Retirement At 60? Europe Faced
With Cuts In Generous Benefit System
By: MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN
Associated Press Writer May 23 04:45
LONDON (AP) � Six weeks of vacation a
year. Retirement at 60. Thousands of euros for having a baby. A good
university education for less than the cost of a laptop.
(ap) - The fact that anyone honestly believed this
would be sustainable is almost as tragic as the fact that we are blindly
following in this failure of a path with ObamaCare and everything else that is
being proposed by the American Left right now. One of the key requirements for
Greece to get the bailout was to privatize it's health care system... As we
attempt to nationalize ours. Talk about the blind leading the blind.
Will the AP mention this?... - tha malcontent)
The system known as the European welfare state was built after World War II as
the keystone of a shared prosperity meant to prevent future conflict. Generous
lifelong benefits have since become a defining feature of modern Europe.
(Apparently the Peace-loving, Tolerant and Caring
Islamists didn't sign on to this agreement to avoid conflict! - tha
Now the welfare state � cherished by many Europeans as an alternative to what
they see as dog-eat-dog American capitalism � is coming under its most serious
threat in decades: Europe's sovereign debt crisis.
(And the AP is beside itself with disbelief! - tha
Deep budget cuts are under way across Europe. Although the first round is
focused mostly on government payrolls � the least politically explosive target
� welfare benefits are looking increasingly vulnerable.
(And Europeans get drunk and riot when they get
their cheese taken... Bet. You think this is over?... Nope. - tha malcontent)
"The current welfare state is unaffordable," said Uri Dadush, director of the
Carnegie Endowment's International Economics Program. "The crisis has made the
day of reckoning closer by several years in virtually all the industrial
(At least some people saw it coming. - tha
Germany will decide next month just how to cut at least 3 billion euros ($3.75
billion) from the budget. The government is suggesting for the first time that
it could make fresh cuts to unemployment benefits that include giving Germans
under 50 about 60 percent of their last salary before taxes for up to a year.
That benefit itself emerged after cuts to an even more generous package about
five years ago.
(Band-aids... Europeans aren't reproducing and
Islamists aren't Assimilating. At least our border crossers don't blow **** up
in the name of their God! - tha malcontent)
"We have to adjust our social security systems in a way that they motivate
people to accept regular work and do not give counterproductive incentives,"
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told news weekly Frankfurter
Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung on Saturday.
("Counterproductive incentives"... Like not having
expectations of people for their living? - tha malcontent)
The uncertainty over the future of the welfare state is undermining the
continent's self-image at a time when other key elements of post-war European
identity are fraying.
Large-scale immigration from outside Europe is challenging the continent's
assumptions about its dedication to tolerance and liberty as countries move to
control individual clothing � the Islamic veil � in the name of freedom and
(There they are... Europe has HEAP problems on
their hands... And soon, attacks in Europe will resemble what happens in
Israel. Tolerance is all fine and good... But you can't Tolerate the
Intolerant. - tha malcontent)
Deeply wary of military conflict, many nations now find themselves nonetheless
mired in Afghanistan on behalf of what was supposed to be a North Atlantic
alliance, shying away from wholesale pullout while doing their utmost to keep
troops from actual combat.
(Deeply wary of further angering their
border-crossers, that is. - tha malcontent)
Demographers and economists began warning decades ago that social welfare was
doomed by the aging of Europe's baby boomers. Some governments had been
trimming and reforming, but now almost all are scrambling to close deficits in
order to prevent a wider collapse of confidence in the euro.
(Yep... And we have a Boomer problem here in the
States also! - tha malcontent)
"We need to change, to adapt ... for the sake of the protection of our social
model," European Union Commissioner Joaquin Almunia of Spain told reporters in
The move is risky: experts warn the cuts could undermine the growth needed to
pull budgets back on a sustainable path.
(One hand can't feed the other from a limited
supply and expect to survive... It's really that simple. - tha malcontent)
On Monday, Britain unveils 6 billion pounds ($8.6 billion) in cuts � mostly to
government payrolls and expenses. The government has promised to raise the age
at which citizens receive a state pension � up from 60 to 65 for women, and
from 65 to 66 for men. It also plans to toughen the welfare regime, requiring
the unemployed to try to find jobs in order to collect benefits.
("requiring the unemployed to try to find jobs in
order to collect benefits."... Wow!... Just wow! - tha malcontent)
Britain says it will limit child tax credits and scrap a 250-pound ($360)
payment to the families of every newborn. Ministers are reviewing the
long-term affordability of the country's generous public sector pensions.
(But hey, it was a helluva ride, wasn't it!
Socialism FAILS every single time it's tried. And the only reason it lasted
this long in Europe is because we have been funding their Defense with our tax
dollars and military for 6 decades. Time to cut them off. - tha malcontent)
Funding for Britain's nationalized health care service will be protected under
the new government, however, and should rise each year to 2015.
(What about Greece?... That's it, don't learn from
the mistakes that are happening RIGHT NOW in the EU. - tha malcontent)
France's conservative government is focusing on raising the retirement age.
Many workers can now retire at 60 with 50 percent of their average salary.
Extra funds are available for retired civil servants, those with three or more
children, military veterans and others.
("France" and "conservative" are not compatible
terms. "Less Liberal" is a better way to describe the shift not only in France
but in much of the EU. - tha malcontent)
A parliamentary debate is planned for September. Unions in France are
organizing a national day of protest marches and strikes on Thursday to demand
protection of wages and the retirement age.
(The rioting I was referring to earlier... Look
for it on that day... If not sooner. - tha malcontent)
In Spain, billions in cuts to state salaries go into effect next month, and
the Socialist government has frozen increases in pensions meant to compensate
for inflation for at least two years.
(Not the only "Socialist" government over there...
But at least they wear it proudly! - tha malcontent)
"They've hit us really hard," said Federico Carbonero, 92, a retired soldier.
He said he was unlikely to live long enough to see the worst of the pension
freeze, but had no doubts he would have to start relying on savings to
maintain his lifestyle.
(Think about all of the non-WWII/Great Depression
Era Europeans who don't save and believed that they would be taken care of
from the cradle to the grave, even if they refused to work and be
productive... Scary times in Europe. - tha malcontent)
Spain is cutting assistance payments for disabled people by 300 million euros
($375 million) and did away with a three-year-old bonus of 2,500 euros
($3,124.25) per new baby. It also has proposed hiking the retirement age for
men from 65 to 67.
(Damn... The disabled?... How about the Tyrants in
the higher offices in government? - tha malcontent)
Countries in northern Europe have done a far better of reforming social
welfare and have unemployment systems that focus on re-employing people
instead of making their unemployment comfortable, said Gayle Allard, a
professor of economic environment and country analysis at the Instituto de
Empresa in Madrid.
("instead of making their unemployment
comfortable..." Again... Wow!... Just wow! - tha malcontent)
Denmark and other Nordic countries are known for the world's highest taxes and
most generous cradle-to-grave benefits. Denmark has implemented a system known
broadly as "flexicurity," which combines flexibility for employers to hire and
fire workers with financial security and training to prepare for new jobs.
(Don't worry, the entire ****house is about to
collapse over there and they won't be immune! - tha malcontent)
Denmark had a 7.5 percent unemployment rate in the first quarter of this year,
well below the EU average of 9.6 percent. Swedish and Finnish unemployment
stood at 8.9 percent. Norway, with some of the world's most generous
unemployment benefits fully funded by oil for the forseeable future, has
Europe's lowest jobless rate, just 3 percent in April.
(So the country with Big Fat Bald White Oil is
doing the best?... It can't be! - tha malcontent)
Southern European countries that have not moved toward reforming welfare in
the same ways are paying a steep price.
After sharp cutbacks imposed as the condition of an international bailout this
month, Greeks must now contribute to pension funds for 40 instead of 37 years
before retiring, and the age of early retirement is set to 60 at the earliest.
(What about their health
care system, AP?... - tha malcontent)
Civil servants with monthly salaries of above 3,000 euros ($3,750) will lose
two extra months of salary � one paid at Christmas, the other split between
Easter and summer vacation.
In Portugal, seen as another potential candidate for bailout, the government
is focusing on hikes in income, corporate and sales taxes and has avoided
drastic changes to welfare entitlements. Unemployment benefits will be cut
somewhat and the out-of-work will have to accept any job paying more than 10
percent more than what they would receive in unemployment benefits.
("the government is focusing
on hikes in income, corporate and sales taxes and has avoided drastic changes
to welfare entitlements."... Read it again. - tha malcontent)
The government is also stepping up checks on welfare claims, freezing public
sector pay and slicing public investment.
"There's been a lack of willingness to shift away from welfare as purely
social protection towards an approach which has been in much of northern
Europe in recent years, which is welfare as social investment," said Iain Begg,
a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science's European
("welfare as social investment"...
Seriously?... - tha malcontent)
Otto Fricke, a budget expert for the Free Democrats, the coalition partner of
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, told The
Associated Press that no decisions on cuts have been made, but everything is
on the table except education, pension funds and financial aid to developing
countries. At least one high-ranking CDU member has called for the idea of
protecting education to be re-examined, however.
German public education, which was virtually free until 2005, when some of
Germany's 16 states started charging tuition fees of 1000 euros ($1,250) a
Virtually all Germany's students pay that much or less to attend state-funded
universities, including elite institutions. Education isn't as cheap elsewhere
in Europe but the 3,290 pounds ($4,720) per year paid by British students at
Cambridge is still far less than Americans pay at comparable schools like
Harvard, where annual tuition comes in just shy of $35,000.
The idea of cutting education is proving hard to swallow in the face of
Germany's promise to contribute up to 147.6 billion euros ($184.5 billion) in
loan guarantees to protect Greece and other countries that use the euro from
"I am worried that this crisis will also affect me on a personal level, for
example, that universities in Germany will raise the tuition in order to pay
the loan they give to Greece," said Karoline Daederich, a 22-year-old
university student from Berlin.
(Wow... I knew it was Socialist in the
EU, but I really had no idea it was this bad. How did they feel that
this could ever sustain itself?... And to think, there are many who think they
can fix the Socialism and make it work this time... And it's not just
our President! - tha malcontent)
Associated Press writers Juergen Baetz
and Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Malin Rising and Karl Ritter in Stockholm,
David Stringer in London, Veronika Oleksyn in Vienna, Harold Heckle in Madrid,
Elaine Ganley in Paris, Elena Becatoros in Athens and Barry Hatton in Lisbon
contributed to this report.