Comparing the U.S., Germany, and Japan, what is the right amount of “welfare” a country should have?
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This is really a matter of opinion as there is no objective way to determine the "correct" amount of welfare that a country should have. I, personally, would argue that we should have a bit more than we have now, something more along the lines of what Germany has.
My saying this is based mostly on my belief that we need a better system of providing health care. I would argue that we should have a more comprehensive government health care system so that businesses could have some amount of protection from the high and unpredictable costs of health care. In addition, this would permit more mobility among workers since they would not have to worry about losing health care between jobs or having a prexisting condition that would not be covered by the new health insurance.
I assume by welfare, you mean social programs such as health care, education, etc. There are substantial arguments on both sides of the issue. My son and grandson live in Japan which has a large social welfare program. As a result, my grandson's medical bills at birth were negligent, he attends a government operated day care where a doctor examines him once a week and he recieves excellent pre-school training. It is difficult to argue with the benefits of such a program.
The flip side of this is of course that they are paid for with tax dollars, and people in the U.S. have a keen adversity to paying taxes. There is also the problem that so many Americans incorrectly identify these programs as a hybrid form of communism. They do not understand the difference between socialism and communism, nor do they make any effort to do so.
An undeniable fact is that the standard of living in Japan and Germany has not suffered because of Government programs, in fact in many respects it is probably higher than in the U.S. So, pay your money, take your choice.
I would certainly hope that the rampant welfare fraud evident in the U. S. is not as widespread in Germany or Japan. As one of the previous posts mentioned, many Americans are against welfare aid in any form, since so many people abuse the system, wasting hundreds of millions (if not billions) of tax-payers' dollars each year.
I have not been to Japan, so I don't know that I am a good judge of the balance they have between taxes and public benefits, but the German model is one that has impressed me. They have an excellent health care and retirement system. As a German friend of mine likes to point out, every full time worker has a month of paid vacation per year, and very generous maternity leaves. Even while taxing at a level to sustain such benefits, the German economy has proven growth records, has been resilient in the face of a stubborn global recession, and can accurately be described as the economic engine of Europe.
The German and American governments both take a more active role in determining a person's higher education and career prospects than the United States. Although this might not be the first thing you would think about, to me it is part of the social system. Theoretically, this prevents waste in people attending and then dropping out of school or being unable to get work. However, it also limits both personal responsibility and personal freedom.
I am not sure you can ever determine a "right" amount of welfare a government should offer to its people. I do believe that the US has it wrong. People should not make "getting a government check" every month a lifestyle. It should be there to give a temporary "leg up" when a person or family is in serious need. Welfare is a concept that was born of multiple deaths in war leaving widows and orphans back on the homefront. Suddenly, we've got all kinds of folks on welfare, and some of them are able-bodied people who can work but find that they make more on government dependence. This is wrong. It teaches their children the wrong way to live as well, setting a disturbing trend. In my high school, girls have actually told me how many children they need to have out of wedlock to never have to work a day in their lives. This is disgusting to me, since I personally have a friend whose husband died in a car accident leaving her with three children under the age of five (she was a loving wife and stay-at-home mom who never got a college degree), and she doesn't qualify for any aide at all. What is wrong with this picture?
I don't fancy living in the US and having as few holidays as you guys do! Certainly, Germany does boast a very impressive welfare system. My brother lives there and is always going on about it. Wherever there is a welfare system, however, there is always going to be welfare fraud, or people that try to take advantage of it. Getting the balance between providing support for those that are unable to help themselves and then also not providing them with so much that they do nothing and are quite happy to stay unemployed is a very difficult balance to achieve.
Several things come to mind when you compare these countries and their social welfare systems. First, you have two countries with a significant homogenous society. This means people with similar work ethic, educational expectations and more uniform family size for the society as a whole. Given that these issues are similar then the expenses they have for medical and educational issues would be more uniform than those here in the United States. It is my understanding that Germany has a type of tax/corporate requirements that prevents those companies operating in Germany from outsourcing much of its labor – therefore they have more people employed and more money into the welfare system. Japan is a society which values work and being employed. I read last week that Japanese workers don’t even use all of the vacation time that they are allotted each year due to they think it looks bad upon them as a worker. Given these issues – the United States can never have the type of system that either Germany or Japan. We do not have the uniformity in societal expectations or cultural expectations of those countries.
To answer this question confidently, I would want to know the size of the national debts in Japan and Germany and also the size of unfunded liabilities -- that is, the amount of money that has been promised but which may or may not be able to be paid. My understanding is that Germany and Japan both face problems resulting from rapidly aging populations and a growing lack of younger workers to fund the welfare systems of both countries. Of course, the Germans are also unhappy these days because they are making "welfare" payments, of a sort, to other European countries, especially Greece.
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