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Romney’s most recent statement that Obama won by offering "gifts" to African-Americans, Hispanics and young voters reminds us all of his now infamous 47% comments. But it also reminds me of something else: the Republican fear of freeloaders.

Freeloaders, as conservatives view them, include many types of people, not just those who for example don’t have a disability but figure a way to get disability benefits. It also includes people who have a hard time finding a job and collect unemployment benefits. It includes low income women who have children they can’t take care of and collect welfare benefits, and many other people who get help from the government.

When I was fifteen I traveled from Peru, where I grew up, to Germany, to visit my godmother. I marveled at the sight of the clean and organized cities, perfectly build roads, bridges and buildings, the orderly traffic, and the visible lack of poor people. At some point during my visit, I spotted with great surprise two shabby dressed men who appeared to be homeless because they were sitting on the sidewalk. I exclaimed: “Look, you have poor people too!”

My wealthy godmother replied with indignation something like this:

       “No, those men are not poor, we (here in Germany) pay a lot of taxes so that nobody will go without food, a roof over their heads, and everyone will have an opportunity to get ahead in their life. These men are there because they choose to be there.”
There was obvious anger in her voice about having to pay high taxes, but there was also something else there, that seems to never occur to a Republican: pride in a country that takes care of all its citizens.

Lesson #1: To overcome the hate or fear of freeloaders, imagine how proud you would feel, that with your help, your country is able to look after everybody. If that means that some people will abuse the system, so be it; there will always be people who do that.

But why do Republicans focus so much of their attention on those who “milk the system” by receiving entitlement benefits or “gifts” as Romney calls them?

Where is the outrage about those large and wealthy corporation who ship jobs oversees and “milk the system” to avoid paying millions in taxes? Where is the outrage about big oil corporations that “milk the system” by receiving government subsidies and using loopholes to avoid paying taxes?

Germany has a very strict tax system that most German companies obey, but as recently as this November, Germany is teaming up with the UK to close the “profit-shifting” loophole on multinational companies who make business in Europe. Which companies? Amazon, Facebook, Google and Starbucks. American companies.

Lesson #2: Transform that hate or fear of freeloaders into outrage at seeing big corporations and wealthy individuals play the system and withhold billions in revenue that could help lower the debt.

In an ideal world where there are no physical or mental disabilities, where every child is born to a decent, two-parent family and community with strong role models and ethical values, a pure meritocracy is appealing. In the real world, it doesn't work as well.

Eliminating safety nets, benefits or “gifts” as Romney calls it, is not the solution. The solution is to have a competent government that takes care of everybody, while ensuring that as few people as possible abuse the system, and that should include the wealthy.

Lesson #3: Think positive. Think how strong a country can become when it gives a chance to everybody to make it in life. Just look at Germany, who offers very low-cost, free education, health care and other benefits for all. If a small country like Germany can do it, don’t you think the US can do it too?

I have always wondered where that fear, obsession and disgust with “freeloaders”, “mooches”  and “leeches” comes from ( I found those terms in the comment section of this article). My guess is that people who have a strong sense of responsibility with regards to work and family, but also struggle with this responsibility, with work that is tenuous, with fatigue and long hours at jobs that are not as fulfilling even if they are well remunerated often resent those who don’t take their responsibilities as seriously as they do.

Lesson #4: To overcome the hate or fear of freeloaders, relax a bit, it’s okay to relax, take a long vacation. Look at Germany, they have 6 weeks vacation and the strongest economy in Europe.

I look at my liberal friends, some of whom are artists and musicians who make a good living off their careers, but because they enjoy what they do, I never hear nor could fathom them complaining about people who don’t work hard enough. Even some successful billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet share that compassionate view about helping people in need without the anger or fear that people will be taking advantage of their generosity. My take is that these people work hard but enjoy what they do, and because they know they are privileged to be in that position, they don’t hold it against anyone else or judge others who are not as capable of making an earning and taking care of themselves.

Lesson #5: This is not a German lesson, but a human lesson. Feel grateful and privileged of your circumstances and upbringing. Feel grateful and privileged that you are not that person begging on a street for money and focus on finding ways to enjoy your job and life a bit more. If you are happy, you will want everybody to be happy.

Originally posted to healthy on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 05:01 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (149+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mark Mywurtz, Louisiana 1976, divineorder, evilstorm, a gilas girl, kevinpdx, MKHector, Catesby, DeadHead, WisVoter, kbman, Dreidlgirl, Permanent Republican Minority, rmonroe, bnasley, ItsaMathJoke, Aaa T Tudeattack, ichibon, Heart n Mind, Jujuree, jan4insight, RandomGuyFromGermany, jdld, halef, DBunn, jazzence, Regina in a Sears Kit House, martini, Larsstephens, translatorpro, lizah, Hillbilly Dem, notrouble, flowerfarmer, DvCM, Diana in NoVa, UniC, el vasco, ask, blueoasis, concernedamerican, IreGyre, lotlizard, sailmaker, Curt Matlock, Mickquinas, toosinbeymen, Jollie Ollie Orange, rosette, Mudderway, TexasLefty, NoMoreLies, LynChi, One Pissed Off Liberal, lcrp, codairem, BlackBandFedora, Nebraskablue, Pandoras Box, rapala, karmsy, pamelabrown, jck, MasterPlan, copymark, CTLiberal, Thinking Fella, Bill Roberts, Odysseus, Joieau, Its a New Day, stormicats, LibChicAZ, GeorgeXVIII, Aureas2, LibrErica, 207wickedgood, sawgrass727, Damnit Janet, millwood, Eikyu Saha, CyberLady1, Killer of Sacred Cows, rogerdaddy, Involuntary Exile, splashy, ozsea1, sostos, semiot, jhop7, wasatch, Cronesense, Duncan Idaho, dwahzon, bfbenn, CA ridebalanced, Egalitare, Chi, Troubadour, tofumagoo, worldly1, MadMs, Nulwee, elziax, Gowrie Gal, eyeswideopen, LuvSet, cherryXXX69, Pilgrim X, Trotskyrepublican, citisven, hatecloudsyourthoughts, drewfromct, Chaddiwicker, SteelerGrrl, Friend in Miami, DRo, eru, ms badger, petulans, Rhysling, AaronInSanDiego, Mistral Wind, Simplify, llywrch, QuoVadis, justme2122, Sapere aude, elwior, maxcat06, gulfgal98, chira2, Emerson, sebastianguy99, rlharry, pittie70, chicagoblueohio, means are the ends, limae, elginblt, Anthony Page aka SecondComing, FarWestGirl, Sailorben, jeanette0605, zooecium, DaveVH, La Gitane, FreeWoman19, exNYinTX

    Once you vote smart, you never go back. Four more years!

    by healthy on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 05:01:24 PM PST

  •  Excellent post, worthy of being rescued in (46+ / 0-)

    DK Community.

    Teh Germans had a funny the other day on one of my favorite revenue gathering proposals...

    German campaign for Robin Hood Tax produce new video -
    "Difficult Labour"
    In this funny German video a reluctant banker tries to avoid the inevitable.  

    Move Single Payer Forward? Join 18,000 Doctors of PNHP and 185,000 member National Nurses United

    by divineorder on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 05:27:19 PM PST

  •  part of it comes from an absolute (50+ / 0-)

    refusal to understand the wholeness of our systems, like the economy or even work systems.  Management tends to think that it (management) is what makes companies successful, while the people doing the work are simply a burden that they (management) have to work around.

    It also stems from the US fallacy that the only things of value are those which generate wealth and the false assumption that the wealth something generates is a transparent statement of its value, therefore people who don't generate any wealth, don't have any value.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 05:42:22 PM PST

    •  Or Greek. Or Spanish. Or Italian. (13+ / 0-)

      You should hear my German mother in law about the (ex) east Germans.
      Or hell, just listen to Angela Merkel for 5 minutes.  If you can stand it.  Germans are NOT immune to the fear of freeloader ism.  What the heck do you think Austerity is all about?

      •  One mother-in-law is not the entire (22+ / 0-)

        population of a country. I live here in Germany (expat) and the people I associate with don't think that way.  (Also see my post above this one). And - as in the US - the young people are growing more tolerant because they go to school with children of non-German parents, so it's changing. Slowly, but changing nonetheless. And don't forget two very important points: a) The CDU is the CONSERVATIVE party, and b) Merkel grew up in East Germany, which was pretty much isolated from "the foreignization" of Germany. Germany was missing a whole generation of young men to rebuild after WWII and needed the guest workers. And they still do because there are too few German children born.

        In any event, the poster was making a different point, and austerity comes from a different mindset. One of the reasons Germany's economy is doing fine and recovered very quickly from the economic meltdown of 2008 is their monetary policy, attitude toward debt and the importance they place on their employees. The government paid a lot to keep people employed with curtailed hours. And it served them very well, I might add, though I agree austerity not a good idea for the EU economies that are in trouble.

        „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

        by translatorpro on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 01:18:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  agreed (13+ / 0-)

          I have lived in Germany twice over the last decade and a half, and yes there are negative feelings at times from some people.  The point being though, that while there is a push for austerity NO ONE calls for out and out abandonment of government programs in any way.  Improving them, encouraging people to get back to work, limitations, yes--tweaking things to make it work better.  Sometimes it is more conservative of course but there is really no comparison at all to the drown the government in the bathtub moocher feeling in America.

          I have also lived and worked in Italy, and trust me, there is lots of fat there to be trimmed for sure, so a call for austerity is a far thing from what Republicans advocate here.

          "They have tried to sell us this trickle-down, tax-cut fairy dust before. And guess what? It does not work. It didn't work then, it won't work now." --Barack Obama

          by lizah on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 02:59:39 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I am curious... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Could you tell me how much the average German pays in tax to have low cost Education, free health care and such? I am trying to understand the comparisons to us here in US. And six weeks paid vacation to boot?

          Republicans, dead end offshoot of the Neanderthals.

          by NoSeriously on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 02:06:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ballpark figure for salaried employees (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NoSeriously, citisven

            was about 1/3 of your paycheck when I was employed by others, but that was some time ago. Re healthcare, you pay 50% and the employer pays the other half, the rest goes to your social security, unemployment tax, 7% solidarity tax for East Germany, etc.

            Here are  two articles with fairly detailed info.


            As a freelancer it's different, because I have to pay all my insurance myself. German private health insurance was too expensive, so after doing quite a bit of research I ended up buying into a French group insurance plan by joining an organization that offers it. Of course, no paid vacation, etc. but I can also write off stuff. Is it worth it? Financially, I'm not sure it is, but the freedom I have being my own boss is priceless. ;-)

            „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

            by translatorpro on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 02:27:05 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  And Merkel is in charge. (0+ / 0-)

          So what does that say about political power in Germany?

          One of the reasons Germany's economy is doing fine and recovered very quickly from the economic meltdown of 2008 is their monetary policy, attitude toward debt and the importance they place on their employees.
           The government paid a lot to keep people employed with curtailed hours. And it served them very well, I might add, though I agree austerity not a good idea for the EU economies that are in trouble.
          Exactly, the biggest reason they did so well was their "beggar-thy-neighbor" policies most often directed at "lazy" southerns.
          •  I have heard/read others stating that, but (0+ / 0-)

            without any references to back it up. I'm no friend of the CDU, and hope the Greens/SPD win the election next year, but I can't vote and am not all that interested in Germany politics or economics. I follow the cultural aspects more, as that is where my professional focus is.

            „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

            by translatorpro on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 02:55:25 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •   To be fair they had help... (0+ / 0-)

              ...from a more European level consensus. However Germany essentially leads the ECB.

              This article from February explains what I am getting at. It's probably more complicated than I noted but it find it quite frustrating.


              •  I don't see the article as damning to German (0+ / 0-)

                policy as you do. To me it just seems that Germany has a lot more sound fiscal policy and was foresighted enough to use it to their advantage. While regrettable that it worked the other way for others, if they had done the same, instead of loading themselves up with debt that was hidden (like Greece, with the help of Goldman Sachs), or other poor decisions or allowing bubbles to form, they would not be in trouble now. Perhaps the error was in allowing the fiscally weaker countries to join in the first place.

                Their [many EU countries] borrowing costs fell, as currency risk seemed to vanish and interest rates converged with the already low German rates. That cheaper credit helped them to borrow and grow. But most did little to hold down labor costs, or to enact structural reforms to let them cope with an environment where they could no longer regain competitiveness through currency devaluation.
                Germans are correct when they say that it was mistakes made by the other countries — whether in allowing real estate bubbles in Spain and Ireland or borrowing too much and failing to enact structural reforms in Italy — that caused the problems. But the euro has become a straitjacket for troubled economies trying to recover.
                So it's Germany's fault that these countries are tied to the euro now? Ok, whatev.  My guess is a lot of envy is involved, but what do I know? Doesn't make sense to me to say it's all Germany's fault, but I'm not a numbers person, as stated above.
                With this, I'm bowing out of the exchange, as I have a lot of work to do, and deadlines to meet. Thanks for an interesting discussion.

                „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

                by translatorpro on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 01:47:13 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Okay, we shall part ways. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  I just see Germany as the principle impediment to Keynesian style recovery and transfers from the core to the periphery ala-New York to Mississippi that's required in a true fiscal union. But note it is not alone in the second.

                  Thanks for discussing.

                  •  Just a quick note: (0+ / 0-)

                    I really enjoyed the civil exchange, even if we don't see eye to eye, but I'm really hopeless with numbers, or anything related, so I'm really not a good person to talk economics or economic theory with. Give me another language, literature, intercultural topics, or grammar any day, the arts, etc. and I'm happy as a pig in shit, but fractions and algebra, and economics? Yikes! No interest at all.

                    „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

                    by translatorpro on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 11:30:35 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

      •  which is not to say there is not racism (5+ / 0-)

        or discrimination against others....I am not saying that.

        "They have tried to sell us this trickle-down, tax-cut fairy dust before. And guess what? It does not work. It didn't work then, it won't work now." --Barack Obama

        by lizah on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 03:00:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Berlin Woman Hissed "Juden!" At My Friend (6+ / 0-)

        he was talking loudly and luaghing in a restaurant ( I noticed Berlin restaurants were nearly silent) and she'd been glaring at him.  He is by the way Sicilean and rather antisemitic himeslf.

        There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

        by bernardpliers on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 07:30:49 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  That's quite a sweeping statement. (15+ / 0-)

      I have lived in Germany (expat) for many years, and the people I associate with don't think that way, so it's not "the Germans" as a whole. But I've also met people who think there are too many foreigners. That's an easy argument to have. I tell them "then the Germans need to have more children. Germany needs the Turks and other Gastarbeiter to maintain the infrastructure and keep the country running, because the birthrate is too low." Turks also own a lot of small businesses, which helps the economy, and other EU citizens work in the fields, i.e. do work that no German would do anymore. Sound familiar? The German people are (generally) more practical than they are prejudiced, and they usually understand and agree with my point.

      „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

      by translatorpro on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 01:03:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I got to know... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...some Germans online at other places I've gone. talked with them about many topics for years who are quite economically and socially left, only to have them reveal vocal support for GOP style "voluntary deportation" of Turks in Germany no matter how many generations they've been there.

        It wasn't an issue with Germans I knew offline when I was younger (about a dozen exchange students).

        So perhaps I am unduly influenced.

        But the point really, is that it's a lot easier to achieve socio-economic justice when the entire populous is ethnically homogeneous something that hasn't been true in this country for many years and resulted in the break up of the New Deal.

    •  No society is immune to... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      translatorpro, elwior

      ...some segment of citizens who want to pull up the drawbridge on some "undeserving other."

      The degree to which that sentiment drives policy and budget is what matters. We here in the States may now just be recognizing that we have been indulging the so-called "Job Creaters", "the Makers", or whatever insidious, focus-group tested buzzword the Financial Elites desire to hype for far too long. How long it takes to properly address decades of misplaced and misguided enabling is still an open question.

      It is far less costly in the long run for any rational society to strive for broadly-shared prosperity and accept that for whatever reason some relatively small number of people just can't or won't productively participate (and I contend that the "can'ts" will ALWAYS far outnumber the "won'ts").

      When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Egalitare on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 12:03:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Re #1 and the 'fear' of freeloaders. (11+ / 0-)

    Although I'm not a religious person, I always dealt with that 'fear' with a glance to the Bible and that particular story of that particular city that would have been saved, had there only lived a handful of righteous people.

    So while I pay and have paid hefty taxes and saw the abuse, I always figured that it was more important to think of the people in real need, that could receive meaningful help through that system.

    Now, I'm sure you could always spin this in the negative direction and accuse me of being lazy and rather 'outsource' the help to government than pick the people myself that I think would deserve help and help them directly - but, you see, that's the point.

    Much like I 'outsource' justice to the law and don't punish people myself, who I think deserve so, I also 'outsource' that kind of help to the law, because I think that in the end it's more fair.

    Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. -- Philip K. Dick

    by RandomGuyFromGermany on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 11:28:18 PM PST

  •  Given the origin of the term "Useless Eaters" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    am not sure Germany is yet the best example for this.

    (Google is your friend.)

  •  Interesting post, thanks. (12+ / 0-)

    As an American who has lived in Germany for a long time, I appreciate the social net even though it means I pay very high taxes, and the German tax system is pretty hard on freelancers. Luckily I make a decent enough living that it's not a hardship, but no luxuries, either. There were other times, though, when I was glad of the system. Some Germans may grumble about so-called "moochers", but certainly those I associate with don't. They exist, of course, but not the entire population has that attitude, so the generalizations and stereo-typing are misplaced, as they are anywhere and in any context.

    Let me tell you what I resent more as a taxpayer in Germany than helping people who are down and out: A person I know has a highly-paid, secure job at a university, and he spends a lot of supposed "work time" doing personal stuff, tinkering with making websites and graphics, drawing up flyers for friends, printing them out, etc. all on the taxpayer's dime. That's the kind of thing that really annoys me - someone who doesn't need a break taking advantage of the system and making it more expensive for the rest of us. Even worse, this is someone who almost obsesses about the cost of things and pinching pennies! (Yes, I live in Swabia - Germany's Scotland, i.e. pennypincher heaven, and again, it's true in some cases, but not all!!)

    I think you really have to live in a country for some time, speak the language and immerse yourself in the culture before you can make any judgments. Of course, there are some things that are not easy for me to accept or took some getting used to, but I'll take it over unemployment and poverty in the US any day.

    „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

    by translatorpro on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 03:18:54 AM PST

    •  I don't know the extend (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nulwee, niemann

      that the guy at the university does non related workstuff, but i think its important to not judge to harhly there, just because he gets his money from the state. Beamten afterall are just humans as well and lots of people do non work related time during their work hours, sure there is a limit to what is acceptable, but just because a person gets their money from the state doesn't alter their need to relax ect. Of couse without knowing specifics, maybe this guy does deserve to get judged.

      "We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

      by Mudderway on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 06:36:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If you paid as much in taxes as I do, (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sychotic1, niemann, citisven

        I don't think you'd be so sanguine about it, either, tbh. As I said, it makes everything more expensive for the rest of us, and esp. freelancers who have to fight for every client and job. No 6-week vacations for us, no state-paid health insurance nor any other kind of insurance. We have to pay for that ourselves. It's not all milk and honey, not for the self-employed, unlike one poster at DK who shall not be named, but thinks otherwise.

        „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

        by translatorpro on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 09:14:08 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think it futile (0+ / 0-)

          to get so mad at this kind of thing. I mean imagine this particular guy would only be paid for the effective work he did and the saved money would be given in tax cuts. how much money is that going to save you? a tenth of a cent maybe?

          "We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

          by Mudderway on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 09:19:38 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's one example. The German "Beamten", the govt. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            citisven, llywrch

            employees, are famous - or rather infamous -  for this type of behavior on their jobs, so it adds up to a lot over time.  Where do you live? And if you don't live where I do, and pay comparable taxes, I'd say no wonder you have no understanding of what I'm talking about.

            „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

            by translatorpro on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 09:30:50 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Hi translatorpro (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              translatorpro, llywrch, gulfgal98

              I totally hear you about people in lifetime positions (Beamte) just kind of riding it out. There are certainly exceptions but a lot of Beamte in Germany strive to do as little as possible once they've got their nest made. But the same holds true in the U.S. I have friends who work for the transportation agency in SF and they've got some crazy stories about people taking advantage of their tenure, either just sitting on their asses or running side businesses on government time. But as the diarist makes the good point, you'll always have people taking advantage of these positions, but it's the price we pay as society for taking care of everyone.

              I guess my feeling is that I ultimately don't envy someone who is so bored and uninspired with their job that they would just write off a third of their lives to just doing time. Life is short, and I'd rather struggle a little bit, but do the things that give me meaning than to be comfortably numb.

              Gotta run, but wanna say hi!

            •  I used to live in (0+ / 0-)

              swabia, but now i live in Niedersachsen. I most certainly don't pay the same taxes as you, but I don't think that alone makes my viewpoint invalid. I can give you an example of someone who shares my viewpoint on this issue and who spent most of his life paying the highest tax bracket, my father. He came from a rather poor household, with his father working as a shoesalesman and his mother a secretary, but his father lived the SPD of the time (his grandparents were actually kpd members and some of family were shipped into concentration camps though my father never met any of them),  so my father grew up in the whole workingclass enviroment. Later in life though he had a good job but he never complained about taxes being too high, because he understands the need for them. And he never complained about beamten, because people taking some advantage of the system will always happen, its the price of the system. The only way to really stop it from happening is to make life a hell of constant control and making people always fear their jobs, which really isn't how people should live. There are some jobs a society needs, that are actually quite boring. Being a "beamter", usually comes along with lots of boring days at work, its not a job for people to do with passion, so maybe one of the perks of their job that makes it ok for them to do it, is the time they spend not doing the work.

               i don't know i don't envy them and would never want to switch jobs with them, would youß? if you don't want to, then maybe you should have a little more understanding.

              "We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

              by Mudderway on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 11:58:04 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  It's actually quite prevalent (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        translatorpro, citisven

        From the brief time I was in Germany, years ago, there is a perception that a number of Germans assume their job description consists of little more than to show up for work on time, & return from their breaks & lunch on time. Especially in the civil service -- e.g., the cliche of the bureaucrat too busy reading the newspaper to help someone waiting at the front desk.

        My understanding is that German culture is very contract-ridden: one always follows the letter of any job description, but the other stuff which common sense suggests would be part of the job often goes missing. Not just rude & unhelpful salesclerks -- this seems to be a common problem throughout Europe -- but people in a wide variety of pay grades refusing to do things, or being shockingly ignorant (by my American POV) of matters beyond their own narrow area of responsibility.

        Which was always a surprise when I considered how friendly & sincerely hospitable most Germans were.

        •  Yes, your observation on (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          llywrch, citisven

          "Well, it's not in my job description, so too bad!" is quite common here. On the other hand, employee contracts are pages and pages long, and taken very seriously. I swear, when I was teaching English a few years ago, one student worked in the personnel office of multinational company, and she was shocked - I mean really SHOCKED - that a US employee contract that had crossed her desk was only one page long. She asked me about it incredulously. I tried to explain that we don't see the need for lengthier contracts, but not sure I got through. At least that's the kind of thing I can smile about. Not so funny is the very poor customer service in some industries, the German banks being one of my pet peeves. Just about every single one I've had dealings with seems to think they are doing YOU the favor of letting you park your money there, and I'm not exaggerating.

          „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

          by translatorpro on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 02:11:04 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well, the way to deal with the poor service (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            is to play the "friendly American" attitude for what it's worth. From what I've been told, smiling & saying please & thank you on a regular basis -- & attempting to speak German -- will lead the salesclerks to fighting over waiting on you. (I never had the chance to test this out on an extended basis, but I never encountered the ugliness I have heard of in my chance encounters.)

            On the other hand, this approach probably won't make a diference in German banks; it often won't work even in US banks. And I wouldn't be surprised if customer service at the German equivalent of the Department of Motor Vehicles is something out of one of the circles of Hell...

            •  Well, I've been here such a long time (0+ / 0-)

              that I'm part of the scenery, and am completely fluent in German - it helps I grew up bi-lingual, so I think I'm beyond trying to change anything, really. I've resigned myself to the fact that one person is not going to be able to do much about an entrenched attitude. The civil service employees are not bad, on the other hand. I've had some very pleasant experiences with them, if they happen to be having a good day.

              I saw a funny cartoon about German banks once, where the customer walks in with a thought bubble showing him wearing a crown and the employees are treating him like royalty. The bank employees' thought bubbles show them holding him upside down by his feet and shaking the money out of his pockets. I never saw a more apt portrayal of how things work here.

              „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

              by translatorpro on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 10:42:25 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  As a german (0+ / 0-)

          I've never really had a problem with the "unhelpful and rude salesclerks". I mean I realise they are nowhere as friendly as salespeople in the states, but i have never had someone not help me if I was looking for something, nor be actually mean to me. They just might not be bubbleing with excitement, for which I can't blame them at all. I mean even in the usa lots of people who work with customers often complain about how much they hate customers and how incredibly stupod many of them are, they just don't let that show, so it adds a lot of phoniness to the whole thing. I reallly do hate going into a big american store to be met by a greeter, it always sort of creeps me out, so it seems to be a cultural thing.

          "We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

          by Mudderway on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 12:03:45 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Rightwing thinking (7+ / 0-)

    isn't about humanity, it's about me, me, me.

    You need to break this hardcoded messaging before helping fellow citizens becomes a source of personal pride. They don't get that you're only as strong as your weakest link.

    wingnut Christians believe that you aren't worthy enough in the eyes of God if you aren't rich .... the social wingnuts believe that you're poor because you're lazy ... and the corporate wingnuts believe that fear of poverty is a motivator and you're only entitled to serve them if you have to work for a living.

    Republicans make America feel like the scariest place on Earth from the inside, and look bat-shit crazy from the outside.

    by UniC on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 04:39:53 AM PST

  •  Tipped and rec'd for an excellent, well-written (19+ / 0-)

    post. Just a little while ago I was e-mailing my daughter about the hypocrisy of some of our relatives, who all profess, shall I say, the mainstream religion.  They rail constantly against "moochers," and "people who don't want to work."

    WHAT people?  What people don't want to work?  The people who send out 300 resumes and never get a call for an interview?  The people who interview three times with one company (like my son) and never get an offer?  

    The problem is not "people who don't want to work."  The problem is our economy.  There are five applicants for every job opening.  Jobs have been sent overseas or outsourced to non-U.S. citizens brought over here to be software engineers because they ask for less in wages.

    Politicians keep talking about "more training" and "retraining."  Faugh!  The newly minted college graduates are already "trained"--there aren't any jobs.  Engineers and others laid off in their mid-50's don't need "retraining"--they need JOBS.

    Capitalists are sitting on their piles of dough, unwilling to create jobs.  That's because they're all gits.

    I wouldn't mind paying higher taxes if it would help make life better for a couple with a Down syndrome child.  I wouldn't mind paying higher taxes to help someone who, after being laid off and losing her health insurance as a result, then was diagnosed with cancer.  Things happen to people and it's NOT THEIR FAULT.

    What galls me about my relatives is that Jesus, whom they profess to worship, was all about taking care of the poor and having compassion for the less fortunate.  My relatives have compassion only for themselves.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 04:40:40 AM PST

  •  here's what makes the USA unique-- (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pandoras Box, bronte17, elwior

    This country was established to grant equal freedoms and opportunities to all people.  "People" was hazily defined in late 18th century America and generally meant Western European males.  The Founders could not yet grasp the possibility of a truly worldwide mix of citizens.  They opened the door, unwittingly, to the best idea of its time.

    We now live in a country in which the term "American" overrides all religious, racial and sexual barriers.   This is both a glorious thing and a challenge to overcome one of the weaknesses of human nature:  the sad need to feel special.

    ecstatically baffled

    by el vasco on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 04:44:02 AM PST

  •  Sitting here in the McDonalds at Karlsruhe Hbf (6+ / 0-)

    and thinking about this diary.  Take a lesson from Germany. Really, the lesson is don't spend more than you have and that is a lesson everyone here learns early. Debt is a real embarrasment. You can't get a basic college education in the States and not rack up 20 grand in student loans (and that's with working on the side. Yay for going into debt! Gotta go, train is coming.

  •  will we always have the poor? (6+ / 0-)

    Some say that we will always have the poor like that is an excuse to do nothing major to try to eradicate poverty. Well, I don't buy into that. If it is true, does that really justify doing nothing about it? No. We'll always have laundry or dirty dishes. We don't stop washing, do we? Day after day, we do what we have to do to have clean clothes and dishes. That is how we work on poverty. We focus on the job and never stop trying. Just saying.

    People will always remember how you made them feel.

    by imeanit on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 06:31:56 AM PST

  •  It has certainly occurred to me (6+ / 0-)

    that not everyone is cut out to be a fully productive working citizen in the corporate world. Disabilities, addictions, mental health issues, poor upbringing, bad choices, or heck, just a personality that can't cope with  being a cog in the machine, can derail you. And once you're not employed for a while your chances of getting in at more than minimum wage are not good, and minimum wage really doesn't keep your minimal needs met very well, if at all. We'd like everyone to find a niche where they can support themselves, but not everyone realistically can. And who is more blameworthy? Somebody who just can't make it on their own and needs assistance, or somebody up at the top of the corporate ladder who's ethically challenged and making choices that hurt a lot of other people?

    •  I think this all stems from (5+ / 0-)

      ...our nation's idolization of "hard work."  

      While hard work is certainly to be admired and rewarded, there are other valuable traits and activities that we can recognize as a society.  Additionally, we certainly don't reward those who work the hardest.  Migrant farmers? No, I don't think so.

      I have a theory that the "hard work" ideology was spawned early on in our nation's history as a way to help preserve animosity toward Native Americans.  Native tribes were largely engaged in hunter-gatherer activities which, when population levels are sufficiently low, provides for a higher standard of living with less drudgery.  In the early colonial period, European immigrants joined the Native Tribes, not vice-versa.  

      In the middle of this, the powerful men of the time were looking to expand their land base and turn more land to cultivation (excuse my euphemism).  They needed the support of the poor to fight their wars and build their future state.  Thus, you have the Jeffersonian idolization of the "yeoman farmer" while Jefferson himself made his living from stolen land and slave labor.  

      Then, as now, the powerful elites who did little "hard work" themselves, curried favor with the lower classes by praising hard work and painting minority groups as lazy.

      I suspect that few individuals either then or now developed their ideology using such a Machiavellian lens.  Nevertheless, it was and is a useful paradigm that allows many Americans to feel morally justified in their superiority while still believing themselves to be egalitarian.

      One man gathers what another man spills

      by John Chapman on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 11:13:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  For a long time (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        the upper classes were not supposed to actually do any work. That was beneath them. Anybody who could afford to not work and have a life of leisure would do so (doesn't mean they weren't busy: some were artists, scholars, politicians, amateur scientists etc., but that wasn't considered work in the usual sense of wage labor). The way this changed to emphasize the virtue of work is complex, but it was especially rapid and thorough in America. There is an interesting book by Gordon Wood entitled "The Radicalism of the American Revolution" and it covers this topic among others.

  •  My mother is German, and after years of living (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean, translatorpro

    with my dittohead stepfather has somewhat bought into the RW "I got mine" mentality. I occasionally have to remind her that our relatives there are doing OK because of a stronger safety net, not just because they are fleissig.

  •  They have no fear (7+ / 0-)

    I appreciate the good intentions of the diarist but I have several points of fundamental disagreement with the entire premise.

    1.  There is intense and seething resentment in Germany against the freeloaders, and the freeloaders are seen as the Greeks, the Turks, and all Muslims that immigrated from northern Africa.  This seething resentment is somewhat held in check by a strong political atmosphere that disapproves of prejudice.  But that atmosphere is brittle.

    2.  The Republicans are not afraid of freeloaders.  They know that the idea of massive freeloaders in the social system is a myth (e.g. the Cadillac welfare queen of Ronald Reagan) that is to be exploited to win elections.  We are fools when we buy into the fairy tale that they are "afraid" of freeloaders in the social safety net system.   Funny thing, they are not afraid of how AIG, Bank of America, Citigroup, or Goldman Sachs are using tax dollars.  Funny thing that.

    3.  The Republicans hate Europe.  In fact most Republicans in the South hate anyone that "ain't from 'round here."  Guess what?  They are not going to look to Germany.

    4.  I have a typical older southern white male friend who tells me that Obama is turning America into a socialist country governed by the United Nations, just like Europe.  When I ask him why it is that Germany outproduces the US, why Germany has greater longevity than the US, why Germany has full employment and no national deficit, and why Germans have more upward mobility than Americans, he has no answers.  He just pauses, and then he says:  "I just don't like where that muslim is taking us."  Next conversation we start from scratch.  (But I know what he is thinking ... he is thinking we would be doing great just like the Germans, if we didn't have all the blacks.  That's what he is thinking and that is why you can present him with facts until you are blue in the face.  It ain't gonna make a dent.)

    •  I disagree with 1), because that is definitely (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1, elwior

      a generalization that does not apply to everyone. I have contributed a couple of comments to this discussion about why I don't agree, so I won't repeat them here.  I can't comment on your other points about Republicans, because I haven't lived in the US for many years.

      „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

      by translatorpro on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 09:38:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  About generalizations (0+ / 0-)

        Your objection is silly.  Of course generalizations do not apply to everyone.  If we limited our generalizations to those that apply to everyone then we would not even be able to say that most people believe the earth is round ... because there are a few crazy people who believe in the flat earth.

        You might also actually read my point before objecting.  I said "there is seething resentment ..."  Of course there is.  Anyone who visits Germany sees it, reads it, feels it, and knows it is there.  Hell, prominent politicians and media persons have published best-seller books ranting against "multi-culty" and the Turks.

        Did I say this applies to EVERYONE?  If you think that is what I said, then where did you read that?  Not in anything I wrote.

        •  Dude, I live in Germany as an expat and (0+ / 0-)

          have done so for 25 years. I read your comment , and stand by my opinion that it is a wild exaggeration. I don't know what your agenda is, but there are fringe elements in every society. And from my vantage point and social interactions in Germany, your point as stated in 1) is hyperbolic, to say the least.

          „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

          by translatorpro on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 11:37:38 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Mooches and freeloaders (5+ / 0-)

    Those are are often "dog-whistle" terms, sadly. Since I moved to deep-red Texas from deep-blue California, I've found that the folks who denigrate people who are unfortunate enough to require government assistance are often people who hover just above that level themselves--but they want to make a big distinction between themselves and "the others" because in Evangelical World poverty is seen as a moral failing.  If you just believe hard enough, the Good Lord will show you the way to riches, or the way out of your handicaps.

    I've actually had people stop me on the street and tell me that I don't have to be "crippled" because God would heal me if I gave up my evil life, and I would be magically cured. (I have cerebral palsy--apparently it's all my fault.)

    Of course, if you are black or brown, these people believe that God intended you to live on the bottom of the heap.

    I wish we could be more like Germany.

  •  Better to have "freeloaders" than to have (0+ / 0-)

    People turning to crime to support themselves.

    I have known some people that everyone is happier if those people sit on the couch drinking and playing games, for instance. Keep them happy getting high and sitting around, and there is less trouble and problems for other people.

    Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 10:42:07 AM PST

  •  a litle country like Germany? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    sorry, how do you judge 'little' - 80+ million inhabitants, and 135+m square miles.... No, Germany is not little.

    Or did you mean to seek to undermine your whole (sound) case by this kind of comment?

    •  I'm certain s/he was only saying that (0+ / 0-)

      relative to the US, Germany IS small.

       -     Total    357,021 km2 (63rd)
               137,847 sq mi
       -     2010 estimate    81,799,600[6] (16th)
       -     Density    229/km2 (57th)
              593/sq mi

       -     Total    9,826,675 km2 [1][c](3rd/4th)
               3,794,101 sq mi
       -     2012 estimate    314,779,000[2] (3rd)
       -     Density    33.7/km2
              87.4/sq mi

      „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

      by translatorpro on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 12:48:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  smaller - yes (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        'little' is patronising (is that the impression you want to see created?) and inaccurate

        •  Well, I think it's pretty clear that the (0+ / 0-)

          diarist is not originally a native speaker of English, and so may not be sensitized to such fine nuances in the language, even if the written English is otherwise excellent. I taught English to German executives for 10 years, so I understand exactly where the potential problems lie and am very tolerant of insignificant errors like that. In fact, many Germans speak more grammatically correct English than some of us do. We Americans have nothing to brag about regarding 2nd languages.

          „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

          by translatorpro on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 10:52:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Of course, it more than makes up for its (0+ / 0-)

      lack of size with its economic (and thus political) clout. In any case, those who live in Germany, like me, feel it is small for some reason. Odd, that.

      „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

      by translatorpro on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 12:51:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  take a long vacation (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    translatorpro, elwior

    take a long vacation - and still have one of the strongest economies on the planet!

  •  Germany is way ahead on solar power, last summer (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    translatorpro, llywrch

    On midday of Saturday May 26, 2012, solar energy provided over 40% of total electricity consumption in Germany

    Went to the event last night in NYC.
    Germany will conquer the world, but this time it will be economic strength!

    •  Yes, there have been quite a few discussions (0+ / 0-)

      here at DKos on that subject, but not very recently, as the election was foremost for the last few months.

      „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

      by translatorpro on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 12:56:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  All those countries, Germany, UK, Japan Taiwan (0+ / 0-)

    Are countries in which one race predominates homogeneously- to the extent of say 90%. This makes it easier to push through social programmes if the country can afford it.

    But it also makes it IMPOSSIBLE for the minorities who may number upwards of 15% in some cases to obtain influential political or corporate or academic posts.

    Racism in the US precludes the wish for equality and access to basic stuff like Health care or education. Why would the privileged White folk who think they 'built that' want to pay more taxes so that the poor (predominantly blacks and browns) would have access to health care, education, paid maternal leave etc.

    So the mindset of "its everyone for themselves" or "the use your bootstraps" to climb up the socio-economic ladder is set almost in stone in the US.

  •  as long as (0+ / 0-)

    the drift of American Capitalism is toward unconditional deification of the rich (and near-perfect, total demonization of the poor), the preponderance of Americans will be willing slaves to the fictitious Golden Ticket Fantasy -- as George Carlin said, the "American Dream" so called because you'd have to be asleep to believe in it -- that the power structure that must must must preserve the pernicious, Hellish status quo at any cost is propagandizing them with 25/8/366.

    What you have is a population locked in a Stockholm Syndrome to that fantasy and to a mortal fear of its negative flipside, where you starve to death, sad and alone. To these people (I hate to say this, but they make up a good portion of the American gulag-mentality workforce), where any mention of workers organizing (or too much wealth-concentration at the top or the idea that workers ought to have vacations of substance or rights of any kind beyond their complete subordination to management) is evidence of the devil Socialism, yet another concept among a myriad many that they believe means the opposite of what it means, but whatever. To them, having never been there, Germany must seem like some sort of collectivist dystopia to be avoided at all costs, with all that is missing is the inevitable Fox News report on how Germans are the new Soviets and don't we need more weapons to arm ourselves for the upcoming (any day now) German invasion. And guess what? If Germany were in Africa, those Fox reports would be even more like a cartoon produced by the John Birch Society.

    Yes, that's right. What prevents this idea that workers are human beings with actual rights, as wood kwatch alludes to above, is the fact that many, many people in America, were you to place two buttons in front of them -- one labeled "Destroy the Entire Universe Completely and Forever, Including Myself" and the other labeled "Free Glass of Water for N*ggers" -- would instantaneously and without a modicum of the very slightest equivocation choose the former and believe that they were utterly justified and a paragon of righteous virtue for doing so.

    Remember when you were 3 and you complained to Mommy bitterly that your brother got more mashed potatoes than you? A lot of people in this "country" -- really not so much a "country" and more a collection of amoral, hate-filled self-worshipers stuck on one continent and bent on bowing down in every meaningful way to a system they do not in the slightest comprehend (and which demands terminal, endless growth from finite, ever-more-limited resources)... and all chasing the same phony worthless paper like they'd kill their momma for a taste of it -- never left the age 3 Moment of Bitterness, and likely never will.

    It's eventually going to come to a point where we realize that things are as Frederick Douglass said, wherein Power concedes nothing without great struggle. Whether this struggle is one that Americans in thrall to the Stockholm Syndrome -- in which their private dreams of dominant wealth unburdened by the limitation of "those people" run free -- can effectively undertake remains to be seen, but I'm in no way holding my breath.

    "Some of you are going to die... martyrs, of course, to the Freedom that I will provide!"

    by emperor nobody on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 03:29:37 PM PST

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