Scenes From the Recession in North Las Vegas, Pt. 1

A lot of public services are being cut around the country, I’m sure, as municipalities run out of money.  However, I think we in North Las Vegas have a uniquely extreme situation.

Everyone knows that this has been the hardest hit area in the whole country–last month, in an unprecedented move to slow the financial hemorrhaging, our city council declared a state of emergency.

As debates continue about union contracts, recreation centers, and public services in general, one desperate act by local leaders has hit my family especially close to home.

They cut the library’s hours.

This is really only a minor inconvenience, sure, and other library districts have cut their hours, also, but the result here seems acutely sad to me, and not just because my family loves the library so much.

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Relative Savings

Ever thrifty, but especially so during these recent recession years, my wife and I have paid attention to a variety of TV shows, classes, and web sites offering advice for reducing utility and grocery bills.  You’ve seen them–they promise to give you secret tips to cut yours bills in half, or some such thing.

However, we quickly became fairly jaded on any such concept after finding, time and again, that the amazing savings, the rock bottom level of spending that these clever tips and skills could offer, this budget boon due to paring away frivolity to a bare bones lifestyle and/or one devoted to cutting corners…still resulted in expenses that exceeded what we were already spending. 

Honestly, some of the items we ran across made claims such as, “With our revolutionary approach to budgeting and bills, we can cut your grocery costs all the way down to a mere, skeletal $1000 a month!”  I don’t think I’m revealing anything terribly personal by confessing that the Huston family spends significantly less than that on our monthly groceries as it is.  The big, scary question here, of course, is, if there’s a market for telling people how to get their grocery bills down to $1000 a month, how much are they spending now

But what this implies about our society’s idea of thrift, and what constitutes cutting back in our eyes, is far scarier still.  I’m reminded of the old Simpsons episode where Homer abuses his company’s medical insurance so he can get some hair restoring tonic.  When his boss, Mr. Burns, finds out about how Homer had bilked him, Burns cries out in frustration, “Blast his hide to Hades!  And I was going to buy that ivory back scratcher!” 

Alas, the recession: fewer ivory back scratchers for America.

Why Don’t Illegal Alien Sympathizers Love Mexico?

A few weeks ago I was hiking at Mt. Charleston and saw a group of about a dozen Hispanic men clearing fallen trees from the side of the road and feeding them into wood chippers.  I couldn’t help but wonder how many of them, if any, were in the country illegally.  After all, we’re in a deep recession and Las Vegas is the hardest hit city in the country: I know tons of American citizens who would love to have a BLM job these days.  Why should an illegal alien get to have a job here while an American remains unemployed?

Thinking about this reminded me of the arguments one tends to hear in favor of allowing illegal aliens to continue pouring into our country: they work, they pay a lot of taxes, they don’t commit more crimes, they have good family values, etc.  But as I remembered these arguments, I was struck by a new thought: if all of these things are true, shouldn’t they be back in Mexico helping to make it a better place?  Shouldn’t all of the liberals who claim to love everybody and every culture equally, with all of that empathy in their ideology, be more concerned with helping improve Mexico than with the supposed benefits of illegal labor for America?

After all, Mexico is in a bad way economically.  This is hardly news, but is supporting the permanent exodus of millions of young, vital, innovative people, in the long run, going to help or hurt Mexico?  And doesn’t Mexico need help even more than the U.S.?  Where’s the compassion for Mexico?

One might counter that illegals in the U.S. send billions of dollars back to Mexico every year, which is true, but that is a short-sighted, paternalistic, even (dare I say it?) colonial outlook.  A very large portion of Mexico’s economy is now dependent on the largesse of illegal labor in the United States.  (Why do you think Mexico’s president is so aggressive about illegals being able to stay in America?  Civil rights?  Please.)  In fact, the current American recession has also hurt Mexico financially.  Our continued patronizing (in both senses of the word) of illegal aliens has increasingly turned Mexico into a dependent little ward of our parent-like economy.  Supporting illegal alien labor in the U.S. is closely akin to supporting an onoing indentured servitude that will, ultimately, come at the expense of any possible future success for Mexico. 

If liberals really believe that these millions of illegals are such excellent people, then why are we keeping them for ourselves instead of sending them back to a home country that so desperately needs their help?  Don’t liberals want Mexico to be independent, to be better off in the future than they are now? 

Or do they want Mexico to turn into an even more feeble ghost town while we continue to have our lawns mowed at discount rates? 

Though this post has already gotten a little cheeky, I think the point is valid, and I have to admit that my more sardonic side is now inclined to counter the next statements I hear supporting illegal immigration with, “Why don’t you want them to help build up Mexico instead?  Don’t you care about Mexico?  Why not?  It’s because they’re different from you, isn’t it?  Why is there so much hate in your heart?”  As they say, turnabout is fair play.

Defining Frugality Down

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency features some of the most clever, literate humor out there today.  However, one recent piece, “This Recession Is Awesome!“, where a young kid is happy that his parents’ financial problems are making them give up the expensive things that he hates in favor of the cheap things he loves, had two fatal flaws.

The first flaw is that the “cheap” things he celebrates are hardly all that cheap.  They are:

  • three meals of junk food a day
  • “as much McDonald’s as I want”
  • mini golf, go-karts, and batting cages
  • pizza at “Gilbert’s Goofy Park”
  • Cooler Ranch Doritos
  • Xbox

That’s the author’s idea of scaling down a lifestyle?  Awww, did poor little buddy have to go from middle class to upper-lower middle class?  Wow, our Depression-era grandparents are just super impressed.  One is only left to wonder just how exclusive the author’s gated community must be.  As this recession continues, some of us are going to need to do a lot more adjusting than that. 

The other fatal flaw in the piece, of course, is that it just wasn’t funny.  McSweeney’s must be getting hard up for material. 

On a related note, two days ago I saw this post about all kinds of frugality for the times.  And, don’t forget about Provident Living.