Having lived in Europe for just over 5 years, and being an interested observer in the US economy, I have some commentary, especially having to do with our current drubbing in the international economy.
Some people may not think of having your currency devalued internationally, as a drubbing. I'm not sure if it's a way to make our debt appear smaller, a way to benefit manufacturing at the expense of the rest of the population, or what.
In any case, our investment in the Euro via our bank account here, has been a good one. Expensive, but good return on our Euro purchase. I haven't worked the percentages out yet. Something which costs 99 Euros, currently costs about 148 US dollars. About a year ago we bought in at almost 2000 Euro. The value has gone up. Not sure of values yet. I try to think of buying Euro as an investment which, at this point, will only go up.
Health care.. GM's re-negotiation of their health care program led me to wonder: Could US companies be more competitive, if the cost of health care was shifted onto the state?
Our main competitors, Western Europe and Japan, have socialized health care. Manufacturing companies do not need to figure health insurance into their costs in these places. American companies do. At what point will we realize what a drag this is on industry, and socialize health care, as has every other civilized nation, and some we don't count as such? (Cuba, Iceland).
Health insurance coverage is decreasing in the US:
Meanwhile, poverty is increasing.
(don't read the text, just look at the numbers... )
Public transportation.. France and German have both had enormous train strikes.. resulting in enormous traffic jams. Trains save gas, they save lives (reducing traffic and therefore accidents) they save personal fortunes (no car payment, no insurance!) and they create jobs. Toll roads, hello Texas, do none of the above.
Total rail fatalities in the US were 911 (no, really..).
Total highway fatalities were 42, 642.
Pedestrians were 4, 784 (don't know if this was counted in traffic fatalities, assuming most were killed by cars)
Pedalcyclists died at a rate of 773 for the year of 2006.
766 people died as a result of air and air travel related accidents.
The only thing that kills more people than cars, are heart disease, cancer ("malignant neoplasms" nothing to do with cigarettes I'm sure) strokes and the like, chronic respiratory disease (gosh, could that be cigarettes, or, worse, air quality, possibly having to do with cars?), accidents (to include what?), the flu and pneumonia.
What's shameful to me, is that the US can't conceive of the idea that, perhaps, somewhere, someone is doing something better than we are.
And if they are, that we could learn something from it.
Instead of everyone just picking up bad habits and overpriced blue jeans from us.
(I'm just kidding about Iceland. We recently met an Icelander on a train, an opera singer, who was utterly civilized and funny.. we just tend to forget about it as a country! but it's there, and the people are interesting)