Ja, das stimmt.

Sunday, November 11th, 2007 @ 12:41 am | Economy, Housing Bubble, Journamalism

Well, I sure wish I knew what it would take for our country to develop some foresight. Our current version of “looking forward” has gotten us in Iraq, allowed profiteering to drive health care costs beyond our means, and passed massive credit reforms friendly to loan shark credit card companies while respectable members of the elite bellyache about the cost of fighting global warming. That is, of course, an incomplete list. If there’s anything we have planned well for, I’m not sure of it.

The housing meltdown is getting the attention, but there’s so much more. Bankruptcies and homelessness are on the rise. The job market has been weak for years. The auto industry is in trouble. The cost of food, gasoline and home heating oil are soaring at a time when millions of Americans are managing to make it from one month to another solely by the grace of their credit cards.

The country has been in denial for years about the economic reality facing American families. That grim reality has been masked by the flimflammery of official statistics (job growth good, inflation low) and the muscular magic of the American way of debt: mortgages on top of mortgages, pyramiding student loans and an opiatelike addiction to credit cards at rates that used to get people locked up for loan-sharking.

One of the joys of living in America is that we have a nearly useless punditry that works hard to create the experience of being on top of everything while offering next to nothing People like Bob Herbert who are out there digging up the bad news are both rare and ignored. While our news media does manage to record a number of facts available for searches and discerning readers, it has become so enmeshed with foul punditry one must struggle to unsnarl them. Mainstream media outlets have begun to grow dimly aware of encroaching challenges to America’s economy that neoliberal economic policies have engendered. Given the corporate structure of such entities, such a simple pronouncement becomes impossible for them to make, so they must pretend they have no idea what’s causing all this alarm.

There is really no excuse for The New York Times and the rest of the mainstream news media to not understand what is going on out there. The pervasive cluelessness is a symptom of another complex system out of whack — the system that informs us what’s going on. Meanwhile, the danger mounts. The heating season is underway and the furnaces are clanking. Many Americans will have to start choosing whether to pay their mortgage, fill the tank of the Chevy Suburban, buy that brick of Velveeta, or pay the heating oil guy. It looks like China will be spending more of its accumulated dollars bidding up the price of oil (or making favorable contracts with foreign suppliers) instead of buying Freddie Mac bonds. The USA could not find itself in a less favorable position among all these forces roiling the scene. It certainly can’t afford to continue its pathetic pose of cluelessness.

James Howard Kunstler inevitably sounds like a crank, yammering away at how the world is going to turn to shit, writing the book of Revelations for the suburbs via his books and blogging. He makes us feel grumpy and sad. Unfortunately, he is a crank only because fate proves him right every day. Kunstler has looked at the unique nature of oil and its fundamental importance to every facet of modern life, and extrapolated the logical consequences of it running out. They’re not easy to digest, definitely earning a rating of two Tums up.

I prefer Rolaids, but the pun called…

There are some who maintain that the country will simply be unable to react to a true energy shortage until it faces it, and then we’ll fucking grab ourselves by our invincible bootstraps and leap right over the problem. They’re half right.

-jb

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