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Being Reality-Based is Depressing
Jim Kunstler is never a very uplifting read, but neither do you ever have to worry about him blowing smoke up your ass. There's one guy who tries not to see rainbows wherever he looks. His latest, <a href="http://kunstler.com/blog/2010/01/six-months-to-live.html">Six Months To Live?</a>, is even more downbeat than usual---if that's even possible---but it's difficult to argue that he doesn't have a point. Or that his predictions are complete nonsense. The term "perfect storm" is thrown around entirely too much, but the signs are there: <ul> Effects of the sub-prime mortgage collapse are barely dammed at all, even with the massive influx of bailout money The job market is worse than it has been in a long time States and social safety nets have no cash reserves left, can't run deficits and are gearing up for massive cuts---or declaring what amounts to bankruptcy Without jobs, people with <i>regular</i> mortgages won't be able to pay and will either bail out on them or be foreclosed upon. No social services to help any of these people out (states have no money) means way more homeless. Suburbia closing up shop in many city outskirts with a spiral of failure following foreclosures wherever the population no longer exists to support profligate consumerism The model of consumerism and debt no longer works in a country where there are fewer jobs, everything costs more and there is no help out there at all The new, improved bankruptcy bill passed during the Bush administration will keep more and more people in debt slavery until they just give up and check out (see homeless plan above). More Americans than ever are surviving only on food stamps with no income whatsoever---exactly the kind of program that will be cut when the states tank and are forced to stop operations. At some point soon, the creditors on all of those trash assets the Fed bought up over the last year ($11.5 billion worth or thereabouts that's probably worth a tiny percentage of that now) will come calling. Loan sharks of all stripes---already quite profilgate---will have a final heyday before a correction/uprising occurs On the upside, the abandoned homes and shopping centers will function as some form of utility-free shelter for some families An additional wave of unemployment is also coming as state programs are shut down and people are sent home. So, not only are there no services, but there are even more people burdening the already overburdened social safety net, which has been ripped into uselessness over the last couple of decades anyway Investment in infrastructure---both industrial (machinery, equipment, etc.) and civic (bridges, highways, etc.)---is already low and will dwindle even more, killing the motor that might kick-start anything again. And then there's food: harvests are the worst in years and, with petroleum prices pegged very high, <iq>one also has to wonder how farmers will be able to borrow money to get their crops in this year.</iq> </ul> Throw in a federal government that continues a decades-long trend by investing primarily in farm, financial and military subsidies---which only benefit a tiny portion of Americans---and we're not headed for a cliff; we're off the cliff and are legs are spinning in free space like Wile E. Coyote's. It's hard to imagine that this won't all lead somewhere horrible in the short and medium term. It all depends on how much patience people have for suffering because they think they deserve what has befallen them. The predations of the loan sharks---both freelance and credit-card---will likely end in even more people in jail, but in a bizarre resurrection of the debtor's prison from Britain's darkest times. As it is, many live lives of quiet desperation (as the saying goes) and are---more than ever---wage slaves: Afraid to leave their jobs for fear of losing their last tenuous hold on a semblance of normalcy or dignity, for fear of losing health insurance, for fear of losing a way to <i>feed themselves</i>. Anyway, that's the pessimist's/realist's view. Things could turn out better, but it's going to be a landing, whether softer or not is the only question.