Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Archduchess Walburga of Austria and the GOP

I follow the Twitterings of Archduchess Walburga of Austria, Countess Douglas, who describes herself "as a European moderate in the Swedish Parliament.  So why is the daughter of Archduke Otto waxing lyrical about the GOP convention, and stating that she feels at home when she listened to Virginia's Governor Bob McDonnell.  

There is no thing as a moderate in the GOP these days. I would suspect that many of the delegates at the GOP convention would not be able to find Sweden on the map.

Archduchess Walburga makes her home in Sweden, where she is guaranteed health care, day care for her child,  she won't have to worry about losing her home in order to pay for her health care as a senior citizen.  Even in these days of austerity in Europe, Sweden is a success story.

Swedes have a high standard of living They pay more in taxes than the average American.  But they do not have to worry about health care or education.  The disabled and the elderly have no worries.  Pregnant women do not have to save vacation and sick days in order to take a few weeks off after having a baby as millions of American women must do because the Family Leave act allows for 12 weeks off without pay, but this usually kicks in after the vacation and sick days have been used.   Most American women cannot afford to take from their jobs for 12 weeks without pay.

I am absolutely appalled by Walburga's enthusiasm for Governor McDonnell.  As an employee of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I would like Walburga to know that I  have not had a raise in five years.  The Commonwealth of Virginia used to contribute 5% of my income into the Virginia Retirement System.  A nice perk because it is rare to get a raise, but Governor McDonnell decided that it would better for the already financially strapped state employees to contribute the five percent.  It comes out of my paycheck. In other words, my employer contributes nothing to my retirement. 

I sincerely doubt that Walburga would support such an action in Sweden.  Earlier this year, Governor McDonnell vetoed legislation that would have ensured that every child in Virginia would have access to a screening test for critical congenital heart disease.

More recently, the governor vetoed a bill that would have allowed "Virginia children living in kinship care arrangements with the educational stability they need to endure a family crisis."

There are far less dollars for health care for children in Virginia.

For a time, Virginia had a reputation for being a well-run state. Our universities are among the best in the USA, if not the world.   Tim Kaine ran this state well. 

Would  the Archduchess be willing to give up her 25 plus days of paid vacation, plus a paid Christmas break in order to live here in the only western country that does not have legislated vacation time.  Would she be willing to have on the average of 12 days per year plus a few federal holidays -- unlike other countries the US does not have any national holidays.  We have federal holidays, created for federal workers,  but many employers, public and private, offer some or most of the federal holidays to their employees.    The amount of vacation is at the discretion of the employer, but there are no laws that require an employer to provide a paid vacation.  The GOP is not going to jump on the wagon for legislated vacation.

Sweden may have many "socialized benefits," but it is a very capitalistic country.  More than 25% of Swedes have a second home in the country.  They get to see more of the world than Americans, who spend more time at work, even when we do take a vacation, it is usually a long weekend. 

Many of us live in Right to Work states.  Sounds good, but it Right to Work means an employer can fire you without just cause.   It also means we can move from one job to another.  Americans tend to do this.  We move from one state to another for a job, and then change jobs again.   A new job means new benefits, but not always better.  I had four weeks vacation at my last job.  I have been at this job for more than four years, and I get 12 vacation days, every year, for the first five years.  After my fifth anniversary, I will start accruing time toward three weeks of vacation per year. 

I  wonder what the Archduchess would say about trans vaginal probes.  How can she, an educated woman who lives in a progressive country, where no one has to worry about decent housing, health care and education, support a party that wants to ban all abortions and gay marriage, and make further cuts that will lead to more poverty.  

Would she also approve of Sweden increasing its defense budget, and sending its men and women into harm's way?  

I thank God every day that McDonnell cannot run for a second term. 

After the convention is over,  Archduchess Walburga can go back to Sweden and tell everyone how wonderful Governor McDonnell is as the governor of Virginia  ... she can say this knowing full well that she does not have to worry about her health care or her retirement.    We in Virginia do have to worry thanks to this incompentent man.


Johan said...

The working conditions in America sounds shocking.

I live in South Africa, and most companies give at least 15 days leave. Most government employees gets about 30 days. I get 22 days leave. We also have 14 public holidays, but if it falls on a Saturday, you don't get the Monday/Friday as a public holiday.

Employees of the state receive generous pensions that increase each year and affordable health care.
At the company that I work, they contribute about 11% towards our pensions.

Companies are required by law to give unpaid maternity leave of at least 3 months. Our company gives 4 months maternity leave, of which 3 is paid for!

Our taxes aren't as great in South Africa as in the EU, but unfortunatley we don't get the same level of services. Our public parks are unsafe and dirty. Our libraries only have a few books. Public sport facilities are either non existing or in a bad state.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Several of our holidays are on Mondays. If a federal holiday falls on a Saturday, the day off is Friday. If a federal holiday falls on a Sunday, the day off is Monday. The USA does have something called the family leave act, which allows for an employee to have 12 weeks off for a baby, adoption, care for a sick parent or child. This is unpaid leave, but you do not lose your job. Some states, inc. California, require employers to pay the employee for a portion of the 12 weeks, I think it may be up to 4-6 weeks. We do have excellent libraries and sports facilities. But we also still have private investment in such things. The VA governor always gives state employees the day off after thanksgiving and one or two extra days at Christmas. I had three weeks in my first year at my old job, and they made major contributions to my retirement, more than matching my own contributions. There are companies with great benefits in the USA. But there are plenty of companies, private and public, that are putting the burden of retirement on the employee. Many companies have cut back on contributing to their staffs 401k plan. Most companies have not had pension plans in years. Instead, there are a variety of employer sponsored retirement plans, but the burden of payroll deduction is on the employee, although the employer usually also contributes. My employer does not contribute.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

We do have a wonderful law called title 9 passed during the Nixon admin.. The law states that there must be equal funding for men and women in education. The law does not mention the word sport but the success of American women in sport is due to this wonderful law. Federal money cannot be used for Olympic athletes, or supporting athletes unlike other countries. But we do have the NCAA and private investment and superb Olympic training facilities

cam said...

This just proves how closed minded you are Marlene! I am a huge supporter of the GOP and I actually can name all the countries in Europe, their capitals, population, as well as major religion. there is such a thing as a moderate, I am for civil right to gay people and though I am against abortion personally I do not think the government should tell woman what to do with their own body! as for Europe, yes they don't have to worry about certain things, but it is very hard to break out of your social class there, if you are born middle class in Sweden it is very difficult for you to ever move up in society. and isn't your party based on accepting people of all different views!? why are you attacking a woman with a different view from your own?! you my lady are a hypocrite! I am also assuming you will not post my comment because you know I am right and like all other comments I have left you delete them, so I wish you a good day ma'am

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

There is no room for moderates in the GOP these days. Their platform calls for the banning of all abortion, no gay marriage, etc.

Actually, there are several recent studies that show that Europeans, including Swedes, are now more upwardly mobile than Americans. Canadians, too .. and Canadians, on average, are now richer than Americans.

You won't find the level of poverty in Western Europe and the Nordic countries that we have here in the USA. I used to be very active in the Republican party, and was a member of a GOP group in NYC that was very socially minded in terms of helping others -. People like Mitt Romney do not care about helping the poor, or making sure everyone has access to decent housing and health care .. a healthy America is a prosperous America. So actually, yes, it is easier to move upward in Europe than it is in the USA .. and a lot of that has to do with the poverty we have in the USA. More than a quarter of Swedes own a country home along with their primary residence. I have a professional degree, a full time job (without a raise for 5 years now) and I cannot afford to join friends for lunch or dinner. I cannot remember the last movie I saw. Cutting more and not creating more revenue is not the way to go.

emily said...

One thing of FMLA - only 12 weeks are guaranteed during any 12 month period (NOT a calendar year), regardless of whether they are paid or not. For instance, when I had my son I had built up six weeks of paid sick leave. My employer at the time had no separate maternity or short term disability leave. I took my six weeks of sick time, but that was considered part of my 12 total weeks of FMLA. If I had wanted I could have taken another six weeks unpaid, but I couldn't afford to do that at the time and wanted a cushion in case my son were to get sick sometime in his first year.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

It would be difficult to accumulate that amount of sick time with the Commonmwealth, as you only get 7 days per year but you cannot accrue them, unlike vacation days. I get all the federal holidays and one state holiday (lee jackson day. As there are classes on some of the federal days, I work those days and then can take another day within 12 months. We also get 4 personal days, which now largely get used at the end of the year because we close between Christmas and New Years - and we have to use our own days personal or vacation for the days not given off by the state. This year, I only have to use 3 personal days but will use the 4th one as well by the end of the year ... use or lose (but I get them back again next year.

emily said...

True enough - I worked for a private university at the time. On the flip side of that, my salary was just above the amount to qualify for food stamps. I can't accumulate sick time in the job I have now, but I also make more money, have short-term disability, etc.

I was more agreeing with the fact that in general employers in the US do not have generous sick/maternity leave policies because there is no real federal requirement to do so other than FMLA. And as it is, FMLA isn't always feasible because so many cannot make it very long without a steady paycheck. :(

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

This is the first job that I cannot accumulate sick leave. Next June, I start accruing vacation for 3 weeks .. but of course it takes a year to get to that.My last job had very good sick leave. Sadly, FLMA is not available to everyone, and not everyone can take off 12 weeks without pay, although some states have partial pay for 6 weeks or so. WIth the GOP in control of the House, the enhancement (extending the law to companies with 25 employees) has languished and has not passed.

I believe the USA is one of three countries in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave.

glamah16 said...

Great post Marlene. I spend lots of time in Sweden, and no place is perfect, I admire their structure. And yes its very money focused these days, but people are willing to pay the taxes for that lifestyle. As for the commenter that said its hard to move out of your class in Europe. I disagree. My partner and many European friends come from working class, but got the opportunities through subsidised eduction and hard OK.

Anonymous said...

Well written, Marlene.

I always enjoy your blog, but I have never thought more of you than I have today after reading this well written blog item.

Thank you,

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

thanks. There are recent studies that show how America no longer leads the upwardly mobile, that Europeans and Canadians are more likely to move ahead - and one reason is the depth of poverty in this country.