@onelabel: The median wage, by definition, only takes income into consideration, not cost of living. For its purposes, it doesn't matter where one is (this is just like Austria or Germany, where the cost of living is less in the countryside than in the cities, so I think it would probably even out).
Obviously if you take the ugliest, cheapest house, you can make your argument. But take a look at this house in my hometown of Louisville, KY. http://www.homes.com/Content/ListingDetail.cf...
On my current salary, I could afford this (it comes out to about 180 m² including basement for less than $150,000). I would much rather have this house (or damn near any house) than live in any apartment, German or otherwise, ever. As I mentioned, they might not be as sturdy as European homes, but they are certainly more than livable.
Incidentally, I rented a very shitty house in college, too. Everything was falling down or apart. But the rent was cheap, it was temporary, and everyone walked away a winner.
With regard to unemployment: Some people don't register in Austria, either. Or the gov't simply subtracts the number of unemployed that are in Schulungen so that they are not counted. Hiring and firing, *market* wages, etc. power the economy and is healthy overall, I think.
re cost of living: Where I come from in KY, there is a huge difference in cost of living from Austria. Gas: half price. House: see above. Golf: Don't get me started (hehe). Taxes: whoa nelly! Energy: comparable to less. Health insurance: Much more (granted). The main sticking point for me, because it affects me personally, is housing. If my wife and I stay in Austria, we can't afford a house. Period. Nowhere. Maybe in 10 or 15 years (I'm currently 30). I don't know about anyone else, but personally I like my space. I would like to have a yard for my kids to run around in (and not erst when they're 10-15). I would like to not freeze in the shower when one of my neighbors turns his water on, etc. Everything else (once again, to me) is superfluous. I would gladly pay more for other stuff if I could get a house out of the deal.
"Greatest country that God ever created" is a bit much, even for my "patriotic" tastes. ;-) ... the problem is that most Americans don't even realize they are insulting the rest of the world. They simply view this as a "truthful" expression of how they feel (I live here, it's good here, it's better than everywhere else). OT: most Austrians I know could never consider living anywhere else but where they were born. Is this a silent acknowledgement of the same type thing?
As I mentioned, I don't have a problem with the Pledge of Allegiance, but you've helped me understand where people who DO are coming from. Cheers!
If the US didn't "give a rat's ass" about the people of Iraq, then why would it be endangering the lives of nearly 140,000 troops there. How is Cheney profiting? He is divested of all of his Haliburton holdings. How is Rumsfeld profiting? In fact, how is anyone profiting with all of the chaos going on there? I fail to see it...
(I'm unfortunately ignorant of Chile except for a bit about Pinochet.)
There are a lot of places where the United States forbids companies to do business. From their point of view, there are good reasons for this, which you and others might not agree with. It's great that you can go to Cuba to help prop up that regime. Maybe you should go to Iran and North Korea (or do business with them) and reward them for the continued oppression of their people, too. It's up to you.
Your comparison of cities encompasses so many issues that I don't know if it's wise to get into it all here. Your statement that it costs more (social democracy) but it's worth it is currently being tested. So far, the higher unemployment, higher taxes, lower wages, and lower growth don't seem to bear that argument out. But we'll see. Europe may be experiencing a much-needed turnaround.
I'm actually a fan of the two-party system, and the argument that it doesn't reflect the true will of the voters is wrong, in my opinion. George W. Bush is not the same type of Republican as John McCain or Colin Powell; Nancy Pelosi is very different from Joe Lieberman, i.e. there are different factions within each party. Personally, I think the two-party system perpetuates the center, whereas letting in "fringe groups" like the NPD or Communists simply makes governing unwieldy.
I also disagree with your last statement. The US didn't tell Europe or Japan to be just like the US after WWII. They didn't tell Iraq to be like the US now, either. In fact, they often make statements to the opposite (see Rumsfield, if I remember correctly). If they wanted everyone to be like the US, why do they work with dictators and other forms of non-democratic government?
Wow, anywhere else that this thread can go? hehehe