Monday, October 28, 2013

Life After Extend and Pretend

"...Shares crash, hopes are dashed.
People forget. Forget they're hiding.
Behind an eminence front - it's a put on..."
- Townshend/The Who

Right now, everyone is pretending. There are those who are pretending that this is all real, and know that they are just pretending. Then there are those who are pretending but have no fucking clue that they are pretending. Either way, everyone is pretending...

Pretending to Know the Impossible
The signs of decay are all around us and growing with each passing day. Only a blind man or full fledged delusional can't see them. After the fact, everyone will say that they knew "something was wrong". Yet, few people want to admit that the status quo will end during their lifetime because when it goes, it will take with it most of the toys, shopping sprees, and comfort-seeking lifestyle that they have grown addicted to. The implicit assumption of this corrupt era is that somehow printing money and borrowing future generations into oblivion will sustain the shopping spree until the economy floats back from China. Even at this late juncture the parlour game of the day is to discuss how all of this "will end", like it's some sort of secret. Unfortunately, this isn't a fucking mystery novel. The chances that this won't all end in violent economic collapse is the limit approaching zero. Pretending to know the impossible is the order of the day for the masses at large and our dunced frat-boy thought dealers.

The Next Contestant on the Price is Right...
The game show hosts in leadership can't even contemplate the end of status quo. Because, they have no Plan B in case the status quo fails. They have no fucking Plan "A", so we know for sure they have no Plan "B". The rudest awakening the masses will face on the other side of the reset is realizing that the thought dealers who got us into this fiasco, can't possibly get us out of it. The underwear will be mighty stained when the masses at large confront the fact that game show hosts are not real leaders.

Anyone who is willing to contemplate life after the "reset", has some idea in mind for what should happen to rebuild a more sustainable way of life. Many are libertarians who look forward to simplifying and downsizing the apparatus of government. If they are honest, they will realize that government has to be downsized in every direction, mostly towards the socioeconomic top who mooch not just off of government but the rest of society, like a vampire squid. Most working people at the bottom get little or nothing from government and contribute far more to society than they get back. 

Others who acknowledge the inevitable reset, are likely mostly communist. To them, globalization is an indictment of capitalism and was an inevitable bad ending to an inherently exploitative system. 

Personally, I see both sides of these philosophies, but I refuse to be dogmatic. Libertarians are right to want to downsize and simplify. Communists are right to want to level the playing field. As always the truth lies somewhere in between these two polar opposite ideologies. The best economy in my opinion will pay a living wage, reward hard work, protect the environment, protect people from abject poverty, and be sustainable for future generations. Aircraft carriers, billionaires, Tech IPOs, space programs, Mega-yachts, McMansions and shopping sprees on Thanksgiving Day are all distant non-priorities.

Democratize the Economy - Supply is Demand
If nothing else, this entire era has proven that there is no point in having a democratic political system if the economy itself and all of its wealth is massively concentrated in the hands of a fraction of the population. Therefore, the economy itself needs to be democratized and decentralized from large multinationals back to smaller businesses led by individual entrepreneurs who have a meaningful stake in the growth of the economy. Via securitization, Wall Street's wealth concentration machine has systematically concentrated the wealth of the economy in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals. At the same time, it has given rise to the oligopolistic economy in which a small number of massive corporations have outsized influence over their respective markets. Contrary to modern economy theory, economies of scale haven't led to greater overall wealth, scale  has merely concentrated wealth in fewer hands, leading to inevitable demand stagnation. Most working people have zero economic stake in the growth of the economy beyond having access to an ever-dwindling array of low paying low-skill jobs. Those (libertarians) who  believe in "Say's" law (Supply is Demand), should be the first to acknowledge that turning the average wage earner into a low paid robot with no vested stake or upside in their own employer, was always going to lead to economic stagnation. And then of course there is the outsized influence of money in politics again concentrated in the hands of a few puppet masters, which I've railed about at length elsewhere. The bottom line is Wall Street needs to be extensively neutered. Its benefits to broader society have been vastly exaggerated - a lesson that was ignored after 2008. Suffice to say, this next lesson will be more convincing.

Keep Your Government Hands Off Of My Medicare
The worst part of this fiasco, is that this forward thinking is really just a parlour game right now, because literally every public debate going on now is premised upon Extend and Pretend. We can't rebuild an economy free of debt, because the debt-junkies at large can't admit that debt is the fundamental problem. Debt is the only thing keeping Extend and Pretend working, so the comfort seeking majority can't possibly confront an end to borrowing. Sure, they all want to end someone else's favourite programs, but when it comes to their own programs, then it's "keep your government hands off of my Medicare !".

The Jobless Economy
Likewise we can't solve the root cause of this jobless economy, because the establishment at large doesn't want to admit that trade with countries that have no labour or environmental standard is the root cause of the problem. After all, if we put up trade barriers and paid a fair wage again, there would be no sale in aisle four of Walmart anymore. So instead, we all just stand around every month wondering why there are no fucking jobs. "Has anyone seen the jobs? They were just here. They must be around here somewhere - I just saw them...".

Assumptions Make An Ass Out of You And Me
The fact is that Extend and Pretend has distorted every single decision and every policy being made right now. The presumed indefinite sustainability of the status quo is the default assumption. This fundamentally flawed and asinine assumption is baked into every single conversation, TV "News" program and small talk debate going on right now. 

Pretending is for Kids
I don't like pretending. It's a game for children, the mentally infirm, the comfortably numb, or combination thereof. For anyone who doesn't mind a little crunch in their peanut butter, this has been a mind-numbingly excruciating, phony and pointless way of life. A fucking rat race to nowhere. The sad thing is that for many people, this is all they know and all they want to know. They may be pretending, but they like pretending. Phony right up until the last fucking minute. Pathetic. For those of us who are pretending and realize it, then we are just waiting for that fateful day when all of this collapses like a cheap tent. The hardest part is knowing that we can't possibly get to something better until this all ends. It will be a more difficult way of life for most, we know that. But it will be real and hold the possibility of long-term sustainability.

Bring on reality. Come what may...