Ominous Tendings in the Nervous Here and Now
James Howard Kunstler
23 April, 2019
Unfortunately for the nation, the RussiaGate fiasco is only half over. There is just too much documented official turpitude on the public record for the authorities to answer for and the institutional damage runs too deep. Act One, the Mueller investigation, was a 22-month circle-jerk of prosecutorial misconduct and media malfeasance. Act Two will be the circular firing squad of former officials assassinating each other’s character to desperately avoid prosecution.
In the meantime, there is the nation’s business which has been hopelessly burdened by an hallucinatory overlay of Wokester idiocy emanating from the campuses, so that even in the absence of the Mueller distraction every organized endeavor in this land from-sea-to-shining-sea is paralyzed by race-and-gender hustles. Next up: a national debate over reparations for slavery in the never-ending quest to monetize moral posturing. Won’t that be a mighty string of knots to untangle? Who qualifies, exactly? What about the indigenous people whose lands were overrun? And what about the Japanese interned in 1941? And what about women prevented from earning salaries all those lost decades of housewifery? And what about the brown people from many lands whose families did not come here until slavery was a long time gone? Do Silicon Valley engineers from India, and thoracic surgeons from the Philippines have to pay up for the sins of Whitey?
That circus won’t stop until America gets whapped upside the head by economic reality and, really, who is paying attention to that? The shale oil “miracle” has put even the superstars of economic commentary to sleep, though the quandary in plain sight is that the mighty flow of shale oil doesn’t pencil out as a money-making enterprise, and the whole project is destined to fall part even more rapidly than in the decade since it was ramped up. When the private oil companies finally sink into bankruptcy, the obvious “solution” will be to nationalize the industry — a giant step toward destroying the dollar and whatever residual value the industry might have had.
After a month-long case of influenza around Christmas time, the financial markets recovered and are once again demonstrating that they only go up — in defiance of the laws of physics, which actually do apply to markets and economies. It’s a fantastic stunt of computer algo math and misplaced faith in magic, and when it all blows up, as it must, it will make all the other delusions spinning in American life look like mere passing impure thoughts. The notional wealth involved — which is to say, the wealth of nations — has two ways to evaporate: either the stocks, bonds, and other derivatives lose their value, or the money that they represent loses its value. In either case the wealth will be gone and America will be left with the sad recognition that it is broke both privately and publicly.
In the background lay the ticking time bombs of health care, college loan debt, and pension funds. These are rackets and Ponzi schemes. Before we get to Medicare-for-all, I’d like to see congress pass one simple law requiring all medical service “providers” in the land to publicly post the price of all their services, from the cost of heart transplants down to those $90 Tylenols they dispense. Let’s see how that affects the lawless hocus-pocus of insurance companies “negotiating” their payments with the medical corporatocracy before we go whole-hog for a nationalized health service. The colleges have already destroyed themselves intellectually, and thereby the value of their overpriced credentialing services. The smaller colleges are already folding, and many more will follow now until higher education becomes a boutique industry.
The pension funds are truly big, ominous bombs, because when they fail, they will set up unresolvable fiscal problems that will turn ugly and political. Even if the federal government attempts some kind of “one-time” bail-out, it will not solve the embedded Ponzi problem of a system that has to pay off an ever-expanding pool of claims with an ever-diminishing stream of revenue. It will only be another swipe of the blade cutting off the legs of the US dollar so that it in the end every pensioner will receive his-or-her promised payout in dollars that are increasingly worthless. We may even discover that the opioid epidemic has been the only thing keeping the immiserated denizens of Flyover-land from resorting to violent insurrection.
These internal problems of the USA point in the direction of states and whole regions stealthily seceding from a federal system that can’t run itself competently at scale anymore. The process has already begun in such acts of defiance as “sanctuary states” and the burgeoning marijuana industry. Unlike the calamity of 1861, though, there may be no way to even attempt to hold the old Union together, even by force. Instead, as is the case with all foundering empires, the end will be a sickening slide into a new and strange disposition of things. One of the last successful acts of the American empire may be to send the RussiaGate instigators to jail.
This essay, “Facing Extinction by Catherine Ingram”appeared on Kunstler's website and can be read HERE