Retirement at 60 + Amazing Healthcare = Bankrupt State

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has recently stirred emotions by discussing delaying the minimum retirement age in France, and/or extending retirement contributions. Here’s a demand by one of France’s many workers unions:

La retraite à 60 ans et à taux plein, sans augmentation, ni allongement de la durée des cotisations.

Translation: Complete retirement at 60 years old, without raising contributions or extending the contribution period.

Seriously, people?

Let’s take the example of Japan, a country with one of the longest life expectancies on the planet, and a good social medicine program. You might think that these are good things, and indeed they are, but combined they produce disastrous results for Japan’s economy: with more and more people living longer lives in retirement, the state bears a bigger and bigger financial burden to care for them.

With French unions short-sightedly demanding a freeze on the retirement age, they are conscripting themselves to the same fate as Japan’s system – radical overhaul or complete bankruptcy. It would be much easier now to adopt sensible changes to France’s retirement system than wait for disaster.

Bastille Day

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Flag of Vannes in Bastille Day Parade

It’s Bastille Day (14 July) here in France, and the town is abuzz with national spirit.

This morning, I was awakened by the sound of a band playing La Marseillaise, the French national anthem.  And yesterday, a parade went by on the street outside my window, featuring costumes traditional of French royalty and Breton customs; there was even a bagpipe band.

Flying à la Gershwin

Most of you know that I stick to the oneworld alliance (American Airlines, British Airways, Qantas, etc.) when it comes time to fly.  But I’ll admit that United airlines has done a fantastic job of reminding us of the magic of flying through their “It’s time to fly” television ad campaign since emerging from bankruptcy in February, 2006.

Watch the ad above (embedded) and then head to United’s YouTube page to watch a documentary on the making of this ad.  Featured are legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, and rising classical piano star Lang Lang from China.  They do such justice to the masterpiece that is George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Summer in Bretagne

Summer has finally made its way to Vannes, and life is better.  Yesterday I laid out in the sun, and though I earned a few itchy mosquito bites (many of you know that if there’s a mosquito within 20 miles, it will somehow find only me!), my new coat of summertime tan is a welcome change from what was a coldish spring.

Which brings me to ponder just why we have school during the summer here in France – is this the only country where that happens?  I know my friends in the States are enjoying a little time away from the hectic pace of classes to enjoy summertime get-togethers and inter-session workshops.  I’m jealous.

But at least I have the sun and France!

“Manger Leur Chapeau”

I try to listen to French radio every day in order to 1) stay up with the news and 2) grab common French expressions.

Yesterday, I head someone say that American (car) manufacturers are going to have to “manger leur chapeau,” literally meaning to “eat their hat.”  I think its best English translation is to “eat their words,” basically to admit that one was wrong, often in an embarrassing or undesirable way.

And there you go.