: stupidity and selfishness! The sub-prime
crisis is an interesting example of stupidity and selfishness.
As everyone knows, American households do not save money : the
rate of saving of Americans is next to zero, when it's around
15% in France and in this range everywhere else in Western countries.
However, the US society considers that :
- everyone can buy a house even if he/she cannot afford it :
they call it the American dream
- the Government
must not interfere in your personal life and prevent you from
doing irresponsible things : they call it freedom
Well, today it is a nightmare and it is not freedom in the USA.
This could not happen elsewhere : all over Europe (and in France
of course), you cannot buy a house with a 100% credit and the
bank regulators forbid loans to people who are unlikely to pay
it back (there are rules on minimum income, etc...). If you cannot
afford something, you don't buy it...
But the American society tolerates that millions of poor people,
fooled by irresponsible banks acting without any serious regulation,
lose their house and have their life destroyed. This is not freedom,
this is a stupid jungle.
In addition to that, a large part of the credit risk has been
transferred all over the world through structured finance vehicles.
This is not market economy : this is a rip-off and Europe has
to pay for America's irresponsible behavior.
(July 2007) Back
to top of the page.
medicine? Give me a break!
Sometimes the US political
debate looks totally unreal to an European. When I hear Rudy
Giuliani saying " The American people do not want socialized
medicine " followed by Hillary Clinton saying " We
don't want bureaucrats to make decisions for our health ",
I can't believe it. Here in France, I can choose my doctor (I
am free). He gives me whatever treatment seems appropriate (he
is free). The Social Security system reimburses 60 to 70% of
the cost and my private insurance covers the sum above that according
to the choice I made (and the premium I paid). The key-point
: if the illness is serious or chronic, the SS reimbursement
is 100% (it's free!). An example ? Every six months I go to one
of the best hospitals in France for a cardiology check-up. I
am followed by the Head of Department himself. Last time, the
cashier apologized : they had been forced to raise the price
they charge and I now had to pay Euros 7,80 ($11)! Except for
fraud, the SS system NEVER refuses to cover an expense. Everything
is computerized : no paperwork, no mean bureaucrat in the way,
no letter to claim a reimbursement, no lawyer, etc... It is against
the law NOT to be covered. However the system is efficient and
globally, the cost for health care in France is 30 to 40 % BELOW
what it is in the USA (and we live longer!). Where is the mean
communist state in all this? (For once) which country is the
most reasonable and creates better life conditions for its citizens
: the USA or France?
More on health
in France and a personal view
about it. (Winter 2008) Back to top
of the page.
|No more lectures, please! Over the past few years, we French have
been lectured by our American friends about many subjects (Americans,like
the French, love to lecture other people). I can recall the following
- In my job (see my resume)
: I have been lectured for hours by the Federal Reserve (FED)
("we demand that you, foreign bank, adjust to our higher
US standards ", "you're progressing but you're not
yet at the level of risk management of US banks ", etc...)
and by the teams of our US subsidiaries (" you French are
not aggressive enough and you don't understand the new economy
") : see the subprime crisis and its wonderful effects on
the whole world and read my column "Sub-prime,
Stupidity and Selfishness" published more than a year
before the sub-prime crisis hit France
- By US politicians (see Donald Rumsfeld : " you are the
Old Europe : you support dictatorships and you oppose us in bringing
liberty and freedom to the world ") : see the brilliant
success of the Iraq war
- By the US media (" the US press has higher ethical standards
and reports only "facts" : in France the press is linked
to the government " : see the orchestrated campaign on French-bashing
in 2003-2004 in the US media ; when the lecture is : " you
are anti-semitic ", see the excellent impact of the Iraq
war in Arab countries and among Arab minorities in Europe regarding
Israel and the Jews) and when i's Fox News (about the "cheese
eating surrender monkeys "), see my page "French-bashing " (you can keep lecturing on racism only if Obama is elected...)
- By Main Street America : ther French are accomplices of terrorists
(one of my readers wrote : " I can't help hating the French
when I see where the Twin Towers used to be ") and we are
also communists (we inject tax-payer's money into companies :
how about the $700 bn. bail-out of Wall Street ?)
- By US essayists about the State (" less state and regulation
means freedom and prosperity "), about health (" we
do not want a bureaucratic system "which implicitly means
" we prefer 50 million people without coverage ")
- And so on...
Therefore, my humble request for the coming years, as our European
countries will try to overcome a disastrous geopolitical and
financial situation which has been largely created by the above-mentioned
lecturers is : " Please, no more lectures ! ". Why don't you, Americans, try to look
around you, to accept differences, to be humble when you don't
know something (as a Frenchman, I must admit that it's hard!).
Don't force other countries to be exactly like you. America does
bring a lot to the world and deserves admiration and praise for
it. Do not try to bring us EVERYTHING you do in your country.
(October 2008) Back to top of the page.
American expats : remember it's another country !
Many Americans living here live as if they were not in France. Either on a short stay or having lived here for 30 years or more, they watch the news on CNN (or on BBC World), read the International Herald Tribune, etc... : no French paper, no French TV. If in addition to that they live in one of these neighborhoods where most people are foreigners (Le Vesinet, St.Cloud,...), send their children to an American school, go to the American Church, never discuss with French friends, their information on French issues is not very different from what they could have if they still lived in the USA. Therefore, on many issues, they express an opinion which is just like the one of the average journalist in New York. All they know about the French comes from their discussions with shop-keepers and with their "concierge" (who often is Portuguese). Very frankly, this situation is not very different from the situation of French (or British) colonists in the old days of colonization : you spend several years in a country and, actually, keep the vision you had before you set foot in it. A typical case of that is the issue of the Islamic veil : if you put on your American glasses ("religious freedom", etc...), are you sure you can read it well ? Do you know what "secularity" means for the French ? Are you sure that American values are "universal" ? Are you sure American TV is any better that French TV ?
More unbiased ? (July 2009) More on French TV channels. Back to top of the page.
Credit ? No thank you.... Americans (including the US government) live on
credit. It is very dangerous for them and, as the sub-prime crise
illustrated so well, it can be very dangerous for the whole world.
One of the most absurd concepts is the concept of credit card.
I read that it amounts in average to more than $8,000 for each
card holder. With an average above $8,000, if the outstanding
is zero for so many, it means that it is incredibly huge for
some (one third of card-holders do not pay in time) : those irresponsible
consumers should be protected against themselves. For me, a credit
card is totally useless and potentially dangerous. If you can't
afford something, don't buy it : buying on credit will just make
it more expensive. When I discuss this with my American friends,
many have this very strange answer : " I have one but I
don't use it ". For me it is as absurd as saying : "
I go on week-ends with my secretary but I am faithful to my wife
". If you don't use it, don't get it and if it's required
to have a good credit score, challenge the absolute stupidity
of the US credit scoring system, which forces you to have credit
cards. The total outstanding of credit cards in the USA is between
a half and a third of the one of subprime credit : potentially,
there is another world financial crisis in it.... Are you ready
for it ?
(October 2008) More on the French and money.
Back to top of the page.
| To related pages : previous editorial page (#1), next editorial page (#3) and (#4), current events in France, speeches by Philippe Rochefort, a Paris
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For more on intercultural
differences, order Harriet Welty Rochefort's books :
- "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
- "French Toast, An American in Paris
Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press,
New York, 1999
- "French Fried, The Culinary Capers
of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001
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