Where You Stand Depends On Where You Sit.... Literally

This is a bit of a different page for us. The International New York Times (formerly the International Herald Tribune) had two stories, three pages apart on February 20, 2015. They couldn’t deal with more different worlds.

The first story is about King Salman, the newly installed king of Saudi Arabia. The ruling families in Saudi Arabia have always been worried about dissent and uprisings and making sure that calm prevails. So Salman immediately instituted a post coronation giveaway valued at $32 billion - about the size of the budget of Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria.

The largesse came in the form of a two-month salary bonus for all government employees, soldiers, pensioners and students on government stipends. Saudi Arabia is a virtual welfare state so bonuses in the public sector are a big deal. Of course this is all on top of free higher education and 45 cent a gallon gas. The savage breast has been soothed so to speak and no one is complaining in Saudi Arabia right now.

The second story, three pages later in the same edition is about North Korea and how for many years they have shipped guest workers abroad to earn hard currency. In 2012 the number was 60,000 and now it is estimated to be over 100,000. North Korea is starving - literally - and for hard currency too due to Western sanctions. The guest workers toil away in Myanmar, Africa, the Middle East (including Kuwait), Fiji, and at Siberian logging camps, among other places. Maybe even in Saudi Arabia!

In any case the government has gotten ever more draconian in their demands on laborers. Workers might earn $5 a day in spendable money. Everything else is shipped back to the Mother Church.

So on the one hand you have Saudi Arabia apparently awash in cash and coddling their citizens and on the other you have North Koreans living in a dysfunctional economy, forced to work at starvation wages abroad.

Which brings me back to the U.S. which has just 3% of the world’s population but produces 20% to 25% of the world’s goods. No matter how you slice our problems, this is still a nice place to call home.