Trick or treat,
Trick or treat,
Give me something good to eat.
If you don’t
I don’t care,
I’ll pull down your underwear!
The above can be taken as a succinct analysis of the current economic situation, from the perspective of an elementary school yard. The following commentary springs from viewing short movies about the crashing US housing market, and a speech by P. Sainath on the agrarian crisis in India.
With the advancing economic recession, we can expect both lower prices and more crime. People in housing construction (and related fields) are losing jobs, and this loss of livelihood is bleeding into the general economy:
1) on the retail front: for example by falling car sales, generic and "economy brand" foods increasingly favored over name-brand items, retail outlets losing customers; and
2) on the finance industry front: broke consumers cannot buy new credit — loans — because they cannot even repay the old ones [up to an estimated $4 Trillion!!] and their collateral is now worthless.
I would love to see a 1929 style crash for real estate speculators, banks and other big investors. But, I know that any downturn will squeeze the "little people," and that those with abundant cash will always pay less for their misdeeds. Housing values may very well drop 50% nationally within the next two years (by 2009), this is true in Florida right now. I hope this helps renters. Most US consumer and government debt is now being underwritten by foreigners, so if world confidence in the US dollar evaporates then US prices and values could drop as they did in the Great Depression, by 80% or even more (down as far as 95% in housing). This is a bad time to hold a mortgage that is over 50% of the 2006 market value of your property (or properties).
I am not in the financial business (and my income shows it), but I will offer this advice: reduce your debts now. Stop using your credit cards (cancel all accounts except one for emergencies; this lowers your identity theft risk). Yes, it becomes slower to acquire stuff [imagine sending a check by US Mail!!!], but buying with cash is ultimately cheaper, the single best way to stop incurring debt. Do not incur new debt, if possible, but certainly not for frivolities or "impulses." Pay off existing debt (e.g., zero out credit card debt, make "added principal" payments on mortgages). Apply the 3 R’s: reuse, repair, recycle; reduce unnecessary expenses (e.g., do you really need cable TV?, cell phones?, gyms?, a new car?, a trip to Vegas?, all those magazine subscriptions? [I except Counter Punch], to smoke?; it all adds up).
Labor costs are going to drop through the floor, and commodity prices (e.g., food) will lag because nowadays there are far fewer suppliers, and they are much bigger corporations who are able both to throttle the market and pay off government to protect their rackets from social responsibility and democracy.
Loss of income for many will also mean loss of health-care. The stranglehold on the political process by the big money interests will prevent rapid and necessary government action to ameliorate social distress (e.g. Hurricane Katrina in your neighborhood). So, frustrations and desperation at the socio-economic floor will cause more people, who cannot imagine other action, turning to crime. There’s been a rash of bank robberies in my neighborhood in the last few months. All of you are being systematically defrauded right now, because the real inflation of the US dollar is much higher than the "official" numbers (a.k.a, the official numbers are lies), so you are losing the value of your earnings (especially if fixed-income), savings and investments (CDs, bonds).
The fixes are "no-brainers:" stop all our wars (including "drug" wars and "terror" wars, and "Israel," the current phase of our 500 year Manifest Destiny race war against "the natives"), defund the military by 80%; tax the rich (when they are no richer than everybody else this taxing can stop); fund universal health-care, daycare, education through university (think of this as a prison prevention program), civil defense (e.g., a National Guard for wild-land fire-fighting, disaster relief and reconstruction, as should have been the case for Hurricane Katrina).
What about the "free market," "private enterprise" and "faith-based initiatives?" Short answer: kill them. The Iraq War is a faith-based initiative, and the same nuts are trying the same lunacy on the same rubes to ignite an Iran War. When will the rubes finally wake up and tar and feather these bums and ride them on a rail to jail? (Read about the King and the Duke in "Huckleberry Finn.")
All the fancy blather of all the talking heads is pure distraction from this simple fact: 99% of the American people (and of the world) are simply being robbed lock, stock and barrel. Their money, savings, pensions, livelihoods, homes, lands, jobs and career prospects, security, even their very food, water and air are being taken from them as quickly as the wheels of government, finance and industry can be turned to this task. We are taken to be crash-test dummies who can be hypnotized by televised images of Britney Spears underpants, and who won’t move our butts off the couch to keep our own homes and lives from being ripped off their financial foundations by the tornado-force suction of a rapaciously manipulated economy.
The one certainty I have is that if the "little guy" — in general — thinks like the big guy, "I’m getting all I can get, and the hell with you," (typical of the "patriot" bible-thumping "Christian" Von Mises fans I’ve heard from), then we are all lost to a peasantry of a coming Dark Age. I would rather have a new Economic French Revolution, and start fresh.
MANUEL GARCIA, Jr. is a retired physicist who is "too smart to be rich." His technical interests are gas and electrical physics and energy, his non-technical interests are varied, tending toward music and natural history. He is reconciled to his ignorance by the observation that the omniscient are ineducable. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.