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Thread: Here is what I see happening in this economy

  1. #1

    Default Here is what I see happening in this economy

    I've been watching all of the predictions and forecast sites and authors for years and many of you have watched much longer than I have. This economic collapse many speak of will not be an event. It will be more of what we have seen if you look at the trends. There is no doubt the middle class is pretty much gone from what you would think of as a middle class.

    Most people I meet and know that I talk to don't disagree with that at all, they mostly will say that there is no longer a middle class most likely because they have seen their own and their families standard of living decrease. I have lived in the better parts of areas, and to hear this repeatedly tells me all I need to know, and lately there are very successfull business owners that have the type of businesses that are sort of mini-monopolies that cannot just be duplicated in their areas, their telling me they aren't seeing the profits they once did (finally seeing what the previous middle class has seen) and would sell if they could for what they view their business is worth, but they can't in this economy, and they are looking for new ventures to make up for their decreasing standards of living but aren't finding real opportunites for profit.

    People are becoming working slaves like frogs in a pot. They know its not right and they at this point aren't even thinking they will move ahead either. So the mind set has adjusted for the average person and has been working its way up to the new smaller middle class, or what was thought of once as the upper middle class. Most businesses they say were always on the verge of going out of business, from what older, wiser people tell me, but if you look around today and compare businesses to just say 15 years ago, and you think about it, I'm not sure. Back then just years ago, starting a business first, you would see a profit potential that was clearly there, that is why I started a business almost 20 years ago. I didn't plan to start one, just to hope for a profit as many are doing today. I didn't start it just to undercut, but because I saw a thriving and healthy sector of the economy that had higher demand than supply. Today I don't even hear too much of people working on their own, unless its to undercut other businesses that aren't even thriving in the first place, but from what I remember, nobody would have sacrificed their job for that type of business, because there was potential good paying jobs for many to thrive from. Today its similar to people looking for a safety net or delariously following some dream that they aren't even sure exists, or because they can't find a job that will pay a meaninful amount.

    The point I am making in writing this, is that we aren't going to see some big event, especially since the FED doesn't have a risk involved, since there are central banks connected with them all over the world, that protect each other. We are going to see the "frog in the pot", more of the same, and it will continue to gradually engulf the so called "upper middle class" and further up that chain, while the majority of poor 3rd world Americans grows and gets used to nothing. That is scary to think about, but that is what is happening.

    I guess I wrote this because what I am seeing does not line up with those who think there will be an event, and this is something to think about going forward. Most slaves here today are not even phased by their new reality, which worries me, but they are also not aware of much knowledge about anything really either.

    Basically all of these big events of gloom and doom aren't going to happen, the gloom and doom is coming from what the people aren't going to do to fight this. We need to perservere and spread the reality of our situation around to those close to us, and get them on our team. How would anyone want to see their closest friends and family eating mud pies in the near future?



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  3. #2

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    I'd only disagree with you on one point:

    The NATURAL outcome of all the corporate greed and average workers getting screwed is for people to become more entrepreneurial and go into business for themselves. As things get more and more desperate, and more people start looking at those opportunities, and realize the regulatory nightmare and how it is very very difficult to set up a business in compliance with law, I think people are going to get really frustrated, and as the regulators make things difficult for them, the frustration is going to increase. I think eventually that is going to blow up. Or like Celente says, " When people have lost everything, and they have nothing left to lose, they lose it." I think that is an accurate forecast, I expect a lot of people to lose it during the 2nd Obama term.
    "The journalist is one who separates the wheat from the chaff, and then prints the chaff." - Adlai Stevenson

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  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Original_Intent View Post
    I'd only disagree with you on one point:

    The NATURAL outcome of all the corporate greed and average workers getting screwed is for people to become more entrepreneurial and go into business for themselves. As things get more and more desperate, and more people start looking at those opportunities, and realize the regulatory nightmare and how it is very very difficult to set up a business in compliance with law, I think people are going to get really frustrated, and as the regulators make things difficult for them, the frustration is going to increase. I think eventually that is going to blow up. Or like Celente says, " When people have lost everything, and they have nothing left to lose, they lose it." I think that is an accurate forecast, I expect a lot of people to lose it during the 2nd Obama term.
    You know I would hope you are right, but there is so much to talk about on this subject really that could take months to write out on a forum, let alone having a conversation face to face about it all. For a while I thought what you are saying would happen, that once people tried different routes of freedom such as trying to start a business they too would see all of the prison bars, or regulations, taxes, and laws they would have to defend themselves from, that they too would see the light. Instead what I have heard and seen is basically the lower knowledge types, the average joes actually defend these prison bars almost as if they give creed to themselves for putting up with it. The more knowledgable types will bitch a bit, but when confronted with a serious conversation on it, they are like frogs in a pot, they will defend the prison bars in a different mannor

  5. #4

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    You're dead on about the collapse being a slow grind down.

    Empires fall piece by piece.
    "Like an army falling, one by one by one" - Linkin Park

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seraphim View Post
    You're dead on about the collapse being a slow grind down.

    Empires fall piece by piece.
    A slow grind should actually scare the shit out of anyone with a sense of common sense for many real reasons. Many I believe that have a great knowledge base of this information such as me previously would love to believe it could be so convenient as a one time event instead of a slow death, that keeps many minds at bay from looking at reality of this situation happening upon us. Hoping others will want to join the fight with us as they lose it. The sad part is a slow grind is like a slow death, many don't want to face it or think about it, but its real, and going to be what we face. We have to fight this

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michigan11 View Post
    A slow grind should actually scare the shit out of anyone with a sense of common sense for many real reasons. Many I believe that have a great knowledge base of this information such as me previously would love to believe it could be so convenient as a one time event instead of a slow death, that keeps many minds at bay from looking at reality of this situation happening upon us. Hoping others will want to join the fight with us as they lose it. The sad part is a slow grind is like a slow death, many don't want to face it or think about it, but its real, and going to be what we face. We have to fight this
    I just read the article where Cramer says it is turning into a have vs a have-not society, which agrees with the OP.

  8. #7

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    I saw this with a man I know well. He had many Jimmy John restaurants. But he is selling them (now only has two left).

    Says the margins just aren't there anymore with the rising food prices.

  9. #8

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    There is a very good set of articles over at Zero Hedge on this by author "Cognitive Dissonance". Lays out a reasoned argument along with explanations why it will likely be a crumble rather than a crash.

  10. #9

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    I too agree with the crumble effect. The only positive is that there is time to position ourselves for it, vs a crash.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michigan11 View Post
    they mostly will say that there is no longer a middle class most likely because they have seen their own and their families standard of living decrease.
    I hate to nitpick, but if people say this, people are wrong. Their real-wages may have decreased slightly, but standard of living is not falling. The rapid rate of technological advances almost preclude that from happening.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by cbc58 View Post
    There is a very good set of articles over at Zero Hedge on this by author "Cognitive Dissonance". Lays out a reasoned argument along with explanations why it will likely be a crumble rather than a crash.
    I don't even think it will crumble. I think we'll endure periods of wealth transfers. I think we'll see other nations experience faster growth and more dramatic standard of living increases than we do, but I do not believe that we will regress. Nothing will change the fact that we are a nation of 300+ million people, most of whom are literate and educated, living on a massive chunk of land that is filled with natural resources, beautiful vacation and entertainment locations, cultural hotspots and an infrastructure to pull them all together. In that regard, we are a peculiar country. At this time, there is no other country as large as us, with such a diverse geography, economy, and population. Much as some want to denigrate our outlook as a nation, we have a uniquely stable foundation. We might not grow rapidly, but we'll advance, slowly but surely.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingNothing View Post
    I hate to nitpick, but if people say this, people are wrong. Their real-wages may have decreased slightly, but standard of living is not falling. The rapid rate of technological advances almost preclude that from happening.
    I am not sure how wages going down equates standard of living increasing.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michigan11 View Post
    I've been watching all of the predictions and forecast sites and authors for years and many of you have watched much longer than I have. This economic collapse many speak of will not be an event. It will be more of what we have seen if you look at the trends. There is no doubt the middle class is pretty much gone from what you would think of as a middle class.

    Most people I meet and know that I talk to don't disagree with that at all, they mostly will say that there is no longer a middle class most likely because they have seen their own and their families standard of living decrease. I have lived in the better parts of areas, and to hear this repeatedly tells me all I need to know, and lately there are very successfull business owners that have the type of businesses that are sort of mini-monopolies that cannot just be duplicated in their areas, their telling me they aren't seeing the profits they once did (finally seeing what the previous middle class has seen) and would sell if they could for what they view their business is worth, but they can't in this economy, and they are looking for new ventures to make up for their decreasing standards of living but aren't finding real opportunites for profit.

    People are becoming working slaves like frogs in a pot. They know its not right and they at this point aren't even thinking they will move ahead either. So the mind set has adjusted for the average person and has been working its way up to the new smaller middle class, or what was thought of once as the upper middle class. Most businesses they say were always on the verge of going out of business, from what older, wiser people tell me, but if you look around today and compare businesses to just say 15 years ago, and you think about it, I'm not sure. Back then just years ago, starting a business first, you would see a profit potential that was clearly there, that is why I started a business almost 20 years ago. I didn't plan to start one, just to hope for a profit as many are doing today. I didn't start it just to undercut, but because I saw a thriving and healthy sector of the economy that had higher demand than supply. Today I don't even hear too much of people working on their own, unless its to undercut other businesses that aren't even thriving in the first place, but from what I remember, nobody would have sacrificed their job for that type of business, because there was potential good paying jobs for many to thrive from. Today its similar to people looking for a safety net or delariously following some dream that they aren't even sure exists, or because they can't find a job that will pay a meaninful amount.

    The point I am making in writing this, is that we aren't going to see some big event, especially since the FED doesn't have a risk involved, since there are central banks connected with them all over the world, that protect each other. We are going to see the "frog in the pot", more of the same, and it will continue to gradually engulf the so called "upper middle class" and further up that chain, while the majority of poor 3rd world Americans grows and gets used to nothing. That is scary to think about, but that is what is happening.

    I guess I wrote this because what I am seeing does not line up with those who think there will be an event, and this is something to think about going forward. Most slaves here today are not even phased by their new reality, which worries me, but they are also not aware of much knowledge about anything really either.

    Basically all of these big events of gloom and doom aren't going to happen, the gloom and doom is coming from what the people aren't going to do to fight this. We need to perservere and spread the reality of our situation around to those close to us, and get them on our team. How would anyone want to see their closest friends and family eating mud pies in the near future?
    the only reason i disagree, is looking at other countries that have been in the situation mostly soviet Russia. Yea they do have the crumbling effect and it does until the masses wake up and notices whats going on. Then there is a sudden drop.

    For example oil(gas) people will be ok with gas prices increasing 20% every year for a while until people wake up and notice its not the oil prices are rising its the fact money is loosing value. Once the masses realize money is worthless and refuse to accept fiat money there will be a short collapse, like the soviet union. However things will get better real quick. I would guess you only need 3-6 months of supply of food and ammo.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingNothing View Post
    Nothing will change the fact that we are a nation of 300+ million people, most of whom are literate and educated, living on a massive chunk of land that is filled with natural resources, beautiful vacation and entertainment locations, cultural hotspots and an infrastructure to pull them all together. In that regard, we are a peculiar country. At this time, there is no other country as large as us, with such a diverse geography, economy, and population. Much as some want to denigrate our outlook as a nation, we have a uniquely stable foundation. We might not grow rapidly, but we'll advance, slowly but surely.
    That's a very good point. You could take that and run with it and it would serve as a very interesting discussion from a trends perspective. I had just mentioned some place around here about this very phenomenon needing to happen from a cultural perspective. I'm fairly sure we are on this path as a nation to maybe scale back a bit and live in a manner in which we did a couple of decades ago. Which is a good thing.

    But yes. Excellent observation in my opinion.
    Last edited by Natural Citizen; 02-20-2013 at 04:07 PM.
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  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michigan11 View Post
    I am not sure how wages going down equates standard of living increasing.
    In 2013, $1000 can buy you a laptop and several months of internet service. In 1913, it couldn't do that because the technology wasn't even close to existing. It could buy you, like, a telegraph, or something.

    Who has a higher standard of living? The man with the technology to mentally go anywhere on the face of the Earth (anywhere in the known universe, even), or the man with the equivalent of many, more dollars in his pocket who has to leave his house to use the bathroom and can't call anyone he knows on the magic device we carry around with us that we refer to as cell phones?

    Standard of living is not just real wages.

    Honestly, in consider that real wages were a bit higher in the 1970s.... but also that society was more violent, transportation to vacation destinations was more expensive, food more costly and less available, entertainment further from our fingertips --- Lord almighty, I'm conversing with someone I've never met, and will never even see, instantly. If we wanted, we could both download an episode of The Wire and talk about it in the chat, simultaneously. And then I could drive to a restaurant, listening to satellite radio on the way, and when I arrive I could eat fresh mozzarella that was imported from Italy this morning as an appetizer before an entre of, say, Kobe beef and Alaskan salmon, then drink a microbrew imported from Belgium. An average man is affording things that even a very wealthy couldn't have had several generations ago.


    Life is good. Seriously, life is obscenely good. Don't lose sight of that.
    Last edited by KingNothing; 02-20-2013 at 04:28 PM.

  17. #16

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    I might argue that the guy back in 1913 had a higher standard of living when you compare stress levels, tax burdens, overall happiness, and the strength of the family unit. Many people would gladly live more simply if they could. Honestly I think technology
    has it's place but it's gotten out of hand. Is anyone here happier than they were 20 years ago? I'm not... especially with what I see coming.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingNothing View Post
    I don't even think it will crumble. I think we'll endure periods of wealth transfers. I think we'll see other nations experience faster growth and more dramatic standard of living increases than we do, but I do not believe that we will regress. Nothing will change the fact that we are a nation of 300+ million people, most of whom are literate and educated, living on a massive chunk of land that is filled with natural resources, beautiful vacation and entertainment locations, cultural hotspots and an infrastructure to pull them all together. In that regard, we are a peculiar country. At this time, there is no other country as large as us, with such a diverse geography, economy, and population. Much as some want to denigrate our outlook as a nation, we have a uniquely stable foundation. We might not grow rapidly, but we'll advance, slowly but surely.
    You write as though these are all givens, but currency destruction and the wealth transfers you glibly brush aside are capable of setting a civilization back a significant amount, especially when the 'solution' exacerbates the problem. Underpinning our prosperity are several foundations, natural resources, land, geographical isolation/insulation and that elusive 'pioneering spirit,' but the role of our currency as reserve to the world has disguised much of the undermining that has already happened. If the US dollar becomes even a little less attractive internationally standards of living will be very affected by the ensuing cost push inflation. Make no mistake, that international demand for the dollar is one of the very hardest assumptions to fathom as it connects everything.

    To those suggesting that this decline proceeds predictably and gradually as before, I only agree for a time, then it turns very quickly. The tinder accumulates when many people realizing they are better off starting something of their own instead of working for an established firm begin to ignore and circumvent the draconian regulations that are piling up unabated. A mass of individuals gradually losing their servile preconditioning, not through ideological preaching, or economic education but through pursuing their own self interested quest for prosperity more creatively than before, because they must, (or at least the cost of doing so seems reasonable finally). Public services will become more costly, tax revenue will not keep up, and inflation will lead to increasing dissatisfaction from those working and those receiving, while tax revenue will not keep up without increasingly painful extractions from an increasingly less compliant populace. Citizens who feel like they are good and reasonable people, knowing many more, will be very demoralized by what they see as an unreasonable backlash by the state, and the upshot will be a widespread erosion of government legitimacy. People might well wake up, educate themselves and demand change, through established political channels. This is the nice scenario.

    Should hyperinflation kick in (not cost push, but an accelerating flight into anything else, due to lost confidence in the soundness of the currency, in this case the world reserve) the results will be very ugly. No one knows when a hyperinflation will come, but it hits fast and can run its course in a very short time. In this country or in the EU it will most likely highlight severe regional inequalities with the very real potential for conflict. The current value of the US dollar is almost entirely tradition based, "it was worth that yesterday so why not today." In this context it is easy to see that once the ball begins to roll, there will be little to stop it and rebuild confidence. It could easily have been crippled in the late 70s, and we were not indebted as a nation, the world needed us.

    Now? Before the Fed started buying up treasuries (and other junkier assets?) the trend of the 90s was culminating in 97% of loans to the federal government coming from foreign sources. When this trend slowed a bit the dollar took a major dive, so the Fed stepped in and took up the slack. (somewhat indirectly but the math works.) In the past year the Fed purchased more US government debt in the open market than the treasury issued (US government borrowed.) Remove that demand and our purchasing power plummets, let any of that cash trickle out of the banks and the same thing happens. The tinder could get sparked easily at any time.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingNothing View Post
    In 2013, $1000 can buy you a laptop and several months of internet service. In 1913, it couldn't do that because the technology wasn't even close to existing. It could buy you, like, a telegraph, or something.

    Who has a higher standard of living? The man with the technology to mentally go anywhere on the face of the Earth (anywhere in the known universe, even), or the man with the equivalent of many, more dollars in his pocket who has to leave his house to use the bathroom and can't call anyone he knows on the magic device we carry around with us that we refer to as cell phones?

    Standard of living is not just real wages.
    Actually standard of living is EXACTLY what real wages is trying to approximately measure. You can't eat a laptop or a highspeed internet connection, but you CAN use these to organize a revolution.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingNothing View Post


    Life is good. Seriously, life is obscenely good. Don't lose sight of that.
    People are notoriously ungrateful when their benefits are cut or their standard of living drops. During stagflation for example people will not happily take a cut when they increasingly see a protected class of politicians living high when they are scraping by (relatively speaking.) Notice that the poor American seldom compares himself with the poor Nigerian? Sure life is good, but no one likes the feeling that they are being increasingly exploited. This will hit across political party lines. We all wish no one should lose sight of this. Another thing, without the taxation, regulation and wars of the 20th century we would all be far better off in terms of living standards, but the unknown is very hard to communicate. A period of accelerated inflation, however, reveals that something has been lost, and you don't need much in an information rich world, to discover and communicate the causes. People don't forget the feeling of being exploited, once they realize it. This doesn't take a big educational appeal during a bad protracted 'soft patch.'

  21. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingNothing View Post
    I hate to nitpick, but if people say this, people are wrong. Their real-wages may have decreased slightly, but standard of living is not falling. The rapid rate of technological advances almost preclude that from happening.
    From where I sit, my own standard of living has dropped by 75% in the last 5 years. Everybody I know without exception is materially worse off than they were 4 years ago. Who are these people maintaining their standard of living you are speaking of? Because I've not met them.
    “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.” ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingNothing View Post
    Nothing will change the fact that we are a nation of 300+ million people, most of whom are literate and educated, living on a massive chunk of land that is filled with natural resources, beautiful vacation and entertainment locations, cultural hotspots and an infrastructure to pull them all together. In that regard, we are a peculiar country. At this time, there is no other country as large as us, with such a diverse geography, economy, and population.

    Hmm. Sounds an awful lot like a description of the Roman Empire, circa 117 A.D.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by KCIndy View Post
    Hmm. Sounds an awful lot like a description of the Roman Empire, circa 117 A.D.
    Soviet union had more natural resources, people, and land. It is now gone.
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  24. #23
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    A long grind does scare me more than a sudden crash. Maybe the young Generation can see hope in their future. I think older Generations staring retirement in the face and are unprepared, are looking at a stark reality. Some will make the best of it many will not.
    "When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will." Frederic Bastiat


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  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by LibForestPaul View Post
    Soviet union had more natural resources, people, and land. It is now gone.

    Greece... Rome.... the Mongols... Britain... Russia/USSR...

    History is littered with empires considered "too big to fail." There is absolutely no reason to claim the U.S. is any different.

  26. #25

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    Yes. Your one of us.

    Kind of makes you wonder why they would continue on this path to destruction. Then you come across something like this on Fark and it all comes into focus.

    During this global economic meltdown Ferrari have registered a) A record LOW number of sales in 2012 or b) A record HIGH?


    The story leading to the Fark headline above;

    http://www.shortlist.com/style/ferra...7318-car-sales


    The fark comments;

    http://www.fark.com/comments/7602479...-A-record-HIGH

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingNothing View Post
    I don't even think it will crumble. I think we'll endure periods of wealth transfers. I think we'll see other nations experience faster growth and more dramatic standard of living increases than we do, but I do not believe that we will regress. Nothing will change the fact that we are a nation of 300+ million people, most of whom are literate and educated, living on a massive chunk of land that is filled with natural resources, beautiful vacation and entertainment locations, cultural hotspots and an infrastructure to pull them all together. In that regard, we are a peculiar country. At this time, there is no other country as large as us, with such a diverse geography, economy, and population. Much as some want to denigrate our outlook as a nation, we have a uniquely stable foundation. We might not grow rapidly, but we'll advance, slowly but surely.
    I suppose we'll do all right if we step aside and quietly let the corporations loot the resources with the aid of their illegal labor.

    Speaking globally of course.

  28. #27

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    That frog in the pot of warm water wasn't armed to the teeth. The former "middle class", however, are. They aren't buying guns and ammunition in record numbers so they can let the gov buy them back or confiscate.

    Our enemy knows this.

    I agree this depression is a work in progress. All the more reason it is important to draw a line.
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  29. #28

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    The slower the downward grind, the less likely violence as people become accustomed to new lower standards of living.

    There is every reason to believe that the government is preparing for a more rapid decline than preferable for reasons of peace, however, with the militarization of the police, the arming of gov't agents, the stockpiling of weapons, the urban military drills, the desensitizing against shooting previously mostly taboo persons such as the pregnant lady on the target, the calls for gun controls, etc.

    Better to be prepared than not on our end too, and devise ways to opt out to the extent possible to retain independence. That doesn't mean we won't be called upon to defend ourselves, but it is always better to be fighting to maintain independence than to gain it when it has been lost entirely.
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  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seraphim View Post
    You're dead on about the collapse being a slow grind down.

    Empires fall piece by piece.
    Some pieces are bigger than others though. 2008 was a big piece. Right now it's smaller pieces as bubbles are furiously reinflated. The next big piece will fall soon enough. It'll just be on their schedule, not yours.
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  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by KCIndy View Post
    Hmm. Sounds an awful lot like a description of the Roman Empire, circa 117 A.D.

    Excerpted from HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION, by Thomas Cahill:

    pg. 11: "...On the last, cold day of December in the dying year we count as 406, the river Rhine froze solid, providing the natural bridge that hundreds of thousands of hungry men, women and children had been waiting for. They were the barbari--to the Romans an undistinguished, matted mass of Others, not terrifying, just troublemakers, annoyances, things one would rather not have to deal with--non-Romans. To themselves, they were, presumably, something more, but as the illiterate leave few records, we can only surmise their opinion of themselves.

    Neither the weary, disciplined Roman soldiers, ranked along the west bank, nor the anxious, helter-skelter tribes amassing on the east bank could have been giving much thought to their place in history. But this moment of slack, this relative calm before the pandemonium to follow, gives us the chance to study the actors on both sides of the river and to look backward on what has been and forward to what will be.


    pg. 26: "...By the fifth century, in the years before the complete collapse of Roman government, the imperial approach to taxation had produced a caste as hopeless as any in history. Their rapacious exactions, taken wherever and whenever they could, were the direct result of their desperation about their own increasingly unpayable tax bills. As these nerved-up outcasts commenced to prey on whoever was weaker than they, the rich became even richer. The great landowners ate up the little ones, the tax base shrank still further, and the middle classes, never encouraged by the Roman state, began to disappear from the face of the earth. Nor would they return till the appearance of the Italian mercantile families of the high Middle Ages..."

    pg. 29: "...Though it is difficult to imagine the Pax Romana lasting as long as it did without the increasing militarization of the Imperium Romanum, the Romans themselves were never happy about their army. It suggested dictatorship, rather than those good old republican values, and they preferred to avert their eyes, keeping themselves carefully ignorant of the army's essential contribution to their well-being. With the moral decay of republican resolve, the army became more and more a reserve of non-Romans, half-Romanized barbarian mercenaries and servants sent in the stead of freemen who couldn't be bothered. In the last days of the empire, men commonly mutilated themselves to escape service, though such a crime was--in theory--punishable by torture and death. Military levies, sent to the great estates, met such resistance that influential landowners were allowed to send money, instead of men, to the army. In 409, faced with an increasingly undefended frontier, the emperor announced the impossible: henceforth, slaves would be permitted, even encouraged, to enlist, and for their service they would receive a bounty and their freedom. By this point, it was sometimes difficult to tell the Romans from the barbarians--at least along the frontier..."

    pg. 29: "...There are, no doubt, lessons here for the contemporary reader. The changing character of the native population, brought about through unremarked pressures on porous borders; the creation of an increasingly unwieldy and rigid bureaucracy, whose own survival becomes its overriding goal; the despising of the military and the avoidance of service by established families, while its offices present unprecedented opportunity for marginal men to whom its ranks had once been closed; the lip service paid to values long dead; the pretense that we still are what we once were; the increasing concentrations of the populace into richer and poorer by way of a corrupt tax system, and the desperation that inevitably follows; the aggrandizement of executive power at the expense of the legislature; ineffectual legislation promulgated with great show; the moral vocation of the man at the top to maintain order at all costs, while growing blind to the cruel dilemmas of ordinary life--these are all themes with which our world is familiar, nor are they the God-given property of any party or political point of view, even though we often act as if they were. At least, the emperor could not heap his economic burdens on posterity by creating long-term public debt, for floating capital had not yet been conceptualized..."

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