Money is the hot topic in the paper today, the slide of the dollar, how it affects the European Union, how it affects the billionaires on the 2007 Forbes List.
According to the International Herald Tribune, the euro traded above $1.40 for the first time, and the Canadian dollar climbed back to parity with the US dollar for the first time in 30 years. The dollar is worth less than ever before in this age of flexible exchange rates, and it has declined faster under George W. than under any president since the end of the gold standard in 1971.
And show some sympathy for the 82 US billionaires, who did not make the cut on the Forbes roundup of the 400 richest Americans: the price for inclusion (because of the weakening of the dollar) rose from One billion to $1.3 billion dollars, and most of the newbies on the list made their fortunes from the Internet, or Wall Street.
My parents, like many other Americans, started living the inflated lifestyle - along with its many expenses - in the 1980's, during the Reagan boom. Lots of PI (personal injury) cases, and lots of generous insurance policies that paid for Chiropractic patients to come as often as they wanted. Today, my parents work three times as hard as they used to, have to fill out three times as many forms as they used to, and get paid a third of what they used to receive. Yet the accumulated debt and commitments remain, like the repairs and expansion done to the kitchen in the last year, like the expansion of one of their Chiropractic offices, and like my youngest brother's private college tuition.
Speaking of college, Columbia University (my Alma mater, class of 1991) has resisted pressure to cancel a speaking engagement on campus by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a surprising move given CU President Lee Bollinger's recent initiative to confront the British boycott of Israeli academic institutions and its esteemed professors. In my time at Columbia, there were certainly several controversial visitors - most notably Louis Farrakhan - but a basic respect of all communities (Jewish, black, Islamic, etc) within the community existed. A Holocaust denier (Ahmadinejad) who has publicly and internationally declared open war upon the Zionist entity and Jews everywhere, a President who boasts of the development of a nuclear program and his intentions to use it, a Muslim who plans on visiting Ground Zero for the purpose of rejoicing in the death of the ugly Americans and spitting on the graves of those who died; he should not be allowed on the campus, never mind into the country.
The last time I visited the US, I felt a certain cloud of paranoia and fatigue; people working too hard and earning less, not spending enough time with their families and without the assurance of safety and dominance that the Americans once enjoyed. Since the start of George Bush's presidency, the United States has lost its respect and footing not only within its borders but with its former international allies. No one wants to align themselves with a currency that pulls the rest of the markets down into a spiral, or with an administration that sends soldiers to die in not one but two losing arenas (Afghanistan and Iraq). Just because we believe Democracy is a model worth adapting and striving toward, does not mean that the template works in the Middle East. I don't recall the Iraqi people applying to become one of the "enlightened."
All that remains is rich fodder that Bush continually provides for the late night talk show hosts, and for the Democrats to whomp anyone the Republicans put up for candidacy in the next American Presidential election.
Yes, in some ways Israel behaves like a Third World Country, Lord knows I would like to be paying less taxes and I would like to see some direct representation and accountability of the Prime Minister and the members of the Knesset toward its citizens. But I enjoy a good quality of life, I am able to see my patients without the bureaucracy of insurance filing and I set my own hours.
I have automatic health coverage, and some day when I have children, their education will be heavily subsidized from nursery through university. As for the long lists of shopping I used to do in the States, most of what I need I can find here in Israel, and for about the same price as I would pay if I had gone to CVS. Finally, there is a sense here of one extended family that I have not felt anywhere else in the world.
For now, America may be a nice place to visit, but I would not want to live there.