Promises, promises

Via American Digest, we have a thought provoking piece over at PJM. A discussion of two failed/ing states: California and England and the reasons why.

And yes, it is the fault of just about everyone, not just those who would be kings. Everyone who lives without thought to how that food makes it to your table, everyone who just “puts it on a credit card” to settle up later (or not), everyone who is involved in consuming and not producing. We have a brand new middle class poor. Those who spend on items that are arguably luxury things but who could not support themselves away from their parents or other social support structure.

The combinations of cheap Chinese goods, easy access to credit cards, and generous entitlements — such as Section 8 housing, unemployment insurance, food stamps, Medicaid health care, disability payments — that cover essentials and free up money for discretionary spending, have combined to give the proverbial lower middle class access to consumer purchases undreamed of twenty years ago.  As a graduate student in 1975-80, I bought a used 19-inch black and white TV for $40 and saved for weeks to purchase it. Today, 52-inch plasma televisions seem no longer the birthrights of the oligarchy.  We have created a new sort of impoverished.

In one way, dozens who shop at Home Depot and Costco and Save Mart are poor in the sense that they cannot go to Europe, or even to the aquarium in Monterey or Disneyland. But in terms of cell phones, DVD players, plasma TVs, or radios, there is no difference from the upper echelons in this recession.

So I am as worried about the elite upscale yuppie as the poor illegal alien. The former have lost almost all connection with physical labor, the physical world, or the ordeal that civilization endures to elevate us from the savagery of nature. While many were fit, and seem to work out, bike, ski, and hike, none understood the mechanics that lie beneath the veneer of the good life — the chain-sawing, hammering, drain-unplugging, tractor-driving, irrigating, and welding that allows a pleasant afternoon Greek salad and cappuccino on University Avenue — the disconnect between those Pennsylvania “clingers” and Obama’s arugula-eating crowd.


There are those who live as responsible stewards and with full awareness of what makes a standard of living possible. But they are few and far between. Brave and honorable souls, their voices are miniscule when set against the ever growing tide of bread and circuses.

This may explain the strange inverse relationship between shrinking resources and growing promises. When you can’t provide the real then promise the fake. The bleaker the reality the more soaring the vision. The higher the price of oil, the smaller the military budget, the costlier the medical appliances the more grandiose the goals of the administration become. Why aim for incremental environmental improvement when you can make the seas fall.  Never mind if one must accept a nuclear Iran; at least we’ll have a world without nuclear weapons! If Israel can give up Jerusalem there’ll be peace in the Middle East at last! Why fix the health care system where it’s broken? Fix it all.

(Richard Fernandez)

And in England, the system is bankrupt and no one seems to understand it, but no one in charge will admit it. It would be unpopular to tell the truth – that what gets problems like this fixed are hard decisions and cutting entitlements and getting away from the EU.

This flight from reality was never better exemplified than by the 2008 Climate Change Act, committing Britain, uniquely in the world, to reducing its carbon emissions by more than four fifths. Even the Government admits that this will cost us up to £18 billion every year for four decades, making it by far the most costly law in our history. Though its target could only be met by virtually closing down our economy, such is the bubble of unreality in which our political class lives that our MPs voted for this insane law almost unanimously, without having any idea of its practical implications.

The real tragedy of what has happened to Britain in the past 20 years is that we no longer have an opposition worthy of the name. It is almost impossible to measure the damage done by 13 years of rule by Blair and Brown. They have left the country effectively bankrupt, its manufacturing industry halved, the City tottering and under threat. They have allowed the United Kingdom to splinter, debauched the House of Lords and brought politics into contempt. They have done irreparable damage to our Armed Forces (not least through the humilating fiasco which led to our being thrown out of Iraq). Our country’s standing on the world stage has never been lower.

(Christopher Booker)

There are those who live as responsible stewards and with full awareness of what makes a standard of living possible. But they are few and far between. Brave and honorable souls, their voices are miniscule when set against the ever growing tide of bread and circuses.

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2 Responses to “Promises, promises”

  1. David says:

    All obvious to anyone not completely enstupiated by willing submission to the Mass MEdia Podpeople Hivemind and its co-conspirators in Academia Nut Fruitcake Bakeries, Congress (and the “feddle gummint bureaucappy”), etc.

    “..As a graduate student in 1975-80, I bought a used 19-inch black and white TV for $40…” close to the time I was in grad school and acquired my

    1. Bed
    2. Dining set (table, chairs, buffet) and
    3. Console B&W TV

    …by scouring curbsides on large refuse pickup day, staying ahead of the pickup crews.

    But I still do things like that. Dumpster diving and curbside scavenging for repairable items instead of FIRST simply buying them (NOT with a credit card but warm, fuzzy cash) is a way of life here at twc central. My desk? Built almost entirely of fallen limbs and scavenged lumber. My (very nice) desk chair? OK, I paid for that at a yard sale. Fax machine? Rather than $200 at Sam’s for the “baby brother” of my fax machine/wireless handset/speakerphone, rescued from my neighbor’s trash pile and repaired, it’s served me well for seven years, now. And so on.

    “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without,” is a motto my grandfather–the ultimate Mr Fixit, drilled into me in my childhood. To that he added “fix it or make it yourself,” for as many items as he and my grandmother could apply it to.

    I’ve tried to extend his frugality into genuine tightwaddery wherever possible. The long term dividends are significant. (BTW, The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn is a fun read for budding tightwads. :-))

  2. David says:

    BTW, one of my primary criteria for politicians is their views on spending: what are their considered opinions about what’s legitimate to spend public monies on and how do they propose paying for government.

    I have heard (or reviewed the history of) very, very few politicians whose views on these matters give me any joy at all, in the past four decades or so. Very few. A one-handed man with no legs could count ’em on his fingers and toes and have digits left over…