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Thread: Why do the French have an uppity middle class and we don’t?

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Question Why do the French have an uppity middle class and we don’t?

    French Workers Hold their Boss Hostage: Why Do the French have an Uppity Middle Class and We Don’t?
    The workers are being helped by 500 supporters who are protesting outside and are bringing them food. Why do the French protest and we don’t?

    First, the reason why the French shouldn’t be protesting. If they lose their jobs, they have long and generous unemployment insurance and a solid welfare system after that. They won’t lose their homes, go hungry, or end up living in the streets.

    If their life’s savings are wiped out in the market, they still won’t be destitute in their old age, because their equivalent of Social Security for old age pensions is strong – when you get old, you’re safe.

    If they lose their jobs they don’t lose their health insurance, and their health care system is among the best in the world. And they won’t have to pull their kids out of school or college, because public education – all the way to a PhD or MD – is free or close to it for intellectually qualified students. For those who want to pursue the trades, trade schools are also free.

    We have the opposite – if we lose our jobs, we’re broke, homeless, future-less, and in danger of dying from lack of health care. We have to pull our kids out of school. We literally can die from lack of a job.

    Which, counter-intuitively, is why they’re protesting in the streets and we aren’t. They have the kind of security we were approaching in the 1960s and 1970s when we were at 35% unionization in America. So they know that if they get arrested and can’t make it to work or school the next day, losing their job or being kicked out of school isn’t a disaster. There are always other opportunities.

    We, on the other hand, have succumbed to the plan that Reagan and Greenspan put in place in the early 1980s to prevent any future “unrest” or “instability” among the middle class. Conservatives in the ‘60s and ‘70s in the United States and the United Kingdom saw all the protests in the streets and were horrified. These people had too much safety, too much security, and thus too much of an attitude. As Alan Greenspan bragged in 1997 to The Wall Street Journal, he saw his job aas head of the Fed starting back in the 1980s as being first and foremost to “prevent wage inflation.” That’s code for “keep down the middle class.” He talked about how whenever the economy got too good, he’d raise interest rates, slowing down the economy and raising unemployment, to maintain a “certain level of insecurity” among workers.

    So now the American workers and students are fearful and docile, the victims of 29 years of Reaganomics. To a large extent, Thatchernomics produced a similar result in the UK, although their social safety net was so strong before she came into office that her damage to it wasn’t as bad as the damage done by Reagan to the United States.

    We should look to the French workers – and the broader situations of their lives – for some lessons about how to reinvent America in a way that rebuilds a strong – and occasionally uppity – middle class.

    French Workers Hold their Boss Hostage: Why Do the French have an Uppity Middle Class and We Don’t? | Thom Hartmann

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    Elite Member Beeyotch's Avatar
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    I wouldn't call it an uppity middle class, but I agree with this guy a lot. Especially about Americans now being fearful and docile. The French know where it's at in this case. It would be nice to have Social Security when we need it and affordable health care. And this pisses me off no end:

    He talked about how whenever the economy got too good, he’d raise interest rates, slowing down the economy and raising unemployment, to maintain a “certain level of insecurity” among workers.
    Well fuck you very much Greenspan!

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    Elite Member louiswinthorpe111's Avatar
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    There was a point about this made in Sicko. Americans living in France talked about how the French government was afraid of it's people and the American people are afraid of it's government.
    Last edited by louiswinthorpe111; April 2nd, 2009 at 01:09 PM. Reason: wow, that was riddled with typos!

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    ^Yeah. I remember that. Sadly, it's true.

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    Elite Member LaFolie's Avatar
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    A bit too simplistic...
    On avance, on avance, on avance...

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFolie View Post
    A bit too simplistic...

    can be, but you cannot deny that America is far from what it was supposed to be founded on. THere's hardly a middle class in the US anymore; how can someone be middle class, get cancer and then be forced to file for bankruptcy because the insurance company won't pay the treatment? Most of American middle class struggles to pay back college loans, mortgages or medical bills. People work 2 or 3 jobs and spend most of their day driving their cars from overpriced suburbs (Jesus, lot of those homes are built in wood!). It's time for the Americans to wake up, and realise they have been scammed for a long time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFolie View Post
    A bit too simplistic...
    Not really. The French killed a king. They can oust their presidents whenever they damn-well feel like it (just like every other democracy on earth except the USA.) The government works for them, not vice versa.

    Want to know why the USA, for all it's propaganda about work ethic, is NOT the major exporting nation to China? (Germany is) Want to know why France and Italy still export more goods than they import?

    Doesn't it disturb you that every other Western gov't has a safety net that will help them ride out this recession...and the US does not?

    Wouldn't it be nice to have a gov't that cared if you keep your job or not over the interests of a minority of greedy bankers?

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    The French are right (again)

    The Europeans spend more money on social programs than we do -- and get great results, in everything from universal childcare to tuition-free higher education.
    By Joe Conason
    Apr. 03, 2009 |

    If the world is no longer enthralled by the “old Washington consensus” of privatization, deregulation and weak government, as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown proclaimed at the London G-20 summit, then now it is surely time to reconsider what that consensus has meant for us over the past three decades. We could begin by looking across the Atlantic at the “social market” nations of Europe -- where support for families and children is less rhetorical and more real than here.

    Most coverage of the summit failed to observe the stinging irony of the debate over stimulus spending that brought the United States into conflict with France and Germany. Today’s American demand that the French and Germans (along with the rest of wealthy Europe) should spend much more on government programs and infrastructure contrasts rather starkly with the traditional American criticism of Europeans for spending too much.

    Not that the Obama administration’s complaint about the French and the Germans is necessarily wrong; the Europeans and especially France and Germany should overcome their fear of inflation and spend more to help relieve the global recession. But then we almost always have some complaint against the French -- and the French often turn out to be right, as they were when they objected to the invasion of Iraq.

    So when the French and other Europeans note pointedly that their societies routinely spend much more than ours to protect workers, women, the young, the elderly, and the poor from economic trouble, they’re merely making a factual observation. (France spends as much as 1.5 percent of GDP annually on childcare and maternity benefits alone.) Different as we are in culture and history, we might even learn something from their example, now that the blinding ideology of the past has been swept away.

    By now, most Americans ought to know that Europeans treat healthcare as a public good and a human right, which means that they spend billions of tax dollars annually to insure everyone (although they spend less overall on the medical sector than we do). What most Americans probably still don’t know is that those European medical systems are highly varied, with private medicine and insurance playing different roles in different countries. Expensive as universal quality care has inevitably become, as technology improves and populations age, the Europeans broadly believe in their social security systems -- because they provide competitive advantage as well as moral superiority.

    From Europe’s perspective, the same can be said of the support its governments provide to families, from the entitlements available to pregnant women and new mothers and fathers, to universal child care and tuition-free higher education, to the special benefits that assist single parents. The challenges that working families face in a globalizing world where both parents work are mitigated by policies designed to encourage balance between home and workplace and adequate attention to children.

    These “socialist” measures to protect families are far more effective, of course, than all of the Sunday shouting from American pulpits about the Biblical way of life. Perhaps the leadership of the religious right, still obsessed with stigmatizing gay couples, should take note.

    To Americans unfamiliar with the “social market” approach to public policy, the specifics of the European programs are stunning. In France, for instance, women are entitled to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave following the birth of their first and second child -- and 26 weeks paid leave following the birth of each subsequent child, at 100-percent of their pre-maternity wages. Men are entitled to 11 days of fully-paid paternity leave, and both mom and dad can take advantage of an additional three years of parental leave with lower benefits. Childcare is subsidized by the state as early as 18 months and by the time children are 30 months old, they are guaranteed a place in France’s free public preschools, which are staffed by well-paid teachers with graduate training in early childhood education. Similar systems and benefits can be found in countries across Western Europe (with the exception of the United Kingdom) -- and the effects on educational performance can be seen in many comparative studies. They’re happier, too, by the way (and evangelicals please note that the divorce rate in Norway has fallen by six percent over the past decade, possibly as a result of reduced pressure on families).

    In the Nordic countries, benefits are even more generous in certain respects. Sweden provides parents with 15 months of paid parental leave that can be divided as mom and dad think best, and they also can choose to work six hours per day, at pro-rated pay, until their children reach their eighth birthday. (In other words, one or both parents can be home every day when school gets out.)

    Like most of their continental neighbors, the nations of the north provide free or highly subsidized, high-quality child care that begins as soon as new mothers return to work. Nearly every child between the ages of three and six is enrolled in the public child care system, because it is staffed by well-paid and well-trained workers overseen by the national ministry of education. The results include not only better socialization and education of young children, but far lower poverty rates, especially among single mothers. And the security of European families is enhanced as well by the universal provision of decent old-age pensions and health care, which relieves the financial burden of supporting elderly parents while trying to raise children. So does free or low-cost university education.

    It is true that globalization, aging and immigration have imposed severe pressure on the budgets of European countries, and the trend of increasing benefits that continued until a decade ago has been reversed. But it is also undeniable that despite those pressures, public and political support for the social market economy remains strong across Europe, and that free-market fundamentalism is a thoroughly discredited alternative. The old argument that the social market is unsustainable and hinders growth was never persuasive on close inspection. And the old expectation that outmoded European systems would eventually collapse into imitating ours has been swept away, along with the rest of the Washington consensus. Now perhaps we can honestly consider what America might learn from them.

    -- By Joe Conason
    The French are right (again) | Salon

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    Elite Member MontanaMama's Avatar
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    Ummm, it must be nice for those countries like France and Germany not to have to spend money on pesky things like the military, when they've got the US to do it for them. I get the the US has done it wrong and I'm all for a more logical approach to healthcare, education (ok any approach) and social services, AND I know that we are warmongers (thank you Bush I & II), but it's not exactly a fair comparison when the US has been the world's police force.

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMama View Post
    Ummm, it must be nice for those countries like France and Germany not to have to spend money on pesky things like the military, when they've got the US to do it for them.
    Uh, France has its own military as does Germany. They have modern armies, navies, airforces and a few hundred thousand - 1 million men under arms.

    France also has neutron bombs fer gods sake. They're members of NATO.

    They just don't have a ridiculously massive military industrial complex for the sake of it, and they don't tend to jaunt off invading countries and bankrupting themselves.

    Military of France - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Bundeswehr - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I get the the US has done it wrong and I'm all for a more logical approach to healthcare, education (ok any approach) and social services, AND I know that we are warmongers (thank you Bush I & II), but it's not exactly a fair comparison when the US has been the world's police force.
    The US takes that roll on itself. It did after world war 2 and continued since, even when it wasn't needed or warranted.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Elite Member katerpillar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMama View Post
    Ummm, it must be nice for those countries like France and Germany not to have to spend money on pesky things like the military, when they've got the US to do it for them. I get the the US has done it wrong and I'm all for a more logical approach to healthcare, education (ok any approach) and social services, AND I know that we are warmongers (thank you Bush I & II), but it's not exactly a fair comparison when the US has been the world's police force.
    LOL!

    Pardon me while I laugh in your face.

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    Elite Member LaFolie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grimmlok View Post
    Uh, France has its own military as does Germany. They have modern armies, navies, airforces and a few hundred thousand - 1 million men under arms.

    France also has neutron bombs fer gods sake. They're members of NATO.

    They just don't have a ridiculously massive military industrial complex for the sake of it, and they don't tend to jaunt off invading countries and bankrupting themselves.

    Military of France - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Bundeswehr - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



    The US takes that roll on itself. It did after world war 2 and continued since, even when it wasn't needed or warranted.

    We're not in it, unless we have joined it recently.
    On avance, on avance, on avance...

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    ... no, France is a charter member of NATO and has been since the start of the Cold War

    France is a charter member of NATO, and has worked actively with its allies to adapt NATO — internally and externally — to the post-Cold War environment. In December 1995, France announced that it would increase its participation in NATO's military wing, including the Military Committee (France withdrew from NATO's military bodies in 1966 whilst remaining full participants in the Organisation's political Councils).
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

  14. #14
    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFolie View Post
    We're not in it, unless we have joined it recently.
    No, France has always been a member. They've withdrawn their troops from time to time, but they've remained members.
    NATO - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    i think in western europe only switzerland, austria, sweden, finland and ireland aren't members.
    I'm open to everything. When you start to criticise the times you live in, your time is over. - Karl Lagerfeld

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