I have lived & worked in America for 57 years. I had a few jobs as a teenager, but mostly I’ve been self-employed running several different business’s. I feel my experience in business and life in America, gives me some insights to the opportunities & struggles of living in America. I’m asked all the time if I miss America. So I thought it could make an interesting post, both for me & you. 3 years of living in Europe has given me a first hand experience of living a more social agenda.
SIZE 4,422,733 SQ. KM. 9, 857,306 SQ. KM
POPULATION 508,191,116 320,000,000
GDP $19 trillion $18 trillion
GDP per person $32,000 $53,000
America exports to the EU totaled $262 billion & imports from EU totaled $387 billion
The imbalance is, America consuming more than it produces. (equals larger carbon-footprint & more)
Trade with Slovenia is similar: Slovenia imported $305 million in goods & exported $700 million worth of goods, to America.
EU visa free Schengen region allows for the free and unrestricted movement of people, goods, services, and capital, between it’s 26 members.
I don’t claim to be an expert economist or a social scientist, or any expert for that matter. But I do know what I need to feel safe & secure. I’m going to share a little of what I’ve seen and experienced in both countries.
I feel education offers the best opportunity to empower people to seek their destiny in life. America use to be #1 as a percentage of the population that graduates from college, due to college cost they’ve fallen to #12. There are many forms of financial aid, grants or loans available for students. The average college student in America graduates with $33,000 worth of debt. It’s hard to get started with that size of debt ball & chain.. Some students have resorted to the “Sugar Daddy” method of paying for college, read HERE.
Slovenian college is free, yes there’s high taxes, but an educated society is good for everyone. The government sponsors a program with local restaurants offering students “discounted” meals, they’re nearly 1/2 price off the regular menu. Most kids attending college live at home, so no room & board cost.
USA has a graduation rate at 42% of the population and for Slovenia it’s 37%. I’m surprised more people in Slovenia don’t go on to higher education. A Slovenian friend thinks because it’s free people don’t value or appreciate it.
Michael Moore’s movie “Where to Invade Next” documents the Slovenian education system.
My home state of Oregon is covered in forest land and when logging companies come in they clear cut the entire hillside and replant trees like corn rows. As the new trees grow, helicopters are used to spray herbicides to prevent anything else from growing & competing with the trees. This method invariably sprays people and poison streams. This is an example of capitalism for short term profits without consideration of the long-term environmental costs, poisoned land, water and people.
I’ve been to all parts of Slovenia and have never once seen a clear cut forest They selective harvest. I see lots of logging trucks, logs on trains, but have never noticed where they were cut from. I’m not a logging expert, but in the big picture it seems that wildlife, people and streams are protected with this approach.
Recycling is big in Oregon, it had the first deposit on soda & beer bottles. Oregon is the leader compared to most U.S. states. Portland instituted weekly food waste recycling and switched to every other week garbage service. From my view, that was Mayor Sam Adams biggest accomplishment while in office. It may not seem like such a big deal but, it is. Portland’s garbage is driven 150 miles to eastern Oregon. In the first 6 months.it reduced garbage volume by 44% and eliminated 1800 truck loads being driven 150 miles.
They recycle here in Slovenia too, even more than Oregon. I mean everything, food waste, paper, glass, metal, ALL plastic even plastic bottle caps are separated and recycled. In a country as small as Slovenia, there’s really is no place to “hide” a garbage dump. I remember being in Austria 20 years ago and after a painting project I was able to walk to a supervised waste drop-off point. One of the requirements for becoming part of the EU is that you must provide garbage service to every household. A small village in Hungary solved the “We can’t afford to do that” by using a horse & wagon, check it out HERE Portland does have a state of the art paint recycling facility.
What is more typical is what’s going on in other parts of America. Citizens claim it’s to “inconvenient” to recycle, till you run out of places to put the garbage, now they must recycle.
Not everything in America is done better, check out this video HERE
One thing that’s not talked about in Slovenia is the burning of wood for heat. Nearly everyone has a huge pile off firewood outside their house. The wood smoke can be too much in the winter. When I wash my windows in the spring, the cloth turns brown. In Oregon when they sell a house, a non-certified wood stove must be removed. Certified stoves capture the fine particulate air borne matter.
In America, a study done at Harvard University indicates medical expenses are the biggest cause of bankruptcy, representing 62% of all personal bankruptcies. One of the interesting caveats of this study shows that 78% of filers had some form of health insurance, thus bucking the myth that medical bills affect only the uninsured. The Republicans want to end Obama care, but have no alternative plan. This is where Bernie Sanders single payer health care system becomes the best option. In America, I had a $600 per month health insurance plan. I still had to pay $130 just to visit the doctor. I had to pay nearly all of the first $3000 of medical expenses before I could then get the insurance company to pay 80% over the $3000. I still had to pay the 20% balance. I needed some surgery, the hospital was trying to get me to pay $5000 up front-before the surgery. My insurance company said I overpaid, so I called the hospital to ask for my money back, a year later the claim still isn’t settled with the insurance company, it wasn’t worth fighting over. In America, the hospital emergency room has become the physician visit of first choice for many.
The Slovenian Health care system has it’s problems too. I married Natasa and was able to join her health care plan. An affordable 25 euro a month, no cost for doctor visits, no cost for prescriptions. The downside, MRI’s can take months to get, you can pay 50 euro and get one sooner. The Slovenian system isn’t perfect, but everyone has access to health.
STARTING IN A BUSINESS IN AMERICA vs SLOVENIA
My first business at 14 was selling Christmas cards door to door. I did landscaping work for my neighbors, I started selling oranges at lunch at my High School (till they stopped me), at 18 I started a crafts business. Back to college, with my business degree I started Yard Tamers Landscaping which I had for 25 years. I had a few failures too, which aren’t really failures, but learning experience to grow from. It has never been that complicated for me to be self-employed and independent.
One way to get Slovenian residency is to open a business. I had to hire a “consultant” to navigate me through the government bureaucracy After spending lots of money, filling out endless forms, I gave up. Entrepreneurship seems almost non-existent here, it’s like the government discourages you from being somewhat independent. They seem more concerned about getting their tax money than you being successful.
AMERICAN CAPITALISM OR SOCIALISM via CAPITALISM
Capitalism could be a great system if everyone has an equal opportunity. Maybe it works in the textbooks, but on the streets of America just the homeless problem says it doesn’t work. When I traveled across Europe, by bike for 7 months, I could count the homeless I saw on one hand.
America’s continually borrowing trillions of dollars trying to make it’s form of capitalism work. I knew wish I knew what the perfect economic system was, I could be president.
The US economy is huge for sure, the EU with nearly twice the population has a slightly larger economy overall. But with that said, what is done with the money is what really matters.
But wealth is merely a tool. The question at hand is how that wealth is used. When one looks under the surface of this question, and examines how this wealth is transformed into well being, then Europe’s economic success begins to take form and shape. A study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group on economic well being around the world assesses how wealth is translated across three elements and 10 dimensions: economics (income, economic stability, employment); investments (health, education, infrastructure); and sustainability (income equality, civil society, governance and environment).
From 2006 to 2013 Germany and the U.S. both recorded an average GDP per capita growth rate of 1.1%. Germany’s ability to convert growth into economic well being was equivalent to an economy growing at an average rate of 6.2%, while the U.S. managed a measly average rate of just 0.5%. Improvements in health services, affordable education and good public transportation have immediate benefits for citizens’ lives. The price of guarding U.S. interest around the world has a huge price. U.S. military spending is only 3.3% of GDP but it’s $597 billion (Slovenia $550 million), money that could be used for education, health care , housing and environmental protection. To me it seems the money could be directed at international aid which could help reduce some of the conflicts. Humanitarian aid not military aid. Slovenia spend 1% of GDP on the military, Nato countries are requested to spend 2%.
Slovenia has some public & private debt. Slovenia’s public debt to GDP is 81%, in America it’s 71% for the EU it’s 92%. GDP is a measure of goods produced, not happiness or quality of life for ALL of it’s citizens. Americas debt per person is $62,500 (56, 056 euro). Slovenia’s debt per person is $17,289 (15,500 euro). When I look around Slovenia I can see some benefits of the debt: free education, infrastructure, affordable healthcare, great public transportation. When I think of America’s debt I think: un-affordable education, crumbling infrastructure, un-affordable healthcare, shit public transportation (except for Portland!). America has some kickass weapons, but there still not winning any of the many conflicts, were just making messes around the world.
So for what it’s worth, these are some of the differences I see between America & Portland the EU and Slovenia.
I hope I’m not boring you? I know it’s called Jeff’s bike tour. So here’s a bike story. I got involved with some local activist. An email circulated & several people sent it to me again. They were collecting bikes for Afghan refugee women. I went to the local flea market and bought 2 bikes. I got 2 more super nice used bikes from a shop that I saw when were visiting a Coffee festival. I feel so lucky to be able to help those who are in need, especially if they want to start biking. I asked if I could get a photo of the women with their new bikes. She said their husbands don’t want their wives photos on Facebook or anywhere else. I told her, they can turn their backs to the camera. She informed me that 3 of the 4 women had never ridden a bicycle. I showed up Friday to see how it was going.
The women came over after and thanked me for the bikes. I reached out to shake her hand, she backed off and said she was Muslim. The teenage girl did give me a fist bump, that was all worth it.
Thanks for reading, we’ve got some great things going on here in Skofja Loka. Planning several bike tours, Romania and following the Drava river across Slovenia.
Next, I’ve been going to Ljubljana almost weekly.