by Ahansen -
August. Typically a month when we Americans take our annual two-week recess from the day-to-day in order to be miserable and harried in a slightly different setting. Some of us hit the road, some the hammock, some hit the bottle –or any combination thereof. All too often, our two weeks off translates into a disquieting meditation upon of the backlog that awaits us when we return to work.
In an ideal world, vacation is a time to recharge and reconnect. But for many vacationers, this August carries a foreboding that we may soon be experiencing “vacation” as a permanent way of life—only this time without the paycheck - or even bus fare home.
The threat of being down-sized in favor of someone’s idiot girlfriend or brother-in-law hangs heavy. For the self-employed, mounting competition for dwindling markets is the stuff of nightmares.
And while senior executives may continue to draw outrageous bonuses, where’s the fun if you have to worry about confronting a lynch mob of angry townsfolk every time you fire up the Ferrari?
After enduring 25 years of Sugar DaddyAmerica’s profligacy, the sweet, loyal marketplace we’ve all grown to love and trust has finally lost its forbearance and thrown a full-blown hissy fit. In the aftermath of all the shrieking and hair-pulling, it’s kicked over the dinner table, smashed the crockery, and flounced out of the house leaving us with spaghetti sauce dripping down the walls and red wine stains all over the carpets. (Or maybe it just dynamited the place in disgust– I’m lost in my metaphor here….)
Bondholders are being stiffed, shareholders are left holding shares of –nothing, and all of us are watching in some measure of glee and/or horror as what is left demonetizes into the ether. Those TARP funds alone just diluted our country’s net worth by 10%.–and they’re just getting started.
Then there’s the coming commercial real estate, credit card, and Alt A mortgage defaults, coupled with a retiring generation of freaked-out, bankrupt Baby Boomers all expecting Medicare and Social Security benefits. Oh, and let us not forget the debt service to China et al who loaned us the money to pay for this monstrous bubble in the first place.
Indeed, one might argue that inflating our country’s way out of an unmanageable foreign trade deficit was cynical genius on the part of Cheney, Paulson, Wolfowitz and Associates. Perhaps they had the best interests of our country at heart after all!
Now the FED’s newest pet administration is attempting to let the air out of this debt balloon slowly in order to effect an orderly and controlled collapse rather than an economic Big Bang. Arguably, it’s working. So far, there have been no runs on the banks, and none of our foreign creditors has invaded to take back the cruddy houses they financed in the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley.
The end result- however the hot air dissipates- will likely be the same. At some point we, the FB’s of the global marketplace, will have to confront the icky disparity between what we think we are worth and what the rest of the planet thinks we are worth. Like the “homemoaners” we take such delight in disparaging here every day, we’re stuck trying to unload an over-priced McCrapshack that no one wants to buy– while the banks are about to foreclose and send Ben out to change the door locks.
So as we take our pitiful summer vacations, trying to relax in this temporary lull before the weed whacker hits the dog pile this winter, the question arises, “How do we cope with what one wag on this board dubbed the ‘Awesome Depression’?’”
(Because it’s not just Great, this time it’s gonna be AWESOME!)
NO REST FOR THE WEARY?
For what appears to be a fair number of HBB’ers, the transition from consumer to idler has already come. More than one of us has written of turning extended unemployment into an ideologically satisfying lifestyle. For these adaptable souls, there is a great deal of satisfaction to be had in refusing to participate in the maddening CF all around us–enough, even, to compensate for missing all the cake decorating shows on cable TV, or that morning tub of crappafrappo.
For the perverse, (that would be us,) watching the carnage unfold from the sidelines offers a cheap and ready source of amusement. New cars un-purchased, housing rented or shared instead of mortgaged, bank accounts closed and credit cards canceled, these are our contributions to the national equation. We’re pretty smug about it, too.
Into the life of all true slackers comes that moment of epiphany when the humiliation of no longer being a participant becomes a matter of personal pride. And that, I think, is the intersection of aspiration with financial reality the PTB have looted our great-grandkids’ future to circumvent.
“Greed” is too simplistic an answer. These guys aren’t stupid. And that quaver in Bernanke’s voice isn’t a prop.
So, is our semi-democratic system of government, this cumbersome inelegantly seasoned stew of socialism, cronyism, capitalism, communism, and whatever other ism suits our bugaboo du jour, worth saving? It’s pretty obvious that as a nation, were going deeper and deeper into systemic economic crisis. It’s also pretty obvious that most of us here have a different vision of how the situation should be remedied than what our elected representatives have set into motion in this past year.
So let us assume you are sitting there on your porch swing enjoying your iced beverage when some MIB comes up to you and says, “Dr. Bernanke has resigned and moved to Grand Cayman. Mr. Geithner is having some, um, personal issues and wants to spend more time with his family. Congress is terrified and hasn’t a clue now that all their big contributors are bankrupt. Lacking any further ideas, we took a quick straw poll and YOU, faithful HBB reader, have been selected to help the President guide our country out of this dreadful mess.
So what do you do?
Will we really be happy in a society with no taxation, no fiat currency, no reliable infrastructure, no one to quiet the barking dogs or quench the cook fires in the neighbor’s front yard?
Are we ethically remiss if we allow the government IE: those self-same annoying neighbors, to subsidize OUR housing, OUR food, OUR health, safety, and OUR retirement when we can no longer do so for ourselves? Doesn’t that make us in some way beholden to them? Does that not require us to cut their vile antithetical politics some slack? Yikes.
Last week, one of HBB’s more consistently strident and divisive members posted a lovely, conciliatory essay on the nature of political activism and social responsibility. It was late at night when I read it, so I may have imagined the whole thing, but I was astounded to find myself agreeing with this person almost word for word. The jist of the post was: It’s not the content so much as the intent; the rest is simply negotiation. It’s called “politics.”
Incorporating everyone’s voice into the national dialog is a messy, thankless task. Our elected government, flawed as it is, and as overrun with imbeciles, is at least an attempt to reconcile anarchy with totalitarianism. Some of us run for office, some of us organize our respective communities into noisy voices that must be heard, and some of us simply blog on. My point is that everyone who posts here cares about what happens to our country—maybe even our planet. And we’re all trying to make a useful contribution to our community of choice. The trick, I think, is in keeping our frustrations measured, and our discourse civil. August is here, time to stop and vacate.
Have a beer!