Wake Up America

Leo Toribio Pittsburgh, Pa.

Back in the eighties, while President Ronald Reagan was bragging about how much more advanced the USA was, I spent over a month in Europe (Germany, Austria and France).  And what I saw there caused me to wonder what we were bragging about.  

I saw advanced technology assisting in the acceleration of building construction, desktop computers in people's homes which were being used to monitor and control their bank accounts, home appliances with advanced features which hadn't yet appeared in appliances sold in the US, televisions that had a raster density 30% greater than US televisions -- and much more.  

And while in Paris, France, I needed to make a phone call, but when I entered a public phone booth, I couldn't find a coin slot.  I soon learned that I would need to buy a smart card.  With the smart card, all I had to do was step into a public phone booth and dial a number.  There was no slot to stick the card in- it could be read wirelessly by the telephone!   

We had credit cards in the US that could be read without scanning, but stores were not equipped to use them that way.  Finally, decades later, we are on our way to catching up with Europe.

And I was not the only American to be amazed by evidence of European advancement.  While Washington Post journalist T.R. Reid was stationed in London, his daughter contracted an ear infection.  After making inquiries, he took her to a local clinic located a couple blocks from where they were staying.  At the clinic, her problem was dealt with quickly and efficiently, and as they were leaving, he stopped at the front desk and held up his checkbook, asking how much was owed for the service.  

The clerk at the desk responded with something like, "We don't do things that way over here."  Reid was so impressed with his family's experience with British health care that he began a lengthy investigation of health care in England, Switzerland, Taiwan, Japan and other countries, and published a best-selling book detailing what he had learned.

One of the things he reported was when Taiwan was experiencing problems with health care, legislators and other officials were sent to Japan, Switzerland and other countries to investigate how they handled health care.  When they returned to Taiwan, they took the best features of health care in those other countries to create new laws and procedures to improve Taiwan's health care system. 

If American politicians were better educated, they would have done what the Taiwanese legislators did long ago.  Instead, they choose to sit in the squalor of ignorance and criticize any improvements in our health care system --like Obamacare -- without offering any tangible alternatives.  

Finally, there is the issue of education.  American students simply don't score as well on standardized achievement tests as students from many other nations around the world.  I daresay that the same thing would probably be true if politicians were subjected to such testing.  

So we lag behind other countries in many areas of technology, business, health care and education. Or, to put it another way, people in other countries enjoy more rewarding experiences in these areas.  We call our politicians "leaders," but where might we find a  group of people who would choose the dumbest among them to be a guide or a leader?  Ans:  Only In America! 


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