new investments in Germany. The key to doing this was to get its labor force to accept the Danish model of flexible work hours and rules. So on a small scale changes are occurring. And to put this even into more perspective Denmark is ahead of all other EU lands in fulfilling the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy, as revealed in the annual report – entitled The Lisbon Scorecard VI. It would appear Denmark intents to keep its fourth place ranking in economic global competitiveness index as compared to Germany’s ranking of 15 and the US’s number two. All of this does make one wonder if they wear cowboy boots in Denmark too.

Don on :

"I simply do not believe we can spend the same amount of money relatively as Germany and get the same results." What results, VinceTN? I don't doubt that Germany spends money and gets some kind of results - but how much knowledge does almost any American have about the German social welfare system? Very little I would guess. How we can intelligently compare the two systems is beyond me. One more comment: I've been involved in online communities since the mid-80's and it's my observation that performances such as the one we saw yesterday are not caused by anyone apart from the actor. One chooses one's own actions. You did not choose for him or her....

Christian on :

@ Pinkerton [i]The reality is, that most who are poor or homeless don't vote.[/i] Why is that?

Don on :

Interesting question, Christian. I doubt if Pinkerton knows the answer any better than you or I do. The homeless part is actually pretty obvious. It is because voter registration is based upon having an address - which by definition the homeless don't have. There have been efforts in some places to register the 'homeless' when they are in permanent shelters - but that's not quite homeless. But why the welfare 'poor' don't vote is less obvious. If one sees politics as a purely materialistic pursuit they ought to be marching down to the polls every election to vote for candidates who will give them a 'pay raise' - but they don't. One reason is that the Democrats don't encourage it even though they would be the nominal beneficiary of such a movement. The reason for that (I think) is that hard experience has taught the Democrats that they will lose more than one working class vote for every welfare voter they gain. There is some evidence that voter participation has risen in poor neighborhoods in the 2000 and 2004 election. I think it may have soemthing to do with Clinton's much-decried (in certain quarters) welfare reform, which had the effect of converting many welfare poor into working poor (or even members of the middle class). Marx describes the phenomena when he made a distinction between a politically aware working class and what he called the 'lumpen proletariat'.

Christian on :

@ Joe Denmark is often considered a role model in Germany. Denmark and the Netherlands are seen as the countries with the best labor law reforms and most creative ways of fighting unemployment. The Scandivians in general and Finland in particular are seen as role models for education reform. Reforming Germany is always very slow. It's annoying, but that's how it is.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Excellent, comment, [b]tcobb[/b]. > I think it is arrogant to the > extreme for anyone from either country to criticize the other > for not being more like them, and its even worse when such > "failures" are blamed on how "stupid" and "ignorant" the > population of the other country is. This accomplishes nothing. I agree. So often Europeans criticize the "huge" poverty in the US, and Americans criticize the "huge" welfare state in Europe. Both groups tend to see their system as better and give plenty of advice that ignores the underlying history and values. That was the point of this post. Having said all that, I do think it is fair enough to criticize each other in a fair way. I think Bruce Stokes did that. Neither Americans nor Europeans should feel humiliated/embarrassed/annoyed/ having lost face/etc, if someone from the other side of the ocean expresses criticism. Open-minded folks should treat criticism from abroad just like criticism from their countrymen. Many Americans criticise poverty in the US and many Europeans criticize the welfare state in Europe.

joe on :

There is no question the world needs the German economy to perform better than it has over the last 5 years. Improved performance not only benefits Germany and Europe but the rest of the world. This week in the WSJ there were several articles about the German economy. For anyone who has been following the performance of the German economic for more than a few years, there was nothing new in these articles. In fact very little had to be updated from the previous 4 or 5 years. The core or root problems have been identified and solutions have been developed for some time but have not been implemented. Given this the salient points are worth repeating. Germany is the world’s export champion. Its holds this ranking primarily because of exports of machine tools and automobiles. Competitors will challenge Germany in these areas and will have the added advantage of lower costs. Germany must now develop the new industries and services, such as biomedical and "green" energy technologies, which could serve as the economic backbone over the next generation. To do this over regulated product markets, inflexible labor laws and a risk-averse financial sector have to be changed. Second, the government, together with the private sector, must build a competitive educational system. It must foster closer ties between government-funded basic research institutions and German industry. Much of the German social welfare economic model cannot be sustained going forward. It is probably unrealistic to expect Germans to buy into the "Anglo-Saxon" economic model. Germany should look to what is working in other European nations such as Denmark and the nations of Eastern Europe. A more radical program for revitalizing East Germany must be other than betting on subsidies must be untaken. The best way and least costly would be the establishment of a special economic zone. There these six states could experiment with less regulation and more business-friendly tax and employment policies to attract investments. Can these changes occur? Yes, of course they can but it will not be easy. With strong leadership and vision it is still possible to secure the long-term economic security for Germany.

VinceTN on :

What is the status of a poor German? Are they as obese as poor Americans? Do they all have cell phones too? I don't believe "poor" means the same thing relatively. Poor in America could very well be middle class in Argentina. Consumer options for poor Americans may far exceed those in many income brackets in Germany.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Here are some numbers from the [url=http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/35/24/34555366.xls]OECD[/url] Everybody can do the math: Poverty rate: Proportion of the population below 50% median income poverty threshold Germany: 9,8 United States: 17,1 Share of children 17 years and under living in households with equivalised disposable income less than 50% of median income, percentages Germany: 12,8 United States: 21,7 GDP per capita at current prices in US dollars (current PPPs) Germany: 26400 United States: 37600 What is your conclusion?

Don on :

Conclusions, Joerg? One thing I observe is that average per-capita income in Germany is a tad higher than 70% of the US average. That means that if the average person under the US poverty line has 40% of the US per-capita income they are very likely better off than a person at the German poverty line - at least in absolute income terms. Perhaps much better off because prices of many of the basics of life are lower in the US due to lack of the enormous VAT tax. 40% of 37600 = 15400 50% of 26400 = 13200

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Vince, "Consumer options for poor Americans may far exceed those in many income brackets in Germany." You might refer to this comparison between Sweden and the US: [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/276-Economic-Outlook-of-the-United-States-and-the-European-Union.html[/url] However, I think many of the poor in the US are worse of than the poor in Europe. The OECD numbers are averages. Comparisoin are always difficult.

Don on :

Joerg, the article you linked did not really mention Sweden....

Anonymous on :

"Perhaps much better off because prices of many of the basics of life are lower in the US" No! PPP means Purchasing Power Parity. Besides, poverty is nearly twice as high in the US. Some poor are just a bit under 50% of median income, while others are considerably under the 50% median income.

Don on :

"Besides, poverty is nearly twice as high in the US." Possibly - but not necessarily true. One could easily construct a scenario in which a country like the US would have less real poverty but more measured poverty than a country like Sweden or Germany. Assume that per-capita income in the US is 40% higher than in those countries. If there arec a lot of people falling between 45% and 50% of average per-capita. Further assume that a lot of people in Germany/Sweden fall between the 50 and 55% of per-capita income in those countries. In this case the 'poor' in the US would clearly be better off than the 'non-poor' in Germany and Sweden - at least in monetary terms.

Anonymous on :

@ Don "did not really mention Sweden...." Sure it does: "Two Swedish researchers, Fredrik Bergstrom and Robert Gidehag, note in a monograph published last year that "40 percent of Swedish households would rank as low-income households in the U.S."" [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/276-Economic-Outlook-of-the-United-States-and-the-European-Union.html[/url] The problem is how you measure it.

VinceTN on :

Is there a truly scientific study on living conditions, expectations, and actual need priorities among the poor in different countries? The teamleader in my supply room is from Germany and she talks of a middle class upbringing but today her parents are in a terrible situation. Her mother waited for 5 years for a knee replacement and was on a walker by the time she got it (she's doing very well now) and both parents are actually brought food by one of their daughters to supplement their diet. My assumption is that Euros don't whine so readily like Americans when it comes to hardships so the shortcomings of other nations simply don't get the same scrutiny as ours. Her parents won't be on Oprah or be prostituted by an American Socialist to condemn capitalism. This doesn't excuse anything or claim to prove that life is hard in Germany, I just don't get too concerned with comparative reports. If America could spend all of its money on itself like much of Europe and Canada then perhaps you would see a different situation. As it is, we have many obligations, one of which has included protecting Germany, and these things affect what is possible. A more socialist and self-absorbed America could do better taking care of its people but it would demand far more from its people in the nature of lifestyle and habits. All the money spent protecting Europe all those years could have been spent on us here at home but where would that leave Europe? Might my teamleader's parents living in Germany be in even worse condition today?

Anonymous on :

Yeah, right, America can't take care of its poor citizens because you got sooo many obligations, like spreading democracy in Iraq... Iraqis are more important than your own citizens. America is not a sovereign country, but a slave of the international community. All these obligations to help other nations. You just can't help your own people. "My assumption is that Euros don't whine so readily like Americans when it comes to hardships" Sounds about right.

Don on :

The London Economist has a lead editorial this week about welfare reform in the US, and concludes that 'Tough Love Works': http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=7224022 There is a longer story protected by subsription which I'll try to summarise here: The Good: The welfare caseload in the US fell by 60% between 1996 and 2006 from 5 million to 2 million. Welfare mothers found work, and the largest increase in employment wads among women who had never been married, whose employment rate went from 44% in 1993 to to 66% in 2000. A worker at a Chicago non-profit agency who offers job-search and other services says that she has een many women start with a job ringing a cash register, then moved upward to become nurses, teachers, and social workers. "As those lives evolve, says Mrs. Davis, she also goes to a lot of weddings". The raw statistics on the poverty rate are that the poverty rate dropped from 15.1% in 1995 to 11.3% and has since risen to 12.7% I believe. That is still a subtantial fall. It appears that at least half the long-term drop in the welfare caseload consists of women who never joined the welfare program - whose lives took another path. Also it appears that on average the net income of these poor women has risen by 25%. The Bad: According to the Economist, between 10-15% of America's former welfare recipients are now neither woprking nor on welfare according to the Urban Institute. "Although some of them are able to depend on relatives or other forms of support, this group is clearly doing badly. Moreover, a much higher portion of the remaining welfare caseload is made up of people with mental or physical disabilities or other severe limitations, who cannot support their families by working." Some of these people are eligible for disability payments, but their problems are a lot more difficult to deal with than the people who have gone before, and simply increasing work requirements will not solve their problems. The conclusion I'd make from this is that US welfare reform has been a resounding success for the able-bodied and able-minded, but not so much of a success for those with severe problems. There appear to be a group who have dropped out of the system completely. Whether that is due to disability of some kind which the system cannot pick up or which doesn't rise to the threshold definition of disability or them being unwilling to work will be a matter of opinion. It's likely some of both.

German on :

"""What is the status of a poor German? Are they as obese as poor Americans? Do they all have cell phones too? I don't believe "poor" means the same thing relatively. Poor in America could very well be middle class in Argentina. Consumer options for poor Americans may far exceed those in many income brackets in""" 1. YES in germany the poor also tend to be more overweight than the average citizen and the really obese mostly are low incomers. I´ve lived in Syria about a year - There also the second level of poverty (after the very poor) is often connected with overweight. We don´t want to compare the poverty in a rich country with the poverty in a poor country like Syria, want we? 2. YES they have a refrigator, a washing machine, at least one cell phone and at least one TV YOU CAN´T MEASURE POVERTY ON CONSUMER GOODS 3. NO they don´t always have a car - but you can live without in germany quite easier than in the US, because here the public transport net is far better The rural poor families in general have a car 4. NO most of them don´t own their house/apartment, they rent it - but the minimal housing standards is better controlled by the offices, you won´t find run-down areas like in your innercities or like in many trailer parks, you won´t find trailers without running water and nearly everyone can heat his home in the winter (because the state pay a part of the heating costs for low incomers and unemployed 5. You can´t compare rural poverty in germany with rural poverty in the USA like in the Appalachia, in the "black belt", in indian reservations or in hispanic communities in texas and california - Belief me and don´t try it! 6. The number of homeless people is quite different. I´ve heard, that only in Chicago there are more than 120 000 homeless people and in many middle towns also you´ll find horrible numbers of homeless all over the USA. But sadly here in germany also the social aid system is crumbling step by step and the number of homeless is increasing. But you can´t compare the situation of being really poor in germany and in the USA.

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