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Cowboying Up in Montana or Why I Might Be Better Off in Rome

Cowboying Up in Montana or I’d rather be in Rome.

I left Hollywood in 1992 and a year later my colleague Joanna left too. I went to Montana and she and her family went to Umbria, Italy. In 1995 we wrote a book that we almost finished. It was a year in our lives in foreign places. We wrote weekly letters trying to explain our new lives to each other. We had both moved to rural areas although she was just outside of Spoleto and an hour train ride to Rome while I was an hour from Billings, Montana. She could still window shop at Armani and Ferragamo. I got something called "Dillards" and "Big R Ranchwear". Her little village of Eggi is very middle class and very Italian. When my husband and I visited Jo Jo and her husband Bruce, we helped a neighbor pick their grapes. Then we had dinner at the neighbors’ house. They both work in the local hospital, but each household in that village had a small plot of land where they have some grape vines, a couple of olive trees and a pig for the prosciutto. They proudly told us where every dish on the table came from. So Jo Jo seemed the perfect person to ask about the financial crisis and how it was affecting every day Italians. And here is her reply.

“Italy – although everyone keeps moaning about the "crisi" – seems to be doing fine. But the entire social structure is different here. You don’t invest in a 401K you get a substantial pension from the state. Which also provides universal health care and free university (or almost free – you have to buy books.) And the famous family unity is also a help. Most people live not more than a few miles from their folks who provide a lot of free child care, etc. Anyone who lives in a small town or village will have a vegetable garden, chickens, rabbits. Just like Sandra and Elsa the people who’s grapes we all picked together. So there are a lot of built in cushions. I’m not sure what the housing market is like but I believe there’s a law in place that slows down the rate of foreclosure. If you are laid off for more than a few months the bank has to either put you on hold or renegotiate your payments.”

So Italians who vote in right-wingers time and time again and hate paying taxes still have a better system of social safety nets than we Americans. How did we in such a short amount of time become so backward?

Note: Another diary will address "Cowboying Up in Montana" with really disappointing DINOs for Senators.

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