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Author Topic: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America  (Read 10345 times)

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Offline OldSchoolGamerTopic starter

The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« on: December 05, 2008, 10:24:04 PM »
With today's employment numbers, I think I can safely say that something I've been predicting for the past ten years or so is finally coming to fruition (if you can call it that): the United States is on the skids.

The signs are everywhere, even aside from those numbers, the worst since 1974.  After strenuously denying the existence of a recession, after blustering that "the fundamentals are sound," the Bush Administration has, at long last, simply run out of bullshit.  It was definitely a deflated, defeated George Bush the Second who admitted that there was a recession and even went so far as to apologize to the nation he'd spent much of the last eight years glad-handing while anally probing.  But at least he did apologize...so perhaps I misunderestimated the man.

Indeed, if bullshit were some sort of valuable commodity that one could base an economy on, America could recover from its predicament, and that right quickly...but alas, it isn't.  What our economy is actually based on are around $470 trillion (that's right, trillion with a "T") in derivatives that are based on an amorphous miasma of NINJA mortgages, overleveraged commodities, and who knows what else that probably wasn't actually worth anywhere near $470 trillion even before the recent slide in equities.  Even if one wanted to be wildly optimistic--I mean, "Pollyanna-on-uppers"-optimistic--and say that financial pile of paper was only overvalued 10%, that would leave a $47 trillion hole that even the current $8 trillion bailout doesn't even come close to patching. 

And this is all happening despite the recent slide in energy prices...a slide that is almost certainly going to be short-lived.  We got a taste of the future earlier this year as our reality check bounced: the last big oilfield (by historical standards) was discovered in the 1980s, with discoveries having peaked two to three decades earlier.  They're not making any more oil (at least in commercially significant quantities), but they're still churning out more people who want to drive cars, eat meat, and buy, buy, buy.  For about two and a half decades there, the sheer quantity of oil allowed us the fantasy of pretending the supply was unlimited, but reality is now asserting itself, just like it did when the last of the "unlimited" supply of passenger pigeons croaked.  Oil is in fact a finite resource, and while we're still several decades from pumping the last barrel, right now we're pumping about all the oil per year we're ever going to, and it's all downhill from there.  America is hard-wired under the assumption that oil will always be cheap, and that all we have to do is drill more holes in the ground to get more.  Well, it's not that simple...as we'll shortly find out.

We're in for some very bleak years here in the U.S.  A lot of chickens are coming home to roost, and they're going to unleash a veritable blizzard of chicken-shit across our economy, and our society as a whole.  Where things go from here largely depends on our reaction.  If we are willing to question our cherished assumptions about how economies should work and how cancerous growth of economies is neither natural nor assured, and work to decouple the physical economy from the financial economy while accepting reduced consumption, we may recover in several years (though we'll be staring a critical oil shortage in the face).  If we fight to regain the "American Way of Life" that is in fact the root of the problem, we may well lose our country along with our standard of living. 

Most people under 30 or so in fact have little loyalty and patriotism...not least because they were raised on the neoconservative mantra of "every person for themselves" and "whatever profits me is right and good."  If you're running a company that's been the anchor of a community for forty years, but all of a sudden realize you could save a thousand bucks per head per year by moving to Mexico, then you go for it because globalization is good, right?  Well, apparently the neocons didn't bother to think that one through, because if they had, they'd have realized it's a short philosophical step indeed from that to, "well, if my country is on the rocks, who cares, I'll just find another one or let it crumble and be replaced by something else; I've got no skin in this game."  So, don't count on the same sense of patriotism and "American-ness" that held the country together through the Thirties to hold America together through this color version of the Great Depression.

The bottom line is that I don't think there's going to be a United States of America by 2025, at least in anything like its current form.

Offline The Overlord

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2008, 11:26:43 PM »


Don't write off the good old US of A quite yet, I'm sure plenty of people were thinking or writing similar to what you just posted as the Great Depression got going full swing. What we're facing today; it ain't shit compared to the World War era; we got through that and we'll get through this. We might have to transform again to do it, but Americans are innovators and survivors, and nothing gets those skills going like adversity.

So I'll take your sweet little vision of national apocalypse and file it under duly noted. Some people just aren't going to ever get it, but most will figure out that the American way has to be retooled in the face of what we must deal with.

Darwinism is going to be a deciding force here (yes, even here in the Deep South, sorry Bible Thumpers…even you). Those that adapt to the changing times will survive, perhaps even thrive. Some will fall, but we're already seeing that as national airlines and mediocre store chains fold. If anything, here's a tremendous opportunity to trim off the fat...and the US has put on a spare tire of a waistline in the past few decades. In some ways I look forward to the restructuring.

Offline RubySlippers

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2008, 05:40:22 AM »
As a Libertarian I believe the government only has two obligations. One is to defend the nation from invasion. Two to regulate business to prevent fraud as in they should have seen these derivitives, studied them and banned their sale with the related "swap" deals that covered them. The same with mortgages proper they could easily have banned variable rate ones or at least had full discolsure of them with proper basic credit needs by the party before taking one out. The government if it has to I feel should micromanage business practices from what accounting methods are legal to mortgage loan practices to at least a basic level. And I would move to bring back a tariff system say Nike a US firm makes shoes in China and imports them why not slap on $50 a pair in a tariff and if they are made IN the US then no tariff. Do that for all goods. China does this already and I say if we want to keep jobs here then you have to make it attractive to make goods here in the US. We could allow some limited exemptions to promote trade if goods are made abroad and imported from foreign companies and the like, it was done before.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2008, 10:22:41 AM by RubySlippers »

Offline Mathim

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2008, 05:51:56 PM »
I think projecting 2025 is being ridiculously optimistic, actually. I don't think it's any sort of coincidence that the Mayan Calendar is counting down to 2012, and with tempers flaring all over the world and impatience growing, I think "Better safe than sorry" is a mantra we can all embrace. Arm yourselves, don't bother hoarding since it'll get stolen while you sleep, and make sure you know who you can trust in a life or death situation.

Offline The Overlord

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2008, 06:52:25 PM »
Arm yourselves, don't bother hoarding since it'll get stolen while you sleep, and make sure you know who you can trust in a life or death situation.

There's ways to safeguard your crap when you're asleep.

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Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2008, 07:27:10 PM »
There's ways to safeguard your crap when you're asleep.

Including sleeping on top of it, and taking sleep-shifts with those people you can trust in a life-or-death situation.

Offline The Overlord

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2008, 10:08:06 AM »
Including sleeping on top of it, and taking sleep-shifts with those people you can trust in a life-or-death situation.

Or rigging it to blow if someone touches it.  :)

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Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2008, 10:47:35 AM »
I know how to make a pressure plate system.  I prefer to put the explosives far enough away that my stuff will still be usable after the blast wakes me up.

Online Inerrant Lust

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2008, 05:26:29 PM »
Actually, the dollar is (perportionally) better off now than many other first world powers' currencies. We suffered a hit a few months ago while most other currencies remained strong, but now they're startng to follow...

Plus, the thing about globalization is... if America goes kaput, so do most other nations. Even if we're reduced to the bronze age, chances are that everyone else will be in the stone age. It's just the way the world is now. Most modern economies are tethered to one another, so no nation can really collapse without taking a few others down with it, especcially not one as large as America.

So, I say 'Relax', 'Chill'... Even if we do get collosally boned, we won't be alone. We've been through worse, as Overlord said.

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Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2008, 06:17:02 PM »
Even if we're reduced to the bronze age, chances are that everyone else will be in the stone age.

And the SCA is probably miles ahead in their training than everyone else.

Offline The Overlord

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2008, 06:32:56 PM »


Plus, the thing about globalization is... if America goes kaput, so do most other nations. Even if we're reduced to the bronze age, chances are that everyone else will be in the stone age.

I feel so much better now.  :P

Offline OldSchoolGamerTopic starter

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2008, 09:36:03 PM »
The problem is that what we're about to go through is going to be significantly worse than the 1930s.  

Miserable as the Great Depression was, that whole crisis was one of imbalance and poor distribution of resources.  We still had abundant natural resources: plenty of petroleum, coal, metals, farmland, water, and so forth.  We had a strong sense of national identity.  We had the American values of thrift and hard work.  The problem was economic imbalance and a speculative bubble bursting.

Now, we have a government that is for all intents and purposes, bankrupt.  We rely on other nations for most of our resources, especially oil, at a time when oil production worldwide is in decline.  For all the talk of alternative energy and "drill, baby drill," there is no alternative to oil that is scalable to anything near what we would need to run the country, at least without decades of R&D.  Even assuming full production and complete disregard of environmental concerns, we simply lack the domestic oil reserves to even come close to substituting for what we import now.  And even if we could somehow magically run the energy needs of the country off of ethanol and solar and wind, there's still the central, essential role oil plays in the chemical industry: plastics, fertilizer, pharma, asphalt, etc.

The bottom line is that, unlike the 1930s, we're facing a severe economic imbalance AND a sharp, imminent decline in the amount of energy per capita that we as a civilization are going to have access to.  We're going to be needing to expend considerable energy, money and resources retooling our nation to run on far less energy...just when energy, resources and money are going to become scarce.  This is in contrast to the 1930s, when the scarcity was only money, and the Roosevelt administration could just print more and build more factories, roads, farms and so forth.  Back then, we could drill more holes, dig more mines, dam more rivers, cut down more forests, whatever we needed to get more, more, more of the natural resources to supply the infrastructure expansions of the WPA and other New Deal programs.  Now, we're increasingly tapped out, facing critical issues that can't be solved by the paradigm of either the Left or the Right.

Offline The Overlord

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2008, 01:44:12 PM »

Well then, grim necessity ever being the mother of invention, we better get our asses in gear and get all that alternate energy technology out there. Solar, fuel cell, hydrogen, geothermal, wind, hydroelectric, etc.

The real bitch of it all is that around every one of us, the latent forces of the universe exist, we just need to harness them. Now's the time clean up our act.


P.S. @ TyTheDnDGuy. I know what you're about to say; it's not practical, it can't be done. But it has to be done, and that's why it will be.

Offline Mathim

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2008, 04:29:23 PM »
That's not what was said, what was said was there's no going back and there's no looking forward. We will never continue the current standard of living we're in and even if the government or whatever urges people that things aren't as bad as all that, when things turn Soylent Green on us, we're going to go nuts and we'll have to start pretending we're in a zombie apocalypse survival scenario, except the zombies will have knives and guns and be able to think, at least in a primal sense.

I read somewhere that the amount of resources for making solar energy panels is at its peak so we won't be able to do much more with solar. Wind, I don't know but it's probably not going to help much. Think about it-we're going to have to kiss our computers, heaters, cars, etc. goodbye and try to make do without. How many people in this country rely implicitly on those things right now? A good freaking chunk, I would imagine. Now how is a bankrupt government going to welfare-babysit them until they figure out how to retrain everybody to make themselves useful in the interim?

I stopped relying on fossil fuels a while ago, replacing my car with a bicycle and I've developed some good skills about it (maintenance, etc.) And I have a heavily armed, military-trained sniper friend I can bunk up with. I don't know about the rest of you but I like my odds of survival a lot better than most other people I know. It won't do this country or any other country a bit of good to keep going at this pace. We should start using what resources we have remaining to downgrade everything and focus on just keeping the human race going, not the space-case race.

Offline Valerian

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #14 on: December 22, 2008, 05:15:53 PM »
I read somewhere that the amount of resources for making solar energy panels is at its peak so we won't be able to do much more with solar.

Hrm?  Can you back this up?

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Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #15 on: December 22, 2008, 08:40:29 PM »
There was a friend of mine whose parents had made their house so energy efficient that the power company was literally paying them back.  They had solar heated water pipes in the walls, and then insulated the insides of the walls with quilts.  It may not be powering the house with solar, but it's a way of using solar power to eliminate the need for other forms of energy for heating.  From camping, I can tell you that heating water with solar doesn't need fancy panels.  You need an absorbing surface (matte black, metal if possible) and a source of sunlight.  I can get that at the local Home Depot.

Offline Trieste

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Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #16 on: December 23, 2008, 04:24:33 AM »
Gawd, you people are depressing.

People have been predicting the end of the world since it began. People have been spewing gloom and whatnot since there was a word to express the concept. The world is not going to implode on itself and cease to be. It may change, but that's not an inherently scary concept unless you give into the hind-brain fear of change, even innovative change.

It's really, seriously all about perspective. And apparently (for some) all about blowing people up. :P

Offline Zakharra

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #17 on: December 23, 2008, 10:36:03 AM »
 I've noticed that. It's like some people can't wait for the 'END OF THE WORLD!!' to happenm. So pessimistic.Have a little faith that we will get past it. I do not thinkit will se an end to materialism, since that has what has spurred a lot of technology, besides wars. Will it change culture? Yes, somewhat, but there will be ways found to get more energy to fuel the technology and devices we want. They are not just going to go away. People want Ipods, computers, cars, and other modern things. Like flushing toilets, refridgerators, central heating.

 Despite what people are saying, there is still plenty of oil around and will be for the next century at least. There IS more that will be found and tapped. The technology is there and the price will come down as it's used.It isn't the end of the world people, it's just a bump in the road. How people deal with it will say whether it's a speedbump or a large pothole.

Offline RubySlippers

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #18 on: December 23, 2008, 10:41:38 AM »
I figure we have over a century before we have to worry, by then I likely will be dead of natural causes so who the hell cares. Let the next generation and the one after that worry about where they get their energy.

For all the doom here the air is cleaner, water cleaner and entire US is well off once we get back on track, we survived the last Great Depression and will survive this economic downturn. I'm more conserned about the government pissing away untold billions giving it to private interests with no accountability and pissing it away on green tech which we don't need and on infrastructure projects (mostly roads) just to make work. And if the world economy does downshift a notch or two that is not a bad thing people should learn to be happy in the US without all the latest tech gadgets and things.

Offline Valerian

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #19 on: December 23, 2008, 11:04:57 AM »
I figure we have over a century before we have to worry, by then I likely will be dead of natural causes so who the hell cares. Let the next generation and the one after that worry about where they get their energy.

For all the doom here the air is cleaner, water cleaner and entire US is well off once we get back on track, we survived the last Great Depression and will survive this economic downturn. I'm more conserned about the government pissing away untold billions giving it to private interests with no accountability and pissing it away on green tech which we don't need and on infrastructure projects (mostly roads) just to make work. And if the world economy does downshift a notch or two that is not a bad thing people should learn to be happy in the US without all the latest tech gadgets and things.
Uh, I'm fairly sure that a sizable part of the reason why the air and water are cleaner is because of that green tech that you seem to be so against.  Yes, some of that isn't working out as well as hoped and predicted, but that's why people are working on it now, before the need becomes acute.  If we don't experiment with and develop these technologies while we have the time, then we really will have some very serious and frightening issues to handle.

We have a century or so before we MUST become dependent on something besides fossil fuels; but we have to build the framework for those alternatives NOW.  Again, don't forget that green technologies need workers, too.  Money invested there will create jobs, just as surely as investing in other infrastructure.

Offline Zakharra

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #20 on: December 23, 2008, 11:29:19 AM »
 I think what she is against is the somewhat rampant desire to force us into green technologies before they are 1, ready, and 2, despite the fact that some of it might not work well of be more damaging to the enviroment/economy than what it's 'replacing'.

 I'm for cleaner air and some regulations can spur developement, but it is very unlikely we will be off of fossil fuels in my lifetime. Oil is simply far too useful to be replaced fully and coal and natural gas/propane too abundant and useful as well. Until those resources can be replaced with something that at the least comes close to equalling them, I do not see them being used wilingly by many people.

Offline Valerian

Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #21 on: December 23, 2008, 11:47:07 AM »
Well, I'll wait for Ruby to clarify that... but that's also part of my point, actually.  Granted, in some cases I'm sure there is forcing going on, and that's not something I'm in favor of; but these things do have to be tested in the real world, and some of that is going to involve missteps.  That's what we need to sort out before the need becomes dire.

Of course we won't be off fossil fuels in the lifetime of anyone now living, most likely, but we do have to keep decreasing that dependence.

To get back to something mentioned earlier, to the best of my knowledge the potential of solar power is still great.  That, at least, is being very underused as things stand, and increasing the tech there would be very useful, I think.

Offline Aysleen

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Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #22 on: December 23, 2008, 12:00:27 PM »
The problem is that what we're about to go through is going to be significantly worse than the 1930s. 

Miserable as the Great Depression was, that whole crisis was one of imbalance and poor distribution of resources.  We still had abundant natural resources: plenty of petroleum, coal, metals, farmland, water, and so forth. 

I was taught a different history in school:

http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/timeline/depwwii/dustbowl/dustbowl.html

19 states were hit hard by a horrible drought, causing the loss in huge amounts of farmland, jobs, and homes, which added to the problems back then.

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Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #23 on: December 23, 2008, 12:03:36 PM »
There was a friend of mine whose parents had made their house so energy efficient that the power company was literally paying them back. 

This is becoming very popular and abundant in California.  All our local energy companies will do this in fact if your house is set up properly for it.  I think its awesome, and all new construction should be made to include these energy conservation utilities.

Offline Trieste

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Re: The Wheels Come Off the United States of America
« Reply #24 on: December 23, 2008, 12:16:05 PM »
I figure we have over a century before we have to worry, by then I likely will be dead of natural causes so who the hell cares. Let the next generation and the one after that worry about where they get their energy.

For all the doom here the air is cleaner, water cleaner and entire US is well off once we get back on track, we survived the last Great Depression and will survive this economic downturn. I'm more conserned about the government pissing away untold billions giving it to private interests with no accountability and pissing it away on green tech which we don't need and on infrastructure projects (mostly roads) just to make work. And if the world economy does downshift a notch or two that is not a bad thing people should learn to be happy in the US without all the latest tech gadgets and things.

In addition to the point Valerian made, part of the reason we got through the Great Depression was because the government made work for people. Roads... canals... we have a lighthouse near here that I suspect was a Depression project... and actually, all those civil projects provided some awesome infrastructure for us that is only a pain now because we haven't kept it up, or because whatever it is wasn't designed to handle 20th-century volumes of people.

I was taught a different history in school:

http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/timeline/depwwii/dustbowl/dustbowl.html

19 states were hit hard by a horrible drought, causing the loss in huge amounts of farmland, jobs, and homes, which added to the problems back then.

Ja, I believe the Dustbowl is believed to be just as responsible for the Great Depression as the stock market cash.