Americans are facing rough times and it's about to get rougher for America's least able to survive economic strife. Unemployed Americans have collected $319 billion in jobless benefits over the last three years. This cost will be the topic of much debate in Congress in the coming weeks while they ponder whether or not to extend unemployment benefits for the 5th time this year. If it is not extended by Nov. 30th, two million people will lose their benefits.
Germany, on the other hand, is riding high on a crest of economic good times. Unemployment is no where near American numbers and because of good German engineering, goods are in high demand and account for their driving growth. According to the "Germam Local:"
While the economies of countries like the US, Britain, France, Spain or Greece are still struggling or facing drastic austerity measures and angry street protests, Germany has weathered the global financial and economic crises well. There is no sense of a divided society here.
It's all due to a convergence of contributing factors: the delayed effect of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's labour market and welfare reforms known as the Agenda 2010, wage restraint by trade unions, the 'cash-for-clunkers' car purchase scheme, a relatively moderate stimulus plan, and propping up the eurozone by involving the International Monetary Fund. More than once, Merkel was criticized for any and all of these measures. But at the end of the day, she was always proved right.
Success breeds resentment, and it's no surprise that German opposition parties and certain nations are grinding their teeth, because the German example puts pressure on their leaders to explain themselves.
Although the Germans have managed their economy well, the U.S. Treasury Secretary urged that Germany's trade surplus' be capped (banned if they go over a certain level.) I agree with the German indignation when faced with this suggestion. Why should they be limited in economic growth because of the fiscal mismanagement of other countries, especially the U.S.? The Germans think the U.S. and others are envious of their prosperity, and they could be correct. I think if the shoe was on the other foot, we would have a hard time complying too.
There is just no substitute for honest-to-goodness high quality and careful fiscal management. Let them reap what they have sown, I say. We Americans would do well to emulate them rather than envy them. Guess our leaders do have a lot of explaining to do.