Conservatives have a legitimate gripe about America's excessive
"commitments and obligations" to "unfunded liabilities"
but their focus on Medicare and social security misses the larger point: our
disastrous commitment to the current national lifestyle, in particular
suburban sprawl and everything it entails.
This point came across vividly in a video recently released by
the usually level-headed David McAlvaney titled "The Fuse Is Lit Part 3 - an American
it, the smooth and articulate McAlvaney is shown behind the wheel of his SUV
tooling across the picturesque small town in Colorado where he lives
inveighing against the public that elects politicians who deliver the voters
cash benefits. This dynamic is surely deadly, and implies Democracy's tragic
self-limiting nature. But McAlvaney suggests if we could come to grips with
the fiscal quandary of "entitlement" spending, American life would
just rock on.
This is plainly not so, but it also reveals the tragic
shortsightedness of even thoughtful conservatives - and there are some out
there, indeed we need them, indeed one of the political tragedies of recent
American history is the surrender of conservatism to religious hysterics,
professional ignoramuses, military chauvinists, and flat-earthers. A true
conservative would recognize the land development pattern of the millennial
USA as a consequence of tragic collective choices, a living arrangement with
no future, a trap every bit as lethal as Medicare and social security.
The catch is, we're not going to unbuild suburbia and all its
accessories. There's no way to legislate it away. We're stuck with it. The
suburban entitlement will fail even more dramatically than the social
entitlements that conservatives grouse about because there's no way to
"print" cheap oil or well-paid livelihoods the way you can monetize
public debt to support social spending. You can "print" mortgages,
of course, for people with little chance of paying them down, but that only
leads to the financial hostage racket called too-big-to-fail banking, and we
know where that's gotten us.
Around the Internet, in the vale of financial podcasting, you
can hear voices cheerleading the "return" of the house-building
industry. Is it a good thing that real estate speculators are banging up yet
more housing subdivisions in the hills around San Diego? I can tell you why
they are doing it: because that is the only way they know how to build
anything in California. They're stuck in the habits and
practices of the 20th century, building more car dependent stuff for a
society that is already dying a slow death from living that way.
In the collapse of all these rackets,
bad habits, and brain-dead behaviors that it sure to come, historians will
have a hard time sorting out what exactly brought down the empire. The big
element that will not be so visible is the poverty of imagination that set
the tone for it - especially among public figures and spokespeople who should
have seen and articulated these relationships, and extra-especially among
This happens to be the day when the
articulator-in-chief gets his official new lease in office. Genial figure
that he is, I don't think President Obama has a clue where all this is
heading. I suppose he'll argue for stricter gun laws today, but that horse is
already so far out of the barn it's in the next county. We don't seem to realize
that America is now fully armed. Additional firearms are just superfluous at
this point. And to some degree the people armed themselves in direct
consequence as their government tinkered with due process, and sent drone
aircraft into the American skies, and commenced computer hacking operations
over every business transaction in the system, and voided the rule-of-law
against criminal uber-bankers who creamed off the nation's wealth while
holding the economy hostage. Since the armed public is not ready to mount an
insurrection against this impudence, the dangerous tension is expressed in
morbid and tragic episodes of mass shootings by maniacs against the innocent.
What I want to know: where is the lone swindled rancher who waits to
bushwhack Jon Corzine of MF Global in the parking lots of Easthampton, since
the law won't touch him?
I suppose we'll hear about immigration
reform today. It will surely be some cockamamie proposal to legitimize the
"undocumented" by shanghaiing them into the military (think:
mercenaries), and otherwise keeping the welcome mat down for more newcomers
waiting politely at the front door. This is insane, of course. The USA needs
to reduce its population consistent with the tremendous economic contraction
underway world-wide. There are too many people for the world to support and
shifting them into this country from regions more rapidly affected by
contraction is just dumb -- but we have our cultural myths to defend... and
voting blocs to appease.
It seems obvious to me that in the,
say, four years ahead (one presidential term), we will not come to grips with
any of the forces of reality bearing down on us. We will lose control of the
money system; we'll go broke trying to keep up our oil supplies; the American
public will get more economically desperate and angry; and pretty soon the
practical matters of daily life will become rather harsh. And at that point
faith in the system finally evaporates and people fight over the table scraps
of a failed polity.
Many of us around the country are
hoping for a better outcome in the successful downscaling and re-localizing
of American life, but those questions are just not in the arena. Hence, the
arena itself will probably have to topple and crash before life is
reorganized outside of where it used to stand.