U.S. economy running on fumes

The hallucinatory economy of the United States, based on the “service” industry and consumption of salad shooters, is starting to drag. Seems the absence of cheap oil, along with the closely related inability to use our homes as automatic teller machines, removes the grease from the skids. The associated friction has the Dow doing its best impression of a man falling down the stairs, lurching and spinning and almost recovering before he falls headlong into the abyss of the black widow-infested cellar he couldn’t even imagine except for the old stories about the previous Great Depression.

Those were the good old days.
Or so it will seem in a few short years: We recovered from the first Great Depression on the slippery slope of cheap oil. Now that we’ve burned the cheap oil and mortgaged the country’s future, reality is bitch-slapping us in the collective face.
Consider these headlines from earlier this week:
Producer Prices in U.S. Rise at More Than Double Pace Economists Estimated
Consumer Confidence in U.S. Declines to a Five-Year Low as Economy Cools
Bernanke Fails to Lower Rates for Most Americans in Push for Easier Credit
U.S. States May Seek Congress’s Aid as Debt Costs Rise on Subprime Fallout
Goldman, Lehman May Discover They Haven’t Dodged Subprime Losses Just Yet
Home Foreclosures in U.S. Surged 90% in January After Mortgage Rates Reset

The feds are providing the type of support I’ve come to expect. Facing the collapse of civilization and the extinction of our species, the remaining viable candidates for the nation’s highest office are focusing laser-like on cutting taxes and reinvigorating dying industries that have no future. The federal government’s complete unwillingness to deal with the tsunami of economic news, from home foreclosures to runaway inflation and supply disruptions in gasoline, is truly pathetic. On the other hand, perhaps TPTB understand that, soon enough, their ability to deal with economic issues will resemble screen doors on a submarine. Once they reach that conclusion, it’s easy to imagine they’ll save the lifeboats for themselves.
Meanwhile, the lamestream media continue to promote denial. Consider this exchange between yours truly and the Arizona Republic, Phoenix’s big neo-conservative daily newspaper:
Step 1: I submit a letter to the editor in response to an article about climate change. I suggest we maintain existing wilderness areas, and even add a few more, as refuges for the handful of species we haven’t yet driven to extinction.
Step 2: Editor loves the letter, promises to run it this week, and asks me to submit a piece for this Sunday’s “Viewpoints” section. The invited piece would provide a primer of an important topic, along with mini-reviews of five books on the subject. His exact request: “Would you be open to recommended [sic] your five favorite books on the environment, or global warming, or wilderness, or a topic you’d like to expose our readers to?”
Step 3: I respond immediately with an idea (and you can guess what I’d like to write about), including this line: “I think peak oil is the most important and most overlooked topic in the country today.” Thanking him for the invitation, I eagerly await his response.
Step 4: Editor goes into hiding.
Denial runs deep in the Empire.
The Nietzschean paradox comes to mind: There are those who know, and those who will never know, so why bother? Apparently this particular editor of the Republic will never know. Alas, it’s not called the Arizona Republican for nothing.
If only I had free will, I’d stop reading the headlines. But the printing presses will stop running soon enough, at which point I’ll have to stop complaining about the media, the politicians, and the corporations that run them both. In the meantime, good luck to all of us as we stumble into the basement of Empire. May it be a vault of hope, rather than a cellar of despair.

Comments 1

  • A quick check of Dr. McPherson’s C.V. reveals him to be a professor in the “hard sciences” rather than the economist a friend had told he was. What a relief. I was afraid I’d found an economist with a keen sense of humor. That truly would have been a harbinger of the “end of the world”. Regardless, his writing style is most entertaining and his view of the realities of increasingly obvious economic problem of major proportions was right on the money. If it’s truly dark in that cellar we’re headed for, at least we’ll enjoy some spirited and entertaining discussions with McPherson. Good stuff!