Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Deep Breath Before the Plunge

Being right is usually something we take pride in. Which is somewhat ridiculous, and usually only serves the ego. Being wrong is considered a negative, when in reality it’s an opportunity to expand your horizons, to learn and grow from mistakes. For about two years now, with greater urgency and deeper understanding, I’ve warned people of impending economic calamity: rising food and energy prices, dollar devaluation, exploding debt and deficits, all compounding on each other until eventually America becomes a third world banana republic. Normally you don’t want to be right about such dire predictions, and you don't make them recklessly, being that most people, including friends and family, will think you've lost your shit. They're going to anyway, so it's a good idea to make sure you're sure.

I want peace. I want stability. I want my children to have a better life than I did. For myself, given what I’ve sacrificed in this belief – my job of almost 15 years, my home for my entire life, leaving my family behind, my friends – I couldn’t afford to be wrong. For two years I wrung my hands, wondering how I would leave, where I would go, and when. And then what if I were wrong? What if government had found some magic pill for reckless economic policies that they could implement with total impunity, without destroying the dollar and causing suffering and misery, as has happened, when such policies were initiated, 100% of the time in any other country at any other time in history? And what if, by some miracle, the government reversed its policies, eliminated unconstitutional socialist and fascist institutions (starting with the Federal Reserve), removed the red tape that makes it near impossible for jobs and businesses and industry to be created, and forces the industries and jobs we do have to be shipped overseas, and relative economic prosperity returned to America?

In my heart of hearts I knew this was impossible, and day after day, as the deficit compounded, as the debt exploded, as countries announced cutting off the dollar, cutting off our credit; as Obamacare was passed, as the stimulus bills passed again and again, QE (Quantitative Easing), QE2, and now announcing QE3 if oil prices continue to rise – which they will, if for no other reason than the fact that rising oil prices are at least in part the result of QE2, day after day after day I saw the worst-case scenario being played out. In fact it’s worse than even I can imagine. You grow up in America your whole life under the illusion of prosperity, in the shared hallucination that growth and prosperity are perpetual, your birthright as an American, and you find yourself inflicted with the pathology that anything that hasn’t happened, at least in your lifetime, is somehow impossible.

The most sobering aspect of today’s times is, as bad as things already are, I know we haven’t even begun. Today it was reported that food inflation is running at about 19%. Even if you remove spending for defense and infrastructure, we would still be running a deficit – this has happened a staggering 50 years ahead of projections. Despite empty rhetoric about controlling spending and – laugh out loud – balancing the budget, February set another all-time deficit record at $223B. And that’s probably low-balled, like all their other statistics. With the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear apocalypse in Japan, you can be sure that Japan won’t be much interested in lending us money, while the biggest private holder of US debt, citing impending calamity caused by the Fed purchasing treasuries (QE2), dumped all its treasury bonds. The less investment there is in our debt, the more money the Fed has to print, which of course causes the value of the dollar to decrease, causing prices to rise. This has little impact on the select elite on the receiving end of this newly created cash, but for the rest of us, our cost of living continues to edge higher while, if we’re lucky, our incomes remain the same. And finally, when the dollar loses reserve currency status, demand for it will plummet, leaving us with a astronomical currency surplus, which pretty much means the gates of hell are flung open.

When you take such factors into consideration – and that is just a small sampling of the ingredients in our economic apocalypse stew – not only do dire predictions seem decidedly un-radical, they become easy to predict, like the sunrise, or the tides. At this point, as far as I’m concerned, there is only one singular issue that we should be anxious about: our level of preparedness. Sometimes I find myself succumbing to fear as I watch the daily flood of vindicating news and statistics telling me I’ve been right about all of this, because knowing that life as we know it is coming to an end can be overwhelming. I have to remind myself that, if the hammer dropped tomorrow; if the shelves were emptied by the third day, as there is never more than 3 days worth of food on the shelves of any grocery store; if the price of gas became, hypothetically, $10 per gallon; if my paper currency became utterly worthless for anything other than kindling; I can survive. The luxury would be at an end – the internet, the movies, the takeout food – but I have reasonable access to the things I need should they be cut off externally. The only question for you is, can you say the same? For too many people, it doesn’t matter how bad the situation is so long as they can turn on their TV and avert their attention from reality. Once they realize they can’t eat their favorite TV show, that the number of wins their favorite baseball team records won’t put gas in their tank, or that Lindsey Lohan’s cocaine problem has nothing to do with how warm their home is in the winter, maybe then they will start to care. But by then it will already be too late, and then you will see things you never thought possible in America. Things you only see on TV, from other countries, countries you thought these things only happened in because of their lack of civilization, their barbarous culture. And they’ll lie to themselves, pretending they never saw it coming. Don’t be among them.