Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Economy: I'll be Watching

I've been ignoring this blog this week, thanks to the distractions of Facebook and my own slothful frame of mind. That will stop. Despite the odd appeal of Facebook, it is fundamentally a distraction to me and a mindless one at that.

For the immediate future, I'm going to try to discipline myself to write in this blog on a more regular basis. Oh, I know, I shouldn't let the blog become my master! Not bloody likely. But I WANT to put my thoughts down so I can come back later and marvel at my self-importance and exceptional shallowness.

Like most people today, I suspect, the economy is on my mind. Questions about the need for a bailout, the proper structure of a bailout if indeed it is necessary, and the consequences of failing to either do anything or to do the wrong thing weigh on my mind.

I think the unthinkable. I ask the questions: what if the economy utterly and completely tanks? What if the economy goes into such a tailspin that the entities and organizations that provide basic services like electricity, potable water, etc. grind to a halt? I know the common response is that "they" or "we" or "the government" would never let that happen. I don't believe "they" or "we" or "the government" would know what to do to prevent it. Even if there are people who truly do understand the full framework of the economy and know just the right buttons to push to get it back on track, I believe those "buttons" would have to be punched in a slow and agonizing sequence and that, in the interim, most of us who are not at the head of the priority list would have to do without.

I'm not a doomsday sayer nor do I predict the imminent collapse of the economy, but I am not a pollyanna; I know the world's economy is too complex to be easily controllable. I think it's reasonable for reasonable people to consider whether they can and should act now to prepare for the potential of a cataclymic economic collapse.

If the electric power grid went down today, what would I do? How would my business operate? How quickly would grocery stores, which depend on power not only for their freezers and coolers but also to allow them to process credit cards, close their doors or run out of food? Do you have plenty of food to keep you alive until you can plant a garden and start to survive off of what you gro?

No stop lights in a city like Dallas could quickly lead to gridlock...but maybe the lack of power would keep people off the streets so that would not be an issue. But no power also means the pumping stations that deliver water to our homes and offices would stop working. How many of us have a long-term supply of potable water at our immediate disposal? And, of course, no power means no quick way to get gasoline out of the underground storage tanks at gas stations.

Let's assume, though, that an economic Armageddon does not hit us through the power grid. Let's assume it simply grinds most business to a halt. Then, we'd have to rely on our savings to get by...assuming we could get at our savings and that our savings have value in the midst of an economic calamity. And how many of us would have enough, even if the value of the dollar were to maintain some semblance of its current value, to continue to pay our mortgages, put food on the table, and cover other necessary expenses? If the economy went utterly haywire, how many more of us would lose our homes? And where would we go?

I would go on and on with horrific scenarios that paint a bleak picture of our lives if the economy were to completely collapse. We've grown so dependent on a fast-moving, consumer-focused, high-living economy that we don't know anything else. What would we do? How would we get by?

If I knew the answers, I'd be far more comfortable than I am and I would be sought after by the politicians who admit they don't have the answer. I'm just asking the questions and wondering if I should become a survivalist, starting today. Should I go to the store and stock up on cannned food? Fill up my bathtub with water? Buy a shotgun just in case things get ugly?

No, not yet. I'm going to acknowledge that I've long since put my life in the hands of people I consider to be self-serving idiots. But I'll be watching, and watching closely.

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