French President Nicolas Sarcozy announced a plan today to hike up the consumption tax rate by 1.6 percent. I read it in the Washington Post. What I love about this is that the French presidential election is in three months. This would never fly in the US. First of all, our election season (it’s called a “season” for Pete’s sake) starts a full year and a half before our actual election is held. Second, the word “tax” is like a taboo word here that when uttered, elicits loud, trumpeting groans (among other loud, trumpeting sounds) from our pale, doughy tea-bagger neighbors. And third, US politicians are so frightened of being rousted out of their warm, cushy offices that they wouldn’t dare risk pushing a tax-hike through right before an election (maybe in the middle of a term under the cover of night *cough* Ronald Reagan *cough*, but never before an election). It’s sad really, because for all the fanfare and mythos we’ve built up around our national identity and “American Exceptionalism,” and “freedom fries,” yadda, yadda, yadda, this French president has more balls than any of our politicians could ever hope to have.
He’s up for reelection in three months and he hasn’t even announced his candidacy yet. Mitt Romney’s been running since 2008! On top of that, the guy running against Sarkozy is a Socialist. And not a Socialist as in “Obama is a Socialist and the anti-Christ and a secret-Muslim sleeper cell agent who was born in Kenya,” no, this guy is a real Socialist, a card-carrying member of the French Socialist party. Let that sink in. In France, the Socialist party can actually win the presidency. Here we get to choose between red and blue.
If you’ve ever been to France then you know what a cool country it is. The trains run like clockwork. They have a gleaming public infrastructure, arguably the best art museums in the world, free universal healthcare for their citizens, six weeks paid vacation per year, they’ve led the world for centuries in fashion, cuisine, wine, sex–they invented the tongue kiss for goodness sake. It’s also important to note that the French are almost entirely energy independent–this is due to heavy investment in nuclear fission technology in the 1970s–somebody was thinking!
So the point I guess is that France is great little country. The next time you hear some yokel who’s never been out of his home town hating on the French just shake your head and feel bad for his mother.
What does “american exceptionalism” mean to you?
Thanks for the query Smash. To me “American Exceptionalism” is the idea that the American government, worldview and culture is free from fault and beyond reproach. It’s the idea that we Americans have perfected the blueprint for how society and individuals should live and that somehow this makes us “better” than everyone else. AE is an ignorant worldview based on militarism and quite frankly, if I can call you frank, an ignorance of how the world works outside our borders. Are you by any chance related to Chudbrow Carpetback?
American Exceptionalism is the puffery used to excuse misadventure abroad and inaction at home. In a recent blog post I analyze the American Exceptionalism concept and contrast it with a healthy patriotism that could help unite the public against those few who are ruining America. http://www.ragingwisdom.com/?p=629
Thanks for the comment Wise. I agree with you that there is a difference between American exceptionalism and normal nationalism/patriotism. I’ll check out your post.
Don’t you think it could also be that the architects of our society as well as those who use “American Exceptionalism” as their mantras might believe that- while most of the civilized world has pushed left on the political spectrum and adopted socialist practices out of sheer necessity- America is the “exception” to what the rest of the world has deemed necessary?
Thanks for the comment Fridge. I think that’s a very intelligent postulation, however I think you may be over-thinking it. “American Exceptionalism” is more a name given to an observation than an actual doctrine of thought. You may have observed that a favorite pastime of many (mostly conservative) politicians is to call the US “the greatest country in the world” or “the greatest f***ing country on the face of the planet.” Though not explicitly stated as such, this is the essence of the idea that is American Exceptionalism. Unfortunately this crude mindset bleeds into the political arena–especially in the case of tea bagger candidates. I don’t think it’s much deeper than that. It’s just an ignorant sort of jingoism really. You make an excellent point though. Good observation.
America is exceptional because we are the exception. Our society does not conform to the laws of nature, nor do we need to adopt a more progressive framework because we are exceptional in that regard.
You do know that France and the EU are in as big or more financial trouble as the US, right? And that people come over here from countries with socialized medicine in order to get superior health care? That being said, I also absolutely adore France. Love being there. Just an amazing place.
Thanks for reading Kat. Yes, I’m aware of the Bush Recession, it’s been a worldwide catastrophe. I’m also aware of the fabrication propagated by Conservatives that people from countries with universal healthcare systems come to the US in droves to escape their horrible system. It only takes a modicum of thought on the subject to discover the obvious problems with this claim. I’m not disputing that foreigners come over here to get treatment from specialists–if they can afford the astronomical costs of it–but the claim that our system is superior just isn’t true. The World Health Organization ranked the US 37th in the world (below Costa Rica) in terms of healthcare value for citizens. France was number one. That Arab Kings and other foreign millionaires come here to visit world-renowned specialists doesn’t equate with “people come over here from countries with socialized medicine in order to get superior healthcare.” If normal people gave up their free benefits to fly over here and drop $80k for a heart surgery or a kidney transplant they’d be certifiable. The truth is that many more Americans leave our borders to get healthcare abroad to avoid bankruptcy here at home. It’s called “medical tourism.” In 2007 an estimated 60-85 thousand people came here from abroad for in-patient care. In 2008, an estimated 750,000 left here and went abroad for the same purpose according to Wikipedia (this isn’t a research paper so I used wiki but the WHO website and other reliable sources report the same.)
I know the health care system here stinks. We pay out the wazoo and our life expectancy is not higher than anyone else (I also think there’s a problem placing more value in longevity than quality of life). My guess is though that we have better specialists than other places, but I haven’t looked that up at all. I think the problem stems from our insurance companies and imposing regulations on medical treatment and costs, not the availability of free medicine. Oh by the way, nothing is ever free. Someone has to pay for it.