The Editorial page of the Webmaster (#2)

WARNING : On this website, I am trying to give balanced points of view BUT, as a Frenchman, I have my own strong personal opinions. I don't know if they are representative but they are mine. If you hate my comments read about Americans and criticism. See also my resume.

Philippe ROCHEFORT

 Read Rochefort's "Diary of an old student"

Sub-prime :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.

 

 Socialized 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 "lessons" :
  • 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 it'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 New York Times, 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 than 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 Diary, about the webmaster, my family website and its genealogy pages

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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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