Thursday, February 19, 2009

Duke News Tip: Obama’s Canada Trip Could Yield Lessons in Banking, Health

When President Barack Obama makes his first trip abroad Thursday to Canada, he has an opportunity to learn valuable lessons in health care, foreign policy and financial regulation -- if he is willing listen to leaders from the United States’ northern neighbor, says a Canadian studies professor at Duke University.

“Canada’s banking system is doing really, really well,” said John Thompson, a professor of history and in Duke’s Center for Canadian Studies. “Canada hasn’t had a single bank failure, and the World Economic Forum ranks their banking system as the healthiest in the world. America’s is number 40.

“Canadians save at much higher rates than people in the U.S., and because they’re not allowed to deduct mortgage payments, they aren’t seeing overheated real estate markets,” said Thompson, author of “Canada and the United States: Ambivalent Allies.”

“Canadians spend nine percent of their GDP on health care -- compared to the U.S.’s 16 percent -- and still get better results overall,” he said. “And because the system is national, you don’t have this problem of businesses losing their competitiveness due to huge health insurance costs.

“In foreign policy, Canada has been pretty wise, too. They’ve fought alongside the U.S. in every major modern war -- except Iraq and Vietnam. That looks like pretty good judgment in hindsight.

“Of course, there’s not really a trend of U.S. presidents taking advice from Canadians,” he added. “There’s a pretty good chance this visit will be no more than a photo op for a rock-star president before his adoring Canadian fans.”

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