From a reader:
Our community’s position/predicament and then my question….
I’m a 65 yr. older guy (a former teacher) who’s take on the economic recovery is tempered by both optimism and years of patience.
My wife and I, both empty nesters, live in a small community of about 10,000.
The economic “bail-outs” were/are intended to have an eventual trickle down flow of monies and confidence to the people.
It is very difficult for my wife and I and many of our close blue-collar friends (NOT rich/wealthy/well-to-do people) to believe or convince ourselves that a total or even meaningful recovery will happen soon, since the mass economic downturns that we all find ourselves sharing is many years in the making.
Yet, it seems as if a large number of folks expect miracles in the short to medium term.
Most of us still have work, which runs the gambit of part-time restaurant workers (me) to office workers, struggling small business owners, truck and cab drivers, and $16/hr. chefs and $10/hr. (plus tips) waitresses.
Will patience and optimism eventually prevail to help guide us into a better future as envisioned by our new administration?
This is an excellent question and one that I’m sure everyone has thought about at one point or another the past couple of years. And my answer is complicated so here goes…
We are facing a paradigm shift, not just in how our countrymen have lived in the last century, but one on a much deeper level. Reality tells us there are limited resources – current research shows it literally would take one and a half earths to sustain the lifestyles we have become accustomed to. If one takes into account the loss of jobs to China and the restructuring of how we do business that started to happen 30 or more years ago, we can see a flaw in the logic of our politicians at the time, who may have thought they were positioning us to be the bosses and intellectual captains of industry of the world. However, as we know no-one country can guarantee this to all of its people, we all have different gifts and to rely on an economy where we come up with the ideas and have other people produce them may have seemed like a good idea when the dot-com economy was booming. However we aren’t all meant to be inventors or captains of industry, even on a small scale.
We championed this new Skymall (the internet), however that’s really all it has amounted to in terms of dollars and sense. If anything it has caused a horrible spiral of deflation where people (in order to get the internet going) do more work and often for free in order to compete. People also take what used to be paid for – the very intellectual property that was supposed to be the back bone of this new economy. We don’t pay for music, films, ideas (I blog for free and many others who would probably be publishing books, instead now put their work out for no money). The good side of this is it broke down the very narrow gates and allowed each individual to play the role of gatekeeper.
However, it has literally broken the back of the middle-class people which has always relied on being paid for services rendered. For example this person is a retired teacher, perhaps instead of waiting tables this person could have tutored students part-time – they would have made better money, and it would have been less taxing physically, but because their neighbor the journalist no longer works for the paper (you can get all that news stuff on-line for free), the journalist can’t afford a tutor, let alone her mortgage. And the lawyer who would have made a comfortable living doing basic services like drawing up wills – well, there is Legal Zoom for that. The musician who goes on the road can no longer make money as people aren’t coming out (sales in this industry are down about a third from a couple of years ago). And all the major labels have collapsed, they don’t actually offer people money anymore to do deals (from the people I know who have been given offers). They also have no real foothold or power to distribute and radio’s back has been broken, first with the inception of Clear Channel which tried to control everything in old-fashioned Robber Barron monopoly style – this backfired due to XM and the internet and so on and so forth. The domino effect has been enormous.
All this is actually because after the rush into this new technology (the internet) and the ridiculously over-bloated expectations that came with it, “the bubble” as it was called on Wall Street, behind it all was a cold beast – a new paradigm we all rushed into without sorting out first. We are currently in the wild west without a Sheriff and while people have tried to “monetize” the internet, those attempts have been far too late and far too lame so far. It’s also pretty hard to monetize something when people have gotten used to getting that service or product for free and we are in a downward spiral of deflation.
Here’s the thing though, the internet does have amazing potential – the problem was, we rushed after this future and then were sent back 5 steps to the old economy we’d had during the Cold War, and all the advances were frozen – no one stepped forward to regulate or help organize this new economic world mall. Only those that followed a relatively conventional version of the new paradigm thrived, retails, wholesalers, people who already had built-in systems to deal with what this was – a new way to sell stuff or E-Bay which was based on the old paradigm of the auction.
Problem is all those who controlled intellectual property blew it off, the publishers, music industry, the film/TV industry. Instead of embracing MP3s when they first came out, and figuring out how to monetize this technology and get it under control, they ignored it. Instead of newspapers like the LA Times figuring out how to get online subscriptions up and expanding their staffs to check out stories on the internet, perhaps show that they had something real to offer and respond to or find a new way to do their job like focusing on more in depth reportage, stuff you can’t easily find online or some other new niche, they too ignored it until they were (and are) being replaced by it.
You get the picture.
And when you have one government (the Clinton Administration) setting our country up to be the purveyors of content, invention and intellectual property (which has its own set of problems like this is not for everyone just because they were born in the USA and limiting people’s options is always stupid) we dipped our toe in the water and got scared and ran back to our towels on the beach.
All of this, shipping jobs overseas, not controlling this new economic paradigm, burying our head in the sand (which is currently being done right now on the stock market, by the way, just as it was during the 90s so look for another rectification there) all leads to no jobs and deflation. And to answer the age-old debate, which is worse inflation or deflation? Hands down, deflation. Because deflation is what undeveloped nations deal with. People working their butts off for no money and not being able to pay anyone else for their work. That’s a lot worse than everyone’s salary and housing steadily going up 5% or whatever.
I know out of control inflation is also horrible, however, the course we are on is deflation. Meaning we are going to have to downsize our lives, we are going to have to stop living in this over-bloated consumerist way. We are going to learn to be happy with the little things and count our blessings and watch our money. It’s not fun, but we put ourselves in this position by being greedy, shortsighted and self-centered (I’m not talking about the average person, I’m talking about those who had the power to do the right thing but didn’t) and now we are all suffering for it.
I remember the first time I logged onto the internet in 1994. It was still very unorganized and nothing like it is now. I felt this very cold chaos on the other end, and I stayed away from it for a long time after that because it felt very creepy to me. I think I was picking up on all that would be lost as a result of it and all that would change. I’m not saying the internet is bad, in fact I love it now that it is more organized. But I am saying that we rushed in where we should have tread lightly and had a battle plan. I just don’t think we knew what we were unleashing here and it will take us a long time to figure this new business paradigm out, at least for the remainder of Pluto being in Capricorn, until around 2024. This is going to be a long painful process. I’m not saying everything will be horrible it will just be a very unstable financial period, especially for big business which unfortunately has been ruling the world for the past several decades if not more.
If we want to make things better sooner, the best way to do so would be to break up the big corporations and look for solutions via regulation, to make sure people get paid fairly for whatever they contribute, but the likelihood of this happening is not great right now. I think Obama is keeping things status quo which is better than letting everything plunge into a dark abyss. I see him as a pilot using all his might to keep the airplane on course through a terrible storm, but even after he lands the plane this situation or storm will still be going on and it is imperative that whoever is elected next has a clear plane to get above the clouds and not be talked down into that storm by anyone, no matter how powerful.
Obama is pretty much what I first felt about him. I wish he could and would (or will) surprise us with living up to his greater nature instead of letting fear, power and insecurity keep him in a janitorial position rather than in a leadership role. He certainly has the intellect and capacity to be great. But my fear (which is why I voted for Hilary in the primary – probably couldn’t tell that from my blog) was that he is too reasonable and we are not in reasonable times. Sometimes we must take a stand, a strong one and take the heat that goes with it. Sometimes we are forced to fight and be strong when protecting those who can not protect themselves. In my opinion this is the main job of being president – to protect the people from those who would exploit or hurt them – that means all people, the rich, the poor, the religious, the atheists, the jerks, the saints, the sinners.
Our country is a melting pot for all human beings of the world, a place were we are all guaranteed freedoms that have been slowly whittled away by that wealthy one percent – who by the way are doing just great, unlike the rest of us.
And so to answer the question more directly, the only way we can truly get out of this is to face reality, tighten our belt, and count our blessings. Being positive, thinking positive and connecting to one’s higher power are excellent personal ways to get through this and of course being kind to others will help as well.
We will actually be OK, it’s just going to take a lot of people doing a lot of thinking and inventing and putting plans into action with the help of visionaries and those who would back visionaries in their plans. I actually believe this is the lesser version of that which we had sown. And I believe we will get it together because I do believe that the vast majority of human beings are truly good even if they don’t always do the right thing.
I believe we are all divine and have tremendous untapped power. If we tap into it to help, even in the smallest of ways, we will lift ourselves to a better place than we were before all this began.