(Another) Crisis of Confidence
Revisiting Carter on President’s Day
What the country appears to be suffering from is a sort of malaise. We have inflation. And inflation is leading to more inflation. The average take-home pay does not cover the basic expenses of an average family of four in any region of the country and people are working longer hours, putting less in their pocket after paying the rent, taxes, transportation, and heating costs and this means even less into a get-away fund for an Airbnb to a sex resort, tipping the local Uber delivery girl or making an equity play into a RobinHood Snoop Cannabis start-up. Malaise. The Webster’s Dictionary defines Malaise as an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illness.
This certainly seems to describe our country. We are to a degree at the mercy of the Middle East. OPEC+ controls the world’s oil spigot and it is unclear if we can, ourselves, pump our way out of the problem. Solar is a proven technology and we need to invest even more in it. Over the past 40 years the kilowatt-hour cost associated with solar has fallen so low we can now talk about a Green Hydrogen economy of the future, in which excess solar capacity in certain Sun-Belt regions is so much greater than the local peak demand that it is cheaper to store those electrons in hydrogen than in lithium. What this means, in a nutshell, is freedom: freedom from the oil barons and the wars of the past 100 years potentially.
It could also reshape the dynamics of the politics of the Middle East and allow the Palestinians to create their own true free-state, and end the Iranian Saudi conflict, or at least allow us to step away from it, thereby perhaps stealing its juju, robbing it of the force multiplier that is the DoD MIC. Of course, our Navy’s 5th Fleet still resides in the region.
A lot of you are out there wondering what happened to the nascent women’s movement in this country. It seemed like it was just upon the precipice of real change. We’d improved the conditions of women in the workplace, more and more women were getting a paycheck and it appeared we were finally closing the gap on take-home pay if not quite on total logged man-hours: it was also true that women were suddenly getting respect as computer coders (and not just as bloggers or UX or UI graphic designers), female letter carriers and Amazon delivery persons in addition to the more traditional roles of teachers, nurses, strippers, sex workers, and the occasional GOP token CEO or executive secretary. And then there was a backlash. Anti-abortion forces connected in new ways via technology with Evangos, Dixiecrats, white trash, and the next thing you know we have the KKK on the radio, neo-nazis on the big screen HD cable TV box, and hate-speech and book-burning being normalized and defended by the ACLU National as freedom of speech when in reality it is the ugly underbelly of the South which has always existed and needs, like a rabid dog, to be taken out behind the woodshed, occasionally, and put down. And so they started talking again about women staying home to raise children which is code for keep ’em in the kitchen and bedroom.
Malaise. That’s part of the condition. Your government wants to help you. We have had an unprecedented level of stimulus over the past two years, delivering in some cases north of $3,200 to all eligible Americans over the age of 18 and child-tax credits to parents with dependents. In some cases, while CARES has run out and Treasury Department delivered the last of the checks, there are still those eligible with children born in the past year, or those who have adopted children during that period. With the rising costs of education, transportation, fuel, rent it is quite clear that still might not be enough and many are forced to still rely on credit cards and debt-based financing to try and make it to the end of the week and stretch that dollar, substituting tuna for shrimp cocktails and eating left-over Taco Tuesday tacos on Wednesday as well. The country is undergoing dynamic demographic changes as a result of a younger and younger workforce, an increased death rate, and a Congressional stalemate on immigration.
The labor pool shrank to levels not seen since the 1970s. Many have not rejoined the workforce. Wage-price inflation will help close the income and equity gaps and help the average family of four keep up with rising prices at the pump, across racial and regional economic zone demographics. The opportunity afforded those in formerly ‘dead-end’ jobs who suddenly now for the first time have potential escape-hatches to new (perhaps horizontal) employment opportunities is part of a continuing trend, as unemployment approaches zero and real wages reach par with inflation.
Exciting new technologies from cures for blindness, full quads walking again, CBD, mRNA CRISPR perhaps even mind-controlled self-driving flying robo-taxis, fully immersive VR-pornstar sex monetized via the NFT blockchain, with full adult consent, in an LBGQT+ Metaverse environment free of harassment respecting personal-space boundaries appear to be right around the corner. The Green Hydrogen economy is starting to take off. We are going to have a woman on the moon and perhaps space-cities and moon-units and daily space shuttle lunar transport for the average family of four. We are rolling out EV charging stations nationwide and converting our fleets to electric and sustainable energy. This in turn will mean that more and more Americans can enjoy the freedom of movement we have always so valuably cherished without the price of more needless energy wars in the Balkans, Iran, or Syria we can no longer afford to put on the nation’s already maxed-out credit card.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is hovering around 35,000 which is historic. It seems like just yesterday Nixon was boasting of it at 1000. We laughed at the author who wrote about Dow 30k just a few years ago. But to the average American family, this means little. It means the big Wall Street banks and investment firms, with their ETF’s and safe, reliable financial products which tie up your money for 10 years with decent ROI compared to the S&P over a similar stretch of quarters are doing very well but the face of Main Street continues to feature Mom & Pop’s replaced by Fortune 500 corporations as mall space and commercial real estate rebounded from the Great Recession of 2009 through the pandemic into the Great Resignation; even as those stalwart mall-anchor corner-stores Macy’s and Sear’s floundered or went bankrupt and were bought out by Big Brother Holding Companies, in some cases tied to (toxic) Chinese real-estate investment buy-out groups. And so, overgrown with weeds, more and more highway stripmalls turn to the easy cash of Asian American Hui ‘banks’ (some with overseas mafia or Triad origins) and nail salons and happy-ending massage parlors. Which should be recognized as significant contributors to the American Dream and part of a non-corporate, once blackmarket economy with more in common with community investment banks than Big Wall Street firms. But which, while they shouldn’t necessarily be taxed and regulated and policed (any more so than they already are, if there are already understood agreements with the local regular police with kickbacks or freebies as a form of mafia-insurance) they should be viewed as being a lil dangerous in the same manner Vegas Shylock mafia-enforcer collectors or AmEx, MasterCard or other quick-credit lenders are; payday loan operators, so-called NINJA subprime Millenial Yuppie home-flipper Miami Beach condo-porn development loan-approvers. Let the buyer beware.
And, of course, with the malaise and the breakdown of the traditional values come Crystal Meth Palaces, often in the woods, off the beaten path, sometimes in RVs in places like North Carolina with already depressed economies. And homeless teens living in derelict mall space. The tax base for what were once suburban communities, lacking the faith centers of both urban and countrified living zones, erodes and with it, the American Dream is erased and vanishes back into the ether like the crackpipe dreams of the Fenty Meth production sites. These then get associated with so-called ‘white’ sex slavery, for both girls and boys, getting pimped while living under bridges in cardboard boxes. But often with the latest tech gadgets, video games or VR headsets at their disposal, easy cash spent on stolen goods. And of course, vaping the product which is bought and sold along with their young asses.
Is the answer to the malaise more reliance on Big Coal or OPEC+ with Russia threatening its sovereign neighbors in the Balkans and beyond? Is the answer more talk radio commentators intent on spreading misinformation and lies in a revolving-door which increases their fame and popularity leading to ever greater demographic-rating leading to larger and larger bonus-pay on par with Wall Street CEO’s and our nation’s finest athletes? There are no easy answers. If we continue to make the same mistakes we may very well find we end up with the same tragic costs and someday it might be too much for the government alone to bear. Privatization, the goal of those same greedy bastard Wall Street firms and the Mitt Romney’s of the world, vulture capitalists, might start to look like a reasonable alternative.