Here's a really good Slate article I meant to post a while back (long excerpt below):
"We're Europe's Bargin Bin: The Pain of Watching Foreigners Buy Up Manhattan" by Leslie M.M. Blume.
"Thank you for throwing your wedding during the holiday sales," said one, calling me from an uptown department store. "It was good enough getting it all half-off, but now it's like a posh bargain basement."
At the time, I was too busy to feel jealous or left out. And anyway, who could take the decline of the dollar personally, for God's sake? If anything, I saw the situation through the prism of ironic detachment: Wasn't it all so interesting, how the tide was turning? New York City, once a formidable fortress of look-but-don't-touch, was becoming practically kittenish in its accessibility.
But six months later, the joke is wearing thin. Despite some rah-rah rallying this week in response to a pep talk from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the dollar has fallen 11.5 percent against the euro and 7.2 percent versus the yen since September 2007, and it continues to limp along.
Not that you can blame the Europeans in this equation: They're simply taking advantage of their good luck, as we've done before. Indeed, our country owes a chapter of its most important literature to the dollar's former strength overseas, allowing expats like Fitzgerald and Hemingway to revel in the then-cheapness of Paris and the French Riviera. It's just unfortunate to be part of a generation in which these particular cards have turned on us.
Still, there's truth to the old adage that you eventually grow to resent your benefactors. It's undeniably depressing that we're relying on European tourists to prop up our economy. What makes it worse: Our consumerist benefactors don't even like us. International opinion of the United States and its inhabitants has tanked over the last eight years, practically eviscerating fond memories of Americans as midcentury saviors of the free world.
Yet somehow through the end of the 20th century, we could hide from any feelings of inadequacy by hiding behind the protective shield of our economy. If, by contrast, other nationals found us ham-fisted and naive, it never really mattered because our country was rich and theirs was usually dependent on ours in some way. When in Europe, we admired their lifestyle and intimidating sophistication, but we never would have swapped our bullish work ethic or earnestness for their double-digit unemployment or sclerotic bureaucracies.
But these days, we're being humbled on a world stage. Perhaps—in addition to our more overt financial and military embarrassments—we fear that our European counterparts believe the dollar's decline is symbolic, that the world really is in a post-America stage and doesn't care about us anymore except as a bargain bin. We're finally being unmasked as the hunky-dory, cultureless brats they've always assumed us to be: that we have nothing left to give.