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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-07-2009, 09:22 AM Thread Starter
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Germany...a socialist PARADISE!!

I love how MSNBC makes Germany out to be this wonderful place to be a leech on the ass of society. It sounds like an attractive system. That is, until you get to the end of the article and see that a person who makes $20 an hour pays a 52% tax rate! Holy shit. Sounds great if you don't want to work and love sitting around on your ass all day.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30363790//

In Europe, social safety net softens the slump
Aid for unemployment, health care and further education cushions blow

Ute Schmidt / Getty Images
Jan and Sarah Fuerstenberger, who are both off work on government-paid parental leave, enjoy a sunny day with their four children during a mid-week trip to a park in Mannheim, Germany.

‘Here we're safer’
May 7: German auto engineer Jan Fuerstenberger and his American-born wife Sarah discuss how high taxes and generous benefits affect their daily lives.

By Jennifer Carlile
Reporter
msnbc.com
updated 9:59 a.m. CT, Thurs., May 7, 2009
EPPELHEIM, Germany — With its tidy villages, orderly cities and atmospheric scenery, there are few outward signs that the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, home to historic Heidelberg and the famed Black Forest, is a victim of the current economic crisis.

But with the auto industry here hit especially hard — this is the home of Mercedes-Benz — things are tougher than they have been in decades. Unemployment is up 70 percent in the past year (albeit to a relatively low 5 percent total) and many employees have been forced to cut down their hours.

Misery below the surface, perhaps? Not at the bustling Fuerstenberger home just outside Heidelberg, where little has changed for the family's four children despite neither parent currently working.

“If we were in Detroit, we could worry every minute,” said Sarah Fuerstenberger, 37. “But here, we’re safe because of the system."

While economic forecasts are just as dire on this continent as in the United States, Germany’s citizens — and, indeed, most across western Europe — can count on a broad government safety net that includes generous unemployment checks, universal healthcare and inexpensive university education to tide them over.

“The German government is really good about taking care of people; we know we won’t be starving one way or another," she added.

With "Jobs Bloodbaths" in the headlines, tax money being used to bail out private banks and iconic car companies such as Britain’s Mini, France’s Renault and Italy’s Fiat laying off thousands, news here is similar to that across the Atlantic. Unemployment is also the same — around 8.5 percent across Western Europe and the United States.

However, Europe fiercely resisted President Obama's calls for it to increase its stimulus programs last month at the Group of 20 industrial and developing nations summit in London. That’s because leaders here argue that their existing social welfare initiatives are already keeping people afloat as well as stimulating demand.

Of course, these ongoing European programs come with a cost — higher taxes, which critics say can sap economic vitality.

At the Fuerstenberger home, where each of the four children has their own bedroom and Wii Fit and Mario-Kart are in near-constant play, the safety net certainly appears intact.

“I hadn’t even thought of the word ‘recession,’” said Sarah, a Detroit native who has lived in Germany on and off since college.

Sarah, a technical writer and translator, met her German husband, Jan, while working at Volkswagen’s North American headquarters in her home city six years ago. She and her two children from a previous marriage soon left the United States for his hometown of Eppelheim, where the couple added two more kids to their brood.

Jan Fuerstenberger has taken advantage of closing days at his former company and now paternity leave to spend more time with his children. Here he's seen putting 8-month-old Noah down for a nap at his home in Eppelheim, Germany.

Jan, a 32-year-old a mechanical engineer who is on paternity leave before taking up a new job offer, and Sarah, who is on maternity leave from her career at software giant SAP, support all four children without help from her ex-husband.

Short-time option
Beyond the usual unemployment and health benefits, the German government has employed some creative measures to combat the recession.

At the end of last year, for instance, Jan’s former employer, Borg Warner, which makes friction plates for automatic transmission systems, initiated kurzarbeit or short-time work.

“Different departments worked eight or nine hours less than the usual 40-hour week,” Jan said.

Fortunately for the family, "closing days" and even "closing weeks" did not carry the same monetary losses as they would in Michigan.

“The company pays the hours you worked and the gap that’s between the actual hours and the usual hours is paid by the government,” he said, as the couple enjoyed a quiet evening in after putting the kids to bed.

“For us this year, it was good,” Sarah added. “We had more time and it wasn’t a cut in pay.”

'All are happy' with kurzarbeit
The policy of kurzarbeit, which allows the government and companies to devise 18-month plans to cover most or all pay lost to reduced hours, has kept some unemployment at bay. In particular, it has allowed manufacturing giants like Siemens, Volkswagen and BASF to cut their production levels to match lower demand without having to initiate mass layoffs like those carried out across America’s Rust Belt.

“It’s a good instrument to use to react to the recession and still keep our good, qualified workers,” said Georg Haux, a spokesman for Siemens, which had 7,000 employees in kurzarbeit in March. Haux said that with the government subsidy, the company guaranteed workers 85 percent of their normal pay no matter how drastically their hours were cut.

Across the country, more than one million people will be in kurzarbeit by summer, up from 50,000 people a year ago, according to Karl Brenke, an economic adviser at the German Institute for Economic Research.

“Nobody is against it — not the trade unions, not the [workers' councils], no political party. All are happy,” he said, adding that employees were relieved to keep their jobs and that the measure allowed companies to react quickly if production levels rose again.

Even with the policy, jobless numbers have gone up. But, despite the 70 percent rise in unemployment over the last year, only one in twenty people in this relatively prosperous state is currently out of work.

“In the case of unemployment, people have a higher income than the same group of people in the United States,” said analyst Brenke.

Paternity leave
Worried that kurzarbeit was a sign of worse things to come, Jan decided to go back to a former employer, KST-MotorenVersuch, that had been eager to rehire him. To widen his employment opportunities, he decided to leave the role of test engineer and go into sales — but not before taking more than two months of elterngeld, government-paid parental leave.

These days Jan can often be found in the kitchen, keenly following recipes from celebrity chefs, making chocolate chess sets with 9-year-old Emma and baking apple pies. He changes diapers, runs after speedy toddler Olivia, and appreciates his one-on-one time with each of his children.

In Germany, couples can divide 14 months of paid parental leave between them. Beyond that, a mother’s job is secure for three years per child.

“Because we had two (in quick succession), I could take six years off and have a safe job,” said Sarah, who will probably stay home until 8-month-old Noah is three.

To boost the birth rate, all families receive around 150 euros ($197) per child per month until they are in their twenties. And, under Chancellor Angela Merkel’s stimulus package, families will get an extra one-off 100 euro ($131) child benefit this July.

The benefits influenced the Fuerstenbergers’ family planning even before the crisis.

“I think if we were in the States, we may not have … and it sounds terrible … had the opportunity to have a fourth child that quickly or be sure we could afford it,” Sarah said.

Now, hearing about Detroit’s woes and her dad’s fears for his General Motors’ pension, she takes added solace in the financial security offered in Germany.

But, Sarah said, even with the economic security provided by the state, government-funded health insurance is the biggest relief for the family.

Universal health care
Unlike the tens of thousands of Americans who have lost their coverage along with their professions, the Fuerstenbergers can access health care irrespective of their employment status.

“We don’t pay anything for any of (our) medicines, for doctor’s visits, nothing,” Sarah said, adding that she worried about her sister in Detroit, who had had several periods without health insurance.

“People shouldn’t become poor if they need health care,” said Joe Kutzin, a World Health Organization adviser, adding that a 2005 study published in the journal Health Affairs found that medical causes were at the root of about half of personal bankruptcy cases in the United States in 2001.

It’s ironic, he said, given that Americans spend more per capita on healthcare than anyone else in the world.

“Despite our high levels of expenditure, the U.S. simply does not do as well as many other high income countries in preventing deaths from causes that are amenable to medical treatment,” he said.

Highlighting the issue, a WHO report released in 2000 ranked the systems of 191 nations, putting France at the top and the United States down at number 37.

‘Grateful’ for health care, education
At their pretty row house surrounded by gardens and horse paddocks, Jan’s sister, Susanne Fuerstenberger, a doctor, recalled a visit to New York City.

“It made a big impression on me,” she said of seeing a young man begging on the subway with a sign saying that he needed insulin.

“I’m grateful that here I don’t have to send someone away and know that they won’t get the (long-term) treatment they really need.”

As a profession, Susanne said that medicine was not as well paid in Germany as in the United States. She pointed out, however, that Europe’s doctors do not have six-figure student loans to pay off.

When the 35-year-old studied medicine here, all students paid the equivalent of just 100 euros ($131) a semester. They now pay up to 500 euros ($657).

“Education must be equal for everyone regardless of the size of their wallet,” she said. “It’s one of our basic civil rights in the constitution.”

Due to government subsidies, tuitions in Western Europe are considerably lower than in the United States, with many universities — especially in Northern European countries — not charging students anything, and even top-notch U.K. institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge capping their fees at 3,000 pounds ($4,374) a scholastic year. (Yale and Harvard charge around $35,000 for tuition.)

Paying for privileges
While Europe’s social safety net is softening the slump, it does of course have to be paid for.
According to the OECD, the total tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is 28.3 percent in the United States, compared with 36.2 percent in Germany.

The cost can be seen in workers' paystubs. "For example," said economic analyst Brenke, "a single worker with an average salary — about 16 euros ($21.31) per hour in fulltime work — pays about 52 percent for taxes and the social security system.”

This compares to an average of 30 percent in the United States.

With her family paying roughly that amount, Sarah said, “sometimes I think it’s not worth it when I look at what ends up in my bank account, but in times like these, I appreciate it."
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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-07-2009, 09:29 AM
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It sounds pretty safe to assume that "5% unemployment" means that only 5% of Germans are looking for work, not that 95% of Germans are employed.

I'm sure there is a nice fat slice of the population sitting on their fat ass and doing nothing since they have the backs of the workers to depend on. Boy I can't wait for that to happen here!
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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-07-2009, 09:37 AM Thread Starter
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It sounds pretty safe to assume that "5% unemployment" means that only 5% of Germans are looking for work, not that 95% of Germans are employed.

I'm sure there is a nice fat slice of the population sitting on their fat ass and doing nothing since they have the backs of the workers to depend on. Boy I can't wait for that to happen here!
I just can't believe that someone that makes $21 an hour would gross $840 a week and hand $436 to the government and take home $403. I guess now I know why autoworkers in Germany typically make $35 an hour, they net out $17 or so. That's fucking crazy.
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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-07-2009, 09:41 AM
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Little incentive to actually get out there and make a fortune since the majority of it goes to the government. Not exactly the breeding ground for ideas and innovation..

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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-07-2009, 09:47 AM
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I just can't believe that someone that makes $21 an hour would gross $840 a week and hand $436 to the government and take home $403. I guess now I know why autoworkers in Germany typically make $35 an hour, they net out $17 or so. That's fucking crazy.
Out of the $403 that they take home, how much do they pay in taxes when they spend the $403 for gas, food, water, etc?
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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-07-2009, 11:02 AM Thread Starter
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Out of the $403 that they take home, how much do they pay in taxes when they spend the $403 for gas, food, water, etc?

Good question.
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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-07-2009, 06:54 PM
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"For example," said economic analyst Brenke, "a single worker with an average salary — about 16 euros ($21.31) per hour in fulltime work — pays about 52 percent for taxes and the social security system.”
Coming to a wallet near you....

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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-07-2009, 07:06 PM
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One would think the good citizens of the former West Germany would abhor socialism after seeing how well it worked in the former East Germany.
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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-07-2009, 07:51 PM
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Out of the $403 that they take home, how much do they pay in taxes when they spend the $403 for gas, food, water, etc?
As of last week, Germany was paying and average of $6.09 a gallon. About 60% of that ($3.65) is tax.

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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-07-2009, 08:05 PM
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I just can't believe that someone that makes $21 an hour would gross $840 a week and hand $436 to the government and take home $403. I guess now I know why autoworkers in Germany typically make $35 an hour, they net out $17 or so. That's fucking crazy.
I think it works for most of them. My daughter is currently living in Germany with her mom and was raised there. You look at it from one point but the other is for that 52% they get a lot, year round school, quailty educations, free college if their grades are good, free or very low cost high quality medical and dental care, you can't own land unless you are born a German period(we are fucking stupid for letting foriegners buy our land), the public transportation system makes buying a car truly an option. They keep their roads and railways highly maintained, you can travel the whole country for less than $100 if you take the trams and trains, so it depends on your idea.

Our top income earners pay 30% tax rates and get shit for their taxes, plus the basic 8.25% sales tax, plus the 36% gas taxes we pay at the pump, plus property taxes, we can go on. I think it is funny we pay for toll roads about 6 times over, pay out the ass for medical and decent college degrees, pay out the ass for property taxes while the government bails out the mortgage companies, auto makers and devalues our dollar on the world market.

So curse Germany all you want when you add it up we are not much better off, in fact I contend we get less for our tax dollars by a shit load.
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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-07-2009, 08:29 PM
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Establishment of a good public transportation system in Germany is considerably easier than in the U.S., given that Germany is only about the size of Montana. Also, spending on their armed forces is considerably lower than that of the U.S., so of course they are able to be generous on spending for education and health care.
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post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-07-2009, 08:37 PM
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Establishment of a good public transportation system in Germany is considerably easier than in the U.S., given that Germany is only about the size of Montana. Also, spending on their armed forces is considerably lower than that of the U.S., so of course they are able to be generous on spending for education and health care.
Owning property is VERY expensive (compared to homes we live in). From my experience (only two weeks) in Italy, every-day items were really expensive, too. Folks grocery shop almost every day there. They don't stock up on food, but I don't know why. Italy had an extensive mass transit system, and I know why...the roads around and through Rome were shit. Most were cobblestone and VERY narrow. A typical F150 pickup would knock your cock into your watch-pocket, trying to get down those streets. The "interstates" were nice, but there are very few in Italy.

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post #13 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-07-2009, 09:10 PM
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Establishment of a good public transportation system in Germany is considerably easier than in the U.S., given that Germany is only about the size of Montana. Also, spending on their armed forces is considerably lower than that of the U.S., so of course they are able to be generous on spending for education and health care.

I agree it is easier but it is unfair to judge Germany by our standards for taxes. Also we chose to spend our money on our Armed Forces, we also constantly find ourselves involved in conflicts that cost of billions with little or no return. They don't bail out their auto makers, hell they don't have to Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and VW all make great automobiles and pay their employees fairly. Detriot builds shitty cars, pays some union guy $45 an hour to put a wheel on a car. Why? You can blame the unions but if you look back to the Ford motor company or the mill Henry ran called the Rouge where he worked men into the ground and they called for a Union. We can do this all night, I am not saying Germany is better, I just think it funny how quite a few Americans in general feel they are better than everyone else. Germans have a high tax rate, they get more for their tax dollars than we do, our government is corrupt, matters not if you're talking Dems or Reps our government is killing our wealth while Germany is improving theirs.
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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-07-2009, 11:56 PM
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That's all well and good, until the government money runs out. And it will. Then the shit hits.
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post #15 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-08-2009, 12:06 AM Thread Starter
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I think it works for most of them. My daughter is currently living in Germany with her mom and was raised there. You look at it from one point but the other is for that 52% they get a lot, year round school, quailty educations, free college if their grades are good, free or very low cost high quality medical and dental care, you can't own land unless you are born a German period(we are fucking stupid for letting foriegners buy our land), the public transportation system makes buying a car truly an option. They keep their roads and railways highly maintained, you can travel the whole country for less than $100 if you take the trams and trains, so it depends on your idea.

Our top income earners pay 30% tax rates and get shit for their taxes, plus the basic 8.25% sales tax, plus the 36% gas taxes we pay at the pump, plus property taxes, we can go on. I think it is funny we pay for toll roads about 6 times over, pay out the ass for medical and decent college degrees, pay out the ass for property taxes while the government bails out the mortgage companies, auto makers and devalues our dollar on the world market.

So curse Germany all you want when you add it up we are not much better off, in fact I contend we get less for our tax dollars by a shit load.
If it works so well then why hasn't Germany been an industrial/economic powerhouse of late? Oh my, there is no reason to work hard if you are German because you don't get shit for it. Even Hitler, the lunatic, was smart enough to realize that socialism was stupidity incarnate.

You are right that they get "more" for their tax dollars. The "more" you are referring to is more mediocrity. There aren't as many poor people and there aren't as many rich people either. What a shitty system that is. I think I'd rather take my chances with the system we have.

And i've got absolutely nothing against Germany, I'd love to go there and visit, the Germans that I have met and worked with were wonderful to be around. That doesn't mean I have to agree with their system of handouts.

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post #16 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-08-2009, 12:09 AM
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I agree it is easier but it is unfair to judge Germany by our standards for taxes. Also we chose to spend our money on our Armed Forces, we also constantly find ourselves involved in conflicts that cost of billions with little or no return. They don't bail out their auto makers, hell they don't have to Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and VW all make great automobiles and pay their employees fairly. Detriot builds shitty cars, pays some union guy $45 an hour to put a wheel on a car. Why? You can blame the unions but if you look back to the Ford motor company or the mill Henry ran called the Rouge where he worked men into the ground and they called for a Union. We can do this all night, I am not saying Germany is better, I just think it funny how quite a few Americans in general feel they are better than everyone else. Germans have a high tax rate, they get more for their tax dollars than we do, our government is corrupt, matters not if you're talking Dems or Reps our government is killing our wealth while Germany is improving theirs.
Well the german government has its own problems of corruption.

And im not so sure about improving their wealth. The GDP of the entire EU can barely muster against the GDP of the US.

Western Europe (northern europe especially) is going to have more and more problems as their population ages and they have fewer and fewer workers supporting more and more retirees. Germany, if i recall, has been trying to toughen up their immigration laws too.
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post #17 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-08-2009, 04:57 AM
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I agree it is easier but it is unfair to judge Germany by our standards for taxes. Also we chose to spend our money on our Armed Forces, we also constantly find ourselves involved in conflicts that cost of billions with little or no return. They don't bail out their auto makers, hell they don't have to Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and VW all make great automobiles and pay their employees fairly. Detriot builds shitty cars, pays some union guy $45 an hour to put a wheel on a car. Why? You can blame the unions but if you look back to the Ford motor company or the mill Henry ran called the Rouge where he worked men into the ground and they called for a Union. We can do this all night, I am not saying Germany is better, I just think it funny how quite a few Americans in general feel they are better than everyone else. Germans have a high tax rate, they get more for their tax dollars than we do, our government is corrupt, matters not if you're talking Dems or Reps our government is killing our wealth while Germany is improving theirs.
Had we not chose to spend our money on our armed forces, Germany would still be a divided country today.
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post #18 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-08-2009, 05:08 AM
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Had we not chose to spend our money on our armed forces, Germany would still be a divided country today.
Actually, I think Hitler's party would still be running things.

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post #19 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-08-2009, 07:05 AM
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As of last week, Germany was paying and average of $6.09 a gallon. About 60% of that ($3.65) is tax.
Is that because Saddam is not hooking them up anymore?
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post #20 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-08-2009, 07:23 AM
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All I know is a lot of the Balkans just had to have German shit...

-Appliances
-Diesel VWs
-Diesel BMWs

This was in Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia and some other place in that general vicinity. I guess what I'm saying is for its general region/area it seems to be doing okay. I dunno if comparing Germany to the US is fair at all. (at least to us) Because at a minimum, from around 1943-44 to 1945 they got bombed back to the stone age.

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post #21 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-08-2009, 07:36 AM
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Is that because Saddam is not hooking them up anymore?
Europeans, as a rule, pay at least double for gas. they have a different mentality about it, and drive a lot less than we do. Everything is in close proximity, even other countries.

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post #22 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-08-2009, 07:46 AM
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Europeans, as a rule, pay at least double for gas. they have a different mentality about it, and drive a lot less than we do. Everything is in close proximity, even other countries.
Very true.

A lot of places I've been to...

-Have places to get milk..etc within easy walking distance. I'm not talking about the having to cross major highways and crap. It's like a little neighborhood shop every few miles or so. They'll have nearly anything you need on a daily basis at a good price. (even for the location, or they'd be out of business)

-Have places to get freshly slaughtered meat right near by.

-When they go to 'town' with their vehicle that's when they hit our version of a grocery store. This is where they might buy some bulk, but for the most part they buy what they need local. They'll also have to buy anything else they need when out. i.e. hardware, furniture..e.tc

-If you get out in the country, they still trade a bit. i.e. my chickens for some beef...etc

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