Wednesday, October 5, 2011

VOR’s Turn: I Had A Good Sense Of Things In Some Ways, But I Seriously Underestimated This County’s Systemic Problems

Sense (album)

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My plan is to share this blog with E&C until I have a better sense of things, and then to give the pair their own site. Meanwhile, we will interchange amicably on a random basis.

Will that be confusing? Probably, but such is the human condition. Besides, it appeals to my sense of the ridiculous. And I have positively no objection to sharing this site with an eagle and a cuckoo.

But, just to be clear, ‘Eagle’ isn’t any old eagle. He is the head of every eagle in the United States of America, and, as such, the very personification of this Great Nation. Given that honor, he feels we are his responsibility. We may think he is just a symbol, but Eagle is high minded and has a sense of duty. He cares about us, and, thanks to Cuckoo, he gradually comes to realize that it is his duty to drag us back from the brink – no matter what.

Eagle, in case you are wondering, is ‘the perfect knight’ but somewhat naïve and uninformed when we first meet him. In contrast, Cuckoo is wise and all–knowing, but restricted by the rules of the game to being a teacher rather than a doer. Together, their task is to save America. That starts with Cuckoo teaching Eagle ‘eagleomics'. Eagle learns and evolves. And the story scales from there.

Some things are wrong with every country, but I confess I didn’t appreciate that the U.S. was in fundamental trouble until around 2004. Then I forecast that there would be a major recession in 2008 and that housing prices would drop by a third. At that time, I thought the economy would recover in about three years.

Well, as we know, I was partly right and partly wrong. At that time, I grossly underestimated America’s systemic problems. Why so? Well, partly, despite the evidence I was gathering (and continue to assemble), I couldn’t believe what was happening in plain sight.

Surely, the corporate suborning of the political system couldn’t be that blatant? Surely, the MICC (Military, Industrial, Congressional complex) could not be that corrupt? Surely, the banking system could not be that egregiously dishonest? Surely, corporate CEOs couldn’t be that greedy?

Generally speaking, it is a good thing not to think ill of people, but that was a principle that led me down in this case. I should have trusted my instincts. From quite early on, even before 2004, they told me that a veritable economic and sociological tsunami was going to sweep this nation.

In reality, things were worse – very much worse – than my wildest nightmares.

And they still are. And they are deteriorating further at a rapid pace. The Roman Empire took centuries to collapse, but we’re being much brisker about the whole thing, and may well set a new standard for self-destruction.

The U.S. is rapidly become #1 at accumulating unsolved problems. This, may I say, is a dubious distinction. Let me give just a few examples:

  • We have a banking system that despite its speedy return to profitability and ridiculously high bonuses, remains on (largely un-admitted) life support, but which refuses to lend adequately. And whose too big to fail Big Banks are even bigger than they were; and behaving just as they did before – in that they continue to speculate and play with dubious financial instruments (and whose balance sheets are both opaque and suspect).
  • To help to re-capitalize the banks, interest rates are so low that they are penalizing savers and robbing retirees of an adequate return; just in time for baby boomers. Are such actions by the Fed really working in the National Interest, or do they represent yet another massive transfer of wealth from the Middle Class to the Rich? And we are not talking pocket change. We are talking trillions.
  • Unemployment is so high that not only is it creating untold misery, but it is dragging down demand to crisis point. The message that unemployment is a major cost to the economy doesn’t seem to have sunk in yet. In fact, it is virtually never referred to. And I’m not talking about Unemployment Pay. I’m talking about the total impact of having 25 million people subsisting, rather miserably, on the margin. They should be – and could be – earning and contributing. To tolerate such a situation is unforgivable; and remarkably bad for our national pocket-book and wellbeing as a nation.
  • We have a Republican party whose sole idea of policy seems to be to block everything that the president tries to do and ensuring that Obama is a one term president. It may well succeed, but the cost to the Nation will be cataclysmic.  Government is supposed to govern. Cutting everything is not governing.
  • We have a president who seems incapable of framing the issues, let alone articulating them. If he has a vision, it’s invisible. If he has a party, it’s invisible too! Republican talking points virtually dominate the media. Where are those Democrats? Have they emigrated? Are they skulking in a silo in North Dakota? Either way, they are not being heard.
  • We have a defense establishment which is bleeding the country dry; and wars to match. This makes some people richer, most of us poorer, and devastates lives by the million. It also kills and maims people, some of them our sons and daughters, and most completely innocent. We should know better. And by the way, defense expenditure is one of the least effective (and most wasteful) ways to create jobs.
  • Solutions to all these problems – and many others - are at hand; and yet we seem to be frozen in fear. We’ve become a ‘can’t do’ nation. And we’re getting very good at it.

One might well indeed regard the whole situation as cuckoo.






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