"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance"

--James Madison--

"The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries, but between authoritarians and libertarians"

--George Orwell--

If All Is Lost, Then What Is There To Discuss?

The following is a response that I wrote to a very pessimistic comment on another blog.

Time to crawl into a hole with internet access and live a hermit's life until death.  If all is lost, then nothing can be done.

So why keep moaning about it?

"That (the US) was a nation whose economy hit a brick wall in the form of the Depression."

Same today.  Except this isn't nearly as severe as the depression of the 1930's.  Not yet, at least. 

Unemployment was over 20%, and the government was likely padding the statistics like they are now.  So maybe 30% in reality.  Plus, there had to be a lot of men like my grandfather, who worked for maybe a few weeks at a time before having to find new work.  But nobody was getting unemployment benefits, or any public assistance at all.

Inflation wasn't a worry at all, since the economy deflated by almost 40% from 1929 to 1933.

The government did not keep statistics on foreclosures at the time, but as many as 1000 mortgage loans were foreclosed on per day in a market that contained only about 1/5 as many homes as today. 

In terms of percentages, that's actually pretty consistent with today, even though a much higher percentage of people own homes today as opposed to the 1930's.  A lot of those 1930's foreclosures were rental properties, so each foreclosure put more people on the streets than today.

"Its industrial infrastructure was in place, ready to roar back to life (which it did in WWII so we can't really credit FDR for that turn around)."

Not true at all.  The industrial ramp up during WW2 necessitated some rather unusual arrangements.  More than anything, working industrial sites were converted to defense manufacturing.  Airplane parts were fabricated at sheet metal shops.  A pinball machine factory was converted into a factory to make solenoids for all sorts of defense purposes.

Consumer goods became more scarce because of this.  It took years to build new factories, many of which stayed defense plants.  Some of which are still defense plants to this day.

"It was a nation not subject to being fed an endless stream of consumer goods and becoming dumbed down because of them. It was a nation without the rants of Glen Beck on 24/7 cable, poisoning the waters, speaking of which....... It was a nation without a giant puddle of filthy oil in its gulf."

I'll grant you that there was no huge puddle of oil in the gulf.  But industrial pollution was rampant and severe.

Consumer goods were scarce because nobody could buy them.  Many factories were shut down, which had grown in number greatly during the boom of the 1920's, when mass marketing of consumer goods really came of age.  When the WW2 industrial boom came along, these factories weren't exactly just sitting there ready to go.  Even if they had the equipment, it still all had to be retooled.

Which created more manufacturing jobs.  Most of which paid barely subsistence wages.  My grandfather got a job at a WPA run factory.  It didn't pay enough to even make the rent.  Fortunately, he had also landed a job as an apartment building manager.

The WPA job went away when he burned his eyes welding.  No worker's comp.  No unemployment benefits, no SSDI.

Today, there are a lot of idle factories, and they could be retooled today just as they were then.

Our manufacturing base isn't as bad as you seem to think, either.  The US is the number 3 producer, and number 2 exporter of manufactured goods.  The shame of it isn't being behind China, but being behind Germany.

I do some bookkeeping work for a small local manufacturer.  They make a product that is required (by the EPA) for all air conditioning and refrigeration systems above a certain capacity.

They buy zero parts from overseas.  Most of the parts come from the northern Midwest, which is actually the HVAC manufacturing capital of the world.  You wouldn't recognize the names of many of the suppliers, like Parker-Hannifin or Frontier Controls.  But you've probably heard of Trane and Carrier.

The cabinets are all made at a sheet metal shop in Denver.  All of the nuts and bolts are machined locally, from US produced steel and aluminum.

More than half of all sales are to foreign companies, since nobody else produces this product anywhere. 

When the Chinese need to retool their factories, most of their industrial production equipment comes from the US.  Consumer goods aren't the entirety of manufacturing and exporting.

We do have a lot of idle factories, mo doubt.  But the situation isn't nearly as dire as you seem to believe.

It doesn't help any that much of the pain is localized.  The spectacularly dismal situation in the lower Midwest and the South gets much more press than the locally reviving economies of the upper Midwest and the Northeast.

Individuals in distress get more attention (rightfully so) than individuals who are getting along well.

There were right wing ideologues back then, and fundienut preachers that got more air time then than Glen Beck gets today.  Xenophobia was hardly scarce.  Just ask older blacks and Hispanics.  Almost all of the (rather large and strident) opposition to the social programs of the time was xenophobic back then, as well.

Things aren't great, but they could be, and have been, a lot worse.

There is certainly a possibility of a recovery and another boom before the cycle repeats itself yet again.

There is a tendency, as one ages, for the rear view to get rosier and the oncoming to get bleaker.  Them damn kids today.  They don't care about anything.  They listen to bad music.  They have weird hair.  They won't stay the fuck off of my lawn.

But I refuse to believe that conditions can never get any better.  If they can't, then there's really nothing to discuss.