Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Signs, Portents, and Triggers

Over at Free Thinker, Gay_Cynic talks about the fact that no economy, even one as vast as California's, is immune from collapse if it actively tries to destroy its underpinnings.  One could extrapolate his point to include entire countries, including our own.  One phrase that stood out to me was:

The lights will probably stay on. But I wouldn't give odds against the inner cities burning again as the benefit checks start bouncing, particularly if it's about the time that Officer Friendly's check begins bouncing.

President Roosevelt's New Deal and President Johnson's Great Society programs were put in place to put a hard floor on how low Americans could be forced to live.  Problem is, some looked at that hard floor as a pretty comfortable place, maybe not luxurious, but not too shabby.  Since the inception of these programs, they have been sitting on their butts while the rest of us shovel more and more money in their direction.  I'm not talking about the honest person or family that's run into hard times and is trying to survive until things get better.  I'm talking about the people who have always been on public assistance of one form or another, and have no motivation to do anything that will make that assistance unnecessary.
  • Don't want to pay for your own housing?  There's a program for that.
  • Want to spend your grocery money on cigarettes and booze, but still have your kids fed?  There's a program for that.
  • Don't want to get a job, no matter how hard or dirty, to keep food on the table?  There's a program for that.
  • Don't want to be responsible for your own health care costs, and want to have the taxpayer pay for them?  There's a program for that.
  • Don't feel like earning an honest living, especially if you've been injured or sick enough to not do the work you want to do?  There's a program for that.
Again, this isn't directed at people who want to provide for themselves but for some reason can't for a limited amount of time.  It also doesn't apply to those who are truly disabled to the point that they cannot provide some parts of their own upkeep.  This is for the grasshoppers who want to go fishing and take naps while the rest of us ants toil away.

If you've read Huxley's "Brave New World", you've heard of the drug Soma.  This was a government mandated sedative/mood enhancer that citizens were given to keep them and society as a whole on an even keel and under government control.  I've really come to believe that the programs instituted by these two presidents, however good-hearted their intentions were at the time, have become the Soma the government uses to keep a lid on the lower classes of our country.  You won't get lower class people asking the hard questions and making the hard decisions if you keep that IV drip of money going at a steady pace.

GC hits on the head when he posits that our cities will burn when the welfare checks and food stamps stop coming.   When faced with the reality that free money isn't going to keep rolling in, and that they'll have to take whatever employment they can find to keep a roof over their head and food in their mouths, I honestly expect that a majority of the people who have become wholly dependent on the rest of us to provide for them will lose all semblance of self-control.

A few years ago, we had a major wind storm come though Louisville.  It knocked out power to most of the city for a few days.  I was listening to the local AM news station on day 2 when they had a call-in show to see how people were handling the heat and the blackout.  My rough guess is that about half of the callers complained about how they couldn't get access to their welfare benefits and how they were considering coming across town to 'get what was coming to them' from the more affluent sections of town.  There were, in fact, a couple of instances where several stores were robbed, either at gunpoint or while closed due to not having power, by people who turned out to have driven the 20 or 30 miles to get to them from their homes.  Interestingly, these crimes did not seem to include stealing the necessities of life, such as food, diapers, or medicine, but the taking of money, electronics, alcohol, or tobacco. 

Now imagine if instead of a 4 to 7 day power outage, these people were faced with two or three weeks without their economic Soma, with no end in sight.  Their case workers can't help them because there's no money.  Non-governmental charities are tapped out because of the massive demand for their services.  What are they going to do?

Over at the Survival Blog, JWR has discussed on several occasions his expectations that such circumstances will cause the creation of what he calls a "Golden Horde".  Basically, a large mass of people who believe that society owes them a living, will become an army of looters when that living does not materialized or is withdrawn.  I believe that when the government stops sending the checks, first the inner cities will burn, then the suburbs will be swamped with people looking for whatever they can grab. 

I look at the economic news, mainly about the government's debt and the current economic conditions, and I worry.  I worry because I am an ant who is responsible for where the next meal comes from.  I worry because even through I live in a small, middle-class neighborhood, I'm right next to the high-end neighborhoods the grasshoppers will be coming to loot.  But mostly I worry that my children will have to witness the unraveling of a once great country because their forebears didn't have the guts to tell grasshoppers that those who do not work do not eat.

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