Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Some US vs NZ musings

We've been out of the country for just over 3 years, having lived in Costa Rica and now New Zealand for the last two years. I certainly do miss the conveniences of living in the states. There's a lot of things that are just faster (internet), cheaper and easier in the US vs. living in NZ. I won't go into those details. However, the one thing that disturbed me the most was the high level of homelessness in the US. We stayed at a friend's in San Francisco and for the three days. We watched homeless people either shoot up crack or taking shits on porches. Once you've numbed yourself to the spectacle its easier to ignore.

If you live in the US you just stop seeing homelessness after a while. Its just another disturbance in everyday life that you don't notice any more. It was very disturbing to be reminded of the absolute thing I had had always tried to forget, living in Portland.

In New Zealand, yes are there homeless people who obviously need help. But, not anywhere near the level as in the US. Yes, we pay a lot of taxes here but at least we know where it's going - you know - minor things like health care and housing.

Right now the sub-prime housing crisis has drawn plans from Washington to save Freddie Mac and Sallie Mae, but how is the new legislation going to actually trickle down to actual home owners (and when is trickle down doing to leave the english language)? The Secretary of HUD is saying it's going to do more harm than good for actual homeowners. I bet it's all about the details of the implementation plan, that favor the shareholders of the corporate entities.We've got respected Slate.com saying it's a good thing and we have PBS saying it's a bad thing. I'm inclined to agree with PBS, let the markets run it's course and stop bailing out these quasi-private-public agencies.

Also why isn't there more journalistic in depth analysis of this? It took me forever to find even a small amount of information on this subject. Oh yeah, that's right homelessness is ignored...it's all about the corporate bailout.


Anonymous said...

I agree. We are Kiwis who moved to the States 7 years ago. Getting stuff done is a lot easier and convenient, a lot more choice plus it is cheaper. When family come over they cannot believe how cheap things are and how easy it is. Big downside - no beaches and bush, where we live (Plano, Texas). Don't miss the NZ rain.
We don't see homeless in our area but other parts of town (South Dallas) there is a lot.

King Nerd said...

Yeah, America is the land of cheap stuff. I feel like Kiwis are getting abused because of the monopoly on goods here. Everyone here should say "How bout I just give you 40% less for that?"

It also brings up some more interesting issues of consumption and waste. If people tend to shop at the Warehouse(NZ Walmart) then even though stuff is cheaper it is much lower quality. It will end up in landfills at a much higher rate, thus costing the consumer and community a much higher price in the end.