5 Months, 6 Days – still sober.
No, not really. I just want to thank those who have wished me a happy birthday in my blog and also to report that I was a bit quick off the mark yesterday in complaining that all of my family had forgotten. Of course, England is 6 hours behind us over here, so during the day, and after I had published my blog, I received emails from my two daughters, my brother and sister. So all seems to be well on the family front, I hope…
It’s not long now before I make the great trek back to Blighty for my youngest daughter’s wedding and also to spend some time with my immediate family and a few close friends. I need to get a suit made as I don’t even have a tie to my name, let alone a suit! The question is, shall I go the whole hog and get a proper morning suit, or shall I just get a simple ‘lounge’ suit? A morning suit will be a lot more expensive and will probably only ever be used once – unless there is another offspring somewhere that I don’t know about who decides to invite me to their wedding. A lounge suit on the other hand, may get used again, one day.
Whither Obama? Whither USA?
I heard the other day that The USA needs to come with something like 250,000 new jobs every month from now, until election day in the fall of 2012, to get their unemployment rate down from the current 9.1% to around 7. 1 % . I am writing this fact from memory, as it is several days since I heard this, so I might have got my figures a bit wrong, but I think we can all see the general idea.
I am mentioning this little ‘factoid’ because I was watching an amazing speech by president Obama the other day when he was visiting a Chrysler auto Plant in Toledo, Ohio. To listen to him, you could be forgiven for thinking he was talking from his padded cell, down-town, somewhere in ‘la la’ land.
He was very upbeat, proudly announcing that the auto industry has added 113,000 jobs in the past two years. Really? A whopping 113,000? That’ll solve the unemployment problem, won’t it? Now I would be the last one to disparage any upturn in the American auto industry – every little helps and it is a move in the right direction, but by any standards, it will barely make a scratch, let alone a dent, in the huge unemployment problems that is bedevilling the richest and most powerful country on earth.
You could say it’s pissing in the wind, and incidentally, I wonder how many of those 113,000 jobs were in Chrysler, Ford and GM and how many were in the Japanese and other foreign auto maker’s work forces? He conveniently didn’t tell us that little tidbit.
After all, it was two of the three US owned auto makers who took the bail-out money; the Japs were left to sink or swim on their own– but of course they weren’t bothered as they were all running far better and more efficient business with far superior cars, than their American rivals.
Can you imagine the furore that would have erupted if the Japanese government had injected any funds into their American based car manufacturers to help them out of the recession? There would probably have been riots all over America.
Then, half way through his speech, I wondered if I was imagining things? I honestly wondered if my mind was playing tricks with me; was this an American actually saying they weren’t the biggest and best at something?
“….We got to have a transportation and communications network that allows our businesses to compete. We used to have the best roads, the best bridges, the best airports. In a lot of places we don’t have that any more. If you go to China, Beijing, they’ve got a fancier airport. You go to Europe, they got fancier trains, better roads. We can’t let our infrastructure just crumble and fall apart. We’re American…..”
Finally, I was listening to an American who knew how to be a little humble.
Then he went and spoiled it.
“…We invented stuff that the world now uses and the world now makes….”
Now, I would be the last one to deny America it’s place in history for the huge part they played in bringing a wealth of wonderful inventions and technical innovations into the market place for the world to enjoy and use, but before we get too carried away about this business of: “We invented stuff that the world now uses”, let’s look at the facts.
A study by MITI – Japan’s equivalent of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – concluded that 54% of the world’s most important inventions were British. Of the rest, 25% were American and 5% Japanese. The figures offered by MITI are generally agreed throughout the scientific and engineering community. Undoubtedly Britain remains one of the leaders in science and innovation and America remains one of the great countries for bringing ideas to market. The culture of British universities encourages great minds to keep researching and inventing. The culture of American investment and business encourages entrepreneurs to take an idea and develop viable products.
But more important than all this; isn’t it perhaps more important that we celebrate and honour the great minds of all nationalities that have studied the world and developed technology to bring us to the point we are today, rather than to arrogantly assert to a bunch of ill-educated red necks that the Yanks invented all the stuff that the world uses?
Of course, once I heard Obama come out with this little bit of hyperbole, I feared the worst, and sure enough it wasn’t long in coming…
“. Because of you, we can once again say that the best cars in the world are built right here in the U.S. of A.”
Now, I know very little about cars, in fact all of my car-loving friends keep telling me that I must have been off my trolley to buy a BMW, here in Thailand. Well be that as it may, I may not know much, but I do know, and have read and seen enough about cars to know, that in terms of which countries makes the best cars – by any conceivable standards of judgement – the good ol’ US of A would be trundling along, somewhere near the bottom of the list. I won’t say any more, I will let my readers be the judge. Maybe I should give Bro Barack the benefit of the doubt and assume he was referring to American made Toyotas and Hondas……
And before my valued Yankee friends rush angrily to their keyboards to assure me that this speech was purely aimed at a domestic audience, let me tell you that just about every news network throughout the world carried this speech live, and I am quite sure that Obama and his administration were fully aware of this fact.
You might as well say that it was perfectly acceptable for Hitler to get the masses worked up and brainwashed at his racist, belligerent Nuremburg rallies, because his speeches were only aimed at a domestic, German audience……
Well, enough of Obama bashing for one day – now it’s the Republican’s turn. I don’t know why, but the Grand Old Party seems determined to rubbish anything European at every turn. Sometimes I wonder if it is hangover from the War of Independence, as is evidenced by Madame Palin, currently bus-ing herself around the country, trying to remind everyone of their American heritage, and quoting stuff from Paul Revere, in particular,“The British are coming! The British are coming!….”
One of the many charges that these right wing tea party Republicans level at so-called ‘socialist’ Europe is how deplorable the British and other European healthcare systems are. Yet a totally different story is borne out by survey after survey which reveals a very high degree of satisfaction by users of these so called ‘flawed’ health systems,
Maybe the Democratic dream of universal healthcare for all American citizens has come a few decades too late. There are simply too many people and the cost of care is simply prohibitive for the American State to suddenly take over the entire cost. It will clearly bankrupt the nation; they should have done more to bring this about many years ago when it was a more viable proposition.
The British system has grown from humble beginnings way back in the 1940’s and has adapted and changed as medical advances through the years have transformed not only the treatment but also the expectations of the general public. Everybody in the UK understands that occasionally – VERY occasionally, difficult, life threatening choices have to be made. We understand that the state is not a bottomless pit of money and that sometimes the health of thousands has to be placed above the health of one individual who is seeking some experimental, astronomically expensive treatment for a rare condition. Even then, it is not unusual for special dispensations to be given that allow certain expensive treatments to go ahead. We understand this dilemma and are sufficiently grown up to accept these things.
Sure, the British health system is far from perfect. We can all recount our State healthcare problems and nightmares through the years – but would we change it for that mess they have in America? No way in a million years!
Then just the other day I heard some Republican politicians, talking about the high unemployment rate in the USA and advocating radical solutions, adding forcefully that there is no way that The USA would accept the high unemployment rates, currently prevalent in Europe.
So let’s see now: The American unemployment rate is 9.1%, The UK rate is currently 7.7 %, The German rate is currently 6.1 % and even dear old lazy, spendthrift, corrupt Italy has an unemployment rate of 8.1%…. Maybe we should be saying that there is no way that we, in Europe, will accept an unemployment rate as high as that in America….But unlike Obama, we are not trying to spend our way out of recession.
Just in case you may be wondering, no, I haven’t forgotten about France. Maybe the French and the Yanks deserve each other – after all they are always at each other’s throats, (French fried Strauss-Kahn to name but two), and are generally disliked by the rest of the world, so maybe these strange bedfellows have something in common.
No, surely not!
Yes, they do!
France also has an unemployment rate of 9.1%!!