The Daily Impact has been a quiet place lately, and I will tell you why: words fail me. The scale of the global crash now enveloping us, and the fecklessness of the leaders pretending to protect and defend us, exceed the vocabulary of this wretched scribe. If one manages, however briefly, to comprehend the enormity of the multiple disasters bearing down on us, then one accidentally sees part of a presidential-candidate debate and has to pick up pieces of one’s skull all over the room again.
How bad it is in the United States:
- One verse that has been sung for years now by the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” Chorus is that we are converting to a service economy, in which half of us will serve meals, keep house and otherwise cater to the other half, and that will work fine. But now — just now — the malaise that has been eating at all the other economic enterprises of the country has attacked the restaurant industry. “If services stumble too,” observes a writer on David Stockman’s website, “there truly is nothing left.”
- Another verse from the aforementioned Chorus: We may not make much anymore, but we sure move stuff around, and that employs a lot of people and keeps the economy chugging along. Not so much anymore. “The Transportation Recession Spreads,” says Wolf Richter of WolfStreet, with the subhead “Hope came unglued all over again.” Orders for new 18-wheeler trucks have been falling since September of 2015, because of declining freight volumes, and after a slight recovery in December (hence the hope), plummeted nearly 50% (year-to-year) in January. Rail freight is experiencing a similar, vertigo-inducing slump.
- American jobs of all kinds are being vaporized at a rate not seen since the Great Recession got traction in 2009. Just in January, layoffs quadrupled. See this partial list of job cuts so far this year, and an assessment of the mass layoffs just ahead. Every month the government issues, and the “Happy” Chorus extols, monthly reports lauding robust job-creation and the continued low (seasonally adjusted, statistically weighted, seasoned-to-taste) unemployment rate, while ignoring the gut-wrenching disappearance of hundreds of thousands of people from the job market. These people, six million or so of them now, are not unemployed. They are vanished.
- The U.S. oil industry, which was promoting itself just a few months ago as the progenitor of a new American Revolution, of a return to American energy independence, and on, and on — is a smoking ruin. Shale drillers are in the process of reporting losses of about $15 billion for 2015; reductions of 25 per cent and more in their balance sheets because of devalued oil; and levels of debt that forced 42 oil companies into bankruptcy last year and will drive under many more than that this year. Nor is the carnage limited to the shale patch; from Exxon down, Big Oil is experiencing shrinking profits, tumbling stock prices and credit ratings.
As glum as the situation and the prospects are nationally, they are even worse abroad — for China, Russia, Brazil, Venezuela, Canada and much of Europe and Asia. (Please, valued commenters, find me a country that is doing well, with rising employment and wages, a stable currency, manageable debt, decent health care and security for its citizens. Let’s write about it and then move there. Assuming it’s on this planet.)
Failing that, as I survey the tides of misery rising everywhere, the Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding everywhere, the hopes and dreams and people dying everywhere — words fail me.
All of this confirms me once again as an Age Optimist — a person who, despite everything, maintains a sunny unshaken faith that before these events play themselves out, he will be dead.