Tag Archives: Bush

Be a Patriot and Spend your Stimulus

My Italian father-in-law and I used to argue over cultural and political differences between Italy and the U.S. He would issue a charge, I would deny it, and a debate would inevitably ensue. In one of our early debates, he warned me: “your economy (the U.S. economy) will collapse once its debtors begin calling in their chips.” We overuse credit cards, spend more than we can afford and consider ‘budget’ a dirty word, he would always say.

If this credit crisis has taught me anything, it has showed me that his assessment was pretty accurate. The saddest part isn’t his vindication or that I have to admit, once again, he was right… It’s that we haven’t learned. Just this weekend, while watching an Italian soccer match, an advertisement flashed across the bottom of the screen:

Your country needs you. Help the economy and spend your government stimulus. Check out cool gear at Foxsoccershop.com

Appealing to the patriotism of Americans by encouraging them to spend their government checks is appalling. Most of the blame, however, belongs to the President and politicians who, by their actions, have continued to promote our irresponsibility by implying that the best action we can take, to recover from this credit crisis, is to spend more. Isn’t that what brought us recession and foreclosures? Shouldn’t they be promoting saving, conservation and paying off our debts? If they need to give a economy a boost, why not cut the corporate tax rate? How about addressing the affordability of healthcare, the ballooning price of oil as it relates to a pathetically weak dollar and the out-of-control federal spending that has created the dollar crisis?

Why do we, as Americans, need to act irresponsibly to cure what Washington has created? Me, I’ll be banking my stimulus check to start a trend, a trend I hope other Americans continue. Spend only what you can afford and save for that rainy day you know is coming.

Criticism that Sticks

Headscarf

 

While living in Italy, at least early on, I bristled at the European accusation that we, the U.S., were always minding other countries’ affairs. Meddling. Interfering. But it didn’t take long before I realized they had a point. The long and growing list of examples of America’s nosing into other people’s business includes our recent push to gain EU membership for Turkey. Just last month after a meeting with the President of Turkey, Bush argued, “It’s in the interest of peace that Turkey be admitted into the EU.”

 

I wonder how Europeans, more specifically Germans, feel about Bush’s hyperbolic assertion. I certainly know how many Italians feel about the growing Islamic influence in Europe. I wrote about it extensively in my book, The Absentee Ballot. 

 

Speaking Tuesday before Turkish Parliament, Prime Minister Erdogan referred to Germany’s practice of assimilating Turkish immigrants into German society as a “crime against humanity,” after just last week proposing that Germany should begin creating Turkish language high-schools…in Germany.

Just three percent of the German population is of Turkish descent, yet the headscarf aficionado, with a straight face, is lobbying Germany for the creation of new high-schools, hiring teachers from Turkey and instructing students in Turkish. How outraged would we be if the Mexican President came to the United States and demanded Spanish only high-schools? Spanish speakers make up nine percent of the U.S. population. At least President Calderón, would have a better argument.

A journalist for the German newspaper Der Spiegel called the Turkish language high-school suggestion “a novel idea,” but I’m not sure the German population shares that multicultural outlook. Conservative politicians most certainly don’t. The governor of Bavaria Gunther Beckstein spoke to Germany’s N24 TV and had this to say (from Der Spiegel):

      “The task (for Turks) is to be good citizens in Germany, to learn German, to speak German in their families.”  Erdogan’s remarks are   “nationalistic” and “highly displeasing.”

Conservative German newspaper Die Walt opined:

“This is the message that will stick: The Germans don’t want integration; they want to rob the Turks of their Turkishness, of their culture. That is grist for the mill of the not especially small number of Turks or Turkish descendants who aren’t very interested in integrating and who try to blame the Germans for that.”

 “Integration also involves assimilation. A person who grows into another culture changes by doing so. He leaves much of the culture he descends from behind. He gives up the old to become someone new. It’s a beautiful, painful process. In the long run it makes no sense to refuse to accept that.”

Maybe it would be in America’s best interest for Turkey to gain EU membership, but would it really benefit our partners in NATO? Europeans, not Americans, are the ones forced to confront the radical change occurring within their societies. Setting cars ablaze, threatening newspapers, inciting hate at radical mosques and murdering artists don’t exactly reflect the enlightenment values of their adopted nations.  

When Europeans tell us to mind our own beeswax, well, maybe we should.

Hillary’s freefall; Is Barack the man to beat?

Living in Italy gave me an opportunity to learn about European politics, but it also gave me an education on American politics, only from their perspective, not The New York Times. For political geeks like me, election year entertainment is wall to wall TV coverage and site to site web reportage. But until I moved to Italy and had lived there for a while, I didn’t realize Europe’s level of interest in U.S. politics, and how significant American elections are and were abroad.

Headlining Italy’s Corriere della Sera is Hillary Clinton’s freefall from favored status. Another major Italian magazine, Panorama, calls Barack “the man to beat in New Hampshire.”  France’s Le Figaro leads with “Hillary Clinton in turmoil” and goes on to say (with Google translator’s help):

“The campaign of the former first lady, long time favorite of the Democratic primaries, seems mired in disarray. Officially, her staff ensures that the setback in Iowa hasn’t influenced its plans and that there is no need to change strategy. The emphasis is always on “experience” and to “swallow” the hope embodied by Barack Obama to the rank of perilous adventure”.

Germany’s Der Spiegel explores how populism and fears of a recession have factored into the success of Obama and Edwards—the angry crowd rouser who “speaks with rage” against the existence of  the “two Americas.”

I wonder though.

Are these European writers sympathetic to an electorate driven to the polls by 4% unemployment and $3 dollar gas? As mentioned in my book, The Absentee Ballot, as of last year, Italians were paying almost $6 per gallon for unleaded gas. European journalists and their readers suffer taxes, gas-prices and employment rates much higher than populism enthusiasts. American voters who are attracted to the message du jour see a nation filled with problems, while many others around the world see a paradise full of opportunities.  

 This election is closely followed, not just in the U.S, and is paramount, not only to the American people. It’ll be interesting to watch their reactions to Hillary’s fall, Obama’s rise and whichever Republican gets the nod.