Sunday, September 05, 2004
This is a sticky post written the day we first appeared on the internet: Welcome to article43.com - a memorial to the layed off workers of (PRE SBC MERGER) AT&T, and the disappearing MIDDLE CLASS citizens of America. It is NOT endorsed or affiliated with AT&T or the CWA in any way.
In addition to INFORMATION, resources and opinion for former AT&T workers DEALING WITH the EFFECTS OF LAYOFF and looking for meaningful employment, some articles here are meant to bring into awareness the LARGER PICTURE of corporate dominance of the UNITED STATES’ political and economic policies which brazenly DISREGARDS, disrespects and EXPLOITS worker, citizen and HUMAN RIGHTS under masks like FREE TRADE and the PATRIOT ACT - resulting in a return to a society of very rich and very poor dominated by a few very rich and powerful - whose voices are anything but - for the people. If left UNCHALLENGED, the self-serving interests of those in control may result in the end of DEMOCRACY, the end of the middle class, irreversible ENVIRONMENTAL damage to the planet, and widespread global poverty brought on by exploitation and supression of the voices of common people EVERYWHERE, while the United States turns into a REINCARNATION of the ROMAN EMPIRE. Author Thom Hartmann shares some history and outlines some basic steps to return our country to “The People” in his two articles TEN STEPS TO RETURN TO DEMOCRACY and SAVING THE MIDDLE CLASS. I support CERNIG’S idea for a new POLITICAL MOVEMENT - if not a revolution to cleanse our country of the filth ruling it - as we EVOLVE into a GLOBAL community - assuming we learn the THE LESSONS OF OUR TIME and don’t DESTROY CIVILIZATION first.
Everything here can be viewed anonymously. Inserting or commenting on articles requires a free user account (for former AT&T employees with a real, non throw-away, email address.) Requests to the new user registration page are redirected to BLOGGED DOT COM’S site because most new signups I get are from COMMENT SPAMMERS and their ilk, so if you want to contribute, contact me through email, phone, or some other way.
There’s no third-party scripts here like privacy-eroding WEB COUNTERS, hidden datamining widgets like Pay-Pal donation boxes, or AMAZON DOT COM tracking stuff. The RSS feeds are pulled by the server, and have no relation to anything you may be doing here. Standard Apache WEB LOGS of info like IP, and pages visited are rotated every few days, and used internally to check the web server’s performance. Logs of suspicious activity may be shared with law enforcement, or other ISPs, to deal with troublemakers. Nothing here is for sale, and donations are not solicited.
If you get an email that claims to be from somebody here that’s anything but a request to post your article, or report suspicious activity (like logs sent to an ISP to report an attack) - it’s SPAM. I do not, and will not - ever - join the junk mail sender community. There are no mechanisms to prevent anyone from forging anyone elses email address in a “from” or “reply-to” mail header. For those of us whose email addresses are fraudently used, the best we can do is filter out NDR REPORTS.
Per U.S.C. COPYRIGHT LAW - TITLE 17, SECTION 107, this not-for-profit site may reproduce copyrighted material not specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such articles will either have a web link to the source, home page, and/or show credit to the author. If yours is here and you have a problem with that, send me an EMAIL, and I’ll take it off. Stuff I wrote carries a CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE permitting non-commercial sharing. In addition, this site’s owner forbids insertion and injecting data of any kind - especially advertisements - into ours by any person or entity. Should you see a commercial ad that looks like it’s from here, please report it by sending me a tcpdump and/or screenshot in an EMAIL, then READ UP about how the PARTNERING OF INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS and companies like NEBUAD are DESTROYING INTERNET PRIVACY.
Resumes of layed off AT&T workers are posted for free HERE.
Links to some Telecom companies’ career pages are HERE.
Click HERE to learn a little about Article 43 and why I loathe the CWA.
Click HERE or HERE to learn what the CWA did when given a chance to do the right thing.
Click HERE for a glimpse of undemocratic and hypocritical CWA practices.
Click HERE for an article on Corporate Unionism.
Click HERE for an article of AFL-CIO’s undemocratic history.
This site can disappear anytime if I run out of money to pay for luxuries like food, health care, or internet service.
Discernment of truth is left to the reader - whose encouraged to seek as much information as possible, from as many different sources as possible - and pass them through his/her own filters - before believing anything.
...the Devil is just one man with a plan, but evil, true evil, is a collaboration of men…
- Fox Mulder, X Files
No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.
- John F. Kennedy
Today my country, your country and the Earth face a corporate holocaust against human and Earthly rights. I call their efforts a holocaust because when giant corporations wield human rights backed by constitutions and the law (and therefore enforced by police, the courts, and armed forces) and sanctioned by cultural norms, the rights of people, other species and the Earth are annihilated.
- Richard L. Grossman
Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
- Albert Einstein
He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
- Bishop Desmond Tutu
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Martin Luther King Jr
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
- Benjamin Franklin
If we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately.
- Benjamin Franklin
We must be prepared to make heroic sacrifices for the cause of peace that we make ungrudgingly for the cause of war.
- Albert Einstein
Solidarity has always been key to political and economic advance by working families, and it is key to mastering the politics of globalization.
- Thomas Palley
The impending credit crisis cant be avoided, but it could be mitigated by taking radical steps to soften the blow. Emergency changes to the federal tax code could put more money in the hands of maxed-out consumers and keep the economy sputtering along while efforts are made to curtail the ruinous trade deficit. We should eliminate the Social Security tax for any couple making under $60, 000 per year and restore the 1953 tax-brackets for Americans highest earners so that the upper 1%-- who have benefited the most from the years of prosperity---will be required to pay 93% of all earnings above the first $1 million income. At the same time, corporate profits should be taxed at a flat 35%, while capital gains should be locked in at 35%. No loopholes. No exceptions.
Congress should initiate a program of incentives for reopening American factories and provide generous subsidies to rebuild US manufacturing. The emphasis should be on reestablishing a competitive market for US exports while developing the new technologies which will address the imminent problems of environmental degradation, global warming, peak oil, overpopulation, resource scarcity, disease and food production. Off-shoring of American jobs should be penalized by tariffs levied against the offending industries.
The oil and natural gas industries should be nationalized with the profits earmarked for vocational training, free college tuition, universal health care and improvements to then nations infrastructure.
Monday, August 17, 2015
More Voices Of The Long_Term Unemployed
The VOICES OF THE UNEMPLOYED thread was getting to big.
So I started a new one here.
From another invisible, long-term unemployed American:
From the “Over Fifty And Out Of Work” BLOG:
August 17, 2015
I knew you were out there. Really probably millions of us unemployed or underemployed. I owned my own consulting firm doing evaluation of educational programs across the country for 14 very successful years. Then the divorce, then the stock market, then in 2011 the contracts dried up. Justifiably so. No educational system ever wants to be evaluated and having states in financial crises evaluation was one of the first things cut. So in 2011 my life began a radical change. I had been undergoing the change since 2008. I had a lovely home in Austin, TX. I was comfortable, great neighbors and friends, and expected to remain there. When the economy began changing I realized if I lost contracts I would not be able to make the mortgage payment.Heartbreak of selling the only home Id ever felt like was just mine alone. Into an apartment complex. Onto unemployment in Texas. Totally disoriented. IҒd never done this before. Sat in a huge room full of people my age and older all dressed for their trade or business. Suffered through the mandatory lectures of staff of the TX Wrkfrc Commission. I was panicked. I had not been without a job since I was 15 and lied to get my first work on a corn cutter in a processing plant. A dangerous job. A tedious job. But I was proud. In the course of the years from 2011-2013 I completed 701 applications. I had two responses. I keep them all in a closet and move them with me in case the state of TX, never known for its expeditious accounts management, should try to make a case I did not try to find work.
I believed I was being humbled for a reason; I had not shown enough gratitude when I had money; I had not shared my good fortunebut all these were untrue. I did, however, grow through meditation and yoga during this difficult time. I knew I needed to forgive myself for the failure that was not mine, but was systemic. I was raised on the philosophy that all work is good work. And I believe that still. My self-esteem bottomed out; I wandered around aimlessly; my anti-depressants were increased. Finally it came to me that all the energy I put into worrying and endless self-talk and monkey-mind was negative and would kill me. So I’ve adopted the |lily of the field” attitude and lifestyle the past 3 years. This lily had to move from Austin to Champaign, IL to be present in case my parents had needs. By seeing myself vividly as a lily in my mind I could see and feel myself blowing in the breeze. Sometimes the breeze was gentle and some small grace came my way. For example, I got a job paying 10/hr to teach children a specific reading methodology, and I helped clean an art professor (hoarders) house out for 15/hr cash each day, and I delivered a single flower to a statue where a man and his wife had met 25 years ago. I presented the yellow rose while the bag piper played in the rain. Each of these brief jobs I viewed as blessings. They kept me going. I was swaying still but upright. This summer I have had no work and I am living off the small savings I have. I will hopefully be substitute teaching when school begins. I have a very small writing contract, I auditioned yesterday as a Simulated Patient for the Med School. I am trying to piece my life together. I ask that you set an intention or pray for me that I will get a call on August 18 from the medical school that I have been chosen. Its only a once in a while job, but it’s something.
Like you I am endlessly restless, bored, unable to concentrate even though this would be the time to catch up on two years of back issues of New Yorkers.
In the 60s and 70s so many of us rose up. We stood and fought for civil rights and human rights. We knew the song “Street Fighting Man” by heart because we were constantly engaged in activism and protest against the war in Vietnam; many of us have continued in activist rolls for causes. We are the generation that knows how to stand and fight and protest in the streets. And how to get results. We know if takes personal sacrifices. I am confounded that our generation is not now engaged in activism around age discrimination, cuts in hours while younger colleagues remain full time, the perception that we have all slid from middle class into poverty because we haven’t worked “hard enough.” I’ve slid into a classless society. I talk every day to those with far less than me. I have food, shelter, insurance, and can still make co-pays for my meds. But as you all know every day we feel like there is an axe over our heads. We had money and lost money. Or, we didn’t save enough when we did have it. Or, we never had it. Now here we are. All in the same boat.
When I finally understood that “Senior” now begins at age 50 I was pissed as hell and still am. I am not ready to go gently into that night. I agree with many of you that we must become a presence. Perhaps our mantra are those words, “The Forgotten.” Let others ask what we are about. Form a loose coalition. I feel so fortunate to have discovered the article that brought yall to my attention. I am not one who has been interviewed, but I too am among “The Forgotten.” We perhaps need to take a look back from an historical perspective at where we came from. How were we organized in those days of demand for civil rights, or an end to the war? How have we continued to be cogs in the wheels of activism? What were the strategies then and could the most successful of those strategies become a springboard for a new need to organize as a political force? Now is our time to take what we learned and apply it to the crisis confronting millions of us. Now is our time to become highly focused, strategic, and to agree that we may not come to consensus, but it is a need so large we will agree never to sabotage. There is a place and tasks for each of us. I do truly believe one person can make change. I am thinking of the woman who walks endlessly back and forth across the country as a Peace Pilgrim. She lives like a lily of the field. She depends upon the ԓkindness of strangers. Wherever she stops she engages others in discussions about the need for peace, how it might come about, and what their role could be.
I know us. We are the generation that has been forced into an untenable place in society. I don’t know about the rest of you but I want out. I am only 64. I am not ready to be retired. We may feel like The Forgotten but we cannot let that word define us. We must become highly visible. We have endless talents, endless problem solvers and out of the box thinkers among us. I refuse to be among “The Disappeared.” The expression for those who go missing in the endless struggles and battles between cartels and corrupt governments. I do not know how to maintain contact with this group but I would like to continue to read your thoughts, consider possibilities, and move forward. Is “Over Fifty and Out of Work” an accessible website? I don’t feel so alone today. Namaste.
Section Dying America •
View (0) comment(s) or add a new one •
Printable view • Link to this article •
Saturday, August 15, 2015
A Prescription for Peace and Prosperity
By Paul Craig Roberts
August 8 2015
The question is often asked: What can we do?” Here is a prescription for peace and prosperity.
We will begin with prosperity, because prosperity can contribute to peace. Sometimes governments begin wars in order to distract from unpromising economic prospects, and internal political stability can also be dependent on prosperity.
The Road to Prosperity
For the United States to return to a prosperous road, the middle class must be restored and the ladders of upward mobility put back in place. The middle class served domestic political stability by being a buffer between rich and poor. Ladders of upward mobility are a relief valve that permit determined folk to rise from poverty to success. Rising incomes throughout society provide the consumer demand that drives an economy. This is the way the US economy worked in the post-WWII period.
To reestablish the middle class the offshored jobs have to be brought home, monopolies broken up, regulation restored, and the central bank put under accountable control or abolished.
Jobs offshoring enriched owners and managers of capital at the expense of the middle class. Well paid manufacturing and industrial workers lost their livelihoods as did university graduates trained for tradable professional service jobs such as software engineering and information technology. No comparable wages and salaries could be found in the economy where the remaining jobs consist of domestic service employment, such as retail clerks, hospital orderlies, waitresses and bartenders. The current income loss is compounded by the loss of medical benefits and private pensions that supplemented Social Security retirement. Thus, jobs offshoring reduced both current and future consumer income.
Americas middle class jobs can be brought home by changing the way corporations are taxed. Corporate income could be taxed on the basis of whether corporations add value to their product sold in US markets domestically or offshore. Domestic production would have a lower tax rate. Offshored production would be taxed at a higher rate. The tax rate could be set to cancel out the cost savings of producing offshore.
Under long-term attack by free market economists, the Sherman Antitrust Act has become a dead-letter law. Free market economists argue that markets are self-correcting and that anti-monopoly legislation is unnecessary and serves mainly to protect inefficiency. A large array of traditionally small business activities have been monopolized by franchises and “big box” stores. Family owned auto parts stores, hardware stores, restaurants, men’s clothing stores, and dress shops, have been crowded out. Walmart’s destructive impact on Main Street businesses is legendary. National corporations have pushed local businesses into the trash bin.
Monopoly has more than economic effect. When six mega-media companies have control of 90 percent of the American media, a dispersed and independent press no longer exists. Yet, democracy itself relies on media helping to hold government to account. The purpose of the First Amendment is to control the government, but today media serves as a propaganda ministry for government.
Americans received better and less expensive communication services when AT&T was a regulated monopoly. Free trade in communications has resulted in the creation of many unregulated local monopolies with poor service and high charges. AT&TҒs stability made the stock a blue-chipӔ ideal for widow and orphanӔ trust funds, pensions, and wealth preservation. No such risk free stock exists today.
Monopoly was given a huge boost by financial deregulation. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspans claim that ғmarkets are self-regulating and that government regulation is harmful was blown to pieces by the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Deregulation not only allowed banks to escape from prudent behavior but also allowed such concentration that America now has ԓbanks too big to fail. One of capitalismԒs virtues and justifications is that inefficient enterprises fail and go out of business. Instead, we have banks that must be kept afloat with public or Federal Reserve subsidies. Clearly, one result of financial deregulation has been to protect the large banks from the operation of capitalism. The irony that freeing banks from regulation resulted in the destruction of capitalism is lost on free market economists.
The cost of the Federal Reserves support for the banks too big to fail with zero and negative real interest rates has been devastating for savers and retirees. Americans have received no interest on their savings for seven years. To make ends meet, they have had to consume their savings. Moreover, the Federal ReserveҒs policy has artificially driven up the stock market with the liquidity that the Federal Reserve has created and also caused a similar bubble in the bond market. The high prices of bonds are inconsistent with the buildup in debt and the money printed in order to keep the debt afloat. The dollars value itself depends on quantitative easing in Japan and the EU.
In order to restore financial stability, an obvious precondition for prosperity, the large banks must be broken up and the distinction between investment and commercial banks restored.
Since the Clinton regime, the majority of the Treasury secretaries have been top executives of the troubled large banks, and they have used their public position to benefit their banks and not the US economy. Additionally, executives of the large banks comprise the board of the New York Fed, the principal operating arm of the Federal Reserve. Consequently, a few large banks control US financial policy. This conspiracy must be broken up and the Federal Reserve made accountable or abolished.
This requires getting money out of politics. The ability of a few powerful private interest groups to control election outcomes with their campaign contributions is anathema to democracy. A year ago the Republican Supreme Court ruled that the rich have a constitutional right to purchase the government with political campaign contributions in order to serve their selfish interests.
These are the same Republican justices who apparently see no constitutional right to habeas corpus and, thus, have not prohibited indefinite detention of US citizens. These are the same Republican justices who apparently see no constitutional prohibition against self-incrimination and, thus, have tolerated torture. These are the same Republican justices who have abandoned due process and permit the US government to assassinate US citizens.
To remove the control of money over political life would likely require a revolution. Unless prosperity is to be only for the One Percent, the Supreme CourtҒs assault on democracy must be overturned.
The Road to Peace is Difficult
To regain peace is even more difficult than to regain prosperity. As prosperity can be a precondition for peace, peace requires both changes in the economy and in foreign policy.
To regain peace is especially challenging, not because Americans are threatened by Muslim terrorists, domestic extremists, and Russians. These threatsӔ are hoaxes orchestrated in behalf of special interests. Security threatsӔ provide more profit and more power for the military/security complex.
The fabricated war on terrorӔ has been underway for 14 years and has succeeded in creating even more terrorӔ that must be combated with enormous expenditures of money. Apparently, Republicans intend that monies paid in Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes be redirected to the military/security complex.
The promised three-week cakewalkӔ in Iraq has become a 14 year defeat with the radical Islamic State controlling half of Iraq and Syria. Islamist resistance to Western domination has spread into Africa and Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the oil emirates are ripe fruit ready to fall.
Having let the genie out of the bottle in the Middle East, Washington has turned to conflict with Russia and by extension to China. This is a big bite for a government that has not been able to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan after 14 years.
Russia is not a country accustomed to defeat. Moreover, Russia has massive nuclear forces and massive territory into which to absorb any US/NATO invasion. Picking a fight with a well-armed country with by far the largest land mass of any country shows a lack of elementary strategic sense. But that is what Washington is doing.
Washington is picking a fight with Russia, because Washington is committed to the neoconservative doctrine that History has chosen Washington to exercise hegemony over the world. The US is the exceptional and indispensableӔ country, the Uni-power chosen to impose Washingtons will on the world.
This ideology governs US foreign policy and requires war in its defense. In the 1990s Paul Wolfowitz enshrined the Wolfowitz Doctrine into US military and foreign policy. In its most bold form, the Doctrine states:
ғOur first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.
As a former member of the original Cold War Committee on the Present Danger, I can explain what these words mean. The ԓthreat posed formerly by the Soviet Union was the ability of the Soviet Union to block unilateral US action in some parts of the world. The Soviet Union was a constraint on US unilateral action, not everywhere but in some places. This constraint on WashingtonԒs will is regarded as a threat.
A hostile powerӔ is a country with an independent foreign policy, such as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) have proclaimed. Iran, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba, and North Korea have also proclaimed an independent foreign policy.
This is too much independence for Washington to stomach. As Russian President Vladimir Putin recently stated, Washington doesnӒt want partners. Washington wants vassals.
The Wolfowitz doctrine requires Washington to dispense with governments that do not acquiesce to WashingtonԒs will. It is a first objective.Ӕ
The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in Boris Yeltsin becoming president of a dismembered Russia. Yeltsin was a compliant US puppet. Washington became accustomed to its new vassal and absorbed itself in its Middle Eastern wars, expecting Vladimir Putin to continue Russias vassalage.
However at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy, Putin said: “I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in todays world.”
Putin went on to say: We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one stateӒs legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?
When Putin issued this fundamental challenge to US Uni-power, Washington was preoccupied with its lack of success with its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Mission was not accomplished.
By 2014 it had entered the thick skulls of our rulers in Washington that while Washington was blowing up weddings, funerals, village elders, and children’s soccer games in the Middle East, Russia had achieved independence from Washingtons control and presented itself as a formidable challenge to Washington’s Uni-power. Putin and Russia have had enough of Washingtons arrogance.
The unmistakable rise of Russia refocused Washington from the Middle East to Russia’s vulnerabilities. Ukraine, long a constituent part of Russia and subsequently the Soviet Union, was split off from Russia in the wake of the Soviet collapse by Washingtons maneuvering. In 2004 Washington had tried to capture Ukraine in the Orange Revolution, which failed to deliver Ukraine into WashingtonҒs hands. Consequently, according to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, Washington spent $5 billion over the following decade developing NGOs that could be called into the streets of Kiev and in developing political leaders who represented Washingtons interests.
Washington launched its coup in February 2014 with orchestrated ғdemonstrations that with the addition of violence resulted in the overthrow and flight of the elected democratic government of Victor Yanukovych. In other words, Washington destroyed democracy in a new country with a coup before democracy could take root.
Ukrainian democracy meant nothing to Washington intent on seizing Ukraine in order to present Russia with a security problem and also to justify sanctions against ԓRussian aggression in order to break up RussiaԒs growing economic and political relationships with Europe.
Having launched on this reckless and irresponsible attack on a nuclear power, can Washington eat crow and back off? Would the neoconservative-controlled mass media permit that? The Russian government, backed 89% by the Russian people, have made it clear that Russia rejects vassalage status as the price of being part of the West. The implication of the Wolfowitz Doctrine is that Russia must be destroyed.
This implies our own destruction.
What can be done to restore peace? Obviously, the EU must abandon NATO and declare that Washington is a greater threat than Russia. Without NATO Washington has no cover for its aggression and no military bases with which to surround Russia.
It is Washington, not Russia, that has an ideology of uber alles.Ӕ Obama endorsed the neoconservative claim that America is the exceptional country.Ӕ Putin has made no such claim for Russia. Putins response to ObamaҒs claim is that God created us equal.Ӕ
In order to restore peace, the neoconservatives must be removed from foreign policy positions in the government and media. This means that Victoria Nuland must be removed as Assistant Secretary of State, that Susan Rice must be removed as National Security Adviser, that Samantha Power must be removed as US UN ambassador.
The warmonger neoconservatives must be removed from Fox News,ђ CNN, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, and in their places independent voices must replace propagandists for war.
Clearly, none of this is going to happen, but it must if we are to escape armageddon.
The prescription for peace and prosperity is sound. The question is: Can we implement it?
Section Dying America •
View (0) comment(s) or add a new one •
Printable view • Link to this article •
Sunday, August 02, 2015
Fleeing America Redux
Germany and Scandinavia, because they provide more social services to their people than anybody else. And guess what: Not only are they not in trouble economically, they are the winners of the current situation.
Here’s a story of someone who moved to Switzerland and came back.
Living in Switzerland ruined me for America and its lousy work culture
By Chantal Panozzo
July 21, 2015
I was halfway through a job interview when I realized I was wrinkling my nose. I couldn’t help myself. A full-time freelance position with a long commute, no benefits, and a quarter of my old pay was the best they could do? I couldn’t hide how I felt about that, and the 25-year-old conducting the interview noticed.
Are you interested in permanent jobs instead?” she asked.
“I could consider a permanent job if it was part-time,” I said.
She looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language and went right back to her pitch: long commute, full-time, no benefits. No way, I thought. Who would want to do that? And then it hit me: Either I had become a completely privileged jerk or my own country was not as amazing as I had once thought it to be. This wasn’t an unusually bad offer: It was just American Reality.
“Now that I’m back, I’m angry that my own country isn’t providing more for its people”
Before I moved to Switzerland for almost a decade, American Reality was all I knew. I was living in a two-bedroom apartment making $30,000 a year in a job where I worked almost seven days a week with no overtime pay and received 10 days of paid time off a year.
In other words, for the hours worked, I was making minimum wage, if that. The glamour of this job was supposed to make up for the hours, but in reality, working every weekend is a ticket to burnout not success.
My husband and I were so accustomed to American Reality that when he was offered an opportunity to work in Switzerland, we both thought about travel and adventure - not about improving our quality of life. It hadn’t occurred to us that we could improve our quality of life simply by moving.
But without realizing it, or even asking for it, a better life quality came to us. And this is why, now that I’m back, I’m angry that my own country isn’t providing more for its people. I will never regret living abroad. It taught me to understand another culture. And it taught me to see my own. But it also taught me something else to lose touch with the American version of reality.
Here are seven ways living abroad made it hard to return to American life.
1) I had work-life balance
The Swiss work hard, but they have a strong work-life balance. According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the average Swiss worker earned the equivalent of $91,574 a year in 2013, while the average American worker earned only $55,708. But the real story is that the average American had to work 219 hours more per year for this lesser salary.
Which brings us to lunch. In Switzerland, you don’t arrive to a meeting late, but you also don’t leave for your lunch break a second past noon. If it’s summer, jumping into the lake to swim with the swans is an acceptable way to spend your lunch hour. If you eat a sandwich at your desk, people will scold you. I learned this the hard way.
“Ugh,” said Tom, a Swiss art director I shared an office with at a Zurich ad agency. “It smells like someone ate their lunch in here.” He threw open the windows and fanned the air.
“They did. I ate a sandwich here,” I said.
Tom looked at me like I was crazy.
“No. Tomorrow you’re having a proper lunch. With me,” he said.
The next day, exactly at noon, we rode the funicular to a restaurant where we dined al fresco above Zurich. After lunch, we strolled down the hill. I felt guilty for being gone for an hour and a half. But no one had missed us at the office.
Lunchtime is sacred time in Switzerland. When I was on maternity leave, my husband came home for lunch to help me care for our daughter. This strengthened our marriage. Many families still reunite during weekdays over the lunch hour.
Weekends in Switzerland encourage leisure time, too. On Sundays, you can’t even shop ח most stores are closed. You are semi-required to hike in the Alps with your family. It’s just what you do.
2) I had time and money
The Swiss have a culture of professional part-time work, and as a result, part-time jobs include every benefit of a full-time job, including vacation time and payment into two Swiss pension systems. Salaries for part-time work are set as a percentage of a professional full-time salary because unlike in the United States, part-time jobs are not viewed as necessarily unskilled jobs with their attendant lower pay.
During my Swiss career, I was employed by various companies from 25 percent to 100 percent. When I worked 60 percent, for example, I worked three days a week. A job that is 50 percent could mean the employee works five mornings a week or, as I once did, two and a half days a week. The freedom to choose the amount of work that was right for me at varying points of my life was wonderful and kept me engaged and happy.
“When I took only 10 days for a trip to Spain, my colleagues chastised me for taking so little time off”
Often, jobs in Switzerland are advertised with the percentage of work that is expected. Other times, you can negotiate what percentage you would like to work or request to go from working five days a week to four days a week, for example. There is normally little risk involved in asking.
One married couple I knew each worked 80 percent, which meant they each spent one day a week at home with their child, limiting the child’s time in day care to three days a week while continuing full professional lives for both of them. According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Why U.S. Women Are Leaving Jobs Behind,” 81 percent of women in Switzerland are in the workforce, versus 69 percent in the US. I believe attitudes toward professional part-time work - for both men and women - have a lot to do with this.
3) I had the support of an amazing unemployment system
About three years into my Swiss life, I lost my job. And I discovered that in Switzerland, being on unemployment meant you received 70 to 80 percent of your prior salary for 18 months. The Swiss government also paid for me to take German classes, and when I wasn’t looking for jobs, I could afford to writea book.
In the United States, on the other hand, unemployment benefits generally pay workers between 40 and 50 percent of their previous salary, and these benefits only last for six months on average. However, thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, some unemployed people now receive up to 99 weeks of benefits.
4) I witnessed what happens when countries impose wealth-based taxes
Compared with taxes in the United States, Swiss taxes are easy on the average worker. For example, a worker earning the average wage of $91,574 would pay only about 5 percent of that in Swiss federal income tax. Instead of taxing salaries at high percentages ח a practice that puts most of the tax burden on the middle class, where most income comes from wages and not from capital gains Switzerland immediately taxes dividends at a maximum of 35 percent and also has a wealth-based tax.
While the American tax system is supposed to be progressive ח so the more you earn, the more taxes you pay up to 39.6 percent tax for the highest income brackets, the superrich escape paying these kind of taxes because they aren’t making most of their money in wages.
For example, in 2010, Mitt Romney, whose total income was $21.6 million, paid only $3 million in taxes, or a tax rate of about 14 percent, which is amazing when you consider this is the same tax rate American families earning wages from about $16,750 to $68,000 paid in 2010.
The Swiss taxation method leaves money in the pocket of the average worker ח and allows them to save accordingly. The average adult in Switzerland has a net worth worth of $513,000 according to the 2013 Credit Suisse Wealth Report. Average net worth among adults in the US is half that.
While I witnessed the benefits of the Swiss tax system for the average person, I did not benefit from them due to my American citizenship. Instead, I paid both Swiss tax and American tax while living in Switzerland. Unfortunately, the US is one of the only nations in the world where tax is citizen-based instead of resident-based. (China, in a new push to enforce tax law for citizens working abroad, is one of the others, along with Eritrea.)
5) I had lots of paid vacation time and was never made to feel guilty about taking it
At my former American job, I received 10 days of paid vacation per year, and each of those days came with a sizable portion of guilt if actually used. But in Switzerland, my husband’s company gave employees six weeks of vacation a year. Most of the Swiss companies I worked for gave four the legal minimum is four. Moreover, everything shut down between Christmas and New Year’s, giving most employees like me another guaranteed week off.
People in Europe took vacation seriously. Once, when I only took 10 days for a trip to Spain, my colleagues chastised me for taking so little time off. I learned to take vacation chunks in two-week intervals. Well rested, I noticed that I felt more productive and creative when I returned to work. Recent American research confirms what I was feeling: Relaxing can make you more productive. So why don’t Americans embrace vacation time?
6) I never had to own a car
I’m currently cringing at the idea of being required to buy a car. A Honda dealer here in Chicago recently quoted me $18,000 for a 2012 Accord, and that seems like a lot of money - especially when you still need to pay for insurance, gasoline, and repairs. The price is even more daunting for someone who isn’t used to being required to pay for such a thing.
“The freedom to choose the amount of work that was right for me kept me engaged and happy”
Not owning a car is financially freeing and it saves the environment, too. In Switzerland, 21 percent of households do not own a car, versus 9.2 percent in the US.
The Swiss train connects to the bus that connects to the cable car to get you on the slopes in the middle of nowhere at the scheduled second. From Zurich, I could also take a high-speed train to Paris in three and a half hours. Now I can barely get from the western suburbs to the north side of Chicago in that amount of time - let alone have the option to do it carless. This means I’m turning down jobs instead of taking them. This isn’t good for the American economy or for me.
And let’s be clear: Living in a city suburb is no excuse for having bad transit options. I lived exactly the same distance from Zurich that I now live from Chicago (15 miles) but shared none of the public transport frustrations.
7) I had excellent health care when I gave birth and then enjoyed a fully paid 14-week maternity leave
When I gave birth in Switzerland, I was encouraged to stay five days in the hospital. So I did. The $3,000 bill for the birth and hospital stay was paid in full by my Swiss insurance. As was the required midwife, who came to my apartment for five days after I came home from the hospital to check on both my health and my baby’s.
Had I been in the US for my delivery, the cost would have been much higher ח and the quality of care arguably lower. The average price for a vaginal birth in the US is $30,000 and includes an average of less than a two-day hospital stay.
Swiss law also mandates a 14-week maternity leave at a minimum of 80 percent pay. I was lucky enough to receive 100 percent pay. Compare that with the US, where new mothers aren’t guaranteed any paid time off after giving birth. In Switzerland, it’s also common to choose how much work to return to after having a child. Since my Swiss job at the time had been full time, I chose to return at 60 percent.
Other American friends in Switzerland who gave birth also chose to return to their careers part time: My engineering manager friend chose 70 percent, and my lawyer friend chose 80 percent. We had great careers, we had balance, and we also had a Swiss government that paid a monthly child stipend whether we needed it or not. For Americans like me, Swiss Reality was privilege.
Finally, finally, after almost a decade abroad, my husband and I decided we needed to go home to see what home felt like, or if the United States even felt like home anymore. So we put our Swiss residence permits on hold for two years and went back to Chicago.
While I enjoy being close to family again, returning to the United States made me realize who I’ve become: someone who can’t believe companies aren’t required to pay into a pension fund beyond Social Security. Someone who is offended that most women in America don’t have the maternity benefits she had.
And someone who is mad that she must own a car for lack of efficient public transportation. Someone who, because of all of this, is still debating where she ultimately wants to call home.
Chantal Panozzo is the author of Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known. She has written about Switzerland and expat life for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Section Dying America • Section Workplace •
View (0) comment(s) or add a new one •
Printable view • Link to this article •
Still Looking For Reasons To Keep Away From Windows? Part 21
Microsoft collects information about you, your devices, applications and networks, and your use of those devices, applications and networks. Examples of data we collect include your name, email address, preferences and interests; browsing, search and file history; phone call and SMS data; device configuration and sensor data; and application usage.
Windows 10 spies on you by default
By Shannon Stapleton
July 31, 2015
Microsoft’s new Windows 10 operating system is immensely popular, with 14 million downloads in just two days. The price of the free upgrade may just be your privacy, though, as changing Windows 10’s intrusive default settings is difficult.
Technology journalists and bloggers are singing Windows 10s praises, often using the words such as “amazing,” “glorious” and “fantastic.” The operating system has been described as faster, smoother and more user-friendly than any previous version of Windows. According to Wired magazine, more than 14 million people have DOWNLOADED their upgrade since the system was released on Wednesday.
While the upgrade is currently free of charge to owners of licensed copies of Windows 8 and Windows 7, it does come at a price. Several tech bloggers have warned that the privacy settings in the operating system are invasive by default, and that changing them involves over a dozen different screens and an external website.
According to Zach Epstein of BGR News, all of Windows 10s features that could be considered invasions of privacy are enabled by default. Signing in with your Microsoft email account means Windows is reading your emails, contacts and calendar data. The new Edge browser serves you personalized ads. Solitaire now comes with ads. Using Cortana - the voice-driven assistant that represents Redmond’s answer to Apple’s Siri - reportedly “plays fast and loose with your data.”
“I am pretty surprised by the far-reaching data collection that Microsoft seems to want,” web developer Jonathan Porta wrote on his blog. “I am even more surprised by the fact that the settings all default to incredibly intrusive. I am certain that most individuals will just accept the defaults and have no idea how much information they are giving away.”
As examples, Porta cited Microsoft having access to contacts, calendar details, and"other associated input data” such as “typing” and “inking” by default. The operating system also wants access to user locations and location history, both of which could be provided not just to Microsoft, but to its “trusted partners.”
“Who are the trusted partners? By whom are they trusted? I am certainly not the one doing any trusting right now,” Porta wrote, describing the default privacy options as “vague and bordering on scary.”
“We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to.”
While most people are used to ads as the price of accessing free content, writes Meer, Microsoft is not making it clear enough that they are gathering and storing vast amounts of data on your computing habits,ԓ not just browser data.
Opting out of all these default settings requires navigating 13 different screens and a separate website, the bloggers have found.
Tracking and harvesting user data has been a business model for many tech giants. Privacy advocates have raised concerns over GoogleҔs combing of emails, Apples Siri, and FacebookҒs tracking cookies that keep monitoring peoples browser activity in order to personalize advertising and content.
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Microsoft And Windows •
View (0) comment(s) or add a new one •
Printable view • Link to this article •