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Gary’s comment is interesting and I understand it having spent some time in the USA.
However it’s about perception.
Allow me to respond with a rant, not directed AT you, Logan. And first let me say that based upon many aspects, I still find the US to be the greatest country in the world, but mostly by luck.
Anyway Logan, what you wrote is not exactly true. In the US, having 2 weeks of paid vacation is the standard. In most of Europe, it is at least 1 month. Then there is the workday and workweek. I have worked in small companies, large companies and government. They all expected much more than 8 hour workdays.
Our worklife has become so entwined with our ‘real life’ that the first question people ask when meeting for the first time is ‘what do you do? ‘, meaning for work, as if that is what defines most people.
Then there is the nasty bit about healthcare and retirement. You all don’t have to evaluate insurance plans EACH YEAR (called ‘open enrollment’) like we do to see if you need to jump to another healthcare insurance company. Because if you don’t and the plan has changed, you may find out that a vital prescription that is partially covered by your insurance is not covered at all in the following year on the same policy. This evaluation is a waste of time, motivated by the insurance companies’ need to confuse ‘the consumer’ and geared to create more profits for the companies.
Retirement – our ‘social security’ is under constant attack from Republicans. It is a solvent system that doesn’t add to our national debt. About every 10-20 years it needs to be slightly modified but because Wall Street would profit from having people gamble-away their retirement in the stock market, they are funding politicians to kill or maim social security in preference to 401k plans, letting ‘people control their own money’, which will be a disaster for most, because they will listen to the ‘experts’. I suppose that it really doesn’t matter because most Americans are their own enemies, not saving anything for retirement but making sure they have the latest pair of $200 tennis shoes. After the World Trade Center was destroyed, our President Bush told people that they could help by going shopping. They actually printed shopping bags with the American flag because it was the patriotic thing to do.
Then there is our media. If you’ve ever seen a news broadcast in the US, you know that they employ ‘scare tactics’. Even the most benign news story is presented as an epic disaster, scaring the crap out of people. Combined with our national ignorance of geography (the latest being confusing the Czech Republic with Chechnya) it can be even dangerous. It is one reason that people buy guns, because they are manipulated into being afraid of everything, including their own shadows.
Back to my point: The level of uncertainty over health care, retirement, the lack of time off from work, the fear of being accidently shot by some idiot, the constant threats from Iran and North Korea all work to create a very stress-out population. And most of this stress is due to macro-level manipulation, in order for someone to increase profits or to increase their power.
Americans are so stressed and the system is so rigged that pretty so we will be a two class society.