Friday, November 23, 2012

Hard times ahead

Sabbath eve, November 23, 2012

We’re saved! Or so says the TV anchor. Americans flocked to Wal-Mart and other similar stores on black Friday to buy and haul away semi-disposable plastic items by the cartful. If only it were so easy.

Meanwhile, a front passed through, dry again, the third in succession to defy prognoses of rain. We’re not terribly dry. Yet. But a look at the national drought monitor map reveals something disconcerting. Over 60% of the country is in some stage of drought, and among the driest regions are the Midwest states of Kansas and Nebraska, where significant amounts of grains for human consumption happen to be grown. Don’t ask me how I know, because I can’t tell you. I feel it in the air. We’re headed back into severe drought.

The Eagle Ford shale play just south of my home continues full-bore, pumping money into the local economy, but a surprisingly large number of people seem not to enjoy the benefits of this activity. It’s as though those that have lease and royalty money are fearful and socking away what they have rather than investing into businesses close to home. The money to drill and produce these wells comes from somewhere else; the money produced by these wells goes back where it came from.

Furthermore, the cost of producing shale oil is high, and activity will likely come to a halt should oil fall below $80/barrel, while anything above $80 oil seems to kill the rest of the country’s economy. We succeed at the failure of others, or visa-versa.

I’ve heard the depression of the 30’s described a want in a time of plenty. Version 2.0 will be more like want in a time of scarcity. (The words are not original, but I don’t know who coined the phrase.) Either you’ll have worthless money and expensive goods, or cheap goods and no money to buy them.

Tensions continue to brew worldwide. Supposed fixes to the economy address symptoms while ignoring the underlying disease. It took thirty years of theft and fraud to get where we are; those that committed these heinous acts remain in power. There will be no solution until these grievances are addressed, and even then the damage done is irreparable.

It’s easy to call for a debt jubilee until you consider that each unpaid debt has at least one counterparty, and many holding the notes are not those responsible for the fraud, but instead are pensioners and innocent investors that socked away life savings into what they thought were safe investments for retirement years. When it comes down to it, even deposits in banks will be in jeopardy once the daisy chain begins to fail.

I don’t know exactly how this mess ends, but I can tell you we have fixed nothing and that we remain in critically dangerous territory on so many fronts it’s hard to keep up.

I’d say plant a garden, but it may be too late for that. Perhaps you’d be better off stocking a panty with canned and dried goods. While you’re at it, get to know your neighbor.

Hard times lie ahead.

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