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This crosspost (see below) from Jim Quinn, at the Burning Platform, was published over at Naked Capitalism in the past couple of hours, and it has been going quite viral around the intertubes this morning: "Jim Quinn: Lies Across America."

While I think it's truly brilliant, IMHO, Quinn tends to hype a few of the facts concerning consumer credit, while ignoring other realities (which I note more specifically in the following paragraph).

(As I've noted in previous posts, the reality is that the too-big-to-fail ["TBTF"] banks have stripped approximately half of all available credit lines--not credit outstanding but available/open revolving credit lines--from the Main Street [consumers and small businesses] in the past two years. [SEE: "'Structural Unemployment' & 'Deleveraging,' My Ass!" This is one of my most favorite personal diaries, of the many hundreds I've posted here, and it's one of the least-read ones, as well.] IMHO, the public's lack of knowledge about this much more important consumer credit story has been largely obfuscated by the status quo via the MSM. That being said, Quinn's commentary on U.S. consumerism would make Thorstein Veblen smile, if he was alive today, too.)

But, generally speaking, Quinn's on the money here, so to speak. Tell us your thoughts about his observations in the comments, below.

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(Diarist's Note: Naked Capitalism Publisher Yves Smith has provided written authorization to the diarist to reproduce her blog's posts in their entirety for the benefit of the DKos community.)

Jim Quinn: Lies Across America
Introductory Paragraph by Yves Smith
Naked Capitalism
November 29, 2010   12:40AM

Yves here. While Quinn has a deliberately (some might say overly) provocative style and I quibble with some of his supporting arguments, his overarching observation, that America is wedded to an economic model past its sell by date, and that model has damaging social
and political consequences, is one I believe will resonate with many readers.

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From Jim Quinn, who writes at The Burning Platform

Every single empire, in its official discourse, has said that it is not like all the others, that its circumstances are special, that it has a mission to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that it has a mission to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that it uses force only as a last resort. -- Edward Said

The increasingly fragile American Empire has been built on a foundation of lies. Lies we tell ourselves and Big lies spread by our government. The shit is so deep you can stir it with a stick. As we enter another holiday season the mainstream corporate mass media will relegate you to the status of consumer. This is a disgusting term that dehumanizes all Americans. You are nothing but a blot to corporations and advertisers selling you electronic doohickeys that they convince you that you must have. Propaganda about consumer spending being essential to an economic recovery is spewed from 52 inch HDTVs across the land, 24 hours per day, by CNBC, Fox, CBS and the other corporate owned media that generate billions in profits from selling advertising to corporations schilling material goods to thoughtless American consumers. Aldous Huxley had it figured out decades ago:

Thanks to compulsory education and the rotary press, the propagandist has been able, for many years past, to convey his messages to virtually every adult in every civilized country.

Americans were given the mental capacity to critically think. Sadly, a vast swath of Americans has chosen ignorance over knowledge. Make no mistake about it, ignorance is a choice. It doesn't matter whether you are poor or rich. Books are available to everyone in this country. Sob stories about the disadvantaged poor having no access to education are nothing but liberal spin to keep the masses controlled. There are 122,500 libraries in this country. If you want to read a book, you can read a book. The internet puts knowledge at the fingertips of every citizen. Becoming educated requires hard work, sacrifice, curiosity, and a desire to learn. Aldous Huxley describes the American choice to be ignorant:

Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don't know because we don't want to know.

It is a choice to play Call of Duty on your PS3 rather than reading Shakespeare. It is a choice to stand on a street corner looking for trouble rather than reading Hemingway. It is a choice to spend Black Friday in malls fighting other robotic consumers for iSomethings, the latest innovative, advanced TVs, flashy Rolexes, and ostentatious Coach bags rather than spending the day reading Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman, a brilliant Pulitzer Prize winning history of the outset of World War I, which would provide insight into what could happen on the Korean Peninsula. It is a choice to watch 6 hours per day of Dancing With the Stars, American Idol, Brainless Housewives of Everywhere, or CSI of Anywhere rather than reading Orwell or Huxley and discovering that their dystopian warnings have come true.

Conspicuous Consumption Conquistadors

Americans have chosen to lie to themselves. They have persuaded themselves that buying stuff with plastic cards while paying 19% interest for eternity, driving BMWs while locked into never ending indecipherable lease schemes, and living in permanently underwater McMansions bought with 0% down on an interest only liar loan, is the new American Dream. They think watching the boob tube will make them smart. They soak in the mass media hype, misinformation and lies like lemmings walking off a cliff. Depending on their political predisposition, they watch Fox or MSNBC and unthinkingly believe the propaganda that pours from the mouths of the multi-millionaire talking heads who read Teleprompters with words written by corporate media hacks. They tell themselves that buying stuff on credit, giving them the appearance of success as measured by the media elite, is actually success. This is a bastardized, manipulated, delusional version of accomplishment. Americans have chosen to believe the lies because the truth is too hard to accept.

Becoming educated, thinking critically, working hard, saving money to buy what you need (as opposed to what you want), developing human relationships, and questioning the motivations of government, corporate and religious leaders is hard. It is easy to coast through school and never read a book for the rest of your life. It is easy to not think about the future, your retirement, or the future of unborn generations. It is easy to coast through life at a job (until you lose it) that is unchallenging, with no desire or motivation for advancement. It is easy to make your everyday troubles disappear by whipping out your piece of plastic and acquiring everything you desire today. If your brother-in-law buys a 7,000 sq ft, 7 bedroom, 4 bath, 3 car garage, monolith to decadence for his family of 3, thirty miles from civilization, with no money down and a no doc Option ARM providing the funds, why shouldn't you get in on the fun. It's easy. Why sit around the kitchen table and talk with your kids, when you can easily cruise the internet downloading free porn or recording every trivial detail of your shallow life on Facebook so others can waste their time reading about your life. It is easiest to believe your elected leaders, glorified mega-corporation CEOs, and millionaire pastors preaching the word of God for a "small" contribution to their mega-churches.

Americans love authority figures who act as if they have all the answers. It matters not that these egotistical monuments to folly and hubris (Bush, Obama, Paulson, Geithner, Greenspan, Bernanke) have committed the worst atrocities in the history of our Republic, leaving economic carnage and the slaughter of thousands in their wake. The most dangerous man on this earth is an Ivy League educated, arrogant ideologue who believes they are smarter than everyone else. When these men achieve power, they are capable of producing catastrophic consequences. Once they seize the reigns of authority these amoral psychopaths have no problem lying to the American public in order to achieve their objectives. They know that Americans love to be lied to, so the bigger the lie, the more likely it is to be believed.

The current lie proliferating across the land of the free financing and home of the debtor is that austerity has broken out across the land. The mainstream media and the government, aided by various "think tanks" and Federal Reserve propagandists insist that Americans have buckled down, reduced spending, increased savings, and have embraced austerity.

They now proclaim that it is time to spend again. It is the patriotic thing to do, just like defeating terrorists by buying an SUV with 0% down from GM was the patriotic thing to do after 9/11. Defeating terrorists by going further into debt was the brilliant idea of those Ivy League geniuses Bush & Greenspan. Let's critically examine the facts to determine how austere Americans have become:

* Consumer credit outstanding is $2.41 trillion, the same level reached in early 2007, and up from $1.5 trillion in 2000. This is a 60% increase in ten years. Personal income has risen from $8.4 trillion to $12.6 trillion over this same time frame, a 50% increase. Americans have substituted debt for income in order to keep up with the Joneses. The mass delusion lives.
* The MSM declares that the reduction in overall consumer debt from its peak of $2.56 trillion in 2008 to $2.41 trillion today proves that consumers have been cutting back and paying off debt. This is another media lie. Non-revolving debt, which includes car loans, education loans, mobile home loans and boat loans sits at $1.6 trillion, an all-time high matched in 2008. Credit card debt has "plunged" from $957 billion to $814 billion, not because consumers paid down their balances. The mega Wall Street banks have written off $20 billion per quarter since early 2009, accounting for ALL of the reduction in credit card debt. Clueless consumers continue to charge at the same rate as the peak in 2008.

* Average credit card debt per household with credit card debt: $15,788
* There are 609.8 million bank credit cards held by U.S. consumers.
* The U.S. credit card default rate is 13.01%
* In 2006, the United States Census Bureau determined that there were nearly 1.5 billion credit cards in use in the U.S. A stack of all those credit cards would reach more than 70 miles into space - and be almost as tall as 13 Mount Everests.
* Penalty fees from credit cards added up to about $20.5 billion in 2009.
* The national average default rate as January 2010 stood at 27.88% and the mean default rate is 28.99%.
* Total bankruptcy filings in 2009 reached 1.4 million, up from 1.09 million in 2008. Bankruptcies in 2010 are on pace to exceed 1.6 million.
* 26% of Americans, or more than 58 million adults, admit to not paying all of their bills on time. Among African-Americans, this number is at 51%.

Does This Look Like Austerity? Really?

CHART: U.S. Credit Card Debt Outstanding ($mn)

This data clearly proves that austerity has not broken out across the land of delusion. The billions in consumer loan write-offs by the Wall Street banks that run this country have masked the fact that Americans have not cut back on their spending habits at all. GMAC (taxpayer owned) and Ford Credit continue to dish out car loans to anyone with a pulse and a 600 credit score. The Federal Reserve and the FASB have encouraged, if not insisted, that banks fraudulently value the commercial real estate loans on their books. The Federal Reserve has bought $1.5 trillion of toxic mortgage loans from the criminal Wall Street banks at 100 cents on the dollar. The government's corporate fascist public relations firms then spread the big lie that the economy is recovering and consumers should join the party and spend, spend, spend.

If Americans were capable or willing to do some critical thinking, they would realize that those in power have created the illusion of a recovery by handing $700 billion of your money to the banks that created the financial meltdown, spending $800 billion on worthless pork barrel projects borrowed from future generations, dropping interest rates to 0% so that the mega-Wall Street banks can earn billions risk free while your grandmother who depended on interest income from her CDs edges closer to eating cat food to get by, and lastly Ben Bernanke's blatant attempt to enrich Wall Street by buying US Treasury bonds in an effort to make the stock market go up, while the middle and lower classes are crushed under the weight of soaring fuel and food price increases that exceed 30% on an annual basis. The illusion of recovery is not a recovery. With a true unemployment rate of 22%, a true inflation rate of 8% and a real GDP of -1.5% (Shadowstats), we are in the midst of the Greater Depression. You are being lied to, but most of you prefer it.

The Little Lies We Tell Ourselves

Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know. - M King Hubbert

When Jimmy Carter gave his malaise speech in 1979, Americans were in no mood to listen. Carter's solutions were too painful, required sacrifice, and sought to benefit future generations. The leading edge of the Baby Boom generation had reached their 30s by 1979, and the most spoiled, pampered, egocentric generation in history could care less about future generations, long term thinking, or sacrifice for the greater good. They were the ME GENERATION. The 1970s had proven to be tumultuous episode in US history. M King Hubbert's calculation in 1956 that U.S. oil production would peak in the early 1970s proved to be 100% correct.

CHART: U.S. Oil Production and Imports

The Arab oil embargo resulted in gas shortages and economic chaos in the U.S. Hubbert used the same method to determine that worldwide oil production would peak in the early 2000s. If long term planning had been initiated in the early 1980s, combining exploration of untapped reserves, greater utilization of natural gas, development of nuclear plants, more stringent fuel efficiency standards, increased taxes on gasoline, and more thoughtful development of housing communities, we would not now face a looming oil crisis within the next few years. Instead of dealing with reality, adapting our behavior and preparing for a more localized society, we put our blinders on, chose ignorance over reason and pushed the pedal to the medal by moving farther away from our jobs, building bigger energy intensive mansions, and insisting on driving tank-like SUVs, Hummers, and good ole boy pickups. Kevin Phillips in American Theocracy explained that hyper-consumerism, fear, and inability to use logic have left our suburban oasis lives in danger of implosion when the reality of peak cheap oil strikes:

Besides the innate thirst of SUVs, some of the last quarter century's surge in U.S. oil consumption has come from Americans driving more - some twelve thousand miles per motorist per year, up almost one - third from 1980 - because they as a whole live farther from work. In consumption terms, exurbia is the physical result of the latest population redistribution enabled by car culture and the electorate that upholds it.

Family values are central - if by this we mean having families and accepting lengthy commutes to install them in reasonably safe and well churched places. In the 1970's such households might have been fleeing school busing or central city crime; in the post - September 11 era, many sought distance from "godless" school systems or the random violence and terrorist attacks expected to occur in metropolitan areas.

We willingly believe the lies espoused by the badly informed pundits on CNBC and Fox that if we just drill in Alaska and off our coasts, we'll be fine. The ignorant peak cheap oil deniers insist there are billions of barrels of oil to be harvested from the Bakken Shale, even though there is absolutely no method of accessing this supply without expending more energy than we can access. Environmentalists lie about the dangers of nuclear power, while shamelessly promoting the ridiculous notion that solar, wind and ethanol can make a visible impact on our future energy needs. Ideologues on the right and left conveniently ignore the facts and the truth is lost in a blizzard of their lies. Here is an explanation so clear, even a CNBC "drill baby drill" dimwit could understand:

When oil production first began in the mid-nineteenth century, the largest oil fields recovered fifty barrels of oil for every barrel used in the extraction, transportation and refining. This ratio is often referred to as the Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROEI). Currently, between one and five barrels of oil are recovered for each barrel-equivalent of energy used in the recovery process. As the EROEI drops to one, or equivalently the Net Energy Gain falls to zero, the oil production is no longer a net energy source. This happens long before the resource is physically exhausted.

CHART: Energy Return On Energy Investment (EROEI) 1850-2200

After the briefest of lulls when oil reached $145 per barrel, Americans have resumed buying SUVs, pickup trucks, and gas guzzling muscle cars. They have chosen to ignore the imminence of peak cheap oil because driving a leased BMW makes your neighbors think you are a success, while driving a hybrid would make your neighbors think you are a liberal tree hugger. It boggles my mind that so many Americans are so shallow and shortsighted. According to Automotive News, at the start of 2008 leasing comprised 31.2% of luxury vehicle sales and 18.7% of non-luxury sales. This proves that hundreds of thousands of wannabes are driving leased BMWs and Mercedes to fill some void in their superficial lives.

The delusion that cheap oil is a God given right of all Americans can be seen in the YTD data on vehicle sales. Pickups and SUVs account for 48.5% of all sales, while small fuel efficient cars account for only 16.5% of all sales. Americans will continue to lie to themselves until it is too late, again.

CHART: 2009 & 2010 (Year-to-Date) Data On U.S. Vehicle Sales

Americans are so committed to their automobiles, hyper-consumerism, oversized McMansions, and suburban sprawl existence that they will never willingly prepare in advance for a future by scaling back, downsizing, or thinking. Our culture is built upon consumption, debt, cheap oil and illusion. Kevin Phillips in American Theocracy concludes that there are so many Americans tied to our unsustainable economic model that they will choose to lie to themselves and be lied to by their leaders rather than think and adapt:

A large number of voters work in or depend on the energy and automobile industries, and still more are invested in them, not just financially but emotionally and culturally. These secondary cadres included racing fans, hobbyists, collectors, and dedicated readers of automotive magazines, as well as the tens of millions of automobile commuters from suburbs and distant exurbs, plus the high number of drivers whose strong self-identification with vehicle types and models serve as thinly disguised political statements. In the United States more than elsewhere, a preference for conspicuous consumption over energy efficiency and conservation is a signal of a much deeper, central divide.

M King Hubbert was a geophysicist and a practical man. He observed data, made realistic assumptions, and came to logical conclusions. He didn't deal in unrealistic hope and unwarranted optimism. He knew that our culture had become so dependent upon lies and an unsustainable growth model based on depleting oil and debt based "prosperity". He knew decades ago that we were incapable of dealing with the truth:

Our principal constraints are cultural. During the last two centuries we have known nothing but exponential growth and in parallel we have evolved what amounts to an exponential-growth culture, a culture so heavily dependent upon the continuance of exponential growth for its stability that it is incapable of reckoning with problems of non-growth.

Our country is at a crucial juncture. It is time for thinkers. It is time for realists. It is time to deal with facts. It is time to drive the ideologues off the stage. Are you tired of lying to yourselves? Are you tired of being lied to by the corporate fascists that run this country? It is time to wake up. Right wing and left wing ideologues will continue to spew lies and misinformation as they are power hungry and care not for the long-term survival of our nation or the unborn generations that depend upon the decisions we make today. It is time to see how we really are.

Most of one's life is one prolonged effort to prevent oneself from thinking. People intoxicate themselves with work so they won't see how they really are. -- Aldous Huxley

(End of Jim Quinn's post.)
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Slightly O.T. Diarist's Note: There are certain folks in this community that continue to attribute the commentary of others to yours truly. Case in point, earlier on Sunday evening, someone--who shall remain unnamed--stated that I forecasted 9.7% unemployment in 2010. (As I reported it on March 17th: Tim Geithner, Peter Orszag and Christina Romer stated this. And, they were quite accurate, IMHO.) If you read my diaries with any regularity, I have repeatedly stated that--generally speaking--I very, very rarely make any forecasts, at all. (In fact, I remind those that read my diaries that I'm NOT an economist. IMHO, I only wish others whom this community relies upon for information about our economy would do likewise; and, if they're going to attempt to discredit my own commentary, I would hope they would do so with some semblance of -- or at least a feigned attempt at -- accuracy. [If you're going to say that I'm "wrong," then have the decency to explain WHY! Otherwise, it's little more than an ad hominem.]) I do, however, report on the forecasts and commentary of others on a regular basis. (And, one more thing, for the record and while I'm on this topic) I can only think of one economist and/or commentator on our economy with whom I agree virtually 100% of the time, and that's Joseph Stiglitz.

Originally posted to on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 12:20 AM PST.

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  •  Tip Jar (176+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Egg, Lupin, Alumbrados, Ed in Montana, rick, PrahaPartizan, catdevotee, Savage, decisivemoment, glitterscale, Detlef, mattman, emal, surfbird007, LynChi, Mnemosyne, rasbobbo, Gustogirl, Cassandra77, grassroot, chuckvw, chimpy, JuliaAnn, semiot, CitizenOfEarth, pat bunny, JimWilson, Chirons apprentice, riverlover, alizard, dkmich, walkshills, zerelda, CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream, Wife of Bath, Mosquito Pilot, Josiah Bartlett, Gowrie Gal, Bluesee, marina, radarlady, salmo, NoMoreLies, jrooth, yuriwho, unclejohn, disrael, irate, PBen, Irons33, run around, truong son traveler, eightlivesleft, drewfromct, tidewatcher249, lotlizard, blue earth, Sandino, LucyandByron, FindingMyVoice, dancewater, Jim P, Kingsmeg, vigilant meerkat, tonyahky, ActivistGuy, buckstop, greenearth, Lefty Coaster, blueoasis, gatorcog, imabluemerkin, Preston S, sceptical observer, Briney Remark, profh, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, Cassiodorus, blueoregon, shaharazade, pkbarbiedoll, lakehillsliberal, Friend of the court, gerald 1969, DBunn, DorothyT, Ken in MN, dotsright, ColoTim, Margfh, yoduuuh do or do not, daveygodigaditch, hold tight, Jimdotz, terabytes, DWG, bnasley, Kentucky Kid, letsgetreal, SeaTurtle, millwood, Chung Fu, Brahman Colorado, LWelsch, cloudbustingkid, Terra Mystica, Justus, Mr Stagger Lee, Involuntary Exile, LI Mike, KJG52, Haplogroup V, geomoo, pickandshovel, Tam in CA, mofembot, banger, BrainDrain, palantir, Mike Taylor, cybrestrike, greengemini, lostinamerica, BigAlinWashSt, JG in MD, Michael James, banjolele, Stranded Wind, dark daze, h bridges, Daily Activist, zaka1, kevinpdx, Randtntx, Words In Action, brentbent, coppercelt, imamish, ctexrep, Balanz, DavidHeart, ItsSimpleSimon, Kristina40, 2020adam, Earth Ling, farbuska, Colorado is the Shiznit, annominous, xgy2, ozsea1, Gracian, Cintimcmomma, BlackQueen40, QuestionAuthority, Mistral Wind, marleycat, Wolf10, dle2GA, muddy boots, tardis10, LSmith, Vtdblue, Imhotepsings, Marihilda, No one gets out alive, Azazello, rtcfrtc, BlueDragon, livingthedream, OHknighty, angry marmot, Joieau, Ginger1, Th0rn, Leo Flinnwood, radical simplicity

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 12:25:14 AM PST

  •  Accurate comments on diaries (6+ / 0-)

    you're a pie in the sky optimist :)

  •  Quinn's message (26+ / 0-)

    I'm afraid his signal-to-noise ratio overwhelms his valuable message. He makes my blue pencil itch.

    These are a few of my favorite things.

    by JG in MD on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 12:40:51 AM PST

  •  Sick lies make for a sick nation (19+ / 0-)

    A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves. Sick story-tellers can make their nations sick. And sick nations make for sick story-tellers.

    Ben Okri (1996). Birds of Heaven. London: Phoenix.

  •  Mass Delusion. (36+ / 0-)

    The fact that, even here at DailyKos, so many Americans rely on corporate media for their "news" simply boggles my mind. Folks are essentially making a direct payment to NewsCorp, GE, etc. every time they pay their cable bill. They're letting entities whose sole purpose is Profit dictate what "news" they care about for the day.

    •  My biggest problem is the "itching blue pencil (12+ / 0-)

      syndrome" on Kos.  First, we say if you only wrote highly intelligent, detailed and documented diaries, I would read them.  I have read tons of diaries like these that do not get read or rec'd.  They are sometimes rescued but rarely if they got any negative reviews.  And most of the negative reviews have nothing to do with the reality of what was written in the diary but based on the interpretation of the commenter.

      Second, we say I have a hard time reading profanity and hyperbole, and if you would stop doing that you would have more credibility.  To which I would say and less readership, and less understanding, since we have all been conditioned to respond to conflict.  The great sucking squid of Matt will remain visual for a long time.

      Third, we say if we would only stick to issues and strategies of electing more democrats, we would fulfill our mission.  Yet, I notice the diaries most often to get rec'd are fantasies, sometimes soft porn depending on who wrote them, satire, and awww isn't that cute.

      •  A few things (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Gustogirl, blueoasis, Nulwee, DBunn
        we say I have a hard time reading profanity and hyperbole, and if you would stop doing that you would have more credibility.

        1. Who is the "we" that says you have a hard time reading profanity and hyperbole? Did you mean to stick to a consistent voice in your comment?

        2. People have different thresholds for profanity, and there is not a one-size-fits-all level that is correct.

        3. Hyperbole is in the eye of the beholder. What is "hyperbole" when used by someone we disagree with is a literary device when used by ourselves and those who are like-minded.
    •  That, and (8+ / 0-)

      Folks are essentially making a(n) INdirect payment to NewsCorp, GE, etc. every time they make a political contribution.

      Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

      by drewfromct on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 05:49:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  One thing puzzles me. If we are over consuming (8+ / 0-)

    at a horrendous rate at the same time that the Income Inequality Graphs are telling us that only the rich have actually had a real pay increase in the last 30 years, then where is the money coming from for the over consumption.

    And if it is all being done on debt then how did American Corporations rack up the largest profit total of all time just this past quarter.

    They would have to be booking sales placed on credit as actual sales dollars and then the profits generated by this phony income would be just as phony.

    Is Sarbanes Oxyley already dead?

    •  Case-in-point... (29+ / 0-)
      ...I have an employee working for me who: a.) declared bankruptcy about 6-8 months ago, b.) is 3-4 months behind in his mortgage. This weekend, he went out and bought a 46" t.v.

      American corporations--the ones racking up their outrageous profits right now, anyway--are doing business on a global scale, outsourcing/offshoring their work to much lower-paid employees/vendors and simultaneously crushing their U.S. employees' incomes due to the buyer's market for labor, here at home.

      Sales, regardless of whether they're "on credit" or for cash, are booked identically on the corporate level, because it's all done (for the most part) on an accrual basis (among many other reasons).

      The top quintile is doing virtually all of the saving and much of "the spending," not accounting for the live-for-today-f*ck-tomorrow mentality of the country, as a whole (of which Quinn writes about, above).

      "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

      by bobswern on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 01:28:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ancedotes (6+ / 0-)

        Is the average citizen going out purchasing 46" HDTV sets as their homes are being foreclosed on, or worse that they are in danger of losing their jobs.. or have already lost their job?

        •  If the statistics about the use of credit is (15+ / 0-)

          correct in this diary, the answer has to be yes.  Especially, about cars.  I have had this discussion.  A reasonably young and handsome guy who is the choir director of a small local AME church drives a Mazaradi (sp?).  I think this is a terrible role model.  But I am told the issue is simply can he make the payments.

          I also see on a regular basis children hungry at the end of the month, but at the first of the month happily eating a four dollar bag of chips.  Food waste and usage that I see all the time really gets to me, and I am forced to say nothing.

          That is what we do in America--say nothing which makes us want to do even less.

          •  I guess I'm not buying it (17+ / 0-)

            the notion that the average citizen is buying HDTVs and Mercedes in the face of losing their homes.

            This is close to the meme that we hear so often from the right, that the financial crisis was caused by people buying homes they couldn't afford.    Nevermind the systematic deregulation and lack of oversight that drove our economy into crisis in the first place.

            •  I agree with a lot of what you say, (18+ / 0-)

              but I will direct you to a movie to think about A Knight's Tale with Heath Leger.  He has these winnings he can split three ways or convince them to take a shot at becoming champions thru merit and achievement.  They have a whole discussion that the only thing peasants can ever really expect is an occasional full belly with dessert and to go for it.

              In my early 20s, teaching in mostly impoverished areas that kind of thinking is prevalent.  For one most have never seen any one get out by saving.  The pleasure of the moment trumps everything.

              When I had money and employees, they would spend 100s on renting a limousine for their birthday.  I was appalled.  They would tell me they would have the memory and I would say I got a free beer for my 21st birthday and spent the afternoon in the Long Horn Saloon with no debt.  I have not missed any memories.

              Oprah:  how many cases of people spending years paying off their wedding.  I recently saw a movie of someone's wedding.  They lived together for 9 years before they got married and the bride wanted this wedding this way and so she saved and payed for it.  It was quite something.  Like a Disney movie.  All I could think of was what that money could have done for her by using it for education.  They simply don't think that way.

              But I do have compassion for it.  Because they are taught nothing about the reality of money or debt.  And the TV does brain wash them into thinking the way they do.

              I might be the same.  I see a huge difference in the thinking of the last of us who like me never saw a TV until they were ten or so.

              I am friends with a neighbor who looks 60 but is 86 and is a retired school teacher and has lived in her home for almost 50 years.  We have tea and she talks about how she can't believe what the grands are doing.

              •  I understand your thinking on this--though I (10+ / 0-)

                might be a little younger than you (just turned 40) I had the benefit of having a dad who was born in 1913--from him I learned a great deal about the benefits of living frugally and saving.

                Most people who know me--especially those my age and younger--think I'm nuts when I talk about things like raising my own food, or using a clothesline instead of a dryer for the laundry in the summer.

                But I would rather be the person who lives in an old trailer on a piece of land that owns it outright, with no debt, as to be the person who lives in a 5,000 square foot mansion that they owe a half a million dollars on, who could lose everything if they get sick or lose their job.

              •  A generation of brainwashing (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                tonyahky, Justus, Imhotepsings, Joieau
                has resulted in turning profligacy from a vice into a virtue. If you have the choice of buying something now using credit or waiting until you have the money, even until next paycheck, it is considered stupid to wait and a sign of a character flaw.

                I believed that Americans had committed to household austerity because I did myself. But perhaps the "austerity" I am observing is people whose credit has been cut off. It must be balanced out by continued escalation of spending by those who still have incomes.

                •  I strongly suspect the (5+ / 0-)

                  spending you hear talked about isn't happening at all. Just clips from Black Fridays past designed to encourage you to spend what you haven't got and cannot get. We are entertainers, spent the weekend at two malls in a 'big' city west of here. We get paid quite well for what we do, we spend basically none of it at the malls (did get my once every two years' pair of sneakers half off at Payless, cheaper than WalMart!).

                  Saturday at the high end mall was about average traffic, not high. Sunday at the half-empty but quite nice mall across town was pitiful. Hundreds of holiday workers trying their darndest to look busy, they outnumbered shoppers 2-1. At the 2-story Belk's at 3pm a circuit found all of three shoppers, and none of them carried bags. We heard from all the workers at the shops and kiosks say the same thing with looks of dread on their faces...

                  "Where is everybody?"

                  If the working class people who still have jobs are buying, they're buying brand new used (the thrift, consignment and salvage stores are pretty full). The middle class people haven't started yet because they're not buying what they don't need right now. People are talking "re-gifting" and giving home made this year. They've bled us dry, the truth is just being held back so you'll think yours is the only family not doing the consumerist frenzy this year.

                  Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                  by Joieau on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 08:16:32 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  television (9+ / 0-)

                When I was a child my family moved to a place where English was not the primary language, and where there was very little English television programming.  As a consequence I watched very little television for several years, something that I now realize was crucial to my development.

                The ubiquity of screens today is astonishing and disgusts me--living spaces are structured around the location of the television, and restaurants, building lobbies, and physician waiting rooms all have been converted into places to watch.  It's as if we can't tolerate not being passively entertained, and the entertainment is little more than content in between the advertisements, which have ramped up the propaganda even more than usual, including a Morgan Stanley commercial incongruously set to a Cat Stevens tune.  I recently visited relatives and commented, somewhat acidly, that there were more televisions than people living in the house.

                I have commented before that this makes me feel a bit like Winston Smith.  I half expect a broadcast personality to yell at me by name and command me to pay attention.

                A terrible beauty is born. --W.B. Yeats

                by eightlivesleft on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 07:33:31 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Underneath it all is judgment (5+ / 0-)

                about how other people spend their money. Go too far with this and it turns into something out of an anti-Soviet propaganda movie with The State telling everyone what to wear, eat, use, and live with.

                The reality of life on the edge of too much debt is that sometimes, you have to pay yourself once in awhile, too. A 46" HDTV might be a huge expense, but compared to a weekly 50 buck-trip to the movies (and that's without the popcorn!), it'll end up saving more money in the long run. And as smart as we all are, we don't get to tell other people how to live, or whether they "deserve" a car/house/TV/pony.

                Sometimes, when you're about to lose the house, you buy the nice minivan anyway, so you have enough room to live in it and a way to get to work if you're lucky enough to have a job.

                We could all grow old dreaming up the motivations and circumstances that lead people to do what they do, but the reality is, they're going to do it anyway. A better expenditure of our time and effort would be to focus on the business entities unburdened with emotions and ask where their logic lies in irresponsible practices.

                A better expenditure of our time and effort is to focus on what we can do to change the people in the mirrors, the people who live with us, who came out of us, who look up to us. I don't know what will change people, but for most of us, it's the lack of change we find comforting. Change is slow and incremental. It didn't take us overnight to rack up our cultural debt and moral bankruptcy, and short of a civilizational collapse, we won't get out of it overnight, either.

                I 'ship Obama/America. OTP

                by athenap on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 08:21:09 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  you don't know junkies (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              zett, Cassiodorus, LI Mike, farbuska

              that's what jukies do. They buy dope when maggots are coming out of their ears. Consumerism in America is the same as junk--it combines both cocaine and heroin and crank. Most Americans, even fairly thoughtful ones, are really hung up on "stuff" there's no way around it. The meaning of life, one's status in life is determined by consumer spending and really, very little else.

        •  I don't know if you could say these are (9+ / 0-)

          "average citizens" doing it, but I suspect an awful lot are.  I have another anecdote: I also have an employee (part-time) whose house is in foreclosure, plus she hasn't paid any electric bills for well over a year. She has refused to get a full-time job because she wants to home-school her 2 youngest children. Without going into too much detail, she spends money on blackberries for herself and three of her kids, she buys expensive ready-made meals (and junk food), but when the electricity was finally shut off at her house two months ago, she was up in arms about it and somehow, through a friend got it turned back on.  Still no payments to the electric company.  It got turned off again last week and she and her twenty-something son (Who lives with her but also refuses to get a full-time job) are crying "no fair!"

          I don't know, there just seems to be a sense of entitlement that has been fostered by our society, and a "I'll pay for it later-maybe" attitude.

          A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. -Greek proverb

          by marleycat on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 05:42:01 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  There was a story in Salon not long (5+ / 0-)
            ago about a family that did (from the perspective of the reader, perhaps) everything wrong, buying an expensive home far from work, refinancing repeatedly to get cash for living expenses, private school tuition for the kids, on and on. For some reason they viewed each questionable financial decision from the perspective of whether this was the one that would put them over the edge right now, and as their comfort level with debt continued to increase, the answer was always "no".

            They lost their house in foreclosure, and even as the woman was writing her story, she failed to understand that foreclosure after you are unable to pay your mortgage is not something that just happens randomly like being struck by lightning, but a result of a great many financial decision made in the past.


  •  Oh Boy (4+ / 0-)

    This diary gets sent to 'conservative' sister and mom.


    Exactly what are conservatives conserving?

  •  Where are the (14+ / 0-)

    leaders showing that there are other ways to live?

    The vast majority of people are just going to follow what they see around them. It's hard to condemn them for it. Positive vision, imagination, and leadership are rare commodities.

    I'm thinking about things like Mark Boyle's The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living - catchy experiments that get enough publicity to get through people's filters against subversive ideas, and that dramatically call into question the fundamental economic beliefs everyone simply takes for granted without question.

    As Boyle says:

    We were looking at the world's issues – environmental destruction, sweatshops, factory farms, wars over resources – and wondering which of them we should dedicate our lives to. But I realised that I was looking at the world in the same way a western medical practitioner looks at a patient, seeing symptoms and wondering how to firefight them, without any thought for their root cause. So I decided instead to become a social homeopath, a pro-activist, and to investigate the root cause of these symptoms.

    One of the critical causes of those symptoms is the fact we no longer have to see the direct repercussions our purchases have on the people, environment and animals they affect. The degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed have increased so much that we're completely unaware of the levels of destruction and suffering embodied in the stuff we buy. The tool that has enabled this separation is money.

    Obviously, that particular experiment isn't a be-all end-all in itself, but people need to have their ideas shaken up about what the good life and the American Dream can really mean. It sure isn't what corporate American wants everyone to think it is without question.

    •  Capitalism cannot afford the competition (12+ / 0-)

      No viable alternatives to the Capitalist system can be allowed to succeed.

      You can look to the embargo of Cuba or the melting of USSRs economy via arms escalation or at the IMF imposing structural austerity in (now) Ireland or the installation of Pinochet in Chile ...

      the list goes on and on

      "a lie that can no longer be challenged becomes a form of madness" -Debord

      by grollen on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 03:05:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Amen. This is my thinking also. nt (0+ / 0-)
    •  I was in a comment thread last week (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justus, Imhotepsings

      in a diary about the tax cuts expiring.  The conversation turned to the payroll tax cut Obama's stimulus provided everyone.  A poster said it was "about $7.00 a week, or two happy meals".

      THERE is the problem right there.  That poster equated $7.00 to 2 happy meals.  I rattled off a list of all the other food that $7.00 would buy.  For what that guy was willing to throw away on 2 "meals", I stocked my pantry in 2 weeks.

      It was bizarre.

      •  What are you trying to say? (0+ / 0-)
        It sounds like you are saying that you buy two weeks' worth of groceries for $7.

        The guy was right in that it is a trivial amount of money. Someone would have to be obsessive-compulsive enough to keep a spreadsheet of every penny to track that money.

        •  No - my point was you could (4+ / 0-)

          buy the following for $7.00 and in a couple of weeks of having that "extra" $7.00, you'd have food in your pantry:

          5 jars of peanut butter, or
          5 loaves of bread, or
          5 lbs. of broccoli, or
          15 ears of corn, or
          4 heads of lettuce, or
          14 cans of vegetables, or
          7 bags of rice, or
          4 meals' worth of pork chops, or
          2 gallons of milk, or
          14 cans of soup, or
          6 bags of beans, or
          4 bags of carrots, or
          5 bags of flour

          See the difference?  Yes, it involves buying on sale, using coupons, etc.  It involves cooking and planning.  but when you have little money?  That $7.00 makes a difference.  The trivialization of it makes me so angry.

    •  Leaders crop up when communities are ready (3+ / 0-)

      American society is incapable of anything other than continual and continuing degradation because they have bought into the ignorance is bliss meme. Ignorance enables you to consume the objectcs and services you crave without a conscience. Since it is now commonly accepted that the meaning of life is spending money to establish your status and personality that's all people are going to do. Of course there are the fringe elements who notice that there may be something more to life than narcissism but those people are so far out of the mainstream they are ignored.

      When I say "incapable" I'm quite serious. There is no cultural trend of any size that indicates any movement towards solving any of the problems we face or enhancing our public life. The only major movement is the Tea Party which, appears, to favor complete destruction of everything if their recommendations are followed to their logical conclusions. I'm beginning to think they have a point.

  •  Roughly 1 in 100 have gone bankrupt in last 2 yrs (17+ / 0-)

    As I'm typing this a bankruptcy ad comes on my TV.

    Demand Filibuster Reform call your Senators at (202) 224-3121 -AND KEEP CALLING

    by Lefty Coaster on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 01:29:32 AM PST

  •  I think it is called (12+ / 0-)

    Manufacturing Consent

    Die energie der Welt ist constant; die Entropie der welt strebt einem Maximum zu. - Rudolf Clausius, 1865

    by xgy2 on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 02:05:42 AM PST

  •  Dude pretty much lost me when he veered into (27+ / 0-)

    Boomer Bashing.

    And, I'm an X'er.  There is no "Evil Generation" that caused all our woes.

    "You have no respect for excessive authority or obsolete traditions. You're dangerous and depraved, and you ought to be taken outside and shot!" J Heller

    by JesseCW on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 02:12:12 AM PST

    •  Right on. I wasn't impressed with (18+ / 0-)

      the tiresome centrist (albeit radical centrist) tirade against anything remotely resembling shape or form.  

      False equivalence is a major turnoff to me. Ideology aside, there is a distinct difference between Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow.

    •  There has always been a divide between (11+ / 0-)

      conservatives and liberals.  It was very present then.  Those of us who supported Carter were made to feel like absolute fools.  I shut up because then at 30 which is really young in the ways of the world; I thought maybe these "masters of the universe" knew something I didn't.

      I now know what I know as well, as what I don't know.  And for the first time in my life, I have the net to find out in ways never possible before.  I still have this amazement on a daily basis.

      Research prior to this was extremely time consuming and very expensive.

    •  Me too, JesseCW - The most spoiled generation (7+ / 0-)

      I ever ran into was the boomers kids. I like bobswern's diaries.  But please, Bob, refrain from insulting some of your biggest fans.  I was never spoiled.  I worked for everything I got.  My bother and I had little stools to stand on to do the dishes.
      I cleaned the entire house every Saturday.  Bathrooms and all.  I don't know about the rest of the boomers, but my dad spent his formative years in the army during WW2, and he ran our house like an army barracks.  I bet he wasn't the only one.  Our parents came from the "You made your bed, you lie in it" camp and that was the common attitude of the day.
      Like I said, It was the boomers kids who got spoiled.
      And this was because of the American ideal that our children do better than us.

      United we stand - Divided we are all truly screwed. Keep them blaming one another - they'll never notice what's really going on.

      by Cassandra77 on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 06:14:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am a fan of Bob's (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bobswern, farbuska, Joieau
        and I too am in that age range. But I take no offense, as I see so many around me in my age/peer group continuing to throw out the old crap they bought but didn't need in order to buy new crap they don't need. It is part of the problem, not part of the solution, to refuse to permit blame to be laid on those who deserve it as though doing so means you are guilty by association.
        •  The way I see it, (0+ / 0-)

          we need the consuming class to purchase all the expensive junk new (including vehicles that devalue by $10K the moment you drive them off the lot, refrigerators, washers, dryers, televisions, furniture, etc.) so there will be used items available for the rest of us.

          For someone like me, who has never bought a brand new vehicle or appliance or stick of furniture, I celebrate the consuming class's monetary contributions!

          P.S. I am a boomer.

          Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

          by Joieau on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 08:29:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  If you go back and read more carefully (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bobswern, dle2GA, tardis10

        you'll see that the boomer bashing comes in with the material written by Jim Quinn.

        Ironic, yes? that one of Quinn's points is that we Americans are willfully uninformed.

    •  Right!! Boomers were guilty of (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, Marihilda

      forcing the govt to legislate consumer and employee protections. And due to strength of unions from 1945-1970, forced employers to give workers a fair share of the income pie.

      All that has been dismantled by Reagan, Clinton, Bush and the 'changemaster himself' Obama.

      So although I agree with most of this diary, the 'Boomer Bashing' was over the top stupid.

      Make believe it's not just Madness.

      by CitizenOfEarth on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 07:17:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Simplistic thinking (0+ / 0-)
        The idea that there is only one factor of causation and no others can have played a role, especially if they might result in drawing uncomfortable conclusions.

        You sound like a kindergartener now, pointing at another kid across the room as an excuse for why he broke the crayons. "But the government was badly managed, so it's okay that I badly managed my own finances."  

      •  When did the Boomer generation start? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        If we say 1945 then the first boomers were just 25 in 1970. And someone born in 1955 was just 15.

        So they probably weren´t responsible for strong unions between 1945-1970? Given the fact that the first of them only started working sometime in the 1960s?

    •  As a boomer, I can say the guy is right on (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LI Mike, farbuska

      Of course he exaggerates for effect. He's writing a piece of literature not a term-paper. Give the guy a break! My generation is incredibly narcissistic. Those of us who were on the left and activists were a very small minority of the boomer generation. Most just wanted to have fun and get laid and not be restricted by the limitations of traditional society. They dumped much of the prejudices of their parents but they also dumped notions of honor and courage. Even the radicals dumped on the movement and went back to grad-school to become K-Street lawyers and Wall Street criminals--ok, not literally but you get the idea.

      •  Generalizations about boomers are not useful and (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        in many cases are simply wrong. As in any generation, Americans differ one from the other. My friends (boomers) rode freedom buses, fought for civil rights, protested the war, canvassed for Vietnam Summer and later became part of more radical anti-establishment movements. They did not become hedge fund managers or K Street lawyers.

        As my son who canvassed with me in support of Obama reminded me when I implied his friends were politically slack: "Mom" he said "We don't have the Vietnam War or the draft but it doesn't mean we aren't thinking about the same issues you are."

        So generalizations are just not helpful and they turn people off. What is helpful is to recognize the propaganda that is visited on us and how it has shaped and is shaping our society. It is up to the people who recognize this to find a narrative that is more honest and try to get it out there. It is a Promethean task but it is ours to take on whether or not we are boomers, generation x-ers or what.

        •  Generalizations are part of life and are useful (0+ / 0-)

          So I disagree with you there. Of course there are many exceptions and many of us were politically involved in the 60's and knew people of incredible courage and love. Of course people didn't all become rich professionals but the general trend during the seventies was to move into a hedonistic/escapist situation.  

          •  Your comment says more about you (0+ / 0-)

            and your milieu than it does about 70 million baby boomers. The seventies were the pits economically as large numbers of boomers were coming of age.

            Not that there's anything wrong with hedonism if you're young, single and self-supporting. Lots of us had a lot of fun for a few years before we settled down. That isn't evidence of a character flaw.

            The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. --Bertrand Russell

            by denise b on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 09:41:22 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Fun yes, hedonism is something else (0+ / 0-)

              It's a question of priorities. Hedonism reduces life to fulfilling impulses which the consumer society is happy to provide. For me, things that consumerism provide are not much fun. Interacting with other people in what I can only say is an egalitarian way is the most fun for me and always has been.

      •  Exactly what percentage (0+ / 0-)

        of boomers do you think are K-Street lawyers or on Wall St.? If you must generalize about a generation, at least pick a typical person of that generation.

        The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. --Bertrand Russell

        by denise b on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 09:32:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Speaking of reading and education.... (16+ / 0-)

    If every student, with the exception of some special needs children, were to complete and pass a course in dystopian literature, including Huxley, Orwell, Lewis, and others -- many possible supplements-- it would not only double the value of most secondary educations today, but also that of the political IQ of the adverage citizen.

    The course would have to require a close, detailed, critical reading and discussion of the texts with an overview to compare them to contemporary society.

    If the so-called Race to the Top proposed such goals in the education of our children, the title of the current reform movement might not lend itself so readily to Orwellian manipulation as the details would seem to predict.

    He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances. Jack London

    by blueoasis on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 02:14:18 AM PST

    •  Hee hee--back when I went to college the (23+ / 0-)

      second time, I was required to take a year of English because my old classes wouldn't transfer--and I got talked into taking an honors level English course very similar to what you describe above, just with different authors. We read Machiavelli, Mark Twain, Marcus Aurelius,and Jeffrey of Monmouth, to name a few, and had to write big fat papers on them.

      What's sad is that a course like that is considered "honors level" for college students--when it should be required for all high schoolers--but then, if you get the kids started talking about the nature of politicians (Machiavelli) or discuss the similarities between Stoicism and and Christianity (Marcus Aurelius) it might turn a light bulb on in some heads...and the top 1% sure wouldn't want that, would they?

      •  Excellent course (9+ / 0-)

        Exactly the type that most politicians and corporatists, to the extent that there's a difference any more, don't want. Rather they want a high level of proficiency in low skill levels.

        He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances. Jack London

        by blueoasis on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 04:43:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  when you read those books (6+ / 0-)

        the real message is this,  "same shit different century".

        The child has grown, the dream is gone. I have become comfortably numb.

        by dark daze on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 06:45:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Pretty much! And what an awakening that class (6+ / 0-)

          provided to some of the younger students. To me, the most fascinating aspect of that class was watching the reactions of some of the other people.

          There are some, however, who simply refuse to see certain truths, no matter how blatantly it is rubbed in their faces. A student who comes to mind was a young man--perhaps 22 or 23 years old--who was a hard-core conservative Christian. He was already married and had three kids--he could hardly contain his anger when we had certain class discussions...such as the one on the oppression of women after reading the story of Pandora and the book of Genesis, or the discussion we had about flood myths after reading Gilgamesh.

          He wrote a paper calling Joseph Campbell a false prophet, and another titled "Liberalism's Quest To Discredit Christianity." Needless to say, he didn't sign up for the second semester of the course.

          And I took that class at a community college in eastern KY--one of the last places you would expect to find that sort of enlightened thinking. The instructor who taught that class has probably created a lot of liberals.

    •  I'd rather see a basic course in economics (0+ / 0-)

      included in all high schools. It's only in the last few years that I've started understanding any of these financial issues, and that was only because I'd hear about this or that book and go get it out of (one of those 122,000) libraries.

      Most schools already have Orwell somewhere in the high school English curriculum.

  •  I was a consumer (11+ / 0-)

    decades ago, then realized that I had a choice: I could buy stuff or I could invest the money to become self-employed. I quit buying stuff; and now it's a habit.

    Re: Quinn. Seems counter-productive to arrogantly lambaste arrogant academics. I agree about the lies though. That's why I read dkos.

    Thanks for the diary.

    "The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice." Richard K. Morgan

    by sceptical observer on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 02:17:16 AM PST

  •  Agree that "consumer" is a dismissive (6+ / 0-)

    pejorative which relegates people to the status of things.  But, that's about all I agree with.
    Besides, when consumption is wedded to conspicuous, we actually arrive at a near ideal condition in which people enjoy with their eyes -- "look but don't touch" -- and consumption occurs without anything being used up or diminished.  What Veblen was castigating back in his day should more correctly be referred to as imitative acquisition, wherein people acquire things, because ownership has been sold to them as a sop to disguise the consistent suppression of the person, and do so in imitation of their neighbors, very likely because that does provide a personal connection.  In other words, having been stripped of personal value, people try to regain some sense of being socially connected to other people by acquiring the things other people like.  That's why Oprah touts her "favorite things" and her fans love her for it.
    For some people, things seem to have more permanence than fickle relatives.  That many people do not have the practical skills to make things by transforming the materials they find in nature is another matter.  Some lack the tools; others lack the muscular coordination; still others lack the physical stamina that's needed to wrestle with mother earth.

    There is no logical reason on God's green earth for the people of North America to experience or practice austerity.  The land is as productive as it ever was; not to mention that there are mountains of waste that haven't yet been turned into treasure.  If there's a problem, it's the designation of private property for the exclusive use of people who don't want to use it and delight in excluding the people who do.  And that same pattern, btw, is being applied to so-called "public" lands, which are increasingly restricted as to use, even to just conspicuously consume.

    The conservative mind relies mainly on what is plain to see.

    by hannah on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 02:59:47 AM PST

  •  a lot of information in quinn's piece (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cedwyn, triv33, TooFolkGR, pkbarbiedoll

    and zero citations

    "a lie that can no longer be challenged becomes a form of madness" -Debord

    by grollen on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 02:59:57 AM PST

  •  Shakespeare Is A Bad Example (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JG in MD, dark daze, washunate

    One can still be intelligent and well read in whatever genre one chooses and not immerse themselves in Shakespeare. As for computer/video games? They are no less stupid and probably a lot better than, dare I say, all television.

    "You have nothing...nothing to threaten me with. Nothing to do with all your strength".

    by The Lone Apple on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 03:36:54 AM PST

    •  I have to defend television (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlueDragon, The Lone Apple

      at least a tiny bit. In the hour shows that are decently written, there are situations where the truth is being told. Plot lines include foreclosures, job losses, and other misfortunes caused by the powers that be and their callous disregard.

      I'm not saying TV-watching couch potato is a high-quality humanoid, but a little of what's happening to us is slipping through. High ratings for intelligent shows is a good sign.

      These are a few of my favorite things.

      by JG in MD on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 05:27:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The real question is (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blueoasis, JG in MD

        can you do without it for a goodly measure of time?

      •  TV is also how we change the narrative (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JG in MD

        You can't fight a Glenn Beck with only a Rachel Maddow (for one thing, it's false equivalency and for another, Beck's fans are indoctrinated/innoculated against any viewpoint in direct opposition of Beck's control over their minds). You can fight a Glenn Beck with a Jon Steward, a Weeds, a Firefly, a sitcom, a drama, a West Wing, and maybe even an Archie Bunker. You fight a culture war with a cultural mouthpiece like TV.

        I 'ship Obama/America. OTP

        by athenap on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 08:55:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  While I agree that our society has been (9+ / 0-)

    & continues (mostly) on a course of ravenous consuming,some of Quinn's thoughts aren't quite holding together. He states:

    Consumer credit outstanding is $2.41 trillion, the same level reached in early 2007, and up from $1.5 trillion in 2000. This is a 60% increase in ten years. Personal income has risen from $8.4 trillion to $12.6 trillion over this same time frame, a 50% increase. Americans have substituted debt for income in order to keep up with the Joneses.

    It would seem that the millions of un/under employed are in no way able to pay off their outstanding debt and may well be using any credit available to cover basics.Additionally that rise in personal income is heavily skewed to the top earners, many of whom are indeed still spending/consuming far beyond their ample means.I think some of them believe this gluttonous spending is a kind of charm that will keep bad things from happening to them.

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 03:41:47 AM PST

  •  When my 2 boys were growing up (14+ / 0-)

    I tried fostering anti-consumerism by playing "what are they trying to sell you and how are they doing it" when TV ads came on. The idea was to get them wise to the ways of the corporate art of persuasion at an early age.

    Now that they're in college, it looks like I had a 50% success rate.

    •  Query? Are they both only half as bad as (5+ / 0-)

      they could be or do you have only one convert?

      Mine fall mostly on the "only about half as bad as they could be" scale with moments of enlightenment;-)

      "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

      by tardis10 on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 04:48:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Only one seemed to have escaped that web (6+ / 0-)

        The younger one knows how to save, invest, preserve excellent credit and lives for his friends, not stuff.

        The older one gets the burn-a-hole-in-his-pocket syndrome whenever there's enough cash to ignite. And his credit sucks, no savings, can't even keep a bank account, and relies on me to manage his car.

        Consumerism is indeed a sickness. Or is it the addictive personality that is attracted to consumerism?

        Overton window this

        by DavidHeart on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 05:28:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  good stuff (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      but you have to ask that question not for just the ads, but for every show, every pundit, everytime someone opens their mouth. If you constantly "what are they trying to sell you and how are they doing it" , the world begins to make a little more sense.

      Its all about the hustle.

      The child has grown, the dream is gone. I have become comfortably numb.

      by dark daze on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 06:48:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I used to drive my girlfriend crazy with those (0+ / 0-)

        I'd hear something on the radio or the local news and just WIG out!

        I seem to be really tuned in to that sales pitch and framing stuff. See right through it.

        I remember the first time I actually listened to Alan Greenspan... talk about 'flexible labor markets' and the subsequent 'churning' that was so beneficial to the late Clinton economic miracle. It freaked me out.

        Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

        by k9disc on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 09:57:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I think that's an excellent (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      success rate.  I can count on one hand the number of people I personally know who are willing to question any of the assumptions that make up our dominant economic doctrine.  And those who do question are not made to feel comfortable.

      A terrible beauty is born. --W.B. Yeats

      by eightlivesleft on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 07:42:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Enjoyed the diary as usual (7+ / 0-)

    Though I have reservations about Quinn's commentary (as do others it seems).  Tipped & recommended for the discussion.

  •  have to agree the me generation lives... (4+ / 0-)

    IMO there is a majority of Americans who have chosen IGNORANCE.

    We see it every day, but especially around election time.

    Ignorance is a CHOICE. Truer words were never spoken, and this choice has enabled our politicos to flip us all the bird.

  •  Love the Aldous Huxley reference (21+ / 0-)

    I've lived abroad for many years and I always tell people, I never truly understood the Matrix film until I went back to the states. There is a wall of propaganda between the people and reality that the vast majority of the population live within. And its not an openly repressive wall, its made up of opiates - spectacle, consumerism, sugar-laced food, Rome-like gladatorial obscenity.

    This was Huxley's vision of what the future would look like - not one where the state would have to repress us - but one in which we would willingly repress ourselves. And it has come to pass.

    The cave, the Matrix, America.

    by Grassee on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 04:20:25 AM PST

  •  Vincible ignorance. I like that. It sums up (11+ / 0-)

    most people and helps the lies become ingrained in the American public.  I think it's partly how the term conspiracy theorist has become a derisive label that is applied to major situations that have happened.  People don't want to know and they don't want other people to find out and tell them either.

    S.A.W. 2011 STOP ALL WARS "The Global War on Terror is a fabrication to justify imperialism."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 04:29:21 AM PST

    •  The more research I do on some subjects (5+ / 0-)

      the more I realize how true your words are.  There are so many things that have happened research wise in the last ten years.  It changes so many paradigms.  It is right there in living color and in front of our faces, but we don't want to look.  And a lot of it is just turf wars.  One film I saw recently said progress is made one funeral at time.  LOL  Until these old geezers go, things will not be allowed to change.

      I am an old geezer who feels alive by discovering all that is new and worth living for.

  •  Banks Are Getting Their Support Payments (7+ / 0-)

    From the middle and lower classes who are burdened with debt to the point that they have discretionary income of less than zero. Meanwhile we are waiting for demand to pick up. The banks get their money whether the debt burdened middle or lower classes get products or services or not. Great for the financial sector. Sucks for all other parts of the economy. Consumer demand will pick up gradually as enough people go through bankruptcy or go off the grid. Making people who make less than 100K spend a 100K is the old economy.

  •  I know folks who can barely read... (19+ / 0-)

    and understand a great deal more about the true nature of capitalism than some of our educated masses. The labor movement in this country was populated by many folks who couldn't, for the most part, read and write. some couldn't speak English. Yet our universities have sold their soul to corporate America.

    On the gulf coast, BP is paying professors to do research with a three year gag order as part of the contract. They are buying off the science while this president tells the public most of the oil is gone. It isn't, and the collapse of our fisheries in coastal waters of the gulf is next.

    •  Good point. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      scorpiorising, zett, farbuska

      Corporate corruption of higher education in the US, especially the financial/economic academia is now understood as a major factor behind the accepted (yet flawed) deregulatory, consumer-debt-based financial-economic philosophies (i.e. "culture of lies"). They've been effectively educating the common sense out of the US financial/economic academia for decades. It’s like a financial-academic complex.
      I also know people who can't read or write, but are hip enough not to fall for what passes as government (neo-liberal) economic policy. Because they're not exposed to today’s corporate-sponsored financial/economic academic curriculum.

  •  This kind of economy only works (4+ / 0-)

    If labor gets paid their fair share.  When you gut the manufacturing sector and completely offshore it along with the bulk of the tech sector - you're asking for trouble.

    If you pay workers then they don't have to borrow money they don't have.

    Seems pretty simple to me.

    "Ubermensch" is German for "Douchebag"

    by meatballs on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 05:01:29 AM PST

    •  Yeah, but (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zett, Tam in CA, farbuska

      If you pay workers then they don't have to borrow money they don't have.

      If you underpay workers, then they do need to borrow at interest, and you can make even more profits. Wall St. is all about maximizing short-term profits and nothing else.

      Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

      by drewfromct on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 06:03:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What to do? (3+ / 0-)

    Our national culture was built in part on believing or ignoring lies--that is the power of nationalism.

    What can we do about it?  How can we be more effective in translating truth to people who don't want to hear it?

    It reminds me of Plato's allegory of the cave . . .

  •  Halle-fuckin-lue-UH! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JG in MD

    Ladies and gentle-people, the revolution is about to start, so please take you seats and try and enjoy the ride.

  •  The Huxley Quote near the end (8+ / 0-)

    Most of one's life is one prolonged effort to prevent oneself from thinking. People intoxicate themselves with work so they won't see how they really are. -- Aldous Huxley

    has my mind reeling from the razors edge.

    "There is no theorem that says (all) the interesting things in the world are conserved, only the total of everything." Richard Feynman

    by yuriwho on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 05:20:23 AM PST

  •  Well, This is True (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zett, blueoasis, triv33, farbuska

    "The most dangerous man on this earth is an Ivy League educated, arrogant ideologue who believes they are smarter than everyone else."

    But I wonder if the rest of Quinn's commentary does not overstate the ability of the average American to affect  his own destiny.

    Government saved the markets and sacrified its people.

    by bink on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 05:33:39 AM PST

    •  It is a matter of faith and belief (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bink, k9disc, blueoasis, BlueDragon

      We have been told over and over and over again that we are nothing by ourselves.  We, and by we I really mean one lone person, cannot stop the onrushing tides, the break in the dam, the corruption that lays waste about us.

      And yet:

      and yet:

      We have had people who have done something just like that.  What we have NOT done is create our own institutions to celebrate courage and I don't mean government institutions.  

      There is NO reason why we buy goods from Koch industries, buy gas guzzlers, refuse to support mass transit.  We have no excuse when we know about the consequences.

      There is no good reason to deny marriage with all the civil rights that marriage entails to gays and lesbians.

      We vote with our money tithing to churches that are greedy and rapacious themselves and promote greed and bigotry.

      We promote a lifestyle just by our choices:  spending more than we have, hiding from reality with  whatever brain drug of choice and by never confronting evil in any form.  We never confront Aunt Maud or Uncle Jesse for their bigotry or alcoholism because confrontation is awful.  We don't really support whistle blowers because if we did the congress would have to listen to them.

  •  Whoah. (11+ / 0-)

    I have big reservations regarding anything Jim Quinn has to say...

    I've been reading his brand of crap for a while now, as I'm in the same area, I get treated to his editorializing in my local paper.

    He might be able to put his finger on a problem or two, but I want no parts of any of his solutions.

    It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.--- Bertrand Russell

    by triv33 on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 05:34:08 AM PST

  •  Solar and wind can make a contribution even if (6+ / 0-)

    they cannot supply 100% of what we presently consume. That is the point of localizing the economy, especially making out cities more compact and transit friendly and localizing food production. If we do that we can reduce energy consumption by 50%. If we need some nuclear to get us to that total, fine.

    Otherwise this fellows rant is mostly spot on (other than his assumption that all media and all politicians are more or less in the same camp -- those politicians and media may agree with each other on a bit more than we might want, but they are hardly all the same.

    We have only just begun and none too soon.

    by global citizen on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 05:46:33 AM PST

  •  two centuries of fossil nitrogen (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drewfromct, FishOutofWater

     The two centuries of fossil fuel exploitation had a lesser known handmaiden - first a century of fossil nitrates, mostly from the Atacama desert of Chile, and then a century of synthetic nitrogen made using the Haber-Bosch process, again almost all with fossil fuel sources to power the production.

     I covered all of this in The Dead Gods Of Atacama.

  •  Great journal (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Nice work.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 05:47:49 AM PST

  •  Why does this guy (0+ / 0-)

    hate people who lease a vehicle? If I lease, I pay less per month than if I purchase, but have no vehicle to sell when I decide to buy a new one. If I buy, I own the car, and trade it in when I buy a new one. The cost is roughly the same either way.

    Quinn seems upset that people have not simply accepted their lot of increasing poverty and decreasing purchasing power, and instead went for maintaining the status quo while hoping for the return of better times.

    "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

    by happy camper on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 06:31:48 AM PST

    •  not even close (0+ / 0-)

      leasing a car is usually a bad bad decison financially.

      The child has grown, the dream is gone. I have become comfortably numb.

      by dark daze on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 06:53:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It all depends (0+ / 0-)

        People who trade in their car every couple of years, and thus always have a car payment anyway, can save significant money by leasing. If you drive a lot of miles and put a lot of wear and tear on your vehicle, then probably not.

        "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

        by happy camper on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 07:23:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  on the whole (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Calamity Jean

          Leasing is a terrible option. Terrible.  

          The child has grown, the dream is gone. I have become comfortably numb.

          by dark daze on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 07:56:07 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  People shouldn't trade in their car every (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          couple of years.  A car well maintained should last at least five years, and ten or more if you don't drive much.  

          The car I recently replaced was a 1998 model bought new, and I'd still be driving it if it hadn't been stolen.  My favorite husband has a 2001 bought new that we expect to keep at least another year or two.  

          Renewable energy brings national security.

          by Calamity Jean on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 12:43:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  not for a business (0+ / 0-)

        A car is a diminishing asset.  The value of lease payments for 2 years is roughly the value you would pay on a car note in 2 years of a 3 year note.  The value of buying a car is really only good if you trade it in within 4 years. Because your car value rapidly diminishes.  Further, cars tend to require expensive repairs after 3-4 years. I know, I've spent $2k on repairing my car this past year alone.  

        Leasing allows you to not tie up your capital in a down payment.  For a business, the cost of a lease can be fully written off rather than capitalized. (IANAL your mileage may vary). It is often a very attractive option for business.  

        --Mr. President, you have to earn my vote every day. Not take it for granted. --

        by chipoliwog on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 11:24:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  So you lease... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean
      A BMW or Mercedes Benz as Quinn said repeatedly? Or a regular car, and are taking offense at something that was not Quinn's point?
    •  Dude! As someone who has worked in the retail... (0+ / 0-) business and sat there watching how lease rates are made up - UNLESS that leased vehicle is used, and can be written off, as a business expense (i.e, you are a doctor, a traveling salesman or a Jason-Statham-courier), you are being played for a SUCKER!  One of the big factors is the depreciation rate, which is the BIG hit every new car buyer takes up the pooper.  The dealership or the lease agent makes sure that the leasee is eating most of that shit sandwich. (Terms may vary by state; see your local Attorney General or Better Business Bureau.  Tags and title not included.  ALL rates valid only for as long as we can hold you here and mess with your head until you buy or die!)

      The REAL deal is to NEVER buy NEW and, just like houses, put down a big fat up-front-at-time-of-delivery check.

      In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the land of the braindead, the intelligent person is cast as the village idiot.

      by dendron gnostic on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 10:06:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Customer Is Always Wrong (4+ / 0-)

    Look, the people are what they are. If you believe they're choosing ignorance then you're siding with the conservatives who insist only an elite can run society.

    You're only quibbling over the staffing.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 06:40:30 AM PST

  •  Guess we're going against the flow... (12+ / 0-)

    My wife and I are "Boomers." We've been working to eliminate credit from our lives as much as possible since 2007. As a result, in about two years all of our various credit accounts will be paid off. We'll just have student loans and our mortgage.

    We have an old TV, old computers (one is second hand), used cars (one a hybrid), etc. We despise SUV's and use an old, used van for grocery hauling and dog hauling. It still gets about 25mpg.

    No fancy vacations. Our big 'splurges' are satellite TV and Sirius/XM, which we kind of need since we're surrounded by the Blue Ridge and have a hard time getting anything via broadcast. No fancy "toys" like boats, jet-skis, etc. We are seriously concerned that we will never be able to retire, though. Our 401k's have been ravaged and we expect SS to be gutted in spite of all the protests.

    I have no illusions about where this country is headed it doesn't get its act together soon. My wife and I are both college educated and read voraciously. Barring any dramatic changes for the good, I expect to live long enough to see either a Second Civil War or the decline of the US into irrelevance. I fear for our kids and grandkids.

    At least some of us "Boomers" are paying attention...

    "Ridicule may lawfully be employed where reason has no hope of success." -7.75/-6.05

    by QuestionAuthority on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 06:45:05 AM PST

    •  no credit debt in 2 years? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Wow - well done! You are my new role model :)


      All Kossacks are my allies, but if you can't express your thoughts in a civil and kind manner, I won't be engaging in a conversation with you.

      by Boston to Salem on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 07:25:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  One small note, QA: now that I'm regularly paying (0+ / 0-)

      10% of the balance (and restricting credit cards to gas - getting a 3% discount that way - and emergencies like car tires and that condo at Breckenridge - just kidding) I've just had the third of the three cards send me the "we're reducing your credit limit" letter.

      And this last one's explanation - you have too much credit on your other cards.  And this 3 months after my last car payment (hmmm, maybe that condo at Breckenridge....).  My response: "oh, please, please, Br'er Bear, don't throws me in ta da briar patch."  

      I can't wait to finish off these two (and keep the one with the credit union - that would be the Wright-Patman Congressional Credit Union), chop up their little plastic tracking devices and send them back with a suggestion of where to put the pieces for recycling.

      In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the land of the braindead, the intelligent person is cast as the village idiot.

      by dendron gnostic on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 09:57:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  i rec'd this because i want to support you (7+ / 0-)


    but I have real problems with this guy's ideas.

    he is all over the place angry.

    and he blames boomers, just like the big O.

    as far as I am concerned, boomers were the last educated generation.

    they raised their kids badly.  

    but the 10-15% of us who knew the score, still live and act that way although we are as trapped as anyone else.

    it has been a real struggle trying to live with integrity in a system that has none.

    americans are the most stupid people ever to live when we take a ratio of the information we have access to against what we choose to know.

    in that, he is correct.

    and the fact that he thinks there are enough leftists left in the usa to even critique is laughable.

    what IS he?  just a cynic without any vision at all?

    i am not impressed.

    Gaia is heartbroken.

    by BlueDragon on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 07:37:09 AM PST

    •  I love the fact he goes on about ignorance (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean

      and deplorable education standards then in the same breath lambastes anyone with an Ivy League education as being "dangerous" public enemy #1's.

    •  Well, I have problems with... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zett, farbuska
      ...most of Quinn's philosophy, too, certainly as it relates to his anti-Keynesian beliefs. In many ways, he's diametrically opposed to many of the things in which I firmly believe. (Focusing upon making off-the-mark generalizations about the habits of the  individual as opposed to the society and its corporatist culture being at the root of most problems, etc.) That being said, he's got a lot of valid points in this particular post, IMHO.

      "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

      by bobswern on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 09:16:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This hits the nail on the head (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bobswern, farbuska

    If Americans were capable or willing to do some critical thinking, they would realize that those in power have created the illusion of a recovery by handing $700 billion of your money to the banks that created the financial meltdown, spending $800 billion on worthless pork barrel projects borrowed from future generations, dropping interest rates to 0% so that the mega-Wall Street banks can earn billions risk free while your grandmother who depended on interest income from her CDs edges closer to eating cat food to get by.

    That's the economy in a it or not.

    The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

    by ctexrep on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 07:57:34 AM PST

  •  This is our fate and we need to learn (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    k9disc, Fossil, farbuska

    to live with it. Nothing can or will change to alter the general trends we see listed above. Why? Aside from the fact there is no movement of any significane that wants to reverse these trends Americans are falling into junkie spiral that will end only when we hit bottom. I've been around jukies and I think I know what I'm talking about.

    I see the same realm of unreality and fantasy and strange paranoias that jukies get into. Americans want things to continue as they have without significant change and they are willing to suffer any degradation just so that they have more dope.

    The only reason that "change" appealed to them in 2008 was that they were worried that the financial crisis would disrupt dope supplies. For the majority the dope kept coming--never mind the minority who were just out of luck because jukies get all sentimental over people until push-comes to shove and they have to choose between their loved ones and their junk--hmm--which one do they choose? Americans just don't give a fuck for the poor or the unemployed--if asked they do and every junkie has a great rap and will spout out all the conventional moral banalities to appear normal. But in the privacy of their inner-sanctum nothing matters but dope. You got to keep a happy face to keep people extending you credit or laying some dough on you or falling for your con.

    Think of what Mark Twain, H.L. Menken or Hunter S. Thompson would have said about our time. Grab what you can folks while you can because this system will be going down within the decade.

  •  Let me explain how to make consumer credit ...... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zett, Cassiodorus

    ..... work for the average working stiff.

    The debt will get so high as to be unpayable within one's lifetime.  There's an old saying:  You can't squeeze blood out of a rock.  

    Now I'm not advocating turning one's back on one's obligations.  But we are talking about credit card companies who have come up with some of the most creative ways to screw the consumer that would make a fantasy writer proud.  

    With that in mind, here's reality:  The credit card companies thrive on the good will and a sense of decency from the consumer.  None of which they have themselves.  

    So here's my advice and keep in mind I don't think we're recovering.  We're drowning.  Sooner or later, this sinking ship will hit bottom and none of us will have anything worth worrying about.  

    1. Max out the credit card/s
    1. Take out as much cash as you can possibly get from that credit card/s.
    1. Walk away.  

    Sure the credit card companies can get take you to court.  They can get all the judgements they want, but try and collect.  Collecting on tens of millions of judgements.  GOOD LUCK!

    These are desperate times.  I say spread the desperation around.  Get off the treadmill and good luck to the financial institutions with getting another bailout on the backs of the American consumer.  

    Hell, a case could be made we already paid our debts to those institutions with the bailouts.  Let's call it "The Working Stiff Wakes Up".  


    "I wonder how many times you have to be hit on the head before you find out who's hitting you?" Harry Truman - 1948

    by ThAnswr on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 08:39:52 AM PST

  •  What the hell was that screed? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Quinn bought a Nissan hybrid.
    Good for him.
    But now he thinks a license to lecture comes with it.
    Incredibly arrogant writer adding nothing that we didn't already know, oh about five years back about peak oil.
    And about two years on the bailout.
    A little late to go on and on about Americans.

  •  I suspect some crackpottery (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    With a true unemployment rate of 22%, a true inflation rate of 8% and a real GDP of -1.5% (Shadowstats)....

    If unemployment is 22% and real GDP growth is -1.5%, then where is all the buying power coming from to make the "true" inflation rate 8%?

    The establishment goes apeshit at the mere suggestion of inflation. If inflation hit 8%, Bernanke would crank up interest rates so high and so fast we'd all get whiplash.

    They'd drive unemployment as high as necessary -- destroy as much buying power as necessary -- to get inflation back down to the traditional target of 2%.

    The evidence leads overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the macroeconomy suffers from a lack of effective demand and risks deflation -- and that the governments should be spending on a massive scale in order to create that demand.

    Prison rape is not funny.

    by social democrat on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 08:59:38 AM PST

    •  If the numbers he gives are correct, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      social democrat
      it must be that the people who still have jobs have decided to keep the old lifestyle. I have read that during times of hardship is when those who can, flaunt.
      •  who does that? (0+ / 0-)

        Do you know anyone who thinks like that?

        As far as I know, people respond pretty much the opposite way -- when unemployment is going up, people cut back on expenditures, because they fear they might be next.

        Certainly I've become much more reluctant to spend during this recession.

        And in fact the diary notes that aggregate personal debt is now only at 2007 levels -- even despite population growth. Also, I'd expect that the unemployed have had to go deeper in debt in order to pay for current expenses. Which would mean that those still having jobs are paying down debt and saving, rather than engaging in the competitive consumer spending that constitutes inflation.

        Prison rape is not funny.

        by social democrat on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 09:44:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  QE2 is desinged specifically to cause inflation (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Govt is doing all it can to reinflate bubbles. With high unemployment and declining wages you should expect to see deflation, but look at gas prices rising, that explains why inflation is 8%. Middle class will continue to be squeezed until there's nothing left but we haven't reached that point quite yet.

          •  if only... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ...the Federal Reserve were trying to create inflation.

            If we had some inflation, people could pay off their consumer and mortgage debt with devalued dollars. With less debt, people would have more buying power.

            With inflation eroding the value of savings invested at low rates of return, corporations would be less likely to just sit on the enormous profit they've made. The increased buying power of consumers would justify expanding production -- and increasing employment -- in hopes of getting a higher rate of return.

            If only Bernanke would target inflation of 3 or (gasp!) 4 per cent!

            But of course creditors (i.e. the banksters) would hate that. They don't want people paying back their debts in devalued dollars.

            So Bernanke goes out of his way to say that the Fed's inflation target hasn't changed. It remains (unofficially, as always) at 2%. And they're undershooting it.

            Prison rape is not funny.

            by social democrat on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 12:17:02 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  they're not trying to create inflation (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              social democrat

              so much as trying to slow down deflation. People with jobs are spending, there's just not enough of them. Without a job you can't pay back your debts, inflated or not. Corporations will keep sitting on their products until there's demand, which won't happen until there are jobs.

              •  good point (0+ / 0-)

                Without a job you can't pay back your debts, inflated or not.

                Even if you have do have a job, inflation will just erode your standard of living unless demand for labor is strong enough for you to get a raise to keep up with the inflation.

                Generally speaking, I think having 3-4% inflation would improve our current situation. But if I'm wrong, I'll be wrong because wages won't keep pace.

                Prison rape is not funny.

                by social democrat on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 01:51:26 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  3-4% would be nice (0+ / 0-)

                  inflation is hard to track but a lot of expenses, college educations, healthcare, have been going up by double digits every year. Housing prices were going up way too much which is nice if you're selling a home, not so much if you want to buy one, they should be down by 50% in this economy but the govt has been trying to reinflate the bubble. Gas prices over the last decade or so have doubled, oil effects the prices of a lot of things. I wish inflation was only 3-4%.

                  •  let me clarify... (0+ / 0-)

                    I don't dispute that particular consumers in particular circumstances are experiencing inflation.

                    I should have said that by "inflation" I mean what's called "core inflation," which excludes food and energy, which are of course a big part of household budgets but are quite volatile.

                    And of course you're correct about the costs of education and health care, where costs are quite out of control.

                    When I say we're close to deflation, I'm working off of data like that presented here.

                    Ultimately, the reason I'm tilting at this windmill is that the standard policy prescription for inflation is to jack up interest rates and cut government spending. Under current circumstances that would be a disaster -- the exact opposite of what the economy needs.

                    Prison rape is not funny.

                    by social democrat on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 09:21:34 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

    •  get the real scoop (0+ / 0-) provides info on why the CPI and GDP info is always understated.  

      Note: this site has some public information but some of their information is available only to subscribers.  

      --Mr. President, you have to earn my vote every day. Not take it for granted. --

      by chipoliwog on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 11:29:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  it's the relationship between the two (0+ / 0-)

        I understand the critique that GDP overstates growth, that U3 underestimates unemployment, and that CPI understates inflation.

        The point is it's contradictory to assert that growth is low, unemployment is high, and and inflation is high.

        Unemployment and inflation are nearly always inversely correlated, because unemployment reduces buying power.

        The relationship plays out in economic history with almost perfect regularity. The graph of the relationship is called the Phillips Curve.

        Now, there are deviations from the Phillips Curve -- as in the U.S. in the late 1970s. But they are extraordinary.

        So asserting that unemployment and inflation both are high isn't something you just mention in passing. It's like saying there's a storm outside so bad that rain is falling up. I mean, if you take it at face value, yes -- that's a hell of a storm! Which is exactly what the writer was trying to express. But it also requires an explanation.

        Prison rape is not funny.

        by social democrat on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 12:50:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ever heard of stagflation? (0+ / 0-)

          We experienced it in the 1970's. Low to negative personal income growth, moderate to high inflation, and increasing interest rates.  Oh, and employment wasn't all that hot either.

          --Mr. President, you have to earn my vote every day. Not take it for granted. --

          by chipoliwog on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 09:52:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'm a boomer and never bought into the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    consumer ethos. While my wife and I could have afforded a house, we chose instead to continue living in our rent controlled apt in NJ. As our career path was a decent one, leading to the occasional raise and promotion, we decided that it would be better to maintain our frugal ways and choose instead to plan for early retirement (neither of us wishing to work until we dropped).

    Near the end of my career when I was the "boss", my employees would wonder why I drove a compact car instead of a real nice one. I would just say, city driving, its easier this way.

    Our plan worked out thanks to an early retirement pckg and a defined benefit pension, and our sense that we didn't need every consumer bauble, a "nice" house and a fancy car. Moved back to where we grew up and haven't looked back.

    We're pretty happy, actually. Although I worry a lot about my grandkids future, especially after reading James Hanson's "Storms of My Grandchildren."

    TVs are our guilty pleasure, though. I'm a sports nut and like watching those events on the tube.

    Revolving consumer debt, don't have any.

    Work hard, get educated, be practical and appreciate the small things in life (I love holding hands with my wife in a dark movie theatre) would be my advice to everyone. It also helps if you like getting lost in the magnificence of a great pitching duel. LA Dodgers 1, SF Giants 0 is better than a BMW anyday.  

  •  I should add that my life is now nearly (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    social democrat

    unobtainable for the vast majority of Americans. I was born in 1948 and appreciate that fact.

  •  A contradiction by Quinn? (0+ / 0-)

    earlier in his rant he said one of things we needed to do about energy was

    exploration of untapped reserves

    but then a little later complains about

    We willingly believe the lies espoused by the badly informed pundits on CNBC and Fox that if we just drill in Alaska and off our coasts,

    All other hoped-for outcomes for the betterment of this nation flow from the bedrock of Good Government.

    by zett on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 09:10:51 AM PST

  •  Bob, I'm curious about the 'blame dumb Americans' (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zett, DBunn, LI Mike

    angle of pieces like this.

    I agree with the gist, that we collectively do have some illusions and deceptions to work through. We have some challenges and some hard work ahead of us.

    But what bugs me about tones like the one taken by Quinn is the underlying claim that it's our fault. That 'average' Americans are the folks driving the decisions, choosing to be ignorant, living beyond their means irresponsibly, etc.

    I never see any evidence, though, to back up the claim - just lazy, non-representative assertions.

    To a certain extent, one can read between the lines and say he's really talking to a limited audience - affluent boomers. But then, that's a pretty small segment of the population, which renders any larger meanings pretty useless.

    Sure, some people lease BMWs. What does that matter? The vast majority of Americans don't. Sure, some people bought more house than they should have. What does that matter? The vast majority of Americans didn't. And if what you really want a McMansion; who is anyone else to say that that is a 'bad' dream? Sure, some people play video games instead of reading Shakespeare. What does that matter? Is 12th Night the difference between socializing losses or not?

    The core problem in our society is wealth inequality, the broken link between productivity and wages. Even in the housing bubble, most of the push for lax standards, improper documentation, excessive leverage, and so forth, came from the lenders, not the borrowers. To me, blaming idiot Americans seems like a cop-out to avoid the real issues, which have nothing to do with the ignorance of average Americans. In places where there is convenient train access, people take trains instead of driving. When people become eligible for government healthcare, they sign up. When people are asked about defense spending, they'd decrease it. When people comment on media consolidation, they oppose it. Etc, etc, etc.

    You have any thoughts on that?

    Ask your Member of Congress what they're doing to put Americans back to work.

    by washunate on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 09:12:49 AM PST

    •  Well, there IS this: if 90% of the passengers... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...decide to stampede for the starboard rail (not long after crowding the port rail), OUR ass is capsizing, whether I graduated from the U. of Penna, Penn State or the state pen (as in "penitentiary").

      In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the land of the braindead, the intelligent person is cast as the village idiot.

      by dendron gnostic on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 10:14:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Something smart from Quinn (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Well, actually he's quoting M. King Hubbert, but choosing a smart thing to quote is itself smart:

      Our principal constraints are cultural. During the last two centuries we have known nothing but exponential growth and in parallel we have evolved what amounts to an exponential-growth culture, a culture so heavily dependent upon the continuance of exponential growth for its stability that it is incapable of reckoning with problems of non-growth.

      Quinn/Hubbert don't exactly provide a solution to how we get America to make less-dumb choices, but they do describe the problem in a way that might be useful. It's a start.

      From your comment, washunate:

      To me, blaming idiot Americans seems like a cop-out to avoid the real issues, which have nothing to do with the ignorance of average Americans.

      Average folks have some responsibility, but (as so often) I blame the leaders far more. They are the ones who DO have the education, the resources, and the job description to look ahead and make intelligent decisions.

      This brings us to the "stupid leaders" problem. Of course, not all our leaders are stupid (Carter wasn't stupid, he just wasn't a good leader); but since Reagan, or perhaps Nixon, the stupid ones have become adept at winning elections by exploiting the racism and other dark fears of the people. These stupid leaders are stupidly playing the old game of dynastic rivalry, not noticing that victory is not meaningful when the game itself is a losing proposition for the country, for global civilization, perhaps even the species or the bio-sphere itself.

      Depressing, ain't it? But it does suggest a possible solution: the people who need to be educated are the elites. They need to see that their asses are at risk just as much as anyone else's if we refuse to pull our heads out of the sand and take a hard look at the version of reality that Hubbert was talking about in the quote above.

      'Nuff for now... Have a good day, everyone :)

  •  Thanks for the diary (0+ / 0-)
    including the screed. ;0

    "Looks like we got ourselves a reader" - Bill Hicks

    by blueoregon on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 09:14:05 AM PST

  •  A basic mistake is to assume we are proceeding (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenearth, Angela Quattrano

    according to the rational but mistaken thought processes of the powerful.  What we are seeing is not rational, it is how the addicted human brain acts in the absence of self-awareness.

    There is nothing reasonable being discussed as solutions to any of our problems. - pgm 01

    by geomoo on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 09:18:54 AM PST

  •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

    Tax cuts create votes not jobs.

    by OHknighty on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 09:37:31 AM PST

  •  He's right on some stuff (0+ / 0-)

    Consumerism, willful ignorance, and peak oil, most notably.

    However, he's completely wrong on other issues. He unfairly blasts the stimulus, falsely equates left and right, overblowns the role of consumers in the banking crisis, and bashes baby boomers a tad too much.

    Plus, a look at his other readings will reveal that he is mainly a Ron Paul-esque guy. He is extremely libertarian in most aspects, with only a handful of disagreements from mainline libertarian doctrine.

    I'm sorry, but I just can't get behind this. The Paulites do have reasonable ideas on occasion, but generally their world view comes very close to that of the Tea Party. Jim seems to be no exception. Have we come to the point where the writings of tea baggers are making the rec list? (and not for nuttiness)

  •  Sooo, what's new about this rant? (0+ / 0-)

    Ok, a long rant, but all the stuff about non critical thinkers and Peak Cheap Oil have been known for decades.

    Sorry, but I don't see anything special in this rant.

    •  I sorta see it like execising thoroughbreds... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...A good bobswern diary is akin to racehorse training - letting the big steeds and their jockeys thunder around the track and, afterward, comparing times and commenting on form and stamina and such.  It is, indeed, the same trip, the same track, and usually the same direction, but the point is the work-out, not that we usually end up about where we started.

      In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the land of the braindead, the intelligent person is cast as the village idiot.

      by dendron gnostic on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 10:23:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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