On a Tightrope Without a Net

Sharon June 1st, 2009

The sum total of today’s news adds up to “the continuing story of the destruction of our protective safety nets.”  GM’s bankruptcy is the lead, of course, one that constitutes an utter disaster for millions of people – unemployed workers who are unlikely to find new manufacturing jobs before their benefits run out, states swamped with benefits claims, elderly pensioners facing disaster, and the oridinary fall-out for towns, cities and states that will lead, later to deeper cuts of the nets that were designed to catch people when they fall.

Then there’s California – among its major cuts, California stands to cut the poison control hotline, benefits for the disabled, school funding, health care for working class people and children, access to state parks, and almost everything else you can imagine.  The cuts will fall heavily on the backs of the elderly, the already poor, the disabled and children, as always – people with minimal political constituencies will bear the brunt of this.

And again, there’s more to come – California is already threatening to take money out of towns and cities – areas already hurting, already failing to sell municipal bonds.  For the 47 states facing budget shortfalls, the trajectory is pretty clear – the federal government screws the states (by pouring its money into Wall Street, not helping people meet basic needs), the states sue the towns, and you get screwed all three ways – with fewer services, higher tax burdens and life on a tightrope without a net to catch you when you fall. California is the beginning, but not, unfortunately, the end.

So far, most of us have no idea what life without a net is like – what happens when the federal government can no longer subsidize the stripped unemployment funds?  What happens in the cold parts of the country when low income heating programs are stripped?  What happens to the elderly, the disabled and the sick?  What happens as public resources are stripped, damaged and destroyed?

One thing I think it is important to observe is that we have chosen our present situation in large measure.  As of this point, the US has actually spent 4 trillion on bailouts, almost all of it to large corporations, and committed another 10 billion.  That money could have supported the people directly – now we are asking “how will we fund national health care?”  Well, we spent the money, folks – and not on you.  If the concern was lending, the government could have loaned.  If the concern was keeping auto workers working, the government could have provided work and enough income to get along, or incentives for them to make new businesses.  No matter what your feelings about big government, we’ve got it – and at every level we could have spent less and done more without pouring money into the coffers of people who were skimming most of it for themselves – legalized skimming, but skimming nonetheless.  It is the culmination of the insane “rising tide lifts all boats” notion under which globalization was born – if we just make the rich richer, maybe a tiny bit will leak down to those who aren’t rich.  And as we keep finding, not much leaks down.

What’s facing us is a tidal wave of suffering – and the anger, and political conflict that accompanies it.  The UN is warning that unrest is brewing all over the world – the BBC reports that we’re facing massive repression, as human rights at all levels hit the backburners, and the anger that repressive and destructive governments agenda.  The unrest that accompanies this worldwide may well change things beyond recognition.

The project for all of us is to maintain what we can, to meet needs that we can, and to triage our safety nets and provide what resources we can.  That’s why I was so pleased to read about Rob Hopkins’ and Richard Heinberg’s nascent discussion of using Transition to provide some kind of resources for people dealing with the present crisis.  I think that as a basic principle, we can’t talk about “addressing peak oil and climate change” unless we actually have something to offer the victims of peak oil and climate change – placing these events always-already in the future, as though we had time and leisure is, I think, alienating, and being unable to respond immediately to realities risks tarring adaptive movements as irrelevant.  I keep saying it, and will keep saying it – the things that we need to prioritize in responding to our collective crisis are precisely the things that people already care about most – any movement that does not focus on the human priorities of meeting basic needs will not succeed.

At the neighborhood and community level, we need each other more than we ever have.  The safety nets that are gone are going to have to be replaced with…us.  In an essay I wrote a while back, I observed that the public safety nets were still holding, but that eventually they would crumble - and in many states, they are doing so now.  What I wrote then now has to be put into practice,

“Think of poverty as a fall out a window.  Right now, there is a layer of safety net that catches a majority of people, although by no means all.  But what’s under those?  What happens if the traditional nets break?  We need those nets not only because protecting others from hunger, cold and suffering is the ethical thing to do, and not only because, as they say, the life you save may soon be your own, but because all of our personal security depends on our community security.  In hard times, crime rates go up, and people get angry.  Brooks is right to anticipate a movement of angry and frightened people, and when people are angry and frightened, we’re all vulnerable.

In a rational society, there are more layers to break your fall, and we’re going to need them.  First, there are formal structures at the community level – if your town never needed a food pantry because people could drive to the neighboring city, now is the time to propose it at your church, school or other possible site.  Think about ways you could adapt existing infrastructure – could the schools start distributing extra school lunches to the needy after the day is over?  Could your school establish a backpack program, sending food home for the weekend with the neediest kids?  Could you start a local gleaning program, or a senior lunch program?  If you have these structures, but they are struggling, what can you do to reinforce them?  Can you make another donation?  Start a fund drive?  What about setting up a bulletin-board system to bring families struggling to keep their homes together with people who need housing.  There are a thousand good ideas – yours is probably one of them. 

The next layer is the neighbor and community layer. I know we all worry about looking like busybodies, but now is the time to start looking in on your neighbors, and offering to help.  The way to do this is to talk to people, even before it looks like they need anything.  That way you’ll know if your elderly neighbor can no longer afford to drive to get her medication and you can offer to pick it up, or if a neighbor is out of work and might be glad to get a day’s pay helping a friend of yours winterize her house.  Being neighborly, and also gentle and unjudgemental is how you are going to know if someone in your neighborhood has no food in the pantry.  For every person who signs up for aid and accepts help, there are several who will rather go hungry than take institutional charity – but who will gladly come over and share a meal with their neighbor, or do you a favor and take that loaf of bread that you’ve got no where to store.

One of the most important things we can do is when we do spend money these days, spend it in our communities if at all possible. I know most of us aren’t going to be buying a lot of holiday gifts, but every dollar you can pass on to a neighbor, a local farmer or a local business that enriches your community is one that makes everyone more secure.  So maybe hire the out of work neighbor to plant and tend a garden for your sister, or give your best friend a farmstand gift certificate.

Finally, there’s family, or the people who function like one.  Those are the people who are standing there with their arms out at the base of your fall, and are prepared to risk something to catch you.  These are the people you can depend on when you have no place to go or no food in the pantry.  And as long as you have food and a place to sleep, try hard to be that person for close friends and extended family.  In fact, try hard to extend out the circle if you can a bit – there are a lot of vulnerable people out there who could use a hand up.  You don’t have to take in everyone, or treat everyone like family, but if each of us expands the category of people we will not allow to fall to the ground by one or two,  well, there’s hope for us yet.”

Today, June 1, 2009, is the day the nets broke.  Let’s get to securing the lower levels, because they will be desperately needed, and we each of us depend upon them.


31 Responses to “On a Tightrope Without a Net”

  1. MEAon 01 Jun 2009 at 11:27 am

    What you ask is so overwhelming, and yet so necessary.

    I read in The Girl with the Pearl Earring as discribtion of men holding back the sea by putting a the side of a barn agaist the dike, lilnking arms and leaning agaist it, feet brace in a trench, watching through the night as the bonfires on neighborning dikes went out one by one as the sea broke through. But by keeping there bit, they were lessening the work to be done later.

    That, and the bit in The Road (which, bty is one of the best books on parenthood I’ve read) where the father washing brains out of his son hair, and thinks, that this is what it means to be a father, come to mind as I try to understand what is asked of us.

    When you get a chance, can you write the bit about BEING the bil on the couch.

  2. Kate-Bon 01 Jun 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this perspective highlighting especially the plight of folks already vulnerable such as the elderly, the disabled and children. The collapse of the ‘middle class’ onto the already poverty-stricken raises the stakes significantly in terms of their ability to meet just their most basic needs such as food and shelter. This past winter has shown that most communities were already reaching or exceeding their capacity to shelter houseless residents during the winter months; while silently and relentlessly the home foreclosures and layoffs mount.

    Talk in the media of recovery all to often drowns out the more practical and forward thinking voices (such as yours) urging us all to plan for the reality of continuing deterioration of services, programs and resources likely to demand our attention come Fall and Winter. A problematic phenomenon will likely then perk up by the aforementioned media as they suddenly begin to trumpet such sudden and unforeseen conditions that appear to them to develop overnight and as if by magic.

    Rubbish, of course. The poor in tent cities such as Sacramento and Las Vegas did not manifest in a single instant, nor were the media oblivious to their existence but rather, it became a selling point for a story. That’s potentially a fine line to walk next time because (as you rightly point out) folks are taking all this downright seriously and personally nowadays.

    I left California last year because I think conditions there are incendiary in almost every way- from lack of water all the way to lack of safety nets. The total collapse of that state could have an even more profound effect on the rest of the country than most of us imagine as we listen to the news, shake our heads and say, “Well, the voters got themselves into that mess…”

    While that may be a factual statement, it may also serve as a reminder that “United we stand, Divided we fall.”

    Well, perhaps California’s fate is already sealed and headed down the GM path? I dunno. I’ve never really been a believer in TPTB, but I do have tremendous faith in the people ourselves and it’s time to mobilize on that level anyway.

    Anyway, great article Sharon and thank you so much for all you do!

  3. kathyon 01 Jun 2009 at 6:18 pm

    You made me cry, Sharon. That was some of your finest writing. I hope you realize on this sad, hard day just what a gift you are to this planet. I am honored to call you friend.

  4. Shambaon 01 Jun 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Stirring writing as usual, sharon, thank you for that.

    It is a sad day today with major milestone news it seems to me as more of the markers of the society I grew up in drift away. we’re like a ship/boat going further and further out to sea, it seems.

    I sent my monthly contribution to the local food bank network today. I’ve never given to them before the past few months but the intesity of need is more and more apparent in the monthly newsletter I get from them.

    Peace to all,

  5. Rayon 01 Jun 2009 at 10:01 pm

    An excellent article, Sharon. What you are advocating is what I call the village model. I spent the better part of three decades living with and learning from both Inupiat Eskimo and Koyukon Indian subsistence hunters and gathers in northern Alaska. I found that small, relatively compact villages are far more resilient than modern urban centers when it comes to sustainability and survivability. Villagers know each other and are often related by blood or marriage. They care for one another sharing whatever food they may have and joining hands to meet challenges requiring a group effort. The strength of the village group is reinforced by cooperative community social events, including holiday feasts, games, story telling and traditional dancing. Visiting is common. Children are considered a community responsibility, and they feel welcome in any village home. In one such village there was a saying, no one goes hungry unless everyone goes hungry.

    In 1974, my wife and I traveled 1200 miles by dog team across northern Alaska. We had planned the trip for several years and developed a top notch dog team for the journey. Our route took us through fifteen Native villages scattered from the upper Koyukuk River to Kotzebue Sound and Pt. Barrow. It was our first visit to most of the communities. Wherever we went we were welcomed with open arms and cared for. No one expected any compensation beyond our company and willingness to share our stories and their food. They fed our dogs and gave us a place to sleep. Their hospitality was reflective of their community strength and resilience.

  6. vegan_satorion 01 Jun 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Judging from the past, barbaric ways reach limits — even wild barbarians needed to eat, and even if the food was stolen, someone had to be around to grow it for them. So a sort of balance arose — the growers had violent barbarians to keep their numbers in check, and avoided winding up with too many mouths to feed… and the barbarians, well, they needed enough growers. Eventually the ‘tax’ may have been paid without too much blood on the ax. But if the barbarians got lazy, or squeamish, eventually there were too many people and everyone went hungry. Perhaps we need a few well tempered barbarians to keep the rest of us dumb slaves in line — or perhaps, we can ~decide~ to control ~ourselves~. Think fast, the barbarians are sharpening their axes. Oh, just in case you were thinking of applying for the dirty job, keep in mind that during great famines, barbarians starved first. And there’s that nagging dependency issue, upsetting to the psyche of any red blooded barbarian — after all, it engenders feelings of insecurity and anger. I hear steel on the grindstone, and the smell of blood is in the air.

  7. Pangolinon 02 Jun 2009 at 2:51 am


    As someone laid low by a combination industrial accident/immune system dysfunction I can attest that California is the last place that a person in need of a safety net should be. The social services offices are filled with confused people required to fill out multiple redundant forms and prove their existence by means of official documents. Anyone who wants to replicate the experience should watch the movie “Brazil;” preferably dubbed over in a foreign language.

    The only thing keeping the state going is the quasi-legal status of pot growers with medical marijuana certificates. We have honest-to-god radio ads for LED grow lights, soil mixtures, hydroponic systems, solar garden pumps, grow bags announced over reggae sound tracks. After hours pickup of soil amendments is available upon request.

    In short the eighth largest economy in the world is crumbling and everybody pretends it’s going to be fine. No axes. No demonstrations. Just long lines at the welfare counter and a sudden interest in horticulture. The only public institutions guaranteed funding are the police and the prisons and it’s largely illegal to be impoverished.

    As goes California so goes the nation. Good luck with that.

  8. gaiasdaughteron 02 Jun 2009 at 8:09 am

    An excellent post, Sharon — and I do believe Americans have it within them to rise to the challenge. Whenever I doubt that, I remember the citizens of Fargo this past winter — standing in the snow, passing 25# bags of sand for days on end, determined to save their town from rising waters.

    And Ray, I think you are right on — it seems to me that village life is the most natural organization of human culture — so many of our ills, from abuse and neglect to crime and poverty, would find sterile ground in a close-knit community of caring individuals.

  9. young snowbirdon 02 Jun 2009 at 8:27 am

    Thanks for the reminder, Sharon, about what is needed to adjust to the newly forming “normal.” I’m currently in the situation where I need to make some shifts to a villager model, but have to rush to get up to speed on the “building community” skills.

    Sell the car? Take in a roommate- foster out the cat?
    Ditch the condo and go back to another state and live in a friend’s empty house? Lots of decisions to make, each with consequences that can’t be reversed. With all the bubble pops and the banks responses, its hard for me to see that one’s credit score will even be relevant in the future, so thats one less thing to worry about.

    I wrote a post on my blog with questions about who really owns my mortgage. If you get a chance, could you go over and read it, and tell me where my reasoning is on or off? I’d appreciate it.

  10. Mark Burnhamon 02 Jun 2009 at 9:09 am

    Thank you for that article Sharon.

    If I needed anything to happen to drive a stake through my faith in the governmental action to deal with world-wide problems the past 6 months have finally killed it. Our new president has not changed anything – the dismantling of America has proceeded with increased vigor. I’m saddened to say that he seems to be using his popularity to get away with things that the last president wouldn’t have. As a result, the last drops of blood are being squeezed from all available stones (a little double meaning there :-) ).

    The only thing I’d add to your article would be that we uncommon commoners need to protect our remaining assets as much as possible. We need to very carefully buy things that will last and invest in products that will help us and our community live without any surrounding infrastructure. Apart from guns and community protection groups I don’t know what we can do to prevent actual confiscation of our property by the many governments layered above us. But let’s at least not make it easy for them by leaving wads of cash in businesses and banks and government retirement programs that are fast becoming wishful thinking.

    Create your new wealth in contacts and relationships – not dollars and gold bullion. I don’t think the government has figured out a way to steal our friendships – yet! We need to be very proactive in walking away from the status quo if we want to have any chance at anything more than mere survival. There’s more to life than simply not dying – we need to find and/or create that ourselves.


  11. Christopher Haaseon 02 Jun 2009 at 10:42 am

    NO ropes were ever designed to hold this gluttonous rabid 700 pound gorilla in the room…

    Whether your georgewashington stating the Government Has Pledged $12.8 Trillion on Bailouts putting every household on the hook for $109,887

    or the USA Today study reflecting the burden is already much, much larger… exploding the government garnered $6.8 trillion in “new obligations” in 2008, bringing the total US tab to $63.8 trillion brining family’s share of the government debt is now over $546,000.

    It is clear that any investment in our current monetary system become futile and that your post points out our greatest investment will be in ourselves and community.

    It is more than money but all these problems are more without it.

  12. ehswanon 02 Jun 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Fine artical. I would add 2 things. Share our stuff, and set up bartering centers, perhaps in abandoned big box stores. I remember realizing that sermon on the mount was’nt so crazey as it sounded, “…give your shirt also…” when I realized that if everyone gave their shirt also everyone would end up having a shirt. Well, maybe it’s not that simple, but if we all shared what we have there would be plenty to go round.

  13. Dennis Meaneyon 02 Jun 2009 at 7:44 pm

    This is the Great Heartbreak we are going through.

  14. Tammy and Parkeron 02 Jun 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Okay. I realize that I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box, but could someone explain to me how all this is going on and yet the stock market is making such gains?

    I truly would like to be able to understand this.

    And oil. It goes up and there are groans. It goes down and people talk about the worry of it going so low that it won’t be profitable to even and go in and drill for more.

    Yup. Confused is me.

    However, we are working on our very own chicken coop. Right here on our little urban lot. And our garden is in. Buying more canning jars via yard sales. And each month we are choosing an item an stocking it up.

  15. Sharonon 03 Jun 2009 at 8:30 am

    Tammy, it isn’t you, I promise ;-) . I think the most important thing about the stock market is this – it is built on something called market confidence, which translates, quite literally, to what people believe. They have been told that things are recovering, and in fact, are seeing the results of a huge chunk of change that you and I will pay for poured into the banks and the markets (remember TALF, which essentially says “buy those assets that are junk, the government is paying” – well, given a deal like that, wouldn’t you buy? ;-) ). Some people think that this is a good sign, that that money has created something larger. Some people (me) don’t – consumer spending is 70% of our economy, and I don’t see our consumers, rapidly losing their jobs, going bankrupt and basic services, spending that much.

    As for oil – the weird thing about oil is this. Low oil prices, as we approach the peak, are bad for investment in renewable energies, and in energy infrastructure. High oil prices are bad for people who actually drive, heat their homes and buy stuff. But the good thing about high oil prices is that they encourage people to use public resources, to conserve, etc… Lower prices discourage investment in renewables and hard-to-get energy sources, and discourage conservation. So we’re in trouble in both directions, because in a material sense, we’re on the cusp of the peak, but in some ways, high prices get us going in the direction we want, whereas low prices actually mean that when the prices eventually rise again, there are fewer renewable resources and oil sources to take up the slack – peak oil hits harder. On the other hand, a growing body of work says that high oil prices crash the economy – so that’s kind of bad too ;-) . So what you are seeing is a damned if you do, damned if don’t scenario around oil – because we’re so close to the peak, both outcomes are pretty bad.

    Congratulations on the chicken coop, the canning jars, the garden…in the end, that’s the good stuff whether prices go up or down, not having to buy eggs and eating your own is good.


  16. Sharonon 03 Jun 2009 at 8:35 am

    Young Snowbird – Yes, I think you are just about right. I wrote about this some months ago, arguing that if the federal government was going to effectively nationalize mortgages, that this was correct – they can afford then, to vacate those mortgages, including all of those held by Fannie and Freddie and by banks that have accepted huge bailouts and are unloading troubled assets, and give the property to actual homeowners. You’d need a procedure for not rewarding the biggest jerks in this – ie, speculators, etc… For example, I think legally you can get 1 home per household, priority given to consolidated households, your vacation home is forfeit and given to someone else, renters should have access to a lottery system for homes that were unsalvageable, you must live in the house for a minimum of five years, otherwise, you forfeit and it goes back into the lottery.

    I’d call it the new American Homestead Act.


  17. Exon 03 Jun 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Hold on here–I am half way through ANOF,
    and I agree with much of what you write, but are you advocating communism here?
    “your vacation home is forfeit and given to someone else”?
    What if I am an urban apartment/condo/small home owner, and my ‘vacation home’ is a couple acres
    where I just spent five years investing in establishing a large garden and orchard?
    Who decides who gets what, a “committee”?
    Russia tried this-it failed.
    Germany and other countries applied it to specific minorities as you have pointed out in your writings
    re your husband’s family losing a farm.
    I sincerely hope you are not serious here or simply responded without engaging the logical part of your consciousness.
    New American Homestead Act?
    More like the Great American Land Grab, with certain officials naturally getting first in line.

  18. Sharonon 04 Jun 2009 at 7:40 am

    Ex – I’m advocating that there’s a price if you want to take part in the new American homestead act – if you can afford your vacation home, great. But if we’re talking about making the taxpayers pay mortgages, I don’t have a problem with the rule that one gets only one taxpayer paid mortgage – period.

    I don’t think that’s communism at all – I think it is insane that we have moved all this debt to the public balance sheets, rather than allowing the banks to simply deal with the consequences of their bad lending, but having done so, we now own that land – the banks don’t anymore. But I don’t see any need to give people two houses – too many people don’t have one. If you can pay for it privately without relying on public resources, you can have 10. But if you need one dime of taxpayer money, you only get one.

    That is hardly communism by any technical definition, but if it is by yours, I can live with it. It isn’t Nazism – they aren’t parallel.


  19. MEAon 04 Jun 2009 at 8:42 am

    After all, if the homeowner of the appartement and the 5 acres gets to chose which to have as the homestread, problem solved, yes?

  20. Lauraon 04 Jun 2009 at 10:58 am

    I prefer those in need of food/shelter/clothing go sponge off their FAMILY. Only those with ZERO family should be allowed to eat from the gov’ment trough. When you add the gov’ment into the equation, the majority of the $$$ goes towards administration and simply gives the gov’ment too much control and the ability to do things simply for the votes.

  21. Sharonon 04 Jun 2009 at 11:27 am

    Again, let me be clear – I’m not in favor of the government taking over mortgage risk. However, we already did – and I am in favor of the benefit of that going to ordinary people, not Wall Street – right now, as Snowbird points out you pay twice. Those who keep paying shouldn’t lose anything – but if you want to take advantage of the fact that you have already effectively paid for your house, you can’t really bitch about only getting one house.

    Sharon, pinko ;-) .

  22. MEAon 04 Jun 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Laura — how large is your family?

    Assuming that only those local to me and only those who aren’t “friends who are like family” end up being fed my me, that’s 7, toss in my housemate, my brother’s grown step children, my godson, his mother, and a neighbor who is like another grandmother and her daughter, and it adds up pretty fast. And these are just the people I love the best and have the least hope of other family helping them.

    I could never feed them all. If Social Security wants to keep sending the elders among us a check and we can get subsidised school lunches, why not?

  23. Laura in So Calon 04 Jun 2009 at 3:42 pm


    The point you make about sharing a meal made me think about a story my Dad recently told me that his Grandmother told him. During the Depression, my great grandparents did OK because great grandpa worked at a utility. His hours and pay were cut, but he did have a job and they had a garden, so they ate and stayed in their house. My great Grandmother said the hardest thing was watching all the kids in the house next door get thinner and thinner. The family refused to take “charity” but would accept “neighborliness.” So for several years, my great Grandmother invited them over for dinner every Sunday, made the kids a treat on their birthdays, and offered them surplus garden produce. It was the only way she had to help out.

    Laura in So Cal

  24. Lauraon 07 Jun 2009 at 2:12 pm

    To MEA:

    I’ve used blunt honesty on family and others who know I’m into food storage. When they say, “I know where to go if I need food”, I look them straight in the eye and tell them they best start stockpiling food for the hard times ahead because I have no intention of feeding them. I say it with enough intensity and conviction that I’ve got alot of people now stockpiling.

    With the times ahead, you can’t possibly feed everyone. There will be die-off.

    If I were going to feed anyone, it would be the very young. The older people already lived their life.

    Cold? Yes. But it is the reality of the situation ahead.

  25. MEAon 08 Jun 2009 at 10:14 am

    Totally off the wall response to Laura becuase I’m hyped on caffine and my hormones are in an uproar– I’d reserve enough food for some guy who can dig a garden and plough a furrow, if you know what I mean.

    (Naturally, if an old man were to post this about a young woman, I’d have something snide to say .)

    Seriously, I don’t see the fact that is going to be die-off a reason not to accept goverment money. One could argue that to become depentent on it just postpone’s the cold choices to come, but I see it as helping a bit toward the preps.

    In my case, I’d rather keep my family unit as intact as I can, since I need the help of the adults with the children, rather than put the old folk out on the ice flows (which I gather is a bit of a myth) than take one some young children whom I couldn’t really take care off.

    As you said, cold choices.

  26. Lauraon 08 Jun 2009 at 11:14 am

    Yes, MEA, there are cold choices ahead. But knowing where you stand will help you prepare. Because you’d like a man who can dig a garden and plough a furrow, you’ll want those items, some spares, and tools to fix them…plus a few tempting outfits to wear and plenty of man-pleasing food :)

  27. MEAon 09 Jun 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Oh, I play to follow the Sharon Astyk method of seduction: get hot and sweaty in the garden, and the roll around on the soil — should get me a man and a spare (I rather like ones in kilts, esp. when worn with rugger shirts). I have the garden and (ahem) the furrow. Man pleasing food is a bit in short supply though, as I now have to eat up 8 very LARGES cans of cut French Beans.

  28. Exon 13 Jun 2009 at 11:06 am

    Sharon–I owe you an apology, as I broke two of my internet posting rules: no posting after imbibing, and asking for clarification before denigrating a post.
    I think the less the government is involved the better. There are few ‘temporary’ governmental measures that do not seem to become permanent. There is already a system in place for people who are over-extended–
    it is called forfeiture and/or bankruptcy.
    I got shivers down my spine when I read your line
    “your vacation home is forfeit and given to someone else”.
    I am unsure how anyone who may not be able to afford the mortgage on their primary residence would be in a position to even own a vacation home, unless it was already paid for, or inherited
    and thus owned free and clear.
    I may have mis-interpreted your intent, but that is one scary phrase.
    Political opportunism appears to be increasing–
    we need to aware of the risk of losing our freedoms due to a surge in populism or political expediency.
    My mention of communism and nazism was a leap, admittedly, but a fear of an over-reaction against certain groups that leads down a slippery slope.
    You may be more versed on this topic, but this quote from Wikipedia (sorry) sums it up:

    Populist movements can be precursors for, or building blocks for, fascist movements.[13][14][15] Conspiracist scapegoating employed by various populist movements can create “a seedbed for fascism.”[16] National socialist populism interacted with and facilitated fascism in interwar Germany.[17] In this case, distressed middle–class populists during the pre-Nazi Weimar period mobilized their anger at government and big business. The Nazis “parasitized the forms and themes of the populists and moved their constituencies far to the right through ideological appeals involving demagoguery, scapegoating, and conspiracism.”[18

  29. [...] some discussion in the comments of Sharon Astyk’s collapse blog about how State of CA is staying alive only with marijuana sales/proceeds and associated industry. [...]

  30. Sharonon 15 Jun 2009 at 7:28 am

    Ex, I guess that’s the point – populist movements can be precursors to all sorts of bad things – or they can be antidotes to them.

    The reality is that there are numbers of people who face losing both first and second homes – should they have been allowed to buy them? No, but we’re where we are. Again, as I said, if they can pay for ‘em, they can have them. But if you take a government handout, you only get one, and tough patooties. If that makes me a pinko, I’m good with it.

    I tend to agree with you about government involvement – in an ideal world. But since we’ve already got massive, massive government involvement, for me the question is “how do we shift the emphasis from saving the rich to saving the poor.”

    I’m not offended by your disagreement, though, and you don’t owe me an apology.


  31. Exon 16 Jun 2009 at 1:06 pm

    I agree with what you say, just not the way you said it .
    As you state in ANOF, personal responsibility needs to be reinforced. If someone has two homes they can no longer afford, the bank simply repossess one or both and they move in with relatives.
    That’s the way it has always been.
    I say skip the government intervention part.
    You mention a few pages later in the book that you
    are willing to move public opinion in ways you think are wise, provided you are telling the truth.
    This is commendable and altruistic, but also somewhat naive because someone (politician or deep pocket who funds politicians) is bound to see a way to profit from this and take manipulate the system to their advantage.
    Connected people made huge sums following the Savings and Loan bailout.
    I have no reason to doubt that the same people are making or will make fortunes on this spending spree (=bailout=tarp)
    While I remain hopeful on the person by person level, I am extremely jaded on the system level.
    Any federal bailout should be not-for-profit, but that seems unrealistic.
    Now that I have finished ANOF, on to Depletion and Abundance.

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