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A Handful of Come Unwound

Been a week since I posted and I have all sorts of excuses — just ask me. 🙂

The Old Girl somewhere on the West Texas odyssey...

Truth of the matter is after being off work for almost 6 weeks, physical labor is kicking my butt. I am getting too old to work this hard. The plastic liner has been installed and we are busy covering the lake liner with 18 inches of soil. Try rolling a 10 ton dozer out on a 40mm sheet of plastic without tearing it! It is cautious work. If the good weather holds we should be done here in Calvert in less than 10 days. I am ready for some new scenery if truth be known.

Chit chat and my work-a-day world is not so much on my mind as is the news of late. Is anyone else as unsettled about the current goings on as I am? I am fairly average as far as the general populace goes. I don’t have a criminal record. I have been married (and divorced) and married again. I have always held down a regular job. I have always voted Republican, I love my guns and I watch NASCAR. But I have this gut feeling that the world as we know it is headed for a change.

I can remember many major world changing events in my life time but 3 events stand out. I remember when JFK was shot. I was 7 years old and I knew it was important because the teachers were crying. I remember watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon in 1969. I vividly remember watching those 2 planes fly into the World Trade Center towers on 9/11. So what do these 3 events have in common? And what is my purpose in even bringing it up? It is quite simple. Prior to the events occurring, none of us could have even imagined them happening. I feel we are on another such precipice now.
Obama has fallen far short of campaign promises and the voting public will give his administration the ‘no confidence’ endorsement when the November elections roll around. The next 2 years will be a rough road for him. We are looking at mandated Health Care, the biggest tax increases since World War II and a dollar shrinking in value worldwide. Meanwhile, back in Suburbia, The White House and the Nightly News tells us the recession was over in 2009. Do they really expect us to believe that???

Two things have to happen for the recession to be over in my book.

1.) The Housing Market has to bounce back. Buying a house has always been the American Dream right? And it has always been the best hedge against inflation, right? How many times have you heard someone say real estate is always a good bet; that real estate holds it value through all the ups and downs. Check again Cowboy. I know plenty of folks who bought a house at reasonable market value during the last few years and they are now hopelessly upside down on their mortgage. What do you do when you are $200,000 in debt on a house that is worth $120,000 in today’s market? Tough it out and hope you don’t lose your job? Walk away? Christ, what a predicament!

2.) Unemployment has to go down below 7%. The official figures put unemployment at between 9-10% right now but I don’t buy it. They are cooking the books. I know too many people, good people, who have been out of work for a year or more. I believe the honest percentage of Americans out of work right now is much closer to 15%.  I don’t think we will ever know the true number — and that scares me.

I am acquainted with scores of right wing prepper, militant, anarchist types who secretly wish for some catastrophic event that would result in the collapse of our way of life. It would give them a chance to pull out their arsenals and barricade themselves in their ‘bunkers’.  TEOTWAWKI –the end of the world as we know it. That is what they call it. Hell, if it is the end of the world, I would just as soon check out. For the most part, these guys are just camo clad internet morons who prattle the latest BS that they read on the Anarchist Forums. Somewhere between the official White House Press Releases and the rantings of the Anarchists is where the real truth lies.

So what does my Crystal Ball say?

It says we are near the end of our dependence on oil. The supplies of oil may not be depleted in the next 20 or 50 or 100 years but our access to them will be seriously curtailed. We cannot suck the oil fields of the Middle East dry through the barrel of a gun. When the price of a gallon of gas goes over $5 a gallon and stays there, people will not be able to drive their car very far, commuters will not commute, you will not fly to Grandma’s house on Christmas and that Suburbia will shrivel and die. Anything delivered by truck (everything) will skyrocket in price.  Forget about using FedEx or UPS.

It says a devalued dollar ( which will definitely be a topic at the G20 in South Korea in October) is a real possibility. Anyone dependent on a pension or planning to retire on their 401(K) will be devastated. For that matter, anyone with assets tied to the value of the dollar will be screwed. If you need a precedence, Google “Argentine Economy” and concentrate on the period from 1974 to 2002. At one point, the Argentine Peso fell 70% in value in 4 short months. Have you checked the price of gold or silver lately? Supply and demand folks. People are buying precious metals at record rates because of their dwindling confidence in the World Economic Market.

All of this ‘erosion’ and the increased role of Government in our daily lives does not bode well. The Government is exercising more control to retain control and that is a vicious circle to say the least. There are already hints of another bailout but the hard facts are that we cannot afford another bailout. The money is just not available.

The Flying Monkey t-shirt just keeps coming up..."It's all fun and games until the Flying Monkeys attack."

Last night I had a dream. I was on Tony Soprano’s boat, The Stugots, and it was the episode where they feed Big Pussy to the fishes for being a rat bastard FBI informant.  I was wearing my Flying Monkey t-shirt.   The oddest thing of all was the black crow on the mast from the episode of Deadliest Catch  when Captain Phil had his stroke was there too.  I recognized him.    So all say today, while I was peddling dirt, I tried to figure this dream out.    All I can say is it beats me.  Go figure.  Maybe I just watch too much TV.

Honestly, I think we are headed for some hard times and they will last past next year – or the next year.  Washington is on an unsustainable course and dragging all of us along with it.  When they fail, the people in Rural America are going to be left pretty much to their own devices.   If you live in a major city, Government will still be part of your every day life.  Police and fire protection, city water and sewage, trash pickup and such will still go on.  Out in the boonies, it will be a different story.  The money is just not going to be available to extend the reach that far.   Rural communities will have to band together and  work together to provide basic services.   Rural areas will revert back to an agrarian economy like it was in the first part of the 19th century.  Washington will seem very far away.

As for me, I am not stockpiling ammo or freeze dried food.    I am not putting a steel door on my house or steel bars on the windows.  I don’t even own a house, remember?  🙂   I am not buying gold or silver.  BTW, do you know the value of a silver quarter (1964 or before)  was $4.46 yesterday for the silver it contains.  That is insane.   I am not so far removed from my rural roots that I have forgotten how to put in a garden or raise a steer or chickens.   Let the chips fall where they may.

End Note: Chaos Boogie by Tony Joe White from The Heroines CD.

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10 comments to A Handful of Come Unwound

  • Joel

    I share many of your concerns. The Obama administration inherited a house on fire. It took a while just to put the fire out. It will take much longer to repair the damage.

    “the biggest tax increases since World War II”

    This is incorrect. The top marginal federal income tax bracket in 1959 was 90%. What is likely to happen is that that the current tax rates will revert to the levels they were in the Clinton Administration. This “increase” was designed and approved by the Bush Administration. Then the top bracket will be 40%, which is what it was during the longest period of sustained 4+ % economic growth since the 60s.

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    • admin

      I always appreciate your thoughtful comments. The fact is that taxes will increase and I can ill afford any additional taxes as it stands now. The Federal deficit is going to exceed $1 trillion for the second year in a row and one of my solutions under consideration is to scale BACK and make as little real money as possible. I had the biggest net operating loss of my self employed life in 2009 and it looks like 2010 will be little better. If that proves to be true, why work like a dog? It just seems pointless.

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  • Joel

    “The Federal deficit is going to exceed $1 trillion for the second year in a row and one of my solutions under consideration is to scale BACK and make as little real money as possible.”

    Your solution to the $1 trillion deficit is to scale back your personal income? You’re clearly in a much higher pay grade than I!

    “If that proves to be true, why work like a dog? It just seems pointless.”

    Sure can’t argue with that. Sounds like you’re just working for the money.

    Andy, I think a worthwhile distinction can be made between ‘work’ and ‘toil.’ While ‘work’ requires effort and can be discomfiting, the process of ‘work’ itself should allow the opportunity for growth and self-improvement. I work and my wife works.

    ‘Toil’ is effort that is empty, boring, meaningless. Most people who hate their jobs feel that their jobs are dead-end, leaving no opportunity for growth, advancement or the sense of making a real difference. Such people are engaged in what I would call ‘toil.’ The ‘increase’ promised by the Bush-approved return to Clinton-era federal income tax rates won’t really affect my attitude towards my work. What gives me personal satisfaction is the feeling that I’m making a difference. YMMV.

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    • admin

      Joel, I enjoy my work. However I do not enjoy paying the full measure of taxes and social security since I am self-employed. My goal is to reduce taxable income without sacrificing creature comforts.

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  • coal

    Gotta agree your post, lots of things going on and none of it any good. Up here in Canada, things are better, but still alot of people out of work. Alot of people that I know are working, but at half thier former wages or in some cases less than half. Pretty hard to make 12 bucks a hour around these parts when rents average 1200 to 1500 per month. Many with mortages are over that.

    Well if it all goes to shit, you have your mobile home. I have my fifth wheel, and the other consideration is that living this lifestyle you are mobile, and can move to a less distressed area if things get bad in your local enviroment.

    I too am self employed, closed my shop earlier this year due to not making any money for myself, as the one comment say, it just seems pointless. I plan to reopen here soon, see how it goes.

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    • admin

      Coal,
      One of the things seriously on my mind is scaling back on work that produces taxable income. There are more and more rural areas in this country that are cash poor and have a thriving barter/trade economy. Terlingua is a perfect example. Plus, it doesn’t get cold in the winter. 🙂

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  • Joel

    More reality check:

    “When the price of a gallon of gas goes over $5 a gallon and stays there, people will not be able to drive their car very far, commuters will not commute, you will not fly to Grandma’s house on Christmas and that Suburbia will shrivel and die. Anything delivered by truck (everything) will skyrocket in price. Forget about using FedEx or UPS.”

    This is hyperventilating.

    The price of gas in dollars is already over $5/gallon in Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, Italy, Portugal, France, Germany, Poland, Spain, Brazil, South Korea and Japan.

    I can tell you from first-hand experience that people in Germany drive their cars very far and very fast. Air travel is far from unknown in all of these countries, and I have successfully sent FedEx packages to the UK, France and Germany.

    Out here in the real world, commuters commute regularly in NYC, Washington DC, Boston and St. Louis without cars (likewise in Paris, London, Toronto, Halle, Vienna and Moscow, just to name a few cities where I’ve ridden on public transportation). My wife works full-time, and has been commuting on the metro to and from work every day for the past three years. Rural Texas, while quaint and bucolic, has nothing to do with the reality of most humans on this planet, Andy

    House prices in the US exurbs will suffer as gas prices go up. But as a student of American history, I know that Americans are adaptable. Rail is set to make a comeback in the US, and will offset a decline in the trucking industry. Public transportation and urbanization will increase. Telecommuting will continue to increase.

    Change? You bet! As a student of evolution, I know that change is the natural order of things. Those who deny change end up extinct. But I’m an optimist. Humans dominate this planet because, as a species, they adapt well. As an educated human, I plan to win. YMMV.

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    • admin

      As always Joel, your comments are insightful.

      After spending over 20 years in the transportation business, I can tell you the rail business is ill prepared to move most types of perishable goods. It just doesn’t do well in that regard. Most large trucking companies UPS and FedEx have fuel surcharges attached to their tariffs. Once the fuel reaches a certain point, the rate increase is passed along to the shipper who has the option of absorbing the extra cost or raising retail prices.

      According to the 2000 Census, fully 50% of the US population lives outside of Centralized Urban areas. Mass transit for them is not an easy solution. At best, they would have to drive their cars some distance to the closest light rail station or bus stop.

      Any additional expenditures for a household that is barely making the mortgage and buying groceries in not a good thing.

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  • Joel

    Is and will be are different things, which is what I thought you were trying to say in your post.

    “According to the 2000 Census, fully 50% of the US population lives outside of Centralized Urban areas.”

    I think you mean “lived.” Andy, 2000 was ten years ago. The trend in America is increasing urbanization. I’m sure you’ll see that continue in the results of the 2010 census. Those defaults and repos? They’re not concentrated in the “Centralized Urban areas,” buddy.

    “I can tell you the rail business is ill prepared to move most types of perishable goods.”

    I don’t think rail (and shipping) will be able to fully replace what we know now in the availability of perishables. As you intimate in your post, we will see a reduction in standard of living. Fresh rasberries will probably get more expensive. Kiwis may be harder to find in January. Guess we’ll just have to get used to buying fresh fruits and vegetables in season. This will help local farmers. Canned foods and preserves may, heaven forbid, make up a larger share of our diet. My grandmother kept us so well-supplied with rasberry preserves when I was going up, I never tasted any other kind of jelly until I went to college.

    However, there are countries with far higher tax rates than ours (and $5+/gallon gasoline, BTW) that are kicking US butt by nearly every measure (better healthcare, better education opportunity, higher wages, no trade deficit; http://www.alternet.org/story/148501/why_germany_has_it_so_good_–_and_why_america_is_going_down_the_drain/).

    ‘Socialist’ countries are eating our lunch, Andy. The death of the middle class is killing us. Tax breaks for the rich worked in France until 1789.

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    • admin

      Thanks Joel.

      I guess time will tell. I have never been a ‘green’ type person. My carbon footprint is… ummmm…. very substantial. Even so, the initial plans for building in Terlingua incorporate many environmentally friendly concepts. Odd the way that happened.

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