A meandering blog with no clear topic. You will find me talking about knitting, building, kids, social and economic issues, Alaska, and lots of other stuff.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Coincidence, correlation or causation?

This is an interesting graph. There is an article about it here. I first heard about it on NPR the other day, and it was concerning. Essentially, total household debt is aproximately equal to our GDP. This has only happened one time before, in 1929. I agree with the author of the article that the problem is not all the banks. We cannot blame all of the myriad problems that make up this "financial" crisis on the banks. We are as much to blame for buying into the concept that continually increasing debt is a good thing, as long as we think we can make our easy monthly payments.

Our entire society is based on this crazy idea of perpetual growth, with no concept of actual physical limits to resources or sensibility in consumption. All we ever hear is buy more, and more, and more. And every day, we accumulate more and more stuff, and this is supposed to (a) save our country and (b) make us happy. But in reality, our country is becoming worse off, as more and more of us just become fat, lazy, depressed couch potatoes, in debt up to our double and triple chins for our big screen hi-def plasma tv's, who can do nothing more productive that open a party-sized bag of cheetos. Oh, whoops, I am starting to sound a little bit like James Howard Kunstler, there, sorry.

We really are facing so many tough issues, from water scarcity and drought, as I talked about last time I posted, a couple weeks ago, to dwindling natural resources that are become ever more difficult to obtain, at ever greater cost to this place we live, to populations increasing way beyond carrying capacity in many areas of the world.

We have problems with education that are many and varied. On the one hand, students with disabilities often cannot get their needs met by the school system charged with doing so. On the other hand, brighter students are ignored and bored as teachers burden under the "no child left behind" mandate of teaching to the lowest common denominator. While I agree that all students should have a chance at becoming functioning adults, I also strongly feel that the children who truly excel intellectually should have their special needs met as well, benefitting society as a whole as we develop new Albert Einsteins and Leonardo DaVinci's.

We have problems with our workforce. Unemployment, as everyone knows, is incredibly high. In the meantime, more and more things are being done overseas, from cheap plastic toys from China that will poison our children, to customer service reps in India that can read a script in English, but can't answer a question they don't understand. It isn't their fault, English isn't their first language, after all, but it is a difficult situation for all involved when it happens. It seems like nothing is made here in America these days. I have gotten into the habit of looking to see where things are made when I am buying something lately, and I am always surprised if I see "Made in the USA" on it.

We have problems with housing. We all know the problems with subprime loans and other loans that were risky and are now falling apart. We all know that houses aren't selling, and are languishing on the market for months and years. But how many people realize that houses have been getting bigger and bigger over the years? In 1970, the average home size was 1400 square feet. In 2004, it was 2330. And the number of people in them is shrinking, as household sizes decrease. And bigger homes are more expensive, not only because of the increase in square feet, but also because bigger homes are usually fancier homes, so their cost is higher per square foot. More expensive means less affordable, bigger mortgages, that homeowners are less likely to be able to pay when times get tough.

We have problems with agriculture. With global warming. With erratic oil prices. With.... the list goes on and on. And somewhere in there is problems in financial markets and financial institutions, that surprise, surprise, aren't run for the benefit of depositors. They are run for the benefit of their shareholders, or the board of directors. To make a profit. And to continue to make profits when real wealth is declining, they have to invent all these crazy schemes that now are coming apart.

Yes, the banks are a part of it, but not the only part. Wow, as I look at this post, I realized that I am really ranting on and on today, but I am done for now.

1 comment:

Aonika and Richard said...

Ahmen Sistah! Ahmen... LOVE YOU (Glad you posted)