Socio-economic decay

(Survival manual/1. Disaster/Socio-economic decay)

Symp·tom: –noun: 1. any phenomenon or circumstance accompanying something and serving as evidence of it. 2. Pathology . a phenomenon that arises from and accompanies a particular disease or disorder and serves as an indication of it.)

 The sign at left is perversely interesting, offering us hope that somehow we can fight the inevitable coming changes by demonstrating or voting for ‘the right congressional or presidential leadership’. But suppose the discussion about national, social and economic decay isn’t about your wishes or my dreams, and isn’t even about America. Looking down from above, seeing the world and times passage from a bird’s-eye view, we might find that, we in the United States and the Western world, are more like a natural resource that has been harvested. “Global wealth” having developed and mined the US population and Japanese work ethic recently moved on to new, more profitable “natural resources”. They’ll develop China, India, and SE Asia, making a huge profit from the development and industrialization of those countries, from the production and sale of all the convenient and enjoyable things that made North America and Japan great — in our past heyday. Eventually, these countries will reach their growth climax and the moneyed powers will move again into fresh, undeveloped resources (populace’s), maybe to South and Central America, maybe Africa.
What remains behind (you, me, our neighborhoods, and cities) are of little consequence to those who control great wealth and develop personal and family power. The previous great nations will need to economically crash (become fallow fields for a few decades), while relearning how to live in relative poverty, while our income expectations are gradually reduced, until we become competitive and frugal again; meanwhile, our infrastructure must degenerate to a point that there is need and demand for a widespread structural over haul.
In maybe a hundred years, maybe 200, or even 400 years,  when the economic wheel has turned full circle, when we have developed true needs, our descendants will see their “Renaissance”.

Until then, your local and state leadership, even our federal elected government has little lasting control over the flux and flow of what is occurring on a global scale.

We can fight our wars for political-industrial-resource-economic positioning, but the money flow and the factories have already left. We are all use to the largess of our incomes and the good life to make the long-term personal and broad economic readjustments; we can however, pretend to bring change with social programs. We are too many people expecting and demanding to receive government subsidies; we have too many tax laws rewarding or punishing groups who are or are not friends of the current political establishment. We have a medical establishment relentlessly sued for every ‘malpractice’ (did you ever get sued for goofing up on your job? Why not?) At the same time, hospitals charge patients and their insurance companies $20+ for a gallon of distilled water, which cost 98 cents at the grocery store, and from which maybe only a pint of that water was used (by the paying patient).

Everyone knows that ‘things’ aren’t right, that someone should give up their advantage — as long as that someone isn’t you. In this manner of thought and action we’ll continue to overgraze the commons, until there is no commons for our combined good, by then all will suffer.
We, the Western nations, the Western Christian culture have simply reached the climax of our civilization, which will now slowly decay/decline. It’s not your fault, nor mine, it’s not the fault of our government, at any level.
It’s nature’s way.
Humans are wired for behavior that replays in rhyme, the same story, told again, and again, across the ages. What works is reused until it doesn’t work, the flow through system eventually breaks, the culture collapses  and social-economic-commodity factors move on to favor another area of the continent/globe.

What arises next will not be petrochemical based, it will not be what were use to today, the conversion will be similar to that which ushered out the ‘horse and buggy days’ of the late 1800s and brought us to the modern era of the 1920s– in the matter of  a few decades. Everything that needs to be done to get us from here, to there, will be done, just not in the order, timing, painlessness, or efficiency that we would prefer. There might occur a major dislocation along the way, something to speed along the conversion, something to reduce the population overburden…global currency collapse, a nuclear war, a few dozen global EMP pulses, a pandemic, a super volcanic eruption…

If for a few moments, we could open our eyes onto the that not so distant future, we’d find our descendants enjoying life’s happiness, as did ours in the centuries leading to us. They may not have iPads or SUVs, but where the sun shines, there is labor, love and  hope for the ‘morrow.
Time marches on.
The Earth abides.
Mr. Larry

A.  American Hellholes
Pasted: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/american-hellholes
The U.S. economy is dying and we are heading for the next Great Depression.  The talking heads in the mainstream media love to spin the economic numbers around and around and they love to make it sound like the economy is improving, but the truth is that it doesn’t take a genius to see what is happening to the U.S. economic system.  All over the nation many of our greatest cities are being slowly but surely transformed into post-apocalyptic wastelands.  All over the mid-Atlantic, all along the Gulf coast, all throughout the “rust belt” and all over the entire state of California cities that once had incredibly vibrant economies are being turned into rotting, post-industrial hellholes. In many U.S. cities, the “real” rate of unemployment is over 30 percent. There are some communities that will start depressing you almost the moment that you drive into them. It is almost as if all of the hope has been sucked right out of those communities.  If you live in one of those American hellholes you know what I am talking about.  Sadly, it is not just a few cities that are becoming hellholes.  This is happening in the east, in the west, in the north and in the south.  America is literally being transformed right in front of our eyes.

If you still live in an area of the United States that is prosperous, do not mock the cities that you are about to read about.  The cold, hard reality of the matter is that economic decline and economic despair are spreading rapidly and they will come to your area soon enough.  Right now we are still talking about
“American hellholes”, but if the long-term economic trends that are destroying this nation are not turned around eventually we will just be talking about one gigantic “American hellhole”.  In the end, no area of the country will completely escape the economic hell that is coming.

B.  So how do you know if your own city has become a hellhole?
Pasted from:  http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/you-know-that-your-city-has-become-a-hellhole-when

Well, a few potential “red flags” are posted below….
1.  You know that your city has become a hellhole when most of the street lights  get repossessed because of unpaid electric bills,
2.  when it announces that it will no longer prosecute domestic violence cases in order to save money.,
3.  when it simply stops sending out pension checks to retired workers,
4.  when it rips up asphalt roads and replaces them with gravel because gravel is cheaper to maintain,
5.  when it eliminates the entire public bus system,
6.  when nearly half of all the people living there can’t read,
7.  when one out of every ten homes sells for under $10,000,
8.  when you can literally buy a house for one dollar,
9.  when you have hundreds of people living in the tunnels underneath your streets,
10.  when three of your past five mayors have been sent to prison for corruption,
11.  when nearly  half of the public schools in the city get shut down because of a lack of money,
12.  when you have dozens of young people rampaging in the streets that are thirsty for revenge and that are armed with bats, pipes and guns,
13.  when it is considered to be one of the 10 most dangerous cities in the world,
14.  when thieves defecate in the back seat after they have broken into your car and taken your things,
15.  when prostitution and drug dealing are two of the only viable businesses that remain in the city,
16.  You know that your city has become a hellhole when the police chief announces that the police department will no longer respond to calls about burglary and identity  theft due to very deep budget cuts.

Let’s take a closer look at what is currently happening in some of the worst areas of the country….
Pasted from: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/american-hellholes

100.  Detroit, Michigan
In the city of Detroit today, there are over 33,000 abandoned houses, 70 schools are being permanently closed down, the mayor wants to bulldoze one-fourth of the city and you can literally buy a house for one dollar in the worst areas.

During the boom days of the 1950s, Detroit was a teeming metropolis of approximately 2 million people, but today the current population is less than half that.  The city of Detroit, once a shining example of middle class America, is now a rotting cesspool of economic decline and it actually saw its population decline by 25 percent during the decade that recently ended.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Detroit lost a resident every 22 minutes between the years of 2000 and 2010.

So why are people leaving Detroit so rapidly?
There simply are no jobs.

At the height of the economic downturn, the mayor of Detroit admitted that while the “official” unemployment rate in Detroit was about 27 percent, the “real” unemployment rate in his city was actually somewhere around 50 percent. Since there are not enough jobs, that also means that not enough tax money is coming in. Detroit is essentially insolvent at this point.

Detroit officials are trying to implement some austerity measures in a desperate attempt to get city finances under control. For example, the state of Michigan recently granted approval to a plan that would shut down nearly half of the public schools in Detroit.  Under the plan, 70 schools will be closed and 72 will continue operating. It has been estimated that the remaining public schools will have class sizes of up to 60 students.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing also wants to cut off 20 percent of the entire city from police and trash services in order to save money. Essentially that would mean abandoning 20 percent of the city of Detroit to the gangs and to the homeless.

[Images above: Left: One of many vacant/abandoned neighborhoods, homes being  raised and lots returned returning to fields. Right: A single example of  the many abandoned industrial and retail buildings in Detroit.]

The mayor of Detroit has also discussed a plan in which authorities would bulldoze one-fourth of the city in order to save money on services.
So with all of this going on, is Detroit a pleasant place to live at this point? No way. Today, Detroit is considered to be the third most violent city in the United States. In fact, crime has gotten so bad and the citizens are so frustrated by the lack of police assistance that they have resorted to forming their own organizations to fight back.  One group, known as the “Detroit 300”, was formed after a 90-year-old woman on Detroit’s northwest side was brutally raped in August.

If you want to see what the future of America looks like, just take a few hours and go driving through Detroit some time.  But please only do this during the day. Do not do this at night.  Detroit is not a safe place anymore, and you cannot count on the police to help you in a timely manner.

Detroit was once one of the greatest cities in the world. But today it is an absolute hellhole.

99.  Camden, New Jersey
So is there any place in America that is worse than Detroit? Well, many would nominate Camden, New Jersey. Many years ago, Camden was actually thriving and prosperous.  But today the city of Camden is known as “the second most dangerous city in America”.

In a recent article entitled “City of Ruins”, Chris Hedges did an amazing job of documenting the horrific decline of Camden.  Hedges estimates that the real rate of unemployment in Camden is somewhere around 30 to 40 percent, and he makes it sound like nobody in their right mind would want to live there  now….

Camden is where those discarded as human refuse are dumped, along with the physical refuse of postindustrial America. A sprawling sewage treatment plant on forty acres of riverfront land processes 58 million gallons of wastewater a day for Camden County. The stench of sewage lingers in the streets. There is a huge trash-burning plant that releases noxious clouds, a prison, a massive cement plant and mountains of scrap metal feeding into a giant shredder. The city is scarred with several thousand decaying abandoned row houses; the skeletal remains of windowless brick factories and gutted gas stations; overgrown vacant lots filled with garbage and old tires; neglected, weed-filled cemeteries; and  boarded-up store fronts.

Gangs have stepped into the gaping void left by industry.  In Camden today, drugs and prostitution are two of the only viable businesses left – especially for those who cannot find employment anywhere else.  The following is how Hedges describes the current state of affairs….

There are perhaps a hundred open-air drug markets, most run by gangs like the Bloods, the Latin Kings, Los Nietos and MS-13. Knots of young men in black leather jackets and baggy sweatshirts sell weed and crack to clients, many of whom drive in from the suburbs. The drug trade is one of the city’s few thriving businesses.
A weapon, police say, is never more than a few feet away, usually stashed behind a trash can, in the grass or on a porch.

But before we all start judging Camden for being such a horrible place to live, it is important to realize that this is happening in communities from coast to coast.  All over the United States industries are leaving and deep social decay is setting in.

Even the criminals in Camden are struggling.  Things have gotten so bad in Camden, New Jersey that not even the drug dealers are spending their money anymore.

So where are the police? Unfortunately, there is very little money for police.  Authorities in Camden recently decided to lay off half of the city police force. So now the gangs and the drug dealers have more room to operate.

Sadly, this is not just happening in Camden.  It is happening all over New Jersey. Of 315 municipalities the New Jersey State Police union recently surveyed, more than half indicated that they were planning to lay off police officers. So why doesn’t the state government step in and help out?

Well, the state of New Jersey is in such bad shape that they still are facing a $10 billion budget deficit for this year even after cutting a billion dollars from the education budget and laying off thousands of teachers.

New Jersey also has $46 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $65 billion in unfunded health care liabilities.  Nobody is quite sure how New Jersey is even going to come close to meeting those obligations. Meanwhile, cities like Camden are rotting a little bit more every single day.

98.  New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans had a struggling economy even before Hurricane Katrina struck back in 2005.  But that event changed everything.  It is now almost 6 years later and virtually the entire region is still a disaster zone. New Orleans permanently lost 29% of its population after Hurricane Katrina.  There are many areas of New Orleans that still look as if they have just been bombed.

21.5 percent of all houses in New Orleans, Louisiana are currently standing vacant.  Many of those homes will never be inhabited again.

What made things even worse for New Orleans (and for residents all along the Gulf coast) was the horrific BP oil spill last year.  The mainstream news does not talk about the oil spill much anymore, but those living in the area have to deal with the effects every single day.  Some of the industries in the Gulf region were really starting to recover from Hurricane Katrina but the BP oil spill put a stop to that. Before the oil spill, Louisiana produced more fish and seafood than anywhere in the United States except for Alaska.  But now the seafood industry has been absolutely devastated.  It has been estimated that the cost of the BP oil spill to the fishing industry in Louisiana alone could top 3 billion dollars. Some local shrimpers in the region are projecting that it will be about seven years before they can set to sea again.
New Orleans keeps trying to bounce back from all of these disasters, but times are tough down there.

Today, New Orleans is the 13th most violent city in America.  That is actually an improvement.  Before Katrina New Orleans had even more violent crime.
The truth is that other areas along the Gulf coast are doing a lot worse than New Orleans is doing.  A ton of big corporate money has flowed into New Orleans.  Officials are trying to clean up the city and make it a huge tourist destination once again. But in the surrounding areas things are not looking so bright.  There are areas along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the panhandle of Florida that are some of the most depressing places in the nation.

It is almost as if there are hundreds of thousands of people that time forgot.  In some rural areas along the Gulf coast the poverty is absolutely mind-blowing. There are very few jobs and there is very little hope.  Meanwhile, large numbers of people in the region continue to get sick from the toxic dispersants
used to clean up the oil spill.

Let us hope that we don’t see another major disaster in the Gulf of Mexico any time soon.  As it is, it is going to take decades for that region to fully recover.  There are a lot of really good people that live down there, and they deserve our prayers.

97. Vallejo, California (And Virtually The Rest Of The State Of California)
Almost the entire state of California is an economic disaster zone. Austerity measures are being implemented in city after city as tax revenues have nose-dived.
The following is an excerpt from a recent New York Times article that describes the brutal austerity that has been implemented in Vallejo, California….
“Vallejo is still in bankruptcy. The police force has shrunk from 153 officers to 92. Calls for any but the most serious crimes go unanswered. Residents who complain about prostitutes or vandals are told to fill out a form. Three of the city’s firehouses were closed. Last summer, a fire ravaged a house in one of the city’s better neighborhoods; one of the fire trucks came from another town, 15 miles away. Is this America’s future?”

In California, things don’t ‘look’ as bad as they do in the cities of the  older eastern and midwestern states, however, California is basically insolvent and are home to very large ethnic populations, many of whom are on government assistance.
[Image left: A middle class gated community. Sadly, that is what the future of America is going to look like.]

Public services are being slashed all over the nation due to budget crunches. Unless there is a major jobs recovery, the situation in California is going to continue to degenerate.  The truth is that the state of California needs millions and millions of new jobs just to get back to “normal”.  For example, near the end of last year it was reported that 24.3 percent of the residents of El Centro, California were unemployed.  Not only that, as of the end of last year the number of people unemployed in the state of  California was approximately equivalent to the entire populations of Nevada, New Hampshire and Vermont combined.

In Stockton, CA, with 43 police threatened to be laid off, a group of concerned residents formed an armed militia to patrol the city.
Businesses are closing in California at an astounding pace.  At one point last year it was reported that in the area around Sacramento, California there was one closed business for every six that were still open. As a result of all of this, home prices in many areas of California have completely fallen off a cliff.  For example, the average home in Merced, California has declined in value by 63 percent over the past four years. California also had more foreclosure filings that any other U.S. state in 2010.  The 546,669 total foreclosure filings during the year means that over 4 percent of all the housing units in the state of California received a foreclosure filing at some point during 2010.

Sadly, things don’t look like they are going to turn around in California any time soon.  Forbes recently compiled a list entitled “Cities Where The Economy May Get Worse”. Six of the top seven spots were held by cities in California.

California is becoming a very frightening place.  When you combine high unemployment with unchecked illegal immigration what you get is rampant poverty. Twenty percent of the residents of Los Angeles County are now receiving public aid of one form or another. In particular, the number of children that are considered to be in need of public assistance is truly scary. Incredibly, 60 percent of all the students attending California public schools now qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.

Poverty and illegal immigration have also caused a tremendous health care crisis in the state.  The hordes of illegal aliens taking advantage of “free” medical care at hospital emergency rooms have caused dozens of hospitals across the state of California to completely shut down.  As a result, the state
of California now ranks dead last out of all 50 states in the number of emergency rooms per million people.

The bozos in Sacramento keep passing hundreds of new laws in an attempt to “fix” the state, but the truth is that for the poorest residents of the state all of those new laws don’t make a shred of difference.

The following is how Victor Davis Hansen[1] describes what he saw during his recent tour of the “forgotten areas of central California”….
“Many of the rural trailer-house compounds I saw appear to the naked eye no different from what I have seen in the Third World . There is a Caribbean look to the junked cars, electric wires crisscrossing between various outbuildings, plastic tarps substituting for replacement shingles, lean-tos cobbled together as auxiliary housing, pit bulls unleashed, and geese, goats, and chickens roaming around the yards. The public hears about all sorts of tough California regulations that stymie business – rigid zoning laws, strict building codes, constant inspections – but apparently none of that applies out here. Hansen also says that he observed that people in these areas are doing whatever they can to get by….At crossroads, peddlers in a counter-California economy sell almost anything. Here is what I noticed at an intersection on the west side last week: shovels, rakes, hoes, gas pumps, lawnmowers, edgers, blowers, jackets, gloves, and caps. The merchandise was all new. I doubt whether in high-tax California sales taxes or income taxes were paid on any of these stop-and-go transactions.
In two supermarkets 50 miles apart, I was the only one in line who did not pay with a social-service plastic card (gone are the days when “food stamps” were embarrassing bulky coupons).”

Are you frightened yet?
You know what they say – “as goes California, so goes the nation”.

What is happening in California now is eventually going to come to your area. Right now California is also having a huge problem with gangs.  Gang violence in America is getting totally out of control.
According to authorities, there are now over 1 million members of criminal gangs operating inside the country, and those gangs are responsible for up to 80% of the violent crimes committed in the U.S. each year. But instead of ramping up to fight crime and fight illegal immigration, police forces all over California are being cut back.

For example, because of extreme budget cuts and police layoffs, Oakland, California Police Chief Anthony Batts has announced that there are a number of crimes that his department simply will no longer respond to due to a lack of resources.  The following is a partial list of the crimes that police officers in Oakland will no longer be responding to….

•  burglary
•  obtain money by false voucher
•  theft
•  fraudulent use of access cards
•  embezzlement
•  stolen license plate
•  grand theft
•  embezzlement by an employee
•  grand theft: dog
•  extortion
•  identity theft
•  attempted extortion
•  false information to peace officer
•  false personification of other
•  required to register as sex or arson offender
•  injure telephone/power line
•  dump waste or offensive matter
•  interfere with power line
•  loud music
•  unauthorized cable tv connection
•  possess forged notes
•  vandalism
•  pass fictitious check

Not that Oakland wasn’t already a mess before all this, but now how long do you think it will be before total chaos and anarchy reigns on the city streets? Today, Oakland is considered the 5th most violent city in the United States. Will it soon become the most violent?

But Oakland is not the only major California city that is facing these kinds of issues. Things have gotten so bad in Stockton, California that the police union put up a billboard with the following message: “Welcome to the 2nd most dangerous city in California. Stop laying off cops.”
Already the police force in Stockton has been stripped down to almost nothing. A while back, the Stockton Police Department dropped this bombshell….
“We absolutely do not have any narcotics officers, narcotics sergeants working any kind of investigative narcotics type cases at this point in time.” Do you think drug dealers will be flocking to Stockton after they hear that? California was once the envy of the world. Now it is becoming one gigantic hellhole.

During one recent 23 year period, the state of California built 23 prisons but just one university.
So is there any hope for California? No, unfortunately there is not.
In another article, I wrote about some of the reasons why millions of people have been leaving California for good….
“Meanwhile, the standard of living in California is going right into the toilet.  Housing values are plummeting.  Unemployment has risen above 20 percent in many areas of the state.  Crime and gang activity is on the rise even as police budgets are being hacked to the bone.  The health care system is an absolute disaster.  At this point California has the fewest emergency rooms per million people out of all 50 states.   While all of this has been going on, the state legislature in Sacramento has been very busy passing hundreds of new laws that are mostly about promoting one radical agenda or another.  The state government has become so radically anti-business that it is a wonder that any businesses have remained in the state.  It seems like the moving vans never stop as an endless parade of businesses and families leave California as quickly as they can.”

But this is not just a “California thing”.  The truth is that what is happening in California, in Detroit, in Camden and in hundreds of other communities is also going to happen where you live.

The U.S. economy is slowly dying. Only 66.8% of American men had a job last year.  That was the
lowest level that has ever been recorded in U.S. history.
People are getting desperate.  There are ten percent fewer middle class jobs than there were a decade ago and the competition for good jobs has become insane.  More than 44 million Americans are now on food stamps and that number grows every single month.  Millions more American families fall into poverty every single year.

It is time to face the truth about what is happening to America.  Our economy is not growing and becoming stronger.  Rather, the cold, hard reality of the matter is that our economy is very sick and it is dying.  The seemingly boundless prosperity that we have enjoyed for decade after decade is coming to an end.  Our communities are being transformed into absolute hellholes.

Those that are telling you that the U.S. economy will soon be better than ever are lying to you.
The U.S. economy is going to go down and it is going to go down hard.

One thing is painfully clear about the housing bubble bursting in Southern California and that is many of the 20 million residents never venture off their beaten path.  Hit the freeway to work, stay inside, clock out, and head back to your segmented area.  Variety is having lunch within a few minutes or miles from the hub.  You have to wonder how many people are blind o the economic destruction that is hitting from all corners like a financial tornado.  Foreclosures are raging and yet you have people gleefully acting as if real estate is heading back to the previous price levels.  Those days are gone.  If people would only venture out a few miles to see what is happening in their own backyard it would add a new level of perspective.
.

C.  How The ‘Progressives’ Ruined The State
Tuesday, February 15, 2011, Good-Bye California, By Victor Davis Hansen
Pasted from: http://www.rense.com/general92/goodd.htm
“The last three weeks I have traveled about, taking the pulse of the more forgotten areas of central California. I wanted to witness, even if superficially, what is happening to a state that has the highest sales and income taxes, the most lavish entitlements, the near-worst public schools (based on federal test scores), and the largest number of illegal aliens in the nation, along with an overregulated private sector, a stagnant and shrinking manufacturing base, and an elite environmental ethos that restricts commerce and productivity without curbing consumption.

During this unscientific experiment, three times a week I rode a bike on a 20-mile trip over various rural roads in southwestern Fresno County . I also drove my car over to the coast to work, on various routes through towns like San Joaquin , Mendota, and Firebaugh. And near my home I have been driving, shopping, and touring by intent the rather segregated and impoverished areas of Caruthers, Fowler, Laton, Orange Cove, Parlier, and Selma . My own farmhouse is now in an area of abject poverty and almost no ethnic diversity; the closest elementary school (my alma mater, two miles away) is 94 percent Hispanic and 1 percent white, and well below federal testing norms in math and English.

Here are some general observations about what I saw (other than that the rural roads of California are fast turning into rubble, poorly maintained and reverting to what I remember seeing long ago in the rural South). First, remember that these areas are the ground zero, so to speak, of 20 years of illegal immigration. There has been a general depression in farming – to such an extent that the 20- to-100-acre tree and vine farmer, the erstwhile backbone of the old rural California , for all practical purposes has ceased to exist.

On the western side of the Central Valley , the effects of arbitrary cutoffs in federal irrigation water have idled tens of thousands of acres of prime agricultural land, leaving thousands unemployed.
Manufacturing plants in the towns in these areas – which used to make harvesters, hydraulic lifts, trailers, food-processing equipment – have largely shut down; their production has been shipped off overseas or south of the border. Agriculture itself – from almonds to raisins – has increasingly become
 corporatized and mechanized, cutting by half the number of farm workers needed.  So unemployment runs somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.

It is almost as if the more California regulates, the more it does not regulate. Its public employees prefer to go after misdemeanors in the upscale areas to justify our expensive oversight industry, while ignoring the felonies in the downtrodden areas, which are becoming feral and beyond the ability of any inspector to do anything but feel irrelevant. But in the regulators’ defense, where would one get the money to redo an ad hoc trailer park with a spider web of illegal bare wires?

Many of the rented-out rural shacks and stationary Winnebagos are on former small farms – the vineyards overgrown with weeds, or torn out with the ground lying fallow. I pass on the cultural consequences to communities from the loss of thousands of small farming families. I don’t think I can remember another time when so many acres in the eastern part of the valley have gone out of production, even though farm prices have recently rebounded. Apparently it is simply not worth the gamble of investing $7,000 to $10,000 an acre in a new orchard or vineyard. What an anomaly – with suddenly soaring farm prices, still we have thousands of acres in the world’s richest agricultural belt, with available water on the east side of the valley and plentiful labor, gone idle or in disuse. Is credit frozen? Are there simply no more farmers? Are the schools so bad as to scare away potential agricultural entrepreneurs? Or are we all terrified by the national debt and uncertain future?

California coastal elites may worry about the oxygen content of water available to a three-inch smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, but they seem to have no interest in the epidemic dumping of trash, furniture, and often toxic substances throughout California ‘s rural hinterland. Yesterday, for example, I rode my bike by a stopped van just as the occupants tossed seven plastic bags of raw refuse onto the side of the road. I rode up near their bumper and said in my broken Spanish not to throw garbage onto the public road. But there were three of them, and one of me. So I was lucky to be sworn at only. I note in passing that I would not drive into Mexico and, as a guest, dare to pull over and throw seven bags of trash into the environment of my host.

In fact, trash piles are commonplace out here – composed of everything from half-empty paint cans and children’s plastic toys to diapers and moldy food. I have never seen a rural sheriff cite a litterer, or witnessed state EPA workers cleaning up these unauthorized wastelands. So I would suggest to Bay Area scientists that the environment is taking a much harder beating down here in central California than it is in the Delta. Perhaps before we cut off more irrigation water to the west side of the valley, we might invest some green dollars into cleaning up the unsightly and sometimes dangerous garbage that now litters the outskirts of our rural communities.

We hear about the tough small-business regulations that have driven residents out of the state, at the rate of 2,000 to 3,000 a week. But from my unscientific observations these past weeks, it seems rather easy to open a small business in California without any oversight at all, or at least what I might call a “counter business.” I counted eleven mobile hot-kitchen trucks that simply park by the side of the road, spread about some plastic chairs, pull down a tarp canopy, and, presto, become mini-restaurants. There are no “facilities” such as toilets or washrooms. But I do frequently see lard trails on the isolated roads I bike on, where trucks apparently have simply opened their draining tanks and sped on, leaving a slick of cooking fats and oils. Crows and ground squirrels love them; they can be seen from a distance mysteriously occupied in the middle of the road.

I did not see any relationship between the use of the (Social Service) cards and poverty as we once knew it: The electrical appurtenances owned by the user and the car into which the (welfare) groceries were loaded were indistinguishable from those of the upper middle class. By that I mean that most consumers drove late-model Camrys, Accords, or Tauruses, had iPhones, Bluetooths, or BlackBerries, and bought everything in the store with public-assistance credit. This seemed a world apart from the trailers I had just ridden by the day before. I don’t editorialize here on the logic or morality of any of this, but I note only that there are vast numbers of people who apparently are not working, are on public food assistance, and enjoy the technological veneer of the middle class. California has a consumer market surely, but often no apparent source of income. Does the $40 million a day supplement to unemployment benefits from Washington explain some of this?

Do diversity concerns, as in lack of diversity, work both ways? Over a hundred-mile stretch, when I stopped in San Joaquin for a bottled water, or drove through Orange Cove, or got gas in Parlier, or went to a corner market in southwestern Selma, my home town, I was the only non-Hispanic – there were no Asians, no blacks, no other whites. We may speak of the richness of “diversity,” but those who cherish that ideal simply have no idea that there are now countless inland communities that have become near-apartheid societies, where Spanish is the first language, the schools are not at all diverse, and the federal and state governments are either the main employers or at least the chief sources of income – whether through emergency rooms, rural health clinics, public schools, or social-service offices. An observer from Mars might conclude that our elites and masses have given up on the ideal of integration and assimilation, perhaps in the wake of the arrival of 11 to 15 million illegal aliens.

Again, I do not editorialize, but I note these vast transformations over the last 20 years that are the paradoxical wages of unchecked illegal immigration from Mexico, a vast expansion of California’s entitlements and taxes, the flight of the upper middle class out of state, the deliberate effort not to tap natural resources, the downsizing in manufacturing and agriculture, and the departure of whites, blacks, and Asians from many of these small towns to more racially diverse and upscale areas of
California.

Fresno ‘s California State University campus is embroiled in controversy over the student body president’s announcing that he is an illegal alien, with all the requisite protests in favor of the DREAM Act. I won’t comment on the legislation per se, but again only note the anomaly. I taught at CSUF for 21 years. I think it fair to say that the predominant theme of the Chicano and Latin American Studies program’s sizable curriculum was a fuzzy American culpability. By that I mean that students in those classes heard of the sins of America more often than its attractions.

In my home town, Mexican flag decals on car windows are far more common than their American counterparts. I note this because hundreds of students here illegally are now terrified of being deported to Mexico . I can understand that, given the chaos in Mexico and their own long residency in the United States . But here is what still confuses me: If one were to consider the classes that deal with Mexico at the university, or the visible displays of national chauvinism, then one might conclude that Mexico is a far more attractive and moral place than the United States. So there is a surreal nature to these protests: something like, “Please do not send me back to the culture I nostalgically praise; please let me stay in the culture that I ignore or deprecate.”  I think the DREAM Act protestors might have been far more successful in winning public opinion had they stopped blaming the U.S. for suggesting that they might have to leave at some point, and instead explained why, in fact, they want to stay. What it is about America that makes a youth of 21 go on a hunger strike or demonstrate to be allowed to remain in this country rather than return to the place of his birth?

I think I know the answer to this paradox. Missing entirely in the above description is the attitude of the host, which by any historical standard can only be termed “indifferent. ” California does not care whether one broke the law to arrive here or continues to break it by staying. It asks nothing of the illegal immigrant – no proficiency in English, no acquaintance with American history and values, no proof of income, no record of education or skills. It does provide all the public assistance that it can afford (and more that it borrows for), and apparently waives enforcement of most of California ‘s burdensome regulations and civic statutes that increasingly have plagued productive citizens to the point of driving them out.

How odd that we over regulate those who are citizens and have capital to the point of banishing them from the state, but do not regulate those who are aliens and without capital to the point of encouraging millions more to follow in their footsteps. How odd – to paraphrase what Critias once said of ancient Sparta – that California is at once both the nation’s most unfree and most free state, the most repressed and the wildest. Hundreds of thousands sense all that and vote accordingly with their feet, both into and out of California – and the result is a sort of social, cultural, economic, and political time-bomb, whose ticks are getting louder.”
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D.  Education: The Dumbing Of America
Call Me a Snob, but Really, We’re a Nation of Dunces
February 17, 2008, By Susan Jacoby
Pasted from: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article19382.htm
“The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson offered that observation in 1837, but his words echo with painful prescience in today’s very different United States. Americans are in serious intellectual trouble — in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations.

This is the last subject that any candidate would dare raise on the long and winding road to the White House. It is almost impossible to talk about the manner in which public ignorance contributes to grave national problems without being labeled an “elitist,” one of the most powerful pejoratives that can be applied to anyone aspiring to high office. Instead, our politicians repeatedly assure Americans that they are just “folks,” a patronizing term that you will search for in vain in important presidential speeches before 1980. (Just imagine: “We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain . . . and that government of the folks, by the folks, for the folks, shall not perish from the earth.”) Such exaltations of ordinariness are among the distinguishing traits of anti-intellectualism in any era.

The classic work on this subject by Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter, “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life,” was published in early 1963, between the anti-communist crusades of the McCarthy era and the social convulsions of the late 1960s.
Hofstadter saw American anti-intellectualism as a basically cyclical phenomenon that often manifested itself as the dark side of the country’s democratic impulses in religion and education. But today’s brand of anti-intellectualism is less a cycle than a flood. If Hofstadter (who died of leukemia in 1970 at age 54) had lived long enough to write a modern-day sequel, he would have found that our era of 24/7 infotainment has outstripped his most apocalyptic predictions about the future of American culture.

Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces. These include the triumph of video culture over print culture (and by video, I mean every form of digital media, as well as older electronic ones); a disjunction between Americans’ rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism.

First and foremost among the vectors of the new anti-intellectualism is video. The decline of book, newspaper and magazine reading is by now an old story. The drop-off is most pronounced among the young, but it continues to accelerate and afflict Americans of all ages and education levels.

Reading has declined not only among the poorly educated, according to a report last year by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1982, 82 percent of college graduates read novels or poems for
pleasure; two decades later, only 67 percent did. And more than 40 percent of Americans under 44 did not read a single book — fiction or nonfiction — over the course of a year. The proportion of 17-year-olds who read nothing (unless required to do so for school) more than doubled between 1984 and 2004. This time period, of course, encompasses the rise of personal computers, Web surfing and video games.

Does all this matter? Technophiles pooh-pooh jeremiads about the end of print culture as the navel-gazing of (what else?) elitists. In his book “Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter,” the science writer Steven Johnson assures us that we have nothing to worry about. Sure, parents may see their “vibrant and active children gazing silently, mouths agape, at the screen.” But these zombie-like characteristics “are not signs of mental atrophy. They’re signs of focus.” Balderdash. The real question is what toddlers are screening out, not what they are focusing on, while they sit mesmerized by videos they have seen dozens of times.

Despite an aggressive marketing campaign aimed at encouraging babies as young as 6 months to watch videos, there is no evidence that focusing on a screen is anything but bad for infants and toddlers. In a study released last August, University of Washington researchers found that babies between 8 and 16 months recognized an average of six to eight fewer words for every hour spent watching videos.

I cannot prove that reading for hours in a treehouse (which is what I was doing when I was 13) creates more informed citizens than hammering away at a Microsoft Xbox or obsessing about Facebook profiles. But the inability to concentrate for long periods of time — as distinct from brief reading hits for information on the Web — seems to me intimately related to the inability of the public to remember even recent news events. It is not surprising, for example, that less has been heard from the presidential candidates about the Iraq war in the later stages of the primary campaign than in the earlier ones, simply because there have been fewer video reports of violence in Iraq. Candidates, like voters, emphasize the latest news, not necessarily the most important news.

No wonder negative political ads work. “With text, it is even easy to keep track of differing levels of authority behind different pieces of information,” the cultural critic Caleb Crain noted recently in the New Yorker. “A comparison of two video reports, on the other hand, is cumbersome. Forced to choose between conflicting stories on television, the viewer falls back on hunches, or on what he believed before he started watching.”

As video consumers become progressively more impatient with the process of acquiring information through written language, all politicians find themselves under great pressure to deliver their messages as quickly as possible — and quickness today is much quicker than it used to be. Harvard University’s Kiku Adatto found that between 1968 and 1988, the average sound bite on the news for a presidential candidate — featuring the candidate’s own voice — dropped from 42.3 seconds to 9.8 seconds. By 2000, according to another Harvard study, the daily candidate bite was down to just
7.8 seconds.

The shrinking public attention span fostered by video is closely tied to the second important anti-intellectual force in American culture: the erosion of general knowledge.

People accustomed to hearing their president explain complicated policy choices by snapping “I’m the decider” may find it almost impossible to imagine the pains that Franklin D. Roosevelt took, in the grim months after Pearl Harbor, to explain why U.S. armed forces were suffering one defeat after another in the Pacific. In February 1942, Roosevelt urged Americans to spread out a map during his radio
“fireside chat” so that they might better understand the geography of battle. In stores throughout the country, maps sold out; about 80 percent of American adults tuned in to hear the president. FDR had told his speechwriters that he was certain that if Americans understood the immensity of the distances over which supplies had to travel to the armed forces, “they can take any kind of bad news right on the chin.”

This is a portrait not only of a different presidency and president but also of a different country and citizenry, one that lacked access to satellite-enhanced Google maps but was far more receptive to learning and complexity than today’s public. According to a 2006 survey by National Geographic-Roper, nearly half of Americans between ages 18 and 24 do not think it necessary to know the location of other countries in which important news is being made. More than a third consider it “not at all important” to know a foreign language, and only 14 percent consider it “very important.”

That leads us to the third and final factor behind the new American dumbness: not lack of knowledge per se but arrogance about that lack of knowledge. The problem is not just the things we do not know (consider the one in five American adults who, according to the National Science Foundation, thinks the sun revolves around the Earth); it’s the alarming number of Americans who have smugly concluded that they do not need to know such things in the first place. Call this anti-rationalism — a syndrome that is particularly dangerous to our public institutions and discourse. Not knowing a foreign language or the location of an important country is a manifestation of ignorance; denying that such knowledge matters is pure anti-rationalism. The toxic brew of anti-rationalism and ignorance hurts discussions of U.S. public policy on topics from health care to taxation.

There is no quick cure for this epidemic  of arrogant anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism; rote efforts to raise standardized test scores by stuffing students with specific answers to specific questions on specific tests will not do the job. Moreover, the people who exemplify the problem are usually oblivious to it. (“Hardly anyone believes himself to be against thought and culture,” Hofstadter noted.) It is past time for a serious national discussion about whether, as a nation, we truly value intellect and rationality. If this indeed turns out to be a “change election,” the low-level of discourse in a country with a mind taught to aim at low objects ought to be the first item on the change agenda.”
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E.  The Dumbing Down of America’s Colleges
April 1996, Phyllis Schlafly Report
Pasted from: http://www.ourcivilisation.com/dumb/dumb2.htm
“Finally, a prestigious group of college professors has come right out and said that the emperor (i.e., the Imperial University) has no clothes. Many have long suspected that college education has been dramatically dumbed down (like the public schools), but few have had the courage to say so.

The National Association of Scholars (NAS), the nation’s leading higher-education reform organization, has just published a devastating 65-page report on its investigation of the courses offered and required at 50 top undergraduate colleges and universities. The NAS used U.S. News & World Report’s annual listing of “America’s Best Colleges” (including both private and public). All figures cited below refer to those 50 elite institutions in the particular years chosen for comparison, 1914, 1939, 1964, and 1993.

The NAS concludes that students no longer learn the common core of knowledge once taken for granted as essential to a liberal-arts education. The universities have simply purged from the curriculum many of the required courses that formerly taught students the historical, cultural, political and scientific basics of our society.

The number of mandatory courses has been dramatically reduced from an average of 9.9 in 1914, to 7.3 in 1939, to 6.9 in 1964, and to 2.5 in 1993. The formerly universal requirement that students take a basic survey course in several important areas has virtually vanished.

Universities now offer very few courses that require prerequisites, which means that very few college courses now require any advance knowledge or preparation. In 1914, universities offered an average of only 23 courses per institution that did not require a prerequisite course; in 1964 the figure had risen to 127; today, the number is 582. Only 12 percent of universities now require a thesis or comprehensive examination to get a bachelor’s degree. As late as 1964, more than half of universities did.

The college year has been shortened by about one-fourth (leaving more time for spring break and other frivolities, but, of course, without any reduction in tuition price or professors’ salaries). In 1914, college classes were in session an average of 204 days a year; by 1939 the number had dropped to 195; in 1964, to 191; and today students and teachers are expected to show up in class only 156 days per academic year.

Maybe the reason why young people can’t write good English is that so few colleges teach writing any more. In 1914, nearly all universities had required courses in English composition; by 1964 the figure was 86 percent; today, it’s only 36 percent.

Ditto for math. In 1914, 82 percent of the universities had traditional mathematics requirements; by 1964 only 36 percent did; now, only 12 percent do. In 1914, 1939 and 1964, more than 70 percent of the institutions required at least one course in the natural sciences; that figure has now fallen to only 34 percent.

Maybe the reason why the federal guidelines on the teaching of American history turned out to be such a travesty was that most college graduates haven’t studied any history. In 1914, 90 percent of our elite colleges required history; in 1939 and 1964 more than 50 percent did; but now only one of the 50 schools has a required history course.

Literature courses were required at 75 percent of the institutions in 1914, and at 50 percent in 1939 and 1964. Today, not one of the “best” institutions has a literature requirement.

Meanwhile, the total number of courses offered at undergraduate institutions has increased by a factor of five since 1914, and has doubled since 1964, but that doesn’t mean more opportunities to become an educated citizen. The majority of these additional courses are on narrow and idiosyncratic subjects of interest to the professors but almost worthless to the students. The total includes such trendy
and trivial courses as Stanford’s “Gender and Science” (which purports to study science free from outdated male assumptions), and Georgetown’s “Unspeakable Lives: Gay and Lesbian Narratives.”

Here are some examples of courses given at Yale University for which students can receive college credit: “Gender and the Politics of Resistance: Feminism, Capitalism and the Third World.” “Gender and Technology.” “Feminist Perspectives on Literature.” “Lesbian and Gay Theater Performance.” “The Literature of AIDS.” “Contemporary Lesbian and Gay Arts and Culture.” “Constructing Lesbian Identities.” Such courses are just propaganda and entertainment masquerading as education.

The result is that our best colleges and universities no longer turn out graduates who have an elementary knowledge of our civilization and its heritage. They do not learn the basic facts of our country’s history, political and economic systems, philosophic traditions, and literary and artistic legacies.

Quite apart from the fraud of charging an exorbitant $100,000 for a devalued diploma is the fact that we are in danger of losing the national cohesion of a known and shared heritage which has sustained and nourished our unique institutions of freedom within a limited, constitutional government.

The New York Times quoted a critic of this NAS report as arguing that “the real agenda of higher education today is the concern with problem solving, critical thinking, communicating and learning how to value.”

But how are students going to engage in all those thoughtful processes when their knowledge is so pathetically limited and their composition and communication skills are almost non-existent?

In addition, there is the dumbing down inherent in giving courses that are not college courses at all, but are designed to teach students what they didn’t learn in high school. Sometimes these courses are called “remedial,” but the institutions prefer euphemisms such as “second tier” and “sub-freshman.” Such courses were unheard of prior to 1939, and only three institutions offered them in 1964. Today such non-college-level courses are offered in 70 percent of the elite universities, and most of them award college credit.

California state legislators recently discovered the high cost to the taxpayers of the remedial education courses given at the state universities. Last year, 60 percent of new students needed remedial help. California legislators assert that students have been the victims of consumer fraud perpetrated on them by the high schools that gave them high grades. The legislators want to send the invoice for the cost of the remedial courses to the high schools that deceived their students by giving them a 3.8 or higher grade-point average.

The 1996 Governors Education Summit at Palisades, New York, spent two days discussing “standards” for what students should learn in public schools. Longtime American Federation of Teachers president Al Shanker gave this concept a reality check. He said that when, as a teacher, he assigned homework to his class, the pupils invariably responded in chorus, “Does it count on our grade?” He pointed out the fact of human nature that standards aren’t going to make any difference if, no matter what students learn or don’t learn, they can still get admitted to nearly all U.S. colleges and universities.  The standards question in the public schools could be resolved if colleges and universities would abolish their remedial courses and admit only students capable of doing college work. But they won’t because of the easy flow of taxpayers’ money, which makes it so profitable for colleges and universities to admit all the students they can and then send the bill to the taxpayers.
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F. Infrastructure: America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
One of the key signs that we are in the early stages of an economic collapse and that we are heading towards another Great Depression is America’s crumbling infrastructure.  The truth is that our infrastructure is literally falling apart all around us.  Thousands of bridges are structurally deficient and there have already been some very high profile collapses.  Over 30 percent of the highways and roads in the United States are in very poor shape.  Aging sewer systems are leaking raw sewage all over the place.  The power grid is straining to keep up with the ever-increasing thirst of the American people for electricity.  There have already been some regional blackouts, and unless something is done quickly things promise to get even worse.  The truth is that a nation’s infrastructure says a lot about who they are.  So what does America’s infrastructure say about us?  It says that we are a rusting, crumbling, decaying leftover from a better, more prosperous time.

Consider the following facts about America’s infrastructure from the Pew Research Center
website…..
*  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 25 percent of America’s nearly 600,000 bridges need significant repairs or are burdened with more traffic than they were designed to carry.
*  According to the Federal Highway Administration, approximately a third of America’s major roadways are in substandard condition – a significant factor in a third of the more than 43,000 traffic fatalities in the United States each year.
*  The Texas Transportation Institute estimates that traffic jams caused by insufficient infrastructure waste 4 billion hours of commuters’ time and nearly 3 billion gallons of gasoline a year.
*  The Association of State Dam Safety Officials has found that the number of dams in the United States that could fail has grown 134% since 1999 to 3,346, and more than 1,300 of those are considered “high-hazard” – meaning that their collapse would threaten lives.
*  More than a third of all dam failures or near failures since 1874 have happened in just the last decade.
*  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, aging sewer systems spill an estimated 1.26 trillion gallons of untreated sewage every single year, resulting in an estimated 50.6 billion dollars in cleanup costs.

The following are some additional facts from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce….
*  A decaying transportation system costs our economy more than $78 billion annually in lost time and fuel.
*  The United States must invest $225 billion per year over the next 50 years to maintain and adequately enhance our surface transportation systems. Currently, we’re spending less than 40% of this amount.
*  U.S. transit systems earned a D+ rating from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Transit funding is declining even as transit use increases faster than any other mode of transportation – up 21% between 1993 and 2002.
*  Costs attributed to airline delays – due in large part to congestion and an antiquated air traffic control system – are expected to triple to $30 billion from 2000 to 2015.
*  By 2020, every major U.S. container port is projected to be handling at least double the volume it was designed to handle.
*  Throughout the United States, railroads are projected to need nearly $200 billion in investment over the next 20 years to accommodate freight increases.

Are you starting to get the picture??

America’s aging infrastructure cannot handle the number of people that we have now. With the population of the United States expected to hit 420 million by 2050, there are serious questions about how the national infrastructure is going to hold up under such a strain. Already the infrastructure in many areas of the United States is beginning to resemble that of a third world nation.

So can anything be done about America’s crumbling infrastructure? Of course. State and local governments can spend the money needed to fix and maintain our infrastructure. But that is not going to happen. Why? Because state and local governments are now facing unprecedented financial shortfalls. In fact, it is more likely that expenditures on infrastructure will actually be cut.

According to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, after two years cutting spending on schools, health care, and other public services, U.S. states are preparing to carve even deeper into funding for 2011.

Of course the U.S. government could step in with necessary infrastructure funding, but considering the state of the U.S. national debt, it seems unlikely that state and local governments will be able to count on much more help from the folks in Washington D.C.

So what does that mean? It means that America’s infrastructure will continue to rust, decay and fall to pieces.  Our grandparents and great-grandparents invested a lot of time, energy and money into building up this great nation, but now we are letting it rot right in front of our eyes.
What do you think that says about us?
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G.  Everything Is Falling Apart:  20 Facts That You Will Not Want To Read  If You Still Want To Feel Good About America’s Decaying Infrastructure
5 Jan 2011, TheEconomicCollapseBlog.com, by Michael Snyder
Pasted from: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/everything-is-falling-apart-20-facts-that-you-will-not-want-to-read-if-you-still-want-to-feel-good-about-americas-decaying-infrastructure
If you haven’t noticed lately, America is literally falling apart all around us. Decaying infrastructure is everywhere. Our roads and bridges are crumbling and are full of holes.  Our rail system is ancient.  Our airports and runways have definitely seen their better days.  Aging sewer systems all over the country are leaking raw sewage all over the place.  The power grid is straining to keep up with the ever-increasing thirst of the American people for electricity.  Dams are failing at an unprecedented rate.  Virtually all of our ports are handling far more traffic than they were ever intended to handle.  Meanwhile, our national spending on infrastructure is way down.  Back during the 1950s and 1960s we were spending between 3 and 4 percent of our national GDP on infrastructure, but today we are spending less than 2.5 percent of our national GDP on it.  According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, we need to spend approximately $2.2 trillion on infrastructure repairs and upgrades just to bring our existing infrastructure up to “good condition”.

Does anyone have an extra $2.2 trillion to spare?

If you get the feeling that America is decaying as you drive around this great country of ours, it is not just your imagination.  It is literally happening.

You should not read the list of facts below if you want to keep feeling good about the condition of America’s infrastructure.  There really is no way to sugar-coat what is happening. Previous generations handed us the greatest national infrastructure that anyone in the world has ever seen and we have neglected it and have allowed it to badly deteriorate.

This first set of facts about America’s decaying infrastructure was compiled from a fact sheet entitled “The Case For U.S. Infrastructure Investment” by an organization called Building America’s Future….

#1   One-third of America’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
#2   Traffic on more than half the miles of interstate highway exceeds 70 percent of capacity, and nearly 25 percent of the miles are strained at more than 95 percent of capacity.
#3   Americans waste 4.2 billion hours and 2.8 billion gallons fuel a year sitting in traffic – equal to nearly one full work week and three weeks’ worth of gas for every traveler.
#4   Over the next 30 years, our nation is expected to grow by 100 million and highway traffic will double again. Even if highway capacity grows no faster than in the last 25 years, Americans can expect to spend 160 hours – 4 work weeks – each year in traffic by 2035.
#5   Nearly a third of all highway fatalities are due to substandard road conditions, obsolete road designs, or roadside hazards.
#6   Over 4,095 dams are “unsafe” and have deficiencies that leave them more susceptible to failure, especially during large flood events or earthquakes.
#7   Rolling blackouts and inefficiencies in the U.S. electrical grid cost an estimated $80 billion a year
#8   By 2020, every major U.S. container port is projected to at least double the volume of cargo it was designed to handle. Some East Coast ports will triple in volume, and some West Coast ports will quadruple.
#9   Other countries are leapfrogging past us by investing in world-class ports. China is investing $6.9 billion; the port of Shanghai now has almost as much container capacity as all U.S. ports combined.
#10   By 2020, China plans to build 55,000 miles of highways, more than the total length of the U.S. interstate system.

The rest of these facts were compiled from various sources around the Internet.  The more research that you do into America’s decaying infrastructure the more depressing it becomes….

#11   According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 25 percent of America’s nearly 600,000 bridges need significant repairs or are burdened with more traffic than they were designed to carry.
#12   More than a third of all dam failures or near failures since 1874 have happened in just the last decade.
#13   All across the United States, conditions at many state parks, recreation areas and historic sites are deplorable at best. Some states have backlogs of repair projects that are now over a billion dollars long.  The following is a quote from a recent MSNBC article about these project backlogs….

More than a dozen states estimate that their backlogs are at least $100 million. Massachusetts and New York’s are at least $1 billion. Hawaii officials called park conditions “deplorable” in a December report asking for $50 million per year for five years to tackle a $240 million backlog that covers parks, trails and harbors.Over the past year, approximately 100 of New York’s state parks and historic sites have had to cut services and reduce hours.
#15   All over America, asphalt roads are being ground up and are being replaced with gravel because it is cheaper to maintain.  The state of South Dakota has transformed over 100 miles of asphalt road into gravel over the past year, and 38 out of the 83 counties in the state of Michigan have transformed at least some of their asphalt roads into gravel roads.
So why don’t our state and local governments just spend the money necessary to fix all of these problems? Well, they can’t spend the money because they are flat broke. Just consider some of the financial problems that state and local governments around the nation are facing right now….
#16   One town in Michigan is so incredibly broke that it is literally begging the state to allow them to declare bankruptcy.
#17   One Alabama town is in such financial turmoil that it has decided to simply quit paying pension benefits.
#18   In Georgia, the county of Clayton recently eliminated its entire public bus system in order to save 8 million dollars.
#19   Major cities such as Philadelphia, Baltimore and Sacramento are so desperate to save money that they have instituted “rolling brownouts” in which various city fire stations are shut down on a rotating basis throughout the week.
#20   Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has come up with a unique way to save money.  He wants to cut 20 percent of Detroit off from essential social services such as road repairs, police patrols, functioning street lights and garbage collection.

The truth is that there are dozens of cities across the United States that are on the brink of bankruptcy.  To see a bunch of high-profile examples of this, check out the following article from Business Insider: “16 US Cities Facing Bankruptcy If They Don’t Make Deep Cuts In 2011”. Google it.

But it just isn’t local governments that are in deep trouble right now.  In fact, there are quite a few state governments that are complete and total financial disaster zones at this point. According to 60 Minutes,  the state of Illinois is at least six months behind on their bill payments.  60 Minutes correspondent Steve Croft recently asked Illinois state Comptroller Dan Hynes how many people and organizations are waiting to be paid by the state, and this is how Hynes responded….
“It’s fair to say that there are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people waiting to be paid by the state.”

Investors across the globe are watching all this and they are starting to panic. In fact, investors are now pulling money out of municipal bonds at a rate that is absolutely staggering. But if states get cut off from all the debt that they need to operate, things are going to get a lot worse very quickly. Already we are seeing all kinds of troubling signs.  For example, the state of Arizona recently decided to stop paying for many types of organ transplants for people enrolled in its Medicaid program.

Sadly, as much as our politicians try to “fix” our problems, things just only seem to keep getting worse.
One prominent illustration of this is our health care system. Our health care system is absolutely falling apart all around us.  Thanks to the new health care reform law, doctors are flocking out of the profession in droves.  According to an absolutely stunning new poll, 40 percent of all U.S. doctors plan to bail out of the profession over the next three years.

Our economy continues to fall apart as well.  The number of personal bankruptcies in the United States continues to set stunning new highs.  According to the American Bankruptcy Institute, more than 1.53 million Americans filed bankruptcy petitions in 2010.  This was up 9 percent from 1.41 million in 2009.

Not only that, but the housing crisis shows no signs of abating. 382,000 new foreclosures were initiated during the third quarter of 2010.  This was up 31.2 percent from the previous quarter and it was 3.7 percent higher than the third quarter of 2009.

The U.S. banking system is also falling apart.  In 2006, no U.S. banks failed.  In 2009, 140 U.S. banks failed.  So did things get better in 2010?  No.  In 2010, 157 U.S. banks failed. Jan- Oct 2011 another 76 banks failed.

Unemployment continues to remain at depressingly high levels, and in many areas of the country it is getting even worse.  According to the U.S. Labor Department, the unemployment rate rose in two-thirds of America’s largest metro areas during November.Millions of Americans have become so disgusted with the job market that they have given up altogether.  The number of people who are so discouraged
that they have completely given up searching for work now stands at an all-time high.

So who is doing a booming business during these hard times?  Welfare agencies and food banks are.  During this economic downturn, millions of American families have found themselves going to a food bank for the very first time ever. It is getting harder and harder for average American families to feed themselves.  A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 29 percent of Americans say that it is hard to afford food, and 48 of Americans say that it is hard to afford their heating and electric bills.

So is there any hope for the future?  Well, our new college graduates are supposed to lead us into the future, but most of them are saddled with overwhelming amounts of student loan debt.  Those who graduated during 2009 had an average of $24,000 in student loan debt.  This represented a 6 percent increase from the previous year. Not only that, but these new college grads are not finding jobs.  According to the one recent report, the unemployment rate for recent college graduates was 8.7 percent in 2009.  This was up from 5.8 percent in 2008, and it was the highest unemployment rate ever recorded for college graduates between the ages of 20 to 24.

As if all of this was not bad enough, now the Baby Boomers are starting to reach retirement age.  Beginning January 1st, 2011, every single day more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach the age of 65.  That is going to keep happening every single day for the next 19 years.

So where in the world are we going to come up with all of the money to give them the retirement benefits that they are due? The truth is that we are flat broke as a nation and so America’s decaying infrastructure is going to continue to decay. We don’t have the money to repair what we already have, much less add desperately needed new infrastructure. But perhaps it is only fitting.  The decay of our roads and cities will match the deep social, moral and political decay that has already been going on in this country for decades.

So will the American people awaken soon enough to be able to recapture the legacy of greatness that previous generations tried to pass on to us? Unfortunately, the vast majority of our politicians are completely incompetent.
.

What Is Outsourcing?
Once upon a time in America, virtually anyone with a high school education and the willingness to work hard could get a good job.  Fifty years ago a “good job” would enable someone to own a home, buy a car, take a couple of vacations a year and retire with a decent pension.
Unfortunately, those days are long gone.  Every single year the number of “good jobs” in the United States actually shrinks even as our population continues to grow.  Where in the world did all of those good jobs go?  Economists toss around terms such as “outsourcing” and “offshoring” to describe what is happening, but most ordinary Americans don’t really grasp what those terms mean.  So what is
outsourcing?  Well, it essentially means sending work somewhere else.  In the context of this article I will be using those terms to describe the thousands of manufacturing facilities and the millions of jobs that have been sent overseas.  Over the past several decades, the U.S. economy has become increasingly merged into the emerging “one world economy”.  Thanks to the WTO, NAFTA and a whole host of other “free trade” agreements, the internationalist dream of a truly “global marketplace” is closer than ever before.

[Images above. Left: Abandoned Firestone textile mill, Gastonia, NC.  Once considered the largest textile mill in the USA. Right: A majestic Methodist church crumbles in Gary IN. Gary, once a major industrial city. When the production jobs went overseas and factories closed, people moved away,  churches were abandoned.]

But for American workers, a “global marketplace” is really bad news.  In the United States, businesses are subject to a vast array of very complex laws, rules and regulations that make it very difficult to operate in this country.  That makes it very tempting for corporations to simply move out of the U.S. in order to avoid all of the hassle. In addition, the United States now has the highest corporate tax rate in the entire world.  This also provides great motivation for corporations to move operations outside of the country.

The biggest thing affecting American workers, however, is the fact that labor has now become a global commodity.  U.S. workers have now been merged into a global labor pool. Americans must now directly compete for jobs with hundreds of millions of desperate people willing to work for slave labor wages on the other side of the globe. So exactly how is an American worker supposed to compete with a highly motivated person on the other side of the planet that makes $1.50 an hour with essentially no benefits? Just think about it. If you were a big global corporation, would you want to hire American workers which would cost you 10 or 20 times more after everything is factored in? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why millions of jobs have been leaving the United States.

Corporations love to make more money.  Many of them will not hesitate for an instant to pay slave labor wages if they can get away with it.  The bottom line for most corporations is to maximize shareholder wealth. Slowly, but surely the number of good jobs in the United States is shrinking and those jobs are being sent to places where labor is cheaper.

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, U.S. multinational corporations added 2.4 million new jobs overseas during the first decade of this century.  But during that same time frame U.S. multinational corporations cut a total of 2.9 million jobs inside the United States. So where are all of our jobs going? They are going to places like China. The United States has lost an average of 50,000 manufacturing jobs per month since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
In addition, over 40,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States have been closed permanently during the past decade.

What do you think is eventually going to happen if the U.S. economy continues to bleed jobs and factories so badly?

[Images above: Left: Packard Motors, Detroit. Right: One of the sixteen steel plants that closed in Youngstown, OH.]

As the U.S. has faltered, China has become an absolute economic powerhouse. Ten years ago, the U.S. economy was three times as large as the Chinese economy.  At the turn of the century the United States accounted for well over 20 percent of global GDP and China accounted for significantly less than 10 percent of global GDP.  But since that time our share of global GDP has been steadily declining and China’s share has been steadily rising. According to the IMF, China will pass the United States and will become the largest economy in the world in 2016. Should we all celebrate when that happens?
Should we all chant “We’re Number 2”? Our economy is falling to pieces and the competition for the few remaining good jobs has become super intense.

The average American family is having a really tough time right now.  Only 45.4% of Americans had a job during 2010.  The last time the employment level was that low was back in 1983. Not only that, only 66.8% of American men had a job last year.  That was the lowest level that has ever been recorded in all of U.S. history.

Just think about that. 33.2% of American men do not have jobs. And that figure is going to continue to rise unless something is done about these economic trends. Today, there are 10% fewer “middle class jobs” in the United States than there were a decade ago.  Tens of millions of Americans have been forced to take “whatever they can get”.  A lot of very hard-working people are basically working for peanuts at this point.  In fact, half of all American workers now earn $505 or less per week.

[Images: Some of our modern service workers: Left: Flipping hamburgers at a McDonald’s fast food restaurant. Center: Wal-Mart ‘greeter’. Right: ‘Office work’, telemarketers,  etc.]

Things have gotten so bad that tens of thousands of people showed up for the National Hiring Day that McDonald’s just held.  With the economy such a mess, flipping burgers or welcoming people to Wal-Mart are jobs that suddenly don’t look so bad.

Right now America is rapidly losing high paying jobs and they are being replaced by low paying jobs.  According to a recent report from the National Employment Law Project, higher wage industries accounted for 40 percent of the job losses over the past 12 months but only 14 percent of the job growth.
Lower wage industries accounted for just 23 percent of the job losses over the past 12 months and a whopping 49 percent of the job growth. Thanks to the emerging one world economy, the U.S. is “transitioning” from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. But it certainly doesn’t help that China is using every trick in the book to steal our industries.  China openly subsidizes domestic industries, they brazenly steal technology and they manipulate currency rates.

A recent article on Economy In Crisis described how the Chinese paper industry has been able to grow by threefold over the past decade while the U.S. paper industry has fallen apart….“From 2002 to 2009, the Chinese government poured $33.1 billion into what should be an unproductive industry. But, with the help of government subsidies, China was able to ride export-driven growth to become the world’s leading producer of paper products.” In the same time frame that China pumped $33 billion into its paper industry, U.S. employment in the industry fell 29 percent, from 557,000 workers to just 398,000.

So why should we be concerned about all of this?

Well, just open up your eyes.  As I have written about previously, our formerly great cities are being transformed into post-apocalyptic hellholes. In a comment to a recent article, Trucker Mark described what he has seen happen to the “rust belt” over the past several decades….
“I am a product of Detroit’s northwest suburbs and the Cleveland, OH area, where together I lived almost 2/3rds of my 54 years. As a 30-year semi driver, I am intimately familiar with large areas of the industrial Midwest, the Northeast, and even much of central and southern California, and everything in-between. I am also college-educated, in Urban Planning and Economics. What has happened to not just Detroit, but to virtually every city in the southern half of Lower Michigan and northern Ohio is mind-boggling.
When I was 18, it was quite common to head over to a car plant and get hired immediately into a middle-class job. At one time I had dozens of friends from school working at car plants, dozens more in other large factories, dozens more in major grocery warehousing and distribution, and me, I was a semi driver delivering to all of those places. Between 1979, when I started driving semis, and now, I must have seen 10s of thousands of factories across just the southern Great Lakes region close their doors. Some of them were small, and some of them employed 10,000 workers or more.

The former Packard plant from your photo closed in 1957, and at one time it employed 12,000 workers, and my roommate in 1982 in Birmingham, MI had been laid-off from the old Dodge Main plant in Hamtramck, which once employed over 20,000 workers, which closed in 1981. In 1970 just Chrysler had over 40 plants in the Detroit-area, and now there are just 11 left open. The Willow Run plant, which  at one time turned-out a brand-new B-29 bomber every 40 minutes, and employed 50,000 workers, is long dead too, as is the tank plant north of town too. Even fairly new car plants like Novi Assembly are closed, Pontiac’s ultra-modern robotic car assembly plant too. In Cleveland 100 or more huge old plants stand empty, car plants, steel mills, and machine tool builders, in Akron dozens of rubber plants are long gone, Sharon, Warren, and Youngstown have all lost huge numbers of industrial jobs, Canton and Massillon too, where the NFL started, have been reduced to mere shells of their former selves. Along with the plant closings have gone the hopes and dreams of many thousands of retail operators, restaurant owners, and thousands of other small businesses too. Hundreds of entire major shopping malls stand vacant, as seas of potholes consume local roads. The city of Hamtramck, MI a Detroit suburb of 40,000 people, is bankrupt and has had to lay off all but two employees, one of whom works part-time. The traffic lights are shut-off and stop signs now appear at those intersections instead, as the city can’t even pay its power bill. I could go on & on & on for days but I don’t have the time.

I haven’t driven a semi in almost 2 years as my eyesight has begun giving out early. My last 10 years in the industry was spent delivering fresh and frozen meat on a regular multi-stop route through the Chicago-area and throughout southern Michigan. Between 2001 and 2009, my boss lost 14 of 19 major weekly customers in Michigan to bankruptcy, including three major grocery chains, plus numerous
less-frequent customers. The Detroit News reported before Christmas of 2007 a 29% unemployment rate within the city limits of Detroit, with an estimated 44% of the total adult population not working, and another news story reported a 1 in 200 chance of selling a house across the entire metropolitan area, which still has 4 million people total. Since 2003, home prices within the city limits of Detroit have fallen by 90%, and today there are thousands of houses in move-in condition on the market there for $5K to $10K. The suburbs are not immune either.”

You know what?  Detroit and Cleveland used to be two of the greatest cities in the entire world. Today very few people would call them great.  They are just shells of their former glory. Sadly, this cruel economy is causing “ghost towns” to appear all across the United States.  There are quite a few counties across the nation that now have home vacancy rates of over 50%.

Another reader, Flubadub, also remembers how things used to be….
“I am also a product of that generation and remember well the opportunities that existed for anyone with even a high school diploma in those days. Just within a reasonable commute to where I grew up we had US Steel, 3M, General Motors Fisher Body, Nabisco, The Budd Co., Strick Trailer and others providing thousands of jobs that enabled you to provide a decent living for your family. There were also plenty of part time jobs to keep high school students busy enough to avoid the pratfalls of idle youth and afford the 28 cent/ gallon gas for their used cars. Most of it is gone now and I don’t blame the Mexicans or the Chinese for stealing it. I blame the greed of the globalists and their flunkies, the phony free trade advocates in office, who’ve spent the last twenty years giving it all away. Our jobs are being shipped overseas so that greedy corporate executives can pad their bonuses and our politicians are allowing them to get away with it.”

According to a new report from the AFL-CIO, the average CEO made 343 times more money than the average American did last year. Life is great if you are a CEO. Life is not so great if you are an average American worker trying to raise a family.

Another reader, ‘Itsjustme’, says that things are also quite depressing In New Jersey….
“I live in northern NJ in a suburb a very short ride from  NYC. Our region was hit very hard — we once had a very prosperous and booming industrial area; mixed use with many warehouses and commercial buildings, hi-rise and low-rise. The majority of companies that were in those buildings are gone. Long vacant; the signage is left and nobody is inside them.
One large commercial building with 15 floors now is home to 2 tenants: a law firm and a Korean shipping company.
It’s very sad what’s happened out here.
The only “companies” moving into these buildings are small change tenants that are usually Chinese or Middle Eastern; you’ll see them subletting out 2 or 3 offices in these buildings and they operate out of those offices. They’re mostly importers of apparel or soft goods. My guess is that they are there on very short-term  leases. This will not benefit our local and state economy. These groups usually send the money home.
If this is the shape of things to come, we can hang it up right now. No viable companies are moving into our area; if anything new is being built it is retail and service industry garbage, like crummy fast food chain restaurants. No livable wage jobs are entering our local economy.”

As I have written about previously, the standard of living of the middle class is being pushed down to third world levels.  We have been merged into a “global labor pool”, and what that means is that the standard of living of all workers all over the world is going to be slowly equalized over time.

Our politicians never told us that all of these “free trade” agreements would mean that soon we would be living like the rest of the world.

America used to be the greatest economic machine on the planet.  But now we are just another region of the one world economy that has workers that are too expensive to be useful. In the end, there is not some great mystery as to why we are experiencing economic decline as a nation. If millions of our jobs are being shipped overseas, it was basically inevitable that we were going to experience a housing crisis.
Without good jobs the American people simply cannot afford high mortgage payments.
Today we consume far more wealth as a nation than we produce.  We have tried to make up the difference by indulging in the greatest debt binge that the world has ever seen. We have lived like kings and queens, but our debt-fueled prosperity is not sustainable.  In fact, the collapse of our financial system is a lot closer than most people would like to believe.Things did not have to turn out like this, but we bought into the lies and the propaganda that our leaders were feeding us.
Now our economy lies in tatters and our children have no economic future.

[1] Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.

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