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It looks like the jig is up for an ex-patriate German just trying to make ends meet on a German disability pension in Florida:
Maybe it is the image of a German pensioner, deeply tanned and dipping his toes in the surf on Miami Beach, while retired people here trudge windswept streets in dismal German burgs.
Or maybe it is the notion of a housekeeper, paid for by the German government, to keep the fellow's apartment tidy. Whatever the reason, the curious case of Rolf John, a 64-year-old former banker who is living a sun-dappled retirement in Florida on $2,200 a month in German welfare checks, has driven people here batty.
Germany currently pays over $6 million a year in pensions and benefits to just over a thousand German citizens living abroad in 88 countries. Rolf John's monthly benefits include:
* $1,023 for rent
* $854 as a "living allowance"
* $170 for a housekeeper
A housekeeper? "I have a cleaning woman, sure," he said. "But I'm 90 percent disabled." He said he needed her not only to clean his place, but to do the laundry and drive him to doctor's appointments.
When the German Parliament votes Friday on a sweeping package of tax cuts and welfare reforms, it is not a stretch to say it will be responding, at least in part, to the anger aroused by people like John.
While his case is extreme - and the German Health and Welfare Ministry has since said it will stop paying his benefits if he does not return to his home country - it is not unique. Stories of welfare recipients who own yachts and luxury cars are a staple of the German news media.
Schröder is expected to win the vote on Friday, after lobbying for months to persuade leftist members of his government that Germany must finally take a scalpel to its cradle-to-grave welfare system, which can make being unemployed more lucrative than working.
Germany is at least ahead of France in discovering that the cradle-to-grave welfare system amounts to nothing more than a huge Ponzi scheme, one that worked well when younger workers far outnumbered pensioners, but teeters on the edge of disaster now that European populations have grown older and started to shrink. Germany also appears to be less straitjacketed than France by all-powerful unions that create almost insurmountable obstacles to economic reform.
But the best part of the story is this last last word from Rolf John:
John has not given up his battle. He said he had written a letter of protest to Schröder and was waiting for a reply. In the meantime, he has no intention of pulling up stakes from South Florida.
"I've lived here for 25 years," John said in softly accented English. "I have a lot of friends here. My homeland is the United States."
He wants the Germans to pay him his money, even though he won't come back to Germany! You gotta love that ...Sphere It View blog reactions
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