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.