Thursday, November 28, 2013

Austerity and Jobs - Italy's experience is worse than my last report

If you want to find out what is happening in a country, forget the internet – ask a taxi driver! I have found that true worldwide.  In Rome we had a limo service pick us up for the 75 minute drive to the port of Civitavecchia (try saying it, I dare you.) He was fluent in English so we asked him about the economy.

Apparently the information I have in the last blog post was dated. He said that unemployment was around 15% but as high as 40% for youth. Over 350,000 of their young people have left the past 4 years to seek employment in other countries. This is the cost of austerity.   

Apparently there isn’t much for social services in Italy. We were told that if you are laid off before retirement age of 67 that you become homeless. We did see some of those on the streets of Rome when we sought out a place to buy wine. Even after retirement, people have to live together to make ends meet. People are hawking wares on street corners and offering to wash windshields.

The EU (European Union) keeps Italy from selling oranges on the export market. And with the Euro they can’t adjust their currencies as they did in the past.  When I was in Norway in 2011 the Norwegians told us they stayed out of the EU for the same reason.

If you think American politics are bad, it is worse in Italy. The taxi driver also says Italian politics is split between 3 parties now, and tonight on the news we saw that Berlusconi is probably going to jail.

We were told that things are much worse in Greece, which we will see on Friday when we see Olympia, the place where the Olympics was born, and on Saturday when we go to the other of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Acropolis. In Greece, it was once possible to retire at 52. No more…

Final note.  During the fire drill on the ship, announcements are made in 5 languages – English, Spanish, French, Italian and Chinese.  The last two nights our dinner companions were from Australia, Canada and Germany. Yet tonight we all had Thanksgiving turkey dinners at sea. The motto for Norwegian Jade is “Cruise like a Norwegian.”  It’s the Fjet way! Lol.

We did pass Italy’s “boot” today – that thin part which separates Italy from Sicily – near the place where the “Costa Concordia” ventured too close to the shore, hit a reef and sank. Our Captain is from Finland and stayed well away from shore. The Costa Concordia reminds me of the condition of the U.S. economy that President Obama inherited on his first day on the job – after our Ship of State hit a reef in 2008 after 8 years of unpaid for wars and unpaid for tax cuts by the GOP. Then the crew refused to help him fix the damage – claiming it would be too expensive. Ships and countries don’t fix themselves.

Stand by for reports on Greece and then Turkey – the latter            of which shares a border with Syria and is the link between Asia and Europe. Since we are now 8 hours ahead of U.S. Central time, we will be back onboard before your workday begins!

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  1. Great report Michael, keep them coming and be safe.

  2. That is so true about the drivers, Michael! I love *interviewing* drivers when I travel - even to other locations in the U.S. - much to the embarrassment of an ex-husband more than a couple of times. Drivers usually are quite pleased to have newcomers interested in their home territory, well-informed at the grass roots level, and not very concerned with being *politically correct* - unless it is risky for them, of course.


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