Saturday, January 9, 2010

It's been a year

Well, it's been over a year now since my last post. Reading back on my earlier posts, things have pretty much followed their predictable paths. The economy is doing exactly what it needs to do - shrinking and going through changes. There is no economic recovery, just less people left to lose jobs at a record pace. With unemployment well above 10% now (which is really more like 22% if you use the original method of calculating unemployment) we've arrived at the new norm. The massive layoffs have slowed down dramatically, but you don't (and will not) see a massive recovery of corporate jobs. New company start ups will not likely replace the big company layoffs. The current situation is the new "normal" and the faster we all realize it and accept that this is it, the faster we can begin to make intelligent decisions about the future.

I still feel I don't have the answers to all of my own questions, but I am a bit closer to coming to grips with all that is going on and that has helped me to start to make decisions on what needs to happen next.

I see more and more underground economies emerging around me as time goes on. Double bookkeeping and under the table jobs are the way that an otherwise dire situation of joblessness gets dealt with in the real world. There is a lot more acceptance in the local economy of small start-ups and individuals that only deal in cash or cash equivalents. Here in my new home town, the dope business is booming and there's really no question in my mind what the economy here is based upon. "Legitimate" businesses are run with a "look the other way" philosophy that allows them to ignore the law when it suits them simply by pretending that they don't know better, or at least didn't notice anything wrong. So, the economic problems that we all face become a little less critical when there's a trickle of income that Uncle Sam has no knowledge of and no resources to investigate.

The problem is that the real role of our original government - to take care of problems that are too large for cities and counties to grapple with - has been replaced with a corrupt government that takes care of only the problems of the wealthy. While education, infrastructure, health care and welfare get less and less, the banks, investment firms, insurance and otherwise wealthy get more and more. The Trillions of dollars poured into the economy have simply gone to bail out those that took all of the money from the lower and middle class and invested it in pyramid schemes that were literally designed to make the top 5% insanely rich. Wall Street has done exactly what it set out to do. Take Main Street money and make it "dissappear" legally. You and I don't write the laws and Lobby... They do.

So, things are happening in a very predictable manner. The rest of us watched and learned our lesson from the rich. If you refuse to report your financial dealings, invent your own form of financial reporting, you aren't held accountable for your questionable financial dealings. In fact it seems that even if you are caught red handed being totally unethical and deliberate in your theft, you can re-arrange your wealth and hold out your hand and get more money from those you robbed in the first place. Especially if you are too big to fail.

Personal bankruptcy is now more difficult than corporate bankruptcy thanks to some perfectly timed laws that took effect in 2004 (right as the housing bubble began to raise eyebrows)... I don't believe that was just a coincidence. Banks were aware of what was going on and flooded capital hill with lobbyists fighting for personal bankruptcy reform. We can learn from that situation too. We need to start lobbying for ourselves - to wipe out the credit reporting agencies that now have HUGE control over our everyday lives. Try renting an apartment, buying a house, getting a decent job or opening a checking account without having a credit check done on you to "evaluate" your credit worthiness. More and more of our lives are tied to our income and financial status and the banks now have the power to blacklist you in more ways than you can imagine. There's no buffer protecting your credit reports from abuse and you have no real rights to the information contained in them. Try getting anything changed in the reports (even if it is an obvious error). It takes months of effort just to get a response, but only a few keystrokes for a financial institution to destroy you and your ability to get financing.

It's time to start looking at alternatives to the current system. Thankfully the seeds are already planted. People becoming more distrustful of the government, banking system and current legal system as time goes on. Justifiably so. We all see that their are two sets of "books" in the real world. The insanely wealthy don't live under the same laws as the rest of us and they have an inner circle of knowledge on how to loophole right by the rest of us. Look at the recent foreign bank account slap on the wrist that the filthy rich got... They were required to "come clean" or face possible jail time for income tax evasion on their overseas bank accounts. I doubt that more than a small handful of wealthy outcasts will ever even see a courtroom. Meanwhile, the rest of us fear total financial ruin and garnishment of any future wages if we fudge our tax forms in the slightest (not that we really can anyway - as most of us have straight reported income and don't receive "other forms of compensation").

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Still Searching

I came back from the Holiday with a lot on my mind. I guess I am a bit sorry for the previous post. I do feel that money has too much value placed on it, but that feeling comes from an point of view that 90% of the rest of the population does not hold. I forget that it's VERY hard to see things from my point of view and everyone (including myself) likes to avoid bad news even if it is absolutely true. We tend to spin things and find fault in them if they don't jive with our core beliefs - and that is just as true for myself as it is for other people and theirs. It doesn't help that I don't have any answers or even comprehend our situation to the level where I can see the big picture and make long term decisions based on what I think is happening or will happen.

The reality is that most folks are still doing just fine as far as they are concerned. They don't feel too much pressure and don't really understand how close we probably are to the end of our current way of life. Most don't understand what seems to have been going on for the past 30+ years and I only caught on about 4-5 years ago myself. Even now I barely grasp the enormity of the problems ahead of us. The previous generations have no reason to understand what is happening because nothing like our current situation has ever occurred in our world history. To most there is still a lot of our world out there left untapped (a polite way of saying "un-used-up"), but never before in history did we have such a huge population entirely dependent on so few resources.

The Baby Boomer generation is likely to be the next big catastrophe - they outnumber the next generation by a lot - and as they retire and expect to cash out their investments in property, stocks or whatever, the fact that there's nobody behind them in a position to buy their accumulated wealth is going to come as a shock. The current economic situation just exacerbates the situation for them. Since the generation(s) behind the baby boomers do not have access to the resources the baby boomers had and the numbers of retirees coming up in the next 15 years is huge, we're going to see an overabundance of houses and other investments on the market that need to be sold to pay for retirement and health care costs. At our current rate of inflation and the devaluation of the dollar that is likely due to the trillions of newly printed (unbacked) copies, even if they are able to cash out, they will likely have to continue working to support themselves until they no longer can. The wealth split is greater than ever - and most of that wealth is held by the baby boomers themselves, so there's nobody there to pay it forward.

To expand on the subject and really get a good grasp of the current situation, I think this video chapter series from ChrisMartenson.com does a better job than I can of explaining what the hell is going on right now and why the current economic problems make perfect sense once you get a clearer picture of the problems. He's a hell of a lot better at articulating the problems I believe we are facing than I can.

The main angst I have stems around my lack of faith that we will continue to survive as we have been for any length of time. It's not just the oil/coal depletion, overpopulation or even global warming that has me tossing and turning at night - it's the fact that all sustainable and peaceful societies eventually get wiped out by more aggressive and resource hungry ones. As much as I wish for a society that is sustainable, the likelihood that those that are the most resource hungry will allow a society in balance (one with no growth and with sustained resources - allowing it to go "underutilized") is nearly zero. I can't think of any time in history where the peaceful/balanced/sustainable society has not been conquered by an aggressive/waring/resource hungry one. We are the product of thousands of years of those very societies. The winners. Peoples that have conquered and killed or enslaved everyone and everything in our path. Our very society is based on continued growth and prosperity and a sense of entitlement and ownership of everything around us. We have created a culture where we are born into debt and entitled to nothing - and we are rewarded for pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and beating out the competition for jobs, status and property throughout our lifetimes. Society rewards us for "success" - the more we consume, collect and conquer, the more respect and admiration we gain. We need a big home to be happy, to consume our desires and to reproduce with abandon... but not if we're "Poor" - then you are a problem, looked down upon, pitied or ridiculed. We pass this message on to each generation almost without fail.

We have lost our ability to sustain ourselves in our own environment right now. Back in the late 1980's we HAD to import our main energy source to keep growing. If we were to close the boarders of the US today and not be able to import anything - we would see massive collapse immediately of everything we hold dear as a society. We don't even produce enough energy to sustain ourselves within our own countries borders so we need to "borrow" from other people around the world - and by borrow I mean trade for printed money, steal, kill and otherwise take control of those resources by any means necessary. The problem is that the globe as a whole is running out of our energy source, so we're having to go into areas that were previously thought of as too risky to deal with... We're the biggest "fake" society in the world right now and the truth is finally beginning to come to light and now that I understand it I feel like an ass.

Just the fact that you are born onto this planet with no rights to any part of it is hard for me to grasp. I was lucky to be born into this greedy social structure - I feel guilty for the way we all consume so much and do so little for the rest of the world, but it is better to be behind the guns than looking down the barrel of them I suppose. None the less, it is still painful to realize that the things I consume daily come at the cost of others less fortunate than I am and that I will likely leave this planet in much worse shape than when I was born into it despite my meager and pathetic personal efforts... It all goes with the continued growth of everything - it would be silly for me to expect the earth to be ours to share and take care of and pass along to future generations in better shape than when we got it... That we would have the maturity to keep our populations sustainable and provide everyone with everything they need from birth on. We don't even extend that courtesy to each other in the present, so there's even less chance that we'll extend it to future generations, so in a way I feel disgusted and doomed at the same time.

I have no faith that Hummers will turn into horses or that McDonalds will become Old Mcdonald's Farm. Not by choice - perhaps by forced and painful necessity... I see a glimmer of hope in some areas - somewhat sustainable lifestyles are emerging here and there - but they are far outpaced and outnumbered by the resource hungry and the pseudo-sustainable lifestyles that are much easier to adopt, rewarded by society and backed by 80% of the wealth of the nation. The ethanol cars, the biodegradable bottles, the new organics that are shipped even farther around the country than the non-organic brands. The hybrid cars and florescent light bulbs that take more energy to produce than we would lose using up the current gas guzzling cars or burning out the incandescent bulbs we already have. It's nearly impossible to know what to do - the information machine is playing both sides and trying to make money in the process, so finding the truth is tough - and you can't blame people for trying even if it is misguided.

The problem is that truly sustainable lifestyles are ridiculed and looked down upon as "backwards" or even dangerous by society despite it's "Green Movement". So I sit here struggling and searching for answers to the questions of what should I be doing. What should I be doing for my family, friends, neighbors, myself? Not knowing the outcome of the current situation or how long it will take is the hardest part of it all. Why try to save up money for land when the future of money and land itself is so uncertain? Will the dollar collapse under the weight of so many trillions of worthless printed copies? If so, what do I do with the money I am saving up to keep it from becoming worthless too? Will the economic situation lead to a total collapse of all social safety nets? Should I be arming myself to protect what little I have done to prepare for an uncertain future? The news says that firearms are selling in record numbers these days - what does that mean for those of us that don't want to ever have to own a gun - are we foolish for being passive? The answers are not easy - especially when I want a better future for my family... ...and then there is the social outcast feeling I get when I try to explain myself to anyone. It's tough and I am still searching...

I will try to post on things as I decide what to do next.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I don't know what to do

I don't really know what to say these days. Life has lost it's luster for me the past few months. There's not much to look forward to and the answers to the questions I have do not provide me with any comfort... The people around me now seem so out of touch with what really matters in the world. It's all about money, possessions and social status for them. Somehow that brings them purpose and they are the very reason that we are the most unsustainable of species on the planet.

Christmas is here. That means obligatory gifts and spending despite my whole hearted hate for the entire holiday now. My true friends don't need gifts from me to know that I charish them. The rest expect time, energy, money and all with a smile.

I wish at this moment that I could run away from this world. Run away to a place where peace, love and humility were the worshiped in place of the all mighty dollar. Where there was something more important to share with each other than sports highlights or chit chat about our current level of success (money, fancy cars, big housesand fake personalities that everyone wears like a set of fake tits in order to impress each other). I want simplicity and truth and transparency in life.

I can't say anything more specific about the way I feel right now. It's just a deep depression and hopeless feeling about everyone. This is the world of greed & glutttony and I am feeling very alone again.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The falling price of gas is about to hit bottom

One of the positive aspects of the economy going down the toilet is that people are spending less, especially on gasoline and diesel. People are car pooling and skipping those quick trips to the fast food joint down the road to save a few dollars here and there, which has lead to less demand for oil, which in turn has brought down the price of gasoline. Never fear though, OPEC is getting ready to meet this Friday to discuss what to do to keep oil prices higher so that they can continue to rake in the cash even as the economies of most of the free world crumble around them. My guess is that they will cut back on production so that there is no surplus of gasoline and prices will level off or go back up again relatively soon despite our lack of demand. It's a monopoly, so the "free market" is only free to move within their boundaries.

This is the roller coaster ride that lulls the masses into thinking that things will return to "normal" again... Prices fluctuate wildly as demand and supply are unable to find a balance in an unstable market. Here's where people fall into a trap - seeing that the price of gasoline is falling, they put off all of the energy saving alternatives that they were looking at while prices were high. They go back to driving the big SUV instead of letting it rot in the driveway where it really belongs. Ford, Dodge & Chevrolet saw this coming many, many years ago. It's time for them to either re-tool while it affordable or go the way of the dodo bird for not bothering to heed the warning signs. Unfortunately, we the taxpayers will likely end up paying for their greed and lack of planning as I doubt that the US Government will step aside and let more than one of our major car manufacturers feel the full effects of their stupidity.

Those of us with nothing to lose (no 401K, 403B or huge sums of money in any bank), no real expenses (no mortgage, no property tax, no interest payments on anything) could really care less if all of the banks and mortgage companies suck themselves and everything that they touched down the proverbial black hole they created. We've been living within our means and being responsible for our own actions. We've been dying to buy a piece of property with even a modest home on it, but we don't have the savings to buy outright and knew that housing prices would have to fall from their nearly 100% markups...

Every dollar that the US government pours into saving the banks and mortgage lenders (which will not pay the mortgage for you or slow the falling price of housing one bit) just means that more government social service programs will be cut, taxes will be increased and more rules and regulations designed to keep track of our spending (to insure that we're not making any money under the table) will be put in place. You might be thinking to yourself (but they can tax the rich instead of the rest of us)... Yeah right - the rich have all of the options and loopholes. They can afford to move their money around at will and have the inside track on where to invest to shield their money from taxation. Any attempt to increase taxes for the rich that succeeds (i.e. taxing banks at a higher rate for example), will just be passed on to the rest of us as an increase in the cost of borrowing money, or a new type of fee tacked on to your home loan. Trickle down economics only works in reverse - money always trickles up - never down, which is why the 1.5 trillion dollars pouring into the banking sector will not return one thin dime to the average Joe. Joe will have to continue to work to "earn" that tax break or refund check while the banks continue to earn more money simply by making Joe their "customer".

If we all stop borrowing money and instead save for the future, all of these problems become just problems for the banks instead of problems for the entire world.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Obama can't save us

Guess what folks, neither Obama, McCain nor Ron Paul is going to save our assets. The Bush legacy has yet to be fully known. Our great, great grandkids will still be flipping us off for not doing a damn thing while the wealth of the world was transferred to the hands of just a few select families. I'm not just talking about money here - the real wealth of the world is our natural resources. The natural resources that make life on this planet worth living. The money is just an indicator of how fast we're depleting those resources.

If you had gone into a coma at the beginning of the Bush administration and awoken just yesterday, do you think you would believe the number of shocking changes that have taken place in just the past 8 years? A war, the failure of emergency services post Katrina, a near total collapse of the banking system, record joblessness, major corporations on the brink of Bankruptcy, nearly double the national debt (from 5,674,178,209,886.86 to 10,326,055,380,264.11 - spending more in an 8 year period than all other administrations combined), the lack of personal freedoms and loss of privacy. You would find that you can be taken in the middle of the night, held prisoner indefinitely and tortured - all without a warrant or any kind of trial - just for being suspected of any form of state terrorism. You would hear that the president has the power in an emergency to circumvent all other branches of government, take control of private businesses and any other action he/she determines is in our best interest at the time... and on, and on...

All of these changes will not be reversed or repaired by the next president. With nearly 11 trillion in debt, the next president faces double the debt. More of our taxes will have to go to paying interest on the debt that our government owes which means less money for social programs. There's no way we can continue to borrow to pay the monthly bills. Something has to give - and I seriously doubt that those with the most resources will be the ones to do the giving...

There is a way out of this mess, but it will not come from the top down. Changes that do the most good for society always come from the bottom up. Those that do the work have the real power, not the ones at the top that just redistribute the wealth. Just imagine what would happen if you were to work directly for the things you needed instead of trading your work for a piece of paper that continually buys less and less...