Monday, November 12, 2007

Sucking In The Seventies Redux

Awhile back I posted on my blog that it was starting to feel like the 70's all over again.

With oil near a $100 a barrel, with gold near $850 an ounce, with the dollar at all-time lows, with inflation increasing and economic growth slowing, with the U.S. fighting two foreign wars on credit and with America's reputation abroad falling dramatically, it really does feel like the Ford/Carter/Beame/Koch era all over again.

It's the little stories that add to my feeling that the 70's have come back.

Remember the Rolling Stones song "Shattered" from the 1978 Miss You album?

That song seemed to crystallize the feeling that American society was completely unraveling and nobody could do anything about it:

All this chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter bout
Shmatta, shmatta, shmatta -- I can't give it away on 7th avenue
This towns been wearing tatters (shattered, shattered)
Work and work for love and sex
Ain't you hungry for success, success, success, success
Does it matter? (shattered) does it matter?
I'm shattered.

Ahhh, look at me, I'm a shattered
I'm a shattered
Look at me- I'm a shattered, yeah

Pride and joy and greed and sex
Thats what makes our town the best
Pride and joy and dirty dreams and still surviving on the street
And look at me, I'm in tatters, yeah
Ive been battered, what does it matter
Does it matter, uh-huh
Does it matter, uh-huh, I'm a shattered

Don't you know the crime rate is going up, up, up, up, up
To live in this town you must be tough, tough, tough, tough, tough!
You got rats on the west side
Bed bugs uptown
What a mess this towns in tatters Ive been shattered
My brains been battered, splattered all over Manhattan

Uh-huh, this towns full of money grabbers
Go ahead, bite the big apple, don't mind the maggots, huh
Shadoobie, my brains been battered
My friends they come around they
Flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter
Pile it up, pile it high on the platter.

So here we are in 2007 and the crime rate is going up across the country because the Bush administration has taken resources away from crime fighting and put them into anti-terrorism efforts.

A bridge fell in Minneapolis because the government failed to take proper care of it. Infrastructure across the country is falling apart, but many politicians talk tax cuts and privatized roads and bridges rather than developing real plans to fix infrastructure problems.

Here in New York, the MTA has decided to spend billions to expand the 7 train eight blocks and three avenues to help out Mayor Bloomberg's billionaire real estate buddies build up the Far West Side. Meanwhile, the subway system shuts down every time we get a heavy rain and the MTA says they have to raise a round-trip fare to $5.

Steam pipes explode in New York City, burning pedestrians and showering Midtown Manhattan with asbestos. The Con Edison CEO shrugs his shoulders and says it's the city's fault that his company's pipes explode.

Large swaths of California burned last month and some areas of the state couldn't effectively fight the fires because they had cut funds from emergency services like fire fighting.

On the economic front, food, health care, education and energy prices are through the roof while wages aren't keeping up with headline inflation.

Wall Street has been plagued by wild bouts of turbulence - the Dow goes up 200 points one day, then falls 350 the next. One day earlier this year, the Dow fell 500+ points in a couple of minutes.

Banks are writing down billions of dollars from their balance sheets as a result of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown. More write-downs are expected to come.

Real estate values, wildly inflated over the last few years, are falling across most areas of the country. So far, real estate values have fallen 5.3% from the high reached in June of 2006. Values are expected to fall another 5%-15% in the next couple of years. Meanwhile home foreclosures are increasing as billions of dollars in sub-prime and Alt-A adjustable rate mortgages reset to higher rates.

Facing lower tax revenues, Mayor Bloomberg has announced 1.5% cuts at city agencies this year, 5% cuts for next. Can lay-offs be far behind if the economy falls into recession next year?

Strikes abound these days. GM workers were on strike for awhile, taxi cab drivers keep walking out every month. Striking screenwriters have shut down series and live TV shows. Striking stagehands have shut down most of Broadway.

Instead of bedbugs, we have staph infections killing kids in NYC public schools.

While the prime rate isn't going up, up, up, many financial analysts expect the Federal Reserve will have to reverse course and raise interest rates by the middle of next year.

Even Alan Greenspan, that most bubblicious of bubble-makers, has warned that inflation is going to be a huge problem in the next thirty years and said he expects the Federal Reserve will have to raise interest rates to double digits to deal with the problem.

You heard that right - Greenspan thinks double digit interest rates will be needed very soon to deal with inflation problems.

With even Greenspan calling for sane fiscal policy to burst his self-created bubbles, doesn't it feel like the 70's all over again?

I think it does.

Shadoobie doobie doo.
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