There are a lot of important issues facing our great nation. Yes sir, several of those have been in the news lately, including immigration reform, same-sex marriage and affirmative action. Others, such as the huge gap between the have and have-nots, haven’t been discussed in a while. Just so you know, the average worker made $34,645 last year, while the average CEO made $12.3 million, which means the CEO made 354 times what the worker made. In 1980, the gap was 42 times. Hey, ho.
As I’ve said, these are important issues, but there is another issue near and dear to the American worker, especially at this time of the year, that has not been discussed; that issue … paid vacation. Yes, Americans love their vacations, they’ll talk about them forever, or at least until they pass out due to lack of forgetting to breathe.
They’ll show photos or videos of Little Brittany trying to rip off Goofy’s nose at Disney World, Aunt Edna whooping it up with Elvis in Pigeon Forge, Little Bernard trying to cop a feel of the saloon girls at Ghost Mountain, or, if you’re lucky, the topless photo of drunk Linda at the beach.
The trouble is there is just not enough vacation time. Some workers get a one-week paid vacation, most get two, some get three, and there are a rare few that get four weeks. On average, an American worker gets 16 paid vacation days and holidays combined. However, one in four workers doesn’t get any paid vacation time.
You may also be wondering just how much vacation time Congress gets. Well, our lawmakers were scheduled to meet for 126 days this year. Yes, that means, despite all the problems facing our country, the boys on the hill are taking 239 days off. Of course, all these are not vacation days, nooooo. They call most of these days “District Work Periods.” These periods are when Congressmen connect with their constituents, you know, get back to their roots, toss back a brewski, stuff their pockets. The trouble is about the only people most Congressmen really want to meet are those with money to donate to their campaigns. They will, however, forget about the money if a constituent has great legs and no scruples.
Now, let’s look at our neighbors around the world. How do they treat their workers? Well, I guess the best way to put it is a hell of a lot better. In fact, the U.S. is the only developed country in the world without a single legally required paid vacation or holiday. By law, every country in the European Union must give workers four weeks’ vacation.
However, some countries go even further than that. In New Zealand, Italy and Belgium workers receive 30 vacation days, in France 31, in Spain and Germany 34, and in Austria and Portugal 35. In Germany, the average worker puts in 1,406 hours a year, while in France that number is slightly higher at 1,476. The average U.S. worker puts in between 2,000 and 2,040 hours a year. Hey, ho.
Now, if you think all this time off has anything to do with the economy in these vacation-happy countries, you would be wrong. Austria, which has a 4.4 percent unemployment rate, Germany (5.5 percent), New Zealand (6.9 percent) and Belgium (7.6 percent) have low to acceptable unemployment rates, while France (10.3 percent), Italy (10.7 percent) and Spain (25.1 percent) have high, or as in Spain’s case, Holy Antonio Banderas, shoot some people levels.
I know guaranteed, paid vacation time is not our country’s most pressing need. I would like to tell you that one day soon Americans will receive health care and prescriptions at a reasonable price, but that would be like me telling you that John Boehner is naturally orange and doesn’t scare little children. It just wouldn’t be honest.
I would like to say we can do something about the minimum wage, which if it had kept up with inflation over the last 40 years would now be $10.69 an hour, but I am afraid that is also a major mountain to climb. Since the Supreme Court has rightfully opened the door for same-sex marriage, the only thing left for a goal now is guaranteed, paid vacation time for one and all. Additional vacation time may not solve our financial and health problems, but at least it beats working; especially, if you’re working for minimum wage.