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A bankrupt nation?

Posted by Lissa on December 17, 2008

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began –
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mice,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire –
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

That’s from a Maggie Gallagher article this morning.  Apparently I missed news about the Madoff Ponzi scheme — turns out $50 billion dollars never really existed.  Great.  Well, can’t be that bad, can it?

Oh wait:

Federal obligations now exceed the collective net worth of all Americans, according to the New York-based Peter G. Peterson Foundation.  [snip] . . . The foundation’s grim calculations are based on Sept. 30 consolidated federal statements, which showed that Americans’ total household net worth, diminished by falling stock prices and home equity, is $56.5 trillion. But rising costs for unfunded social programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security increased to $56.4 trillion – and that was before the more recent stock market crash, $700 billion bank bailout, and monster federal deficits chalked up in October and November.

I like to think this is too simplistic a calculation.  Net worth does not reflect earning potential nor human capital, only the current balance sheet of the household; coming off years of of living beyond our means, it’s not surprising those balance sheets are rather red.  America is still an economic powerhouse because, even with retarded and wasteful government bailouts designed to spare a lucky few while prolonging the economic pain of everyone else, more people than not believe in The American Dream: Get educated.  Get a job.  Get married.  Get a family.  As long as we ordinary folks keep behaving like responsible, sentient beings, everything will be okay.

 . . . won’t it?

UPDATE: SnarkyBytes linked.  Thanks!

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2 Responses to “A bankrupt nation?”

  1. [...] morning she has a few thoughts about some PSH articles on the US [...]

  2. Brad K said

    Ever read Maureen F. McHugh’s “China Mountain Zhang”? The novel details an architect in the future, after the US goes bankrupt and Communist China buy it (us).

    Or Casaubon’s Book (http://www.sharonastyk.com) or My Modern Country Home (http://mymoderncountryhome.blogspot.com/) are just two “Peak Oil” people convinced that the average American family won’t be able to pay their utility bill by 2012. Both are articulate, and firmly believe this isn’t just a recession, but a shift in the concept of prosperity in American and the world. Their message is to prepare to return to a life with almost no private transportation or electricity. Walking, wood stoves, and root cellars will be what keeps your family alive.

    There are a lot of doomsayers about the coming couple of years. As the white-haired guy said in the Bourne Ultimatum, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”

    We have stores going out of business here, locally. My neighbor’s son worked for years at the local Ford dealer – and isn’t selling cars. We seem to be behind the curve of impact here in central northern Oklahoma, but times seem to be changing for a lot of people.

    I note that at Wal-Mart, the store brand Beanee Weanee has gone from 58 cents for a short can to 78 cents in eight months. A gallon of salad oil (soybean oil) has gone from $4 something to $7.83. This, months after the gas prices fell, and grain commodity prices fell. A local spot with “best fried chicken” in the area, has seen business (daily sales) fall off by over half.

    Bless us, every one.

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