Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Kia Ora, Gidday and just plain... Hi!

First of all, let me thank my good bud, Patrick for giving me a chance to step onto the ole soapbox. We go way back to the first day of high school together, so it's good to be back in touch with this insane idiot!

As he said previously, I'm Lars, and I grew up in St. Marys, Ohio from the age of 10 until around 24, with various jaunts away from the state. I've been living down in New Zealand since 1998, where I've worked in I.T. and I'm now preparing to sell up and move back to the USA, after recently visiting home and feeling that life had changed sufficiently to warrant going back.

Now, living in New Zealand was a bit of a culture shock. There are still *some* aspects of kiwi life that catch me offguard. One of them is how the country is a welfare state and it still manages to keep going with some fantastic stories of corruption and abuse by those in the welfare system and this working for the welfare system. There are people who do everything from working while receiving a welfare benefit to a person who actually forged over 100 fake identities and raked in millions of dollars in welfare benefits over the course of 2 or 3 years. What happens to these people who rip off the system? Jail you say? Prison you say? Hanged by their thumbs you say? Bullcrap I say.

The New Zealand justice system has repeatedly failed in greater and greater fashion as the years have ticked by with, again, more spectacular failures. Ask Scott Watson, who's currently serving a life sentence for a crime the Crown couldn't prove. Ask the the victims of Graeme Burton, who were gunned down just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Back to my previous comments about welfare fraudsters, what happens to them? Oh, unless the case it unusually high profile, it's usually a slap on the back of the hand with a wet bus ticket. They're convicted and sentenced to community service, house arrest, or somtimes both. Do they have to pay back the thousands and millions of tax payer dollars that they defrauded? Sure. At $5.00 a week. From their welfare benefit! You see, they are on house arrest, and can't work so the government plugs them right back into the same system they screwed over.

The biggest problem in this country is that, to paraprase Tony Stark, they are part of a system that has become comfortable with zero accountability. This spans all the way from the general apathy of the public when oil companies ramp up the cost of fuel for the umpteeth time in 6 months to the banks who act as though you should be grateful that you were allowed to put your money in their establishment for them to loan out to the government officials who spend more time bickering in Parliament about the Prime Minister's driver being let off a parking ticket because they illegally parked while the MOST POWERFUL PERSON IN NEW ZEALAND ducks in for a trim and a shave!

I mean, seriously people, WTF?!?! Now, you might wonder if there's a hidden point in there. Yes, there is. New Zealand has become a country that is happy to let work-capable people sit on the unemployment - known as 'the dole' - and soak all of our finacial and infrastructure resources. And, I'll be honest with you. I've actually been on this sytem. I've fallen on hard times when work has gone out from under me or I need to spend time looking after my ill wife, i can speak from perspective and experience.

New Zealand is a country of about 4-4.5 million people. That's about the population of San Francisco. Imagine what it would be like if the population were as big as the rest of the USA...

Food for thought. I'll be back from time to time with more gripes and observations about New Zealand until I actually pack up and go home, so please feel free to comment here and tell what you think!


Satyavati devi dasi said...

Hi Lars,

This post struck me as really weird. After being in a country for 11 years (and only deciding to move back after visiting and feeling that life had 'changed sufficiently', meaning that whatever was here wasn't to your liking, hence causing you to move elsewhere), you decide you want to rip it?

At least you have the honesty to admit that, like Patrick, you feel free to utilize the same system you despise.

It's so fucking hypocritical, and this time, internationally hypocritical.

Lars the Pseudo Kiwi said...

I think you're getting the wrong end of the stick here. It's not that I hate New Zealand. Anybody who's seen the Lord of the Rings movies or The Last Samurai knows it's a gorgeous place.

What's driving me to leave here to go back to the USA is more about watching a system designed to help the needy abused, corrupted and made a mockery of.

The publice welfare system is now abused so much that people in genuine need are being overlooked. The justice system has become so backwards that the good people get punished while the wicked are all but rewarded.

So, I think you're mistaken to say that it's hypocritical when I'm not bagging the system itself but how it's become corrupted and abused.

Patrick M said...

Saty: This is a point that I've tried to make (and you have justifiably ripped me for).

Even if welfare is set up with a purely laudable goal of "helping people in need," the end result in every case is that people have less motivation to grab some bootstraps and every motivation to sit and sponge the system. There will always be a portion of the population that will coast if they can. And the easier you make it (by covering everything for the "working class" and "poor" under the grasp of big government), the more people will end up sucking the system, and the more people will abuse the system (and then lockstep vote for the politician that promises they will "take care" of them).

rockync said...

Much too simplistic, Patrick. You don't just "throw the baby out with the bath water" because the water is dirty. In a country as large as ours, any program or organization inplemented is going to have a certain number of abuses or fraud. Human greed ensures that.
But to deny truly needy folks a hand up because of the slackers who are angling for a hand out is inhumane and irresponsible.
We need better run, more efficient programs that have the kind of checks and balances to combat fraud and we need consistently enforcable punishment for violaters.

dmarks said...

Patrick: What about the solution advocated by some to outright give welfare to the rich? Then there's no fraud at all. Medicare is an example of this, and the left-wingers in Congress, early last year, successfully protected expansion of the SCHIP program (created for disadvantaged children) so now it gives billions in free health care to well-off adults.

I wouldn't have been so dead-set against the "public option" in the healthcare plan if it had been limited to the needy. Instead, it was more welfare for the rich.

Yet, is the conservatives who tend more to oppose this type of waste than liberals now. What good reason does the Left have to support welfare for the rich, unless it's really all about making government bigger, instead of any sort of public good?

Jerry Critter said...

Sounds like the system worked pretty good for you. What do you think would happen to you here in the US if you had "fallen on hard times when work has gone out from under me or I need to spend time looking after my ill wife..."?

Lars the Pseudo Kiwi said...

Jerry: I totally agree with you. The USA has a lot tougher controls on who gets access to public assistance services. And I'm not putting the welfare system down here. I'm putting down the overall system that lets it get abused and corrupted time and time again. New Zealand has always traditionally been known as the Land of Milk and Honey. That has changed so much in the past 11 years and it has gone from being a place I was proud to call my home to a place I can't wait to leave.

When I left America in 1998, I was tired of struggling to get what seemed to be nowhere. I came here to see if I liked it and I fell in love with the place almost immediately.

I returned home in October of last year and found that the way life was lived in Ohio had drastically changed too. Between that and being disenchanted with New Zealand is why I'm now planning on moving back.

Shaw Kenawe said...

"What's driving me to leave here to go back to the USA is more about watching a system designed to help the needy abused, corrupted and made a mockery of."--LtPK

I'm with rockync on this. No system is fraud proof. None. And when the "welfare state" is slammed, I think we also need to look at how Capitalism can encourage greedy cheaters to take advantage of the system as well.

One has only to look at recent history of the finanacial collapse due to moving worthless pieces of paper around that the big boys knew were crap.

And corporations are no exceptions either. See Enron, WorldComp, and all the other frauds that ruined peoples lives.

I guessing that more money was lost and more assets destroyed over the last 10 years from abuses in Capitalism [because the effects of Wall Street fraud are worldwide] than in helping the poor, even when cheaters gain from it.

Shaw Kenawe said...


Sorry Lars the Pseudo Kiwi,

Forgot to say g'day and welcome.
A long-time friend of Patrick you say? Man, you have stamina and courage.

*ducks and runs outta Patrick's comment section*

Patrick M said...

Shaw: You suck. You know that, right? :)