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Thread: From Hope To Barely Holding On

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    From Hope To Barely Holding On

    by Gary North

    The recession that began in December 2007 produced a change in Americans' perception of their economic future. They moved from the tradition of hope to one of just barely hanging on. I have never seen this before. Only someone born around 1910 can recall anything like it, assuming that he recalls anything at all.

    My parents were born in 1917. They were teenagers in the 1930s. The did not experience the euphoria of the roaring twenties, when the stock market soared after 1924, and there was tremendous optimism based on the new technologies or radio and air travel. The sky was literally the limit. People believed that Europe's war debts were irrelevant, that the recession of 1921 had ended recessions, that America was the wave of the future.

    By 1932, that euphoria was a thing of the distant past. Unemployment was at 20%. Prices were down at least 25%. Over 6,000 banks had failed. There was no sector of the economy that was flourishing except gold mining, which had the benefit of a price floor set by law. Then things got worse. Another 3,000 banks failed. Prices continued to decline. Unemployment rose.

    That was the world in which my parents went to high school. My mother still talks about it. She remembers men in Portland, Oregon, begging for food, willing to do odd jobs just to eat. Those years scarred her. They scarred her generation, who never fully bought into the idea that prosperity is created by personal debt. They did not fully participate in the debt-driven post–World War II boom, which relied on an extension of consumer credit. Credit worked because people saved. The end of the wartime price controls, coupled with the return of the troops to civilian life, extended the opportunities for capital. Money went into new industries. It went into housing, which was revolutionized by new techniques of mass production.

    My generation knew nothing of hard times. Neither did the generation born in the late 1920s, which did not get shipped out to fight the war, and which came to adulthood in the postwar boom.

    All of our lives, we have seen economic progress. Television replaced radio as the technology of the future in 1949–53. Energy was cheap. Cars were everywhere. Teenagers had their own used cars, their own records, their own subculture.

    My generation was the first pre-adulthood generation that had enough discretionary income to finance its own subculture: movies, music, and used cars. We could go where we wanted to. We grew up without anything resembling economic hardship.

    We stayed in school until we graduated from high school. That was something new. A lot of us went to college – also new. Education was seen as the ticket to success and middle-class comfort.

    The oil spill that threatens Louisiana is symbolic of the end of an era. Government regulation was supposed to make this impossible. The public has put great faith in the ability of tenured bureaucrats to make things safe for Americans. The Federal Register publishes 70,000 pages of small-type regulations every year. This never ends.

    Supposedly, this army of regulators and libraries of pulp-paper rules are supposed to let us preserve our way of life. Then, without warning, the platform blew up. The regulatory agency that supposedly monitored all this had rubber-stamped the authorization to skip the normal testing procedures.

    The head of this obscure agency resigned her position. I suspect she was asked to resign. This sent a message to senior appointees in every agency: More paperwork! No latitude! This will no doubt lead to a new era of agencies that tie up progress in reams of red tape. And so it goes.

    The mortgage market was unilaterally nationalized in September 2008 on the word of a lame-duck Secretary of the Treasury. The public accepted this without a protest. The Federal Reserve System doubled the monetary base over the next few weeks. Congress passed a $700 billion bailout over the protests of voters. Then a newly elected Congress passed $787 more soon after inauguration day.

    The American stock market peaked in early 2000. It has taken constant intervention by the Federal Reserve to prop up the economy. It is becoming apparent to people on Main Street that the people on Wall Street have been able to survive only because of bailouts. The idea that the economy is in a recovery phase is accompanied by assurances from most economists and most Congressmen that the economy would slide back into depression were it not for the courageous intervention of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve System.

    Every reform gives us more of the same. Every reform promises to save capitalism from itself. It then transfers more power to the Treasury Department, which in 2008 became widely known as a wholly owned subsidiary of Goldman Sachs.

    The reforms transfer more power to government regulators, or in the case of the Federal Reserve, a consortium of privately owned banks under the titular authority of a government agency. But when in 2009, a Federal judge told the Federal Reserve Board to turn over information about which institutions in the camp of the moneychangers were loaned how much money and got sweetheart of Treasury debt swaps at face value for toxic assets, the FED appealed the case. As for any suggestion that the government has the right to audit the FED, Congress has watered down that bill, as I said it would from day one. It may not be clear who is in charge here, but it is not the voters.


    The voting public is losing faith in political leadership. The voters do not know how to get positive change. They are not agreed on the nature of the required change. They got Clinton for two terms. All they got was entertainment: Hillary and Monica. They got Bush for two terms. They got Afghanistan, Iraq, Homeland Security (left over from Clinton's Administration), Hank Paulson, and the worst recession since 1933.

    What are they getting from Obama? They don't know, but the majority do not like it.

    Most of them know something is wrong with Social Security and Medicare. They smell a rat. There are too many politicians and economists telling them that a few minor alterations will make both programs fiscally sound. They have been told this ever since Nixon's era. If the system is easy to fix, why is it still broken?


    If the banking system was fixed by Roosevelt, why is it broken?

    If the economy is in the initial stages of a recovery, why aren't bankers lending?

    If the worst of the financial crisis is over, why are short-term T-bills at less than two-tenths of a percent?

    The average voter knows nothing about the details. He only knows that Main Street is not offering them the future they had expected. He has stopped saving much, yet he thought economic growth would come, no matter what. He sees that he is getting under 1% at his bank, and he concludes: "I cannot expect to save my way into a comfortable retirement."

    Americans look at their struggling adult children or grandchildren, and they conclude, "They will not have it as good as we did." This is the first generation of Americans to conclude this. This is a change of monumental proportions.

    Americans are beginning to think that their golden years will not be golden. They don't know what to do about it, other than keep working. They are correct.

    They want change they can believe in. They are losing faith.

  2. #2
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    The voting public is losing faith in political leadership. The voters do not know how to get positive change. They are not agreed on the nature of the required change. They got Clinton for two terms. All they got was entertainment: Hillary and Monica. They got Bush for two terms. They got Afghanistan, Iraq, Homeland Security (left over from Clinton's Administration), Hank Paulson, and the worst recession since 1933.


    What are they getting from Obama? They don't know, but the majority do not like it.

    Maybe in 1776 - when the world was smaller, and more simple, elected politicians were effective.

    Today, the idea of a country run by politicians is obosolete. None of these people have any real solutions. All of their solutions are either a tax, or a transfer of wealth, or a new agency.

    An example: Here in Minnesota, they have a $2,000,000,000 shortfall. Our wise legislature and governor, have allocated $20,000,000 for a penguin exhibit at the Mn zoo. We don't need these people ruining our lives, spending our money, attempting to nanomanage us via inane laws.

    Also, a capitialistic system, that is supported by ever increasing consumer spending has failed. Exactly how many 48" flat screen TV's does one need?

    IMO we have reached 'replacement mode.' This is where there is little demand for new goods, until the old one breaks. Pawn shops now advertise like new TV's, ATV's, etc.

    Note that Obama frequently says "Jobs saved and created". By saving jobs he is referring to bailing out states that are bankrupt. The states got bankrupt for a reason. Bailing out these states is like buying an alcoholic another drink.

    They are saving the jobs of government employees. They produly proclaim: We saved the jobs of firemen, policemen, teachers. Where is it written on a stone tablet (delivered by Moses) that we need that many? By continually bailing out a failed system, the system never gets to adjust itself - as the 'free market' is supposed to do.

    Look around, you see the failures everywhere: In Minneapolis it costs $21,000 / year to educate a child in a government school. We built a $150,000,000 library downtown - with little parking - not open on Sundays - they didn't have enough money to keep it open - had to close neighborhood libraries (the ones children actually use). The US has constant wars that bleed our cash.

    I never believed that idiots would run my life. But they do!

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dBrong View Post
    Maybe in 1776 - when the world was smaller, and more simple, elected politicians were effective.

    Today, the idea of a country run by politicians is obosolete. None of these people have any real solutions. All of their solutions are either a tax, or a transfer of wealth, or a new agency.

    An example: Here in Minnesota, they have a $2,000,000,000 shortfall. Our wise legislature and governor, have allocated $20,000,000 for a penguin exhibit at the Mn zoo. We don't need these people ruining our lives, spending our money, attempting to nanomanage us via inane laws.

    Also, a capitialistic system, that is supported by ever increasing consumer spending has failed. Exactly how many 48" flat screen TV's does one need?

    IMO we have reached 'replacement mode.' This is where there is little demand for new goods, until the old one breaks. Pawn shops now advertise like new TV's, ATV's, etc.

    Note that Obama frequently says "Jobs saved and created". By saving jobs he is referring to bailing out states that are bankrupt. The states got bankrupt for a reason. Bailing out these states is like buying an alcoholic another drink.

    They are saving the jobs of government employees. They produly proclaim: We saved the jobs of firemen, policemen, teachers. Where is it written on a stone tablet (delivered by Moses) that we need that many? By continually bailing out a failed system, the system never gets to adjust itself - as the 'free market' is supposed to do.

    Look around, you see the failures everywhere: In Minneapolis it costs $21,000 / year to educate a child in a government school. We built a $150,000,000 library downtown - with little parking - not open on Sundays - they didn't have enough money to keep it open - had to close neighborhood libraries (the ones children actually use). The US has constant wars that bleed our cash.

    I never believed that idiots would run my life. But they do!

    In 1776, most people would never have dreamt of expecting the government to provide the things people routinely expect it to provide today; they were also much more independent and able to take care of themselves than people are today.

    One of the biggest factors driving the growth of government (and corporatism) and all the associated problems, is population. Too damn many people.

    Consider:

    In colonial-era America, a bright guy like Ben Franklin could start up a newspaper with minimal capital and face minimal competition. He could become successful (and prosperous) relatively quickly. Today, it is next to impossible for any one individual, unless he has great personal wealth or secures the backing of great wealth, to launch a successful newspaper (or web site). There is already so much "out there," too, that each individual must fight ever-harder for ever-diminishing returns.

    Who benefits?

    Yes, we have more "choice" - but most of the things that really matter, in terms of economic security and quality of life (for example, housing and land) are preposterously expensive as a result of (relative) scarcity and... too damn many people.

    Were I Fuhrer, I would do several things. Among them:

    * No more immigration, legal or otherwise. We have more than enough people in this country already.

    * Mandatory sterilization in order to receive one dime of government benefits after a person produces a child they are unable to provide for.

    * Tax incentives for couples that restrict their offspring to one child; tax increases for those who have more than one child.

    Just for openers....

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