Sunday, July 8, 2007

EU vs US: Who lives better?

Ah, the eternal debate. A favorite cocktail conversation for us poor (er, rich) Americans in Europe, one that gets more entertaining with each round of drinks. Everywhere on this glorious continent I have lived and traveled, Europeans love to hate on the US, until they tell me they want to work or study there (as soon as Bush is out of office), or entertain themselves with our music and movies. But, this being a globalized world where our entertainment stuff is available to them, that fact doesn't really answer the question of who, in their own countries, lives better.

All this has recently been brought into focus by the release of M.Moore's "Sicko," which shows (if I understand correctly) just how shitty the American health care system is for the best country ever. I've always been stunned with the wretchedness of our system, and how clearly it reinforces the class stratification of our advanced capitalist society. But right now I don’t feel like making a valuable contribution to the debate. This is probably a good idea because I’m still on the fence anyway (though leaning toward Europe...until their social welfare system implodes), and because I have plenty of other work to do today. And because I'm not drunk yet. However, I figured I’d link to a recent fair-minded contribution to the debate by Timothy Egan, which can serve as a nice platform for future debates.

One highlight: Last year, Warren Buffett, third richest man in the world, was taxed at 17 percent. His receptionist paid nearly twice that, at 30 percent. There's American justice at work for you, people. Then again, let's not forget that pretty much everyone in Europe is taxed at over 30%, but the universal medical coverage is so mediocre or slow that those who can afford it opt to pay extra for private plans.

The debate, which should go through some interesting ups and downs in the near future as the US continues with a war on terror and weak dollar, and the EU tries to, er, function, and evolve successfully. For a longer and more detailed review of this issue, check out this Tony Judt piece in the NYRB, appropriately entitled "Europe vs America." I will do my best to expose ugly truths and hypocrisies without actually getting ill here and having to test the system first-hand.

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