The U.S. stock markets have been in a state of wobbly uncertainty for so long, it seems masochistic even to think, never mind worry about it. Today, they look like they collectively are looking for the momentum to sink another 3%. The problem is, what strategies the remaining investors seem to have are all simply predicated on wanting a sure thing. They’re pessimistic today because the “super committee” of Congress has forecast dismal failure at coming up with a “plan” for cuts and whatever else. An idiot could have predicted that when President O did what he had to in the summer and caved on the brilliant tactic of automatic cuts demanded by what is now comically called the Teanderthals in order to keep the U.S. and the world from a worse fate. The consequences of default were obvious to the same idiots cited above.
What investors don’t want to do is look at things the way the management of the companies in whose shares they speculate do—look a bit further down the road, that is, look at a picture a bit larger than the one on the tiny LCD of the next eight hours. With no “plan” the automatic cuts will occur. Nothing drastic (Medicare and SSI for now are spared), but the effects of cuts in government funding will occur in enough areas of the daily lives of ordinary Americans—OK, I can go along with calling them the 99%—that, if they’re hurting and some of them are pissed now, things should get really ugly in the months ahead.
One can only hope they will get ugly enough that there will be revulsion and rejection even from the bone-head constituents of the demented right-wing Congressmen and Senators who have survived so far by feeding those folks back home a steady diet of idiotic conceits and outright lies in an unremitting stream, and all with a singular goal. To keep Obama from gaining a second term. The underlying reasons why are too ugly to contemplate; the stated reasons are the basis for a new definition of the usual louche and despicable motives of the epithet “politician.” If the solution, short and medium term to our economic woes, is the elimination of tax cuts that were instituted by the Moron in Chief, George W. Bush, so be it. Our immediate problems stem from his having rammed two unfunded wars down our throats, with the aid of those assassins of rationality called the Republican Party: cuts insufficient in amounts to send the whole nation immediately and irretrievably down the river, but sufficient nonetheless to prevent those desperate to keep the creaky raft of state from heading to the white waters ahead, because just beyond those rapids are the precipitous cascades of utter ruin. All this was done while also persuading the American public that tax cuts for all, but which mainly benefited the rich—OK, I’ll go along with calling them the 1%—was a wise thing to do, while we continued to spend like the indulgences of our rich Chinese uncles, always ready to lend us another trillion or so, would last forever.
We’ll have to wait and see, of course, how the public reacts this time around, as things they’re used to (at government expense) begin to dry up: roads will deteriorate further, and won’t get fixed. People will get restive and there will be more protests, and more crime, and police departments will be forced to cut back on hours and personnel. Teacher contracts will not be renewed, and no new teachers will be hired. Slowly, inexorably, all of the “investment” categories of our national budget: mainly education, research, housing assistance, transportation… which are our hedge against a worse future for ourselves and ensuing generations, will wither and disappear. Even the densest minds, possessed by the most fear-paralyzed xenophobes of our populace will see it, and feel it. But what they might do, and who they will blame remains to be seen.
We do have a history of the public rising up, miraculously, with a re-birth of reason and clear thinking, however brief the resurrection. It’s usually sufficiently long in duration that the electorate manages to do “the right thing” (in scare quotes because the right thing gets harder and harder to define), and we are set back on the road to recovery. This time, of course, the road will have a lot of detours because of literal and figurative washed-out bridges, crumbling pavement, pot-holes, and the occasional fearsome sinkhole, and recovery will take longer. And once we arrive at that place called Recovery we may be dismayed to discover that the rosy glow we remember was actually pink filters on the klieg lights of political rhetoric and easy money, “spend now, and pay it later…maybe.” This time, if they do rise up, it will be, in some ways a far easier task than the painful one of voting in reforms the consequences of which fully half of the public has spent enormous energy slamming, without expending one joule of mental energy thinking about what they are saying, for over a decade now. They learned the lines from their directors and coaches, the politicians who facilitated the means of their own ends, through faulty loans and easy personal debt accumulation at extortionate rates of interest, and those same mentors are still acting as prompters, though to steadily decreasing effect. The approval rating of Congress now rivals the alleged level of unemployment…the former continuing to go down even as the other apparently rises in real world terms. And the politicians act baffled by this clear inverse function.
I do have a hope, today, anyway, though I try to look further than that, so ingrained still is the way of thinking I wish I could impose on those stock investors, so ready to sell at the first cries from Chicken Little (and yet, sickeningly, bizarrely, in some vertiginous habit derived from the cheap thrills of a carnival roller-coaster—what comes to mind most are the old-fashioned rides, the steepest of all, which always contrived to weave the word “death” into its name—just as willing to buy at the least projection, on any given day, of a hopeful sign from the world’s leaders that they have miraculously recovered their sanity sufficient to overcome their vanity). I have the hope that derives from understanding there is strategic value in having the super committee fail at its appointed task. If they fail, and the automatic cuts are triggered, that trend of politicians managing to accomplish nothing even while burning billions of Kilocalaries of hostile energies keeping one another in check will spill over into next month. For next month, the infamous Bush tax cuts will expire on their own, and like it or not (I mean the 1%) the rich will once again have to start forking over money to the government, badly needed to pay for all the things we elected to buy ourselves without virtue of having any of the necessary ready in our pockets to keep those purchases from putting us further into debt.
Of course, the headlines are already appearing, two days before the inevitable admission of Congressional failure (with no chance of an 11th hour compromise—especially that new kind of 21st century compromise that is uniquely American, but apparently compelling to our European cousins, because they have copied us stroke for stroke, and measure for measure: the compromise that truly satisfies no one, and accomplishes nothing but a worsening of the conditions that define the stalemate to begin with). The headlines are suggesting that Congress will pull some more legislative tricks out of their bottomless bag, and forestall, if not eliminate these cuts altogether. And if they do, it will be another Jack & Jill Expedition back to square one, another pull of the roller coaster car to the very peak of the lift hill of the ride, just another in the fun park called 21st Century America, called the stock market.
I have to wonder once again if I can withstand the involuntary trip, seeing the operator so far below me on the ground, he looks like he’s unreachable, never mind controllable, without this time packing a nausea bag.