So how do they view the United States from over here? Generally positive. I sense the usual frustrations, equally shared at home, of the US getting involved in a number of global wars lasting years without a clear strategy or intent of winning them. Equality, fairness and Obama’s “redistribution of wealth” seem to resonate here. The view on social issues is decidedly liberal here. There seems to be no question on such topics as climate change, although Australia, across the Tasman, recently did repeal its carbon-tax law, the first developed nation to do this. Local news on US events is generally one-sided taking the US mainstream media spin on things.
What do they think of Barrack Hussein Obama? In the papers and on the news, he is presented as the president of the US does this or the president does that. Never any criticism. When we informed our neighbors that we thought Obama was arguably the worst president ever, they actually seemed surprised.
Overall, I suspect New Zealand views the United States as one might view a celebrity living next door, interested, enamored, sometimes shocked at the excess and perhaps in some ways envious, but at the same time happy with one’s own life.
One older gentleman here did tell me how he at least felt forever in the US’s debt, adding the caveat that many of the younger people don’t remember or appreciate how the United States came to New Zealand’s defense during World War II essentially saving and protecting the country from the Japanese and for twenty years also staved off the threats from the Soviet Union and communism. For this, this Kiwi felt forever in our debt.
Another man I talked to when I asked him about New Zealand’s perception of the United States said, “You’re broke,” he said, “your country is broke, out of money.”
This was a much more blunt, astute and accurate assessment of the US financial situation than I heard from anyone in the US in the past years including the news media and the government itself. Our country, the US, is broke, a time bomb waiting to go off with every fresh batch of politicians kicking the can down the road until it explodes taking down the entire world economy with it.
New Zealand has debt too just over NZ$ 82 billion as this is written. But smaller countries like New Zealand, in fact most of the world, must be far more frugal in managing their expenditures. If they go broke, they don’t have the financial clout that the US has and there will be no tooth-fairy bailout.
By comparison the official US debt is almost $18 trillion (remember it takes 1000 billions to make just 1 trillion). More accurate measures of the significance of a country’s debt are debt to GDP (gross domestic product), which is the ratio of debt as opposed to the total amount of goods and services created by an economy during a given year, and is commonly expressed as a percentage. Using averages of 2012 data since every country (similar to every individual) wants to appear to owe less than they really do, the debt to GDP for New Zealand is 34% and for the US, it is 106%.
A less useful but perhaps more interesting ratio is debt per capita, that is the amount of money each individual would owe if you divided the country’s entire debt among them. Somewhere around $58,000 is owed per person in the US and $15,000 per person in New Zealand.
As a quick aside, the city of Detroit has debt of 18 billion, with debt per resident of $25,000.
Arguments continue to be made in the US with regards our debt that ‘this time it’s different’ or that because of the hegemony of the US in financial markets, no worldwide collapse is possible. I don’t think so. Just like physics, the laws of economics tend to be immutable.
Although I find it interesting and curious what others think of the US over here, part of me doesn’t really care since I feel I know both the attributes and faults of our country as well as anyone. And perhaps I am a bit sensitive to it. It might be akin to a stranger criticizing one’s child. Without knowing in detail the arc of their life and all the trials they have been through, it can often seem impertinent for an outsider to pass judgment on why they are the way they are.
Watching and hearing about the United States from over here, what is my overall reaction? First, let me say I love the United States, what it represents, what it can and should be, many of things it still is (truly the greatest country in the world) but unfortunately more and more what it used to be in the past. If I had to pick one word for how I feel viewing America from outside the country it might be—embarrassed. Embarrassed that such a large powerful country such as ours can’t or doesn’t get its act together, that more and more it looks and acts like a bumbling fool. Bumbling, inept, spoiled and stupid.
And the feigned humility—often the United States pretending that it’s not the most powerful, influential country in the world and not taking principled stands. Pretending it is just one of the boys, no different than any other country. Like someone who has lost his way or is too afraid to assert his own power. It would be akin to a 300 lb. linebacker pretending to have no more strength or influence than a child.
New Zealand at least recognizes it doesn’t have the strength or influence of the United States and indeed like much of the world waits or often has to wait for the US to act.
I once heard General Norman Schwarzkopf who led the coalition forces during the first Gulf War speak on leadership. One of his rules of leadership was something like, “When put in a position of leadership, lead.” The US needs to lead. With wealth and opportunity, whether in an individual’s life or for a country, I feel comes commensurate responsibility that can’t or shouldn’t be shunned.
But more and more, the US is made impotent not by any outside forces but by its own self. Petty controversy precludes what used to be called common sense. The endless lawsuits and legal harangues, the never-ending race baiting (for God’s sake, enough is enough), the unctuous political correctness, the fear of taking a real stand on anything lest someone somewhere be offended such that nothing of any real consequence is ever done. And the political rancor that now seems to color and mar everything in the US.
By comparison, there often seems to be a certain common sense in the actions of both New Zealand and Australia. Recently with a terror attack at the Australian Parliament, the prime minister there enacted a number of new security safeguards. No big controversy. When one of the minority members of Parliament was interviewed and asked his opinion, he said something to the effect that it would be inappropriate to criticize at this time anything the Prime Minister is doing for the safety and good of the Australian people. How refreshing. And it didn’t seem to be political maneuvering. There comes a time to put aside the squabbling, but I can’t and don’t see that happening in the United States virtually no matter what the crisis.
That is not to say there isn’t the same political one-upmanship here that there is everywhere else. Political candidates promise everything to everybody, but at least I sense that in major serious matters there is still an overriding unity in what is truly best for the country. Something that more and more I see lacking in the American government and politics.
The law is the law here. There isn’t the pandering to any race group or minorities, like blacks and hispanics, as there is in the United States. Would people be allowed to move to New Zealand illegally and stay? I have to laugh. It would never happen here. The people would not allow it.
In the last few years before we left the US, under the tyranny of Obama, the Democrats and the lapdog media, I saw the US spinning further and further out of control. To my mind, this wasn’t just the usual ebb and flow of political parties and their policies. To be fair, the feckless Republican party is no better. The Constitution no longer means much of anything. Political appointments to courts mandate what people shall or shall not do or believe. Individual rights and liberties are squashed on a daily basis. The massive government bureaucracy engulfs and controls everything. Integrity and virtue are things to joke about on late-night television. The principles on which the country was founded seem no longer to exist.
The opening stanza of Yeats’ poem from the last century comes to mind:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.