Today’s foreign press on the U.S.

Social Security's a Ponzi scheme, Hollywood's East European stereotypes and Kenya's Obama conundrum

By Nicholas Nehamas

Kenyans march in a parade in Nairobi in 2009. (Reuters)

The global media loves reporting on American news. What topics caught their fancy today?

  • Are Eastern Europeans all gangsters, prostitutes or spies? If you watch American television, that’s what you’ll learn about Slavic culture, according to a piece by Pavel Butorin in Radio Free Europe. After the most recent episode of the hit show “Breaking Bad” (falsely) claimed five percent of Czechs are addicted to meth, Butorin compiled a roundup of how American TV portrays Eastern Europeans. Highlights include the Sobotka family, Polish-American longshoremen who dabbled in smuggling on HBO’s “The Wire,” the homicidal Russian mobsters on “24” and, of course, the crooked cable repairmen who swindle Jerry on Seinfeld.
  • Barack Obama’s Kenyan ancestry has made him a hero in the land of his father’s birth. “Songs were made about [him], children were named after him . . . and in Kampala a brand of chapattis – Obama chapatti – became a top-selling delicacy among city dwellers,” writes Allan Brian Ssenyonga in Rwanda’s New Times. But is it time for Kenyans to get over their Obama craze? Ssenyonga says yes. He argues that many Kenyans now pay more attention to America and its president than they do to their own politics. That’s not good for Kenya, which Obama has yet to visit, and it’s not good for the rest of East Africa, says Ssenyonga. After all, Kenya has its own general elections to worry about next March.
  • Is America’s social welfare system a gigantic Ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff “blush?” That’s the argument put forward in a story by Canada’s Globe and Mail. At a banking conference in Zurich, the American economist Laurence Kotlikoff said that our rapidly aging population puts us in a worse fiscal position than Greece. And, of course, it’s the young who will foot the bill, he argues. The answer according to Kotlikoff? Hiking tax rates by 64 percent. Somehow we doubt Obama and Romney will come out in favor of his proposal anytime soon.

Check out our review of the foreign media’s American coverage tomorrow after President Barack Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention.