Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Strange Days

The always colorful and yet to be right (but still not wrong) author of The Long Emergency writes of a "Harsh Season" in his most recent Clusterfuck Nation blog post:

"Out there in the cul-de-sacs and the strip malls, people are months behind in their mortgage payments, maxed out on their plastic, handing over their car keys to the lien-holders, and feeding their kids Spam fillets.

Truckers get paid less for their loads than the cost of transporting the load. The airlines have financial cancer and will be dead in eighteen months. Container ship costs are heading out-of-sight.

Municipalities are going broke.

A weekend flood just destroyed part of the Midwest corn crop. And, of course, oil prices took a jagged turn upward last Friday en route to their next stop: $150-a-barrel.

The New York Times reported Monday that rural Americans are being hit hardest by the rise in gasoline prices. Duh. It's worst, naturally, in the big southern states where wages are low and the distances are vast.

There's a reason why Nascar is the second-biggest religion down there: the automobile rescued southerners from the tyranny of geography. Cheap gas allowed them to build a "new " economy based mainly on the construction of suburban sprawl.

In the process it "deified" the pickup truck."

The New York Times picks up the story from there:

Rural U.S. Takes Worst Hit as Gas Tops $4 Average

Across broad swaths of the South, Southwest and the upper Great Plains, the combination of low incomes, high gas prices and heavy dependence on pickup trucks and vans is putting an even tighter squeeze on family budgets.

Here in the Mississippi Delta, some farm workers are borrowing money from their bosses so they can fill their tanks and get to work. Some are switching jobs for shorter commutes.
People are giving up meat so they can buy fuel. Gasoline theft is rising. And drivers are running out of gas more often, leaving their cars by the side of the road until they can scrape together gas money.

The disparity between rural America and the rest of the country is a matter of simple home economics. Nationwide, Americans are now spending about 4 percent of their take-home income on gasoline. By contrast, in some counties in the Mississippi Delta, that figure has surpassed 13 percent. (more)

Now I don't know how many folks are months behind on their mortgage payments, but foreclosures have gone from 120,000 a month to over 240,000 a month, and the numbers are much worse in military towns.

One of my measures of harsh times is how many times my garden closet gets robbed. In the last 3 months, I've lost my blower and my trimmer three times. I haven't seen that kind of pilvering since early Bush I.

The DJA closed down today by more than 200 points, sitting just north of 12,000, but since the dollar is only worth about 50 cents on the dollar against the Euro from the time Bush II took over, the Dow is really closer to something more like 6,000, which is "harsh times" in anybody's book.

On the commodity side of things, oil closed up over $136.00 today and natural gas is pushing 13.00/MCF. Wholesale electricity is pushing a 100.00 a MWH.

It's been breaking heat records here hitting 100 or more every day, which is really pretty dang hot for early June. It makes a lot of us wonder what sort of special hell is in store for us come August.

Meanwhile, we're going to drive out to city park road on the outskirts of town tonight to give money to some worthy politicians. Then, we'll return to town to go to a poetry reading. After that, we'll have dinner.

I guess we'll go on acting normal,

Just as long as normal last.

Strange Days indeed.
"strange days" courtesy of the Doors

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