Saturday, October 23, 2010

We're #1!

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
I make a lot of sweeping generalizations and I am not an economist, so please take this post with a grain of salt.

Growing up in America, we're told that America is number one in pretty much everything. I think most people believe this for the most part, so they have no desire to live outside of the US on a permanent basis. The outliers would be people who want to work in fields that require international travel, backpackers, and immigrants.

It's pretty easy to claim that America is number one, considering how American culture dominates worldwide (music, movies, sports, fast food) and pretty much every currency is pegged to the dollar. But just because this is what we're told growing up and the media seems to reinforce this, does this make it true (It's the Matrix)? America is a great country to live in and America is number one in a lot of things, but in terms of quality of life you can do much better outside of America.

If you want to pursue a career in finance, engineering/start-ups, music, TV, film, or if one of your goals is to be filthy rich, then America is the place for you. The reasons are because the US is the world hub for these careers, primarily in NYC, LA, and Silicon Valley. However, that doesn't mean it's easy to make it in those careers without hard work, but the opportunities are there. It comes with a catch though...

America seems to have a mantra of live to work, compared to work to live where taking days off is frowned upon and working unnaturally long hours is a badge of honor. This has been magnified as of late because of the economic recession, where unemployment ranges from 10% to 18% depending on which chart you're looking at. People have been sold the idea that if you work hard in America, you will become successful no matter what. Because of this, corporations can put you through ANYTHING they want, and Americans will lap it up. Americans also aren't generally bothered by income equality because of this belief in hard work, and tell the poor that they didn't work hard enough. People think, "If I work hard enough, I too can become Bill Gates."

Did you know, back in 2007 before the financial crisis that US income inequality was the highest its been since 1928, before the Great Depression? That even today, America has one of the largest wealth gaps among advanced economies, on par with the Ivory Coast, Jamaica, and Malaysia? So America is GREAT if you have money, but really sucks if you're poor or unemployed. If you aren't as focused on making a boatload of money and would rather just enjoy life, America is not for you! Here are the best countries to live in that rank higher on quality of life compared to the US.

via United Nations
1. Iceland
2. Norway
3. Australia
4. Canada
5. Ireland
12. United States

via Newsweek
1. Finland
2. Switzerland
3. Sweden
4. Australia
5. Luxembourg
11. United States

via The Economist
1. Ireland
2. Switzerland
3. Norway
4. Luxembourg
5. Sweden
6. Australia
13. United States

America is very large size wise and population wise. America is also the world's largest economy and the world's army so that could be a factor for why these studies have America lower than those listed countries, because there's less focus on living a quality life vs. being number one and rich (Quality not meaning materialistic.) They do not go hand in hand. So even if you have money, you can live a "better" life outside of America, at least in the long term in my opinion.

Why? (Again, a lot of these can be attributed to how much larger the US is compared to other countries)

-No nationalized health care (One of the main reasons)
-Weakening dollar
-Paid Time Off is a luxury in the US (Not a law like in other countries)
-Political and religious wackjobs on both sides having disproportionate representation in the media
-Toxic political climate (Lobbyists having more power than constituents, corruption of lawmakers)
-High unemployment (People say this is cyclical, but this time around it has lasted much longer than before)
-Debt to GDP ratio keeps increasing (Unsustainable in the long run)
-Skyrocketing student loan debt with credit card debt
-The Patriot Act
-High obesity rate
-Unaffordable wars
-Deteriorating infrastructure (roads, bridges, railroads, internet in comparison to other countries)
-Social security going broke in the future

I'm aware this post is a complete Debbie downer and possibly a misinformed one on my part (Like I said before, sweeping generalizations.)

My personal opinion is that America's best days are over, much like the fall of Rome (I hope I eat my words. By the way I'm being melodramatic if you couldn't tell.) The world has globalized enough that America no longer has the same competitive advantage as it had after World War II where every other major power had to rebuild their economies, governments, and infrastructures after getting bombed away and now China and Brazil are on the rise. America will still be innovative and one of the best countries to live in, especially if you're gainfully employed, but not nearly as good as it used to be...or even, could be.

Just as big as America...with 7% of the population
My friend Carolyn said I did the most Taiwanese thing possible, and fled to greener pastures (totally subjective) like our parents did when they left Taiwan.

-20 vacation days, 10 sick/personal days, 10 holidays annually
-Higher salary
-9% of salaries put towards retirement by companies for national pension plan that won't go broke
-National health care
-Less pollution (only 22 million people)
-Open politically, religiously, socially (compared to America)
-Tax is not much higher than America, with more benefits
-As multicultural as America (Australia is 8.7% Asian, Sydney is 17% Asian)

Can't argue with that.


At October 23, 2010 at 10:24 PM , Blogger Amy said...

interesting discussion!

our parents left for greener pastures (for us) but also for taiwan (fought hard, and still fighting hard, sorta, sometimes)!

this past year i've been getting a glimpse as to what it is like to be poor in this country. it's undoubtedly hard. but there are different types of hard. i'm amazed at how people can choose not to work at all, and live off the system.

At October 24, 2010 at 12:37 PM , Blogger Howard said...

Yeah, it's pretty crazy what our parents sacrificed to make it in America, and I don't know if I could or would ever do the same...go to school in foreign country, learn new language, be separated from spouse for prolonged periods of time while you have kids, etc.

That is the sad part, that for all the people that work hard and are still poor you have the one's that don't do anything at all and just leech. Has this changed any of your perceptions?

At December 18, 2010 at 7:47 AM , Blogger karentl said...

whoa.. i didnt know australia only has 22 million people. that means taiwan has more people than all of australia?? weird.

totally agree that the US is for people who want to make a buttload amount of money - it's easier to make it happen because they are essentially exploiting the rest of the population who can't afford to up and leave. (and also pulling the blinds over their eyes into thinking there aren't greener pastures outside..sad.)


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