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Michael Dailey: read this: Can the US today really compare with Czechoslovakia in 1975?Tim Dowling The Guardian, Thursday March 13 2008
Nine-times Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova has retaken Czech citizenship, which she lost when she defected from the former Czechoslovakia as an 18-year-old. Although she intends to retain her US citizenship, last year she told a Czech newspaper that she was now as ashamed of George Bush's America as she once was of the communist regime of her homeland. "The thing is, we elected Bush," she said. "That is worse! Against that, nobody chose a communist government in Czechoslovakia."
Strong words, but can one really compare the Czechoslovakia of 1975 with the United States of today?
Czechoslovakia, 1975: Despite widespread discontent with the oppressive Husak regime, a 1974 study finds active support for the government in 15% of the population, identified as pensioners, party bureaucrats, careerists, "parasites", extremist ideologues and persons involved in the Stalinist repression who fear that liberalisation might force them to account for their crimes.
US, 2008: George Bush's approval ratings generally hover around 30%, although one recent poll put it as low as 19%.
Czechoslovakia, 1975: Free healthcare available to all citizens.
US, 2008: 47 million Americans (16% of the population) have no health insurance. Another 16 million are "underinsured".
Czechoslovakia, 1975: Despite an increased standard of living and the widespread availability of material goods, consumerism is failing to placate a population fed up with draconian political controls.
US, 2008: Despite a rise in the cost of living, consumerism continues to placate a population largely oblivious to the curtailment of its freedoms.
Czechoslovakia, 1975: Growth of "net material product" is at an annual average of 5.7%, exceeding the target rate of 5.1% set out in the fifth Five-Year Plan. Full employment.
US, 2008: Energy Information Administration this week predicted negative growth in the two forthcoming financial quarters, the official definition of recession. 101,000 private-sector jobs were lost in February alone.
Czechoslovakia, 1975: The granting of visas to foreigners is "arbitrary", with denials justified under the "defence of national security", according to dissidents.
US, 2008: The American government uses the Patriot Act to bar entry to foreign visitors on the basis of ideology, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Czechoslovakia, 1975: Torture, though not officially sanctioned, has become a covert tool of state policy.
US, 2008: Torture officially sanctioned.
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