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America’s Future: My Baseline Scenario

2010 February 23
by Ian Welsh

1) employment is not going to recover to pre-great recession levels for at least a generation, maybe more, in terms of % of people employed.  The late Clinton economy is the best you or I will see in our working lives.

2) Politics will continue to be dominated by monied interests and that dominance will increase, rather than decrease.  They will use their power to fight over the shrinking pie, rather than to increase it, and will make any real systemic restructuring of the economy essentially impossible.

3) a right wing “populist” will get in after Obama.  Since the only sort of stimulus they can do is war stimulus, they will pick a war with someone.  Who, I’m not sure.   In economic terms they will have all the wrong solutions to various real problems.

4) Under both Democrats and Republicans the deterioration of civil liberties will continue.

5) Median standards of living will take at least a 20% drop within 10 years or so.  Maybe more.  Not sure exactly when, but if anything, the % may be an underestimate.

6) Resource nationalism will continue to rise as will 1/1 deals between countries.  China has already restricted rare earth sales, for example.  Countries will start insisting on doing the value add in their own countries rather than shipping raw materials overseas, if they have the ability to do this.

7) As state and local governments loose their ability to govern (a process which will proceed in cycles), there will be cyclical of cuts in basic services, including police, road repair, schooling and so on.  Get thee to a very affluent neighbourhood, if you can.

8) Entitlements will be cut, perhaps openly, perhaps through statistical tricks, but it will be done.  There is a bipartisan consensus on this, and when Republicans get in charge they will be able to find enough Dems to sign off this time.  (If Obama can, he’ll do it before then, but Republicans want to use this against him.)

9)  There will be another major economic crisis, probably within 8 years.  In principle it could happen within a year, the timing depends on political actions I’m not sure how to predict.  I consider this nearly inevitable.

10) I expect an end to the war on some drugs, because States are going to want to tax the drug trade and need to.  Likewise the prison-industrial complex is likely to suffer.  Its constituency is not as powerful as some other important constituencies.

11) New Oh yes, I should mention that I expect an actual population decrease when things get really bad, a la Russia’s collapse.

In the longer term I expect severe water shortages, for both people and crops, in large areas of the world including big chunks of the US, China and India.  Climate instability will continue to increase, and in about 10 years (according to a friend whose judgement has been good on this) various sinks will be overloaded and we’ll start seeing some really serious global warming increases on top of the instability.  Expect food to be short and much more expensive, expect inland areas to devolve back towards local manufacturing and for megashops to start collapsing.  Expect coastal vs. inland to a big division, until global warming starts wiping out coast areas.

Americans will put off cutting the military, I think, till they’ve gutted virtually everything else.  I expect the military will probably win the fight against financial interests when the moment comes, though we’ll see.

There will be various break-points along the way, where decisions can be made which will make a difference but I think it’s close to impossible to avoid a failed Obama presidency and a right wing backlash against that Presidency.  Once the right wing fails, there will be another chance, a slight one, to turn things around.

42 Responses
  1. Verne Arnold permalink
    February 23, 2010

    Timing is never easy; but your scenario seems reasonable.
    Water is indeed the next resource we (all inclusive) will kill/go to war for.
    This gets little press; as though “they” are trying to keep it a secret. Water is the main point in Israel’s intransigent attitude regarding the Palestinians.
    Water being the staff of life will be fought over and hoarded by the victors and doled out for obeisance.
    Serfdom will be a luxury compared to what’s coming for most humans.
    Of course, nothing is written in stone; but human behavior seems one of the universal constants; not very encouraging, IMO.

  2. Celsius 233 permalink
    February 23, 2010

    ^ Aka known as Celsius 233
    Inet problems in spades here, so got signed out, blah, blah, blah. ;-)

  3. Marsha permalink
    February 23, 2010

    Wow – what a way to start a Tuesday!

    Can’t say I disagree, but for the first time I thought “It’s good that I’m 64 – maybe I’ll miss the worst of it.

    Definitely got to leave the kids as much as we can so they can exist in the Future World.

  4. February 23, 2010

    Sounds about right to me. I’ve revised my US collapse theory to sometime in the next 20 years, though it really could be anytime after tomorrow.

    With the government gaming every economic number out there, those who don’t take the time to really seek information are being fed a load of hogwash. Imagine the mood in the States if people were contemplating real unemployment at the 20% level right now.

    This nation is so good at fooling itself, and that’s a shame. The problems are huge but they are not intractable. However, so long as we refuse to admit them they won’t be solved.

    I must admit, looking out on such a great body of fresh water every day gives me some personal consequence…but it also makes me fear for the grabbing that it will produce down the road.

  5. rumor permalink
    February 23, 2010

    I’m going to miss reliable internet service, because without it access to alternative sources of information and the trenchant commentary I’ve learned so much from over the past decade or so is going to be so much more difficult. The net may be the latest, greatest way for people to amuse themselves to death, but for me it’s been a tremendous boon. I don’t see it lasting, though, at least not in the very useful form it’s been and, eventually, not really at all.

    Part of me thinks that when food, water, security and shelter are pressing concerns, I may not care as much anymore, but another part of me says that’s not true; that truth and knowledge will be important to me even in the most desperate of times. Perhaps more important, even.

  6. Mad Hemingway permalink
    February 23, 2010

    Since this is one scenario, what are the alternatives?

  7. Humanity Burning permalink
    February 23, 2010

    Good post.

    As a side, whatever happened to Stirling Newberry? Is he still posting online somewhere?

  8. jo6pac permalink
    February 23, 2010

    Americans will put off cutting the military.
    This true and sad and when this plays out every country is affected.

  9. anonymous permalink
    February 23, 2010

    I laughed at your #8. I wouldn’t have figured you for an emoticon user.

    I don’t know why it’s hard to pick our next war. That’s easy: Iran or Venezuela in the short term. Throw in China or Russia if things really start to change politically or economically in the longer term.

    And the 8 year timeline for the next crisis seems way too long, like you’re just giving yourself too much room.

  10. tjfxh permalink
    February 23, 2010

    Ian, I basically agree with everything you say here. I would put the probability of the next crisis sooner than later, but no later than 8-10 years. Even Jamie Dimon is implicitly saying 5-7. I think it will take something of a miracle to avoid a double-dip, given the weak stim and the political bias toward tightening now in the US.

    Given the precarious international situation, especially in Euroland, but also in China, where there is a huge asset bubble, over-investment, and growing inflation. A global retrenchment will affect the asset bubbles in Oz and Canada, as well. A global depression is a very real possibility.

    Should the recovery, such as it is, proceed, rising petro prices/energy costs will squeeze recovery once it gets going. In addition, structural unemployment/underemployment is the new normal for the foreseeable future under the best plausible scenario. This will lead to growing social unrest and a more restrictive environment as crime and even domestic terrorism increase.

    Welcome to the New World Disorder. I don’t see any bright spots. The light at the end of the tunnel is a freight train.

  11. alyosha permalink
    February 23, 2010

    I think your scenario is basically correct. What I’m interested in, is what happens after? Civil War, dissolution of the United States?

    What I also see, in parallel with your scenario and beyond is a return to a kind of feudalism. Large scale governments will give way to strongmen of various kinds. These will be the new barons that provide sustenance to a local population of serfs, essentially. The barons will have all the technological goodies, the internet, education, decent food etc, that were once commonly available to all.

    An aspect of this new feudalism is a return to a modern form of castles and walled cities. This recent example of a “safe house” in the Hollywood Hills is an example. It’s not clear from the ad, but the house includes two “panic rooms” (where one can go in case of natural disaster, or attack by outsiders, and a full security center including built-in defensive weaponry. It’s a modern castle, in every sense of the word.

  12. Ian Welsh permalink*
    February 23, 2010

    Alyosha: fascinating, but makes sense. If I were rich, I might buy one.

    Anon: my friend Stirling has made the case for Saudi Arabia. I find it persuasive. It “solves” a lot of problems.

    Stirling is writing for the China Daily News, iirc, but I don’t believe his columns are online. I don’t know if he intends to return to blogging. Really, there’s little point: the things that need to be said, you aren’t allowed to say on major blogs anymore and turning a small blog into a low level a-list blog, while possible (Stirling and I know how to do it) is a TON of work for almost no money. Besides, by and large, the people who can be both reached and convinced through blogging, have been.

    Lex: the Great Lakes will be in real danger. They hardly replenish themselves at all. If they are used as a major source of fresh water, it will be a disaster.

  13. bayville permalink
    February 23, 2010

    From seekingalpha:
    Citibank (C) statement: “Effective April 1, 2010, we reserve the right to require (7) days advance notice before permitting a withdrawal from all checking accounts. While we do not currently exercise this right and have not exercised it in the past, we are required by law to notify you of this change.”

    Ian, I saw this the other day & I thought it was a definite sign the next major financial crisis is literally only weeks away.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but this is highly unusual for all checking accounts to be lumped in like this, eh?

  14. February 23, 2010

    Here are some wild-cards to throw into your equations:

    1) Secession/breakup of U.S. I remain convinced a lot of America’s aristocracy look with envy upon the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sarah Palin and Rick Perry would prefer, I think, to be the hegemons of their respective states than to be small fish in a big empire. And corporations, which are replacing nation-states as the main bodies of governance, are going to be happier when there are no federal regulations to which they even must nominally adhere. As with the Soviets, when it happens it will happen fast. The media will paint it as a good thing, particularly by pointing out how many states take more federal money than they contribute, which will seduce moneyed liberals in the blue states that have long subsidized knuckledragging red states.

    2) The Big One. The clock is ticking along fault lines in California, and the U.S. may not survive it.

    3) The Nuke. Ditto. A suitcase bomb detonated in a major U.S. city could end the country.

    4) The Methane Bubble. This one sounds science-fictiony, but bear with me. Climate change releases a big bubble of oceanic methane gas, which then blows ashore and suffocates an enormous part of the coastline. Even better? An earthquake could trigger such a thing in unstable seabed, so maybe combine with #2? On the other hand the ocean is enormous, and this could happen along ANY coastline, so odds are half a million foreigners will be the first victims.

    5) Coup de Grace. What says the U.S. military will sit still for all this? If we get a president who looks at the military budget and decides for some odd reason that it constitutes a huge drain on the nation, will they sit by and let their budget be slashed?

    6) Mombai Nuclear Winter. We’ve long focused on a nuclear winter caused by some old Cold-War alignment, but nothing says that Pakistan and India couldn’t kick one off. Who knows, it might balance out Global Warming.

    7) Plague. For all that Mike Osterholm is a tiresome Chicken Little, the sky actually COULD fall, just as he has been warning for his entire career. One fast-moving influenza, and everything could be different.

    8) Greenland Melts. Al Gore described this one. But just imagine the effect on the planet and the economy if Europe became a Siberia? To say nothing of the coastal flooding…

    9) Nothing. That’s right. Despite all our dire concerns, possibly the world will somehow just keep muddling along the way it has been. In some ways, that’s one of the most terrifying predictions so far…

    10) Space Aliens. Okay, fine, not really likely. But wouldn’t it be cool? We could sell them Antarctica for some of their beads and a few trinkets… what could possibly go wrong?

  15. February 23, 2010

    Oh yeah — HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  16. ka boom permalink
    February 23, 2010

    your timelines are too long / optimistic.

    the usa will implode within the next one year, two tops.

    btw, you sound like Kunstler in this post – which is good.

    http://kunstler.com/blog/2010/02/rehearsals-for-a-civil-war.html

    http://kunstler.com/blog/

    http://www.kunstler.com/index.php

  17. Ian Welsh permalink*
    February 23, 2010

    Ka Boom.

    You may well be right, the case for sooner/worse is very strong.

    I find:

    1) what is fairly easy
    2) timing is very hard until it’s very very close
    3) I tend to be over-optimistic (yes, over-optimistic folks. When I look back, my mistakes are primarily in timing and on the upside, not downside.)

  18. February 23, 2010

    I’ve got a lot of worries for the next couple of years. I really think that the US is in a horribly precarious position and it wouldn’t take much of a shock to topple it.

    Ian, the issue of Great Lakes water will be massive over the next couple of decades. It’s too much water when too many places are running out of water. (Of course, people in low water availability areas are not making adjustments for their situation…still flushing at least 1.5 gallons of drinking water every time they have to pee, etc.) Superior turns over/replenishes very, very slowly.

  19. anonymous permalink
    February 23, 2010

    I did not know that the Great Lakes didn’t replenish themselves much. I guess it makes sense, since the St Lawrence doesn’t look like much when you consider it’s got five huge lakes feeding it.

    I hadn’t considered Saudi Arabia as a target. But that would explain all the recent noise in the propaganda machine about Yemen.

  20. Barry permalink
    February 23, 2010

    When things get really bad, one plausible scenario is that we decide we’ve been “stabbed in the back” instead of facing up to the real causes of our distress.

    Then we regain our “strength” thru the purifying fire of eliminating a variety of scapegoats (Arab-Americans?, illegal immigrants?, gays?, liberal bloggers?, abortion doctors? liberal arts professors?). Instead of IBM helping us find the malcontents who are weakening the Homeland’s moral fiber, we’ll data-mine Facebook and track cellphones.

    We’ll annex Canada for your own protection (plus we need your shale oil and farmland when Climate change…err, I mean, God’s punishment for allowing gay marriage…and water shortages make things less hospitable down here). Our new overlords will likely be Christian theocrats (after all, that’s why they’ve been working to take over the military’s officer corps). Of course military spending will continue to grow, because it will become all the more important to protect “our interests” around the globe.

    Where the world war starts will probably be decided by Israel, with a nudge or two from the Christian theocrats who think that God will take kindly to them starting Armageddon on their timetable.

    All the small-government, low-tax rugged individualist types will fall in line and march for a draconian totalitarian state government because it is strong and authoritarian and never spares the rod — how can they not respect that? And it’s the liberals’ fault, not theirs, that such heavy-handed measures are necessary. Once they’ve purged the Homeland of the cancer of progressivism, THEN we’ll get the small-government, low-tax, free-market, judeo-christian paradise the Founding Patriarchs dreamed of.

  21. Forty2 permalink
    February 23, 2010

    Wow. I’m fairly pessimistic but in general I’m in the muddle along” camp. But I’m looking at property in a wealthy town (it’s a foreclosure, and cheap) that worst case has its own ground water supply and plenty of room for a garden and maybe chickens.

  22. February 23, 2010

    Stirling has a similar scenario. I guess I’m more optimistic about outcomes, if not for my generation, then the next. As he writes:

    [T]he Progressive movement has come very far, very fast. In 2000 to be a “progressive” was a fringe viewpoint which was almost synonymous with the die hard left. Now, it is the identification of one-fifth of the electorate, and a pole of organization which threatens to draw in another 10% to become a co-equal ideology with the two dominant poles. It takes almost all of the political weight of the other two poles, working in concert, through legislative procedure and media barrage, to prevent the progressive break out. The progressive movement is, politically, the most dangerous force in American politics.

    It is also the movement of ideas. Only the progressive movement has ideas.

    Now, there’s a terminology issue: The creative class access bloggers who sold the country out on single payer, for example, identify as “progressives” (shudder quotes intentional). But new ideas a full of win — after, I agree, a swing right in 2012.

  23. Ian Welsh permalink*
    February 23, 2010

    Yes Barry, scapegoating is almost a certainty. I know at least one prominent gay who is convinced that gays will be second in line who is making his plans to get out.

  24. February 24, 2010

    Re: Ian’s point #8 – “Entitlements will be cut, perhaps openly, perhaps through statistical tricks, but it will be done. There is a bipartisan consensus on this, and when Republicans get in charge they will be able to find enough Dems to sign off this time. (If Obama can, he’ll do it before then, but Republicans want to use this against him.)” The sad fact is that has already started to happen. By playing with how the CPI is calculated the Gov has essentially set it up so we don’t have inflation anymore. Since raises in Social Security are based on inflation they are essentially gone.

    Unfortunately I also have to agree with him on the rest of point 8. The Dems are such cowards I can’t imagine they will protect Social Security anymore.

  25. BDBlue permalink
    February 24, 2010

    I would go further and say the financial elite backed Obama specifically because they knew he was willing to go after Social Security. A position he tipped when he used RW talking points about it being “in crisis” during the primary and then quickly backed away from when it didn’t sell to “safer” Democratic talking points. But his instinct – as it almost always is – was to embrace the RW framing of it and, as we’ve seen, his embrace of such framing is almost always followed by policy shifts in that direction (see, e.g., healthcare where despite claiming to be against mandates, he appropriated Harry & Louise from the insurance industry, a preview of where he was really going to go – pr0-insurance industry).

  26. February 24, 2010

    One of the problems is that it is not only the case that the US political system isn’t able to make any improvements, it’s now not even able to appear to make improvements. That’s a recipe for right-wing populism right there.

  27. Nick permalink
    February 24, 2010

    can someone explain the problem with the great lakes?

    is there anything like a groundwater map of the US?

  28. David H permalink
    February 24, 2010

    While I count myself in the “muddling along” camp, I am not unconvinced by these doomsday scenarios. However, if the worst comes to pass, especially to members of the better-off middle class & above, it won’t seem like doomsday. The media won’t trumpet the end of the world, they’ll portray it as same ‘ol, same ol’, while the lower classes are reduced to peonage. If one is particularly oblivious, & you spend most of your time watching reality TV when not working 60-80 hours/week, you’ll hardly realize it’s happened. The last thing our rulers want to create is mass panic or social unrest. The rest of us may be reduced to shouting “don’t you see what’s happening?”

    That said, I always wonder what the people reduced to peonage will do in response, if anything. I am one of the fortunates, gainfully unemployed for 10 years now. Hell, up to the collapse, my wife & I benefitted financially from the economic policies of the Bushies (tax cuts, low interest rate on mortgage, etc.) I’m not one whose livelihood is in danger, so I don’t think my kind are the ones to start the “revolution.” I’m happy to join in, but whatever form resistance takes, it has to begin with the people who are being put upon. Whether that will happen is, to me, the most interesting question of our future.

  29. February 24, 2010

    My only quibble with your timeline is with the Prison Industrial Complex. I actually see them making it all the way to the Finals, to use a sports analogy, up against the Military-Industrial Complex, and here’s why: what motivates American politics, and the American people, more than anything else is fear. Both of these industries have combined fear with race-baiting (or benefited from it, depending on one’s perspective) to a fantastic degree of success.

    I see the War on Drugs fragmenting, but not ending. The problem with this particular war is that, well, no one is really afraid of pot, despite the government’s best efforts. The actual amount of money to be made isn’t that huge either; I seem to recall California’s pot economy is only worth a few billion (according to Time, the USDA says 7 billion; assume they’re lying badly, and it’s worth 15, still not that big).

    So what I’d predict is, perhaps they let marijuana go and focus on the other drugs. Create a new panic over opiates and prescription drugs to keep the prison rolls up.

    Eventually we’ll cut spending everywhere else; no roads, no bridges, no infrastructure, undrinkable water, pollution out of control, no schools, no higher education, no jobs. When it comes down to just military spending (since we’ll have long since shifted the blame for all our woes to scary foreigners..) and prison spending (.. or subversives and criminals at home, aka a fifth column), I think the military will seize the prisons and thus the justice system. Voila, military dictatorship.

    That’s my minor variation on the scenario, anyway.

  30. February 24, 2010

    Ian,

    You are a very smart guy and I agree with most everything you wrote. I’m less pessimistic … slightly more hopeful … that global warming will subside and that obama, who I deplore, can turn things around in his presidency. The way to do it is through higher taxes on the rich, wall street/banks, and corporations … and also by cutting defense spending … and putting that money to work for the people in the form of universal health care and a large jobs program. I don’t think that he’ll do that willingly, but to me it’s not quite “close to impossible” that he will end up being forced to. And though I think your pessimism about our politics is very warranted, I believe that there is a decent chance that something game changing could happen where economic conditions get so bad so quickly … before social safety nets can be constructed … that there will be significant social turmoil that could lead to these rich, corrupt bastards in dc … and ny … to learn a little healthy fear of the people they are selling out and exploiting.

    There’s a lot of problems that have been building up for a long time and it is going to take something game changing … a population that assembles and asserts a critical mass … to force a change from the current course.

    Z

  31. Jon Taplin permalink
    February 24, 2010

    America is entering a new era of lowered consumption and increased savings and investment. It is foolish to think that 45 year old men are going to find jobs in high finance or high tech.

    If we do not begin rebuilding our manufacturing economy we will enter an era of civil strife and conflict that will make the recent Tea Party rebellions look tame.

    http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/02/22/free_trade_trap/

    anybody see what is going on in Greece today ??? we wonder how soon that same reaction will be widespread and more violent here in amerika ….

  32. February 24, 2010

    Nick, i don’t think that there’s so much a “problem” as that as big as they are they cannot withstand profligate use over the long term. It almost never makes news, but if one watches the issue closely he’ll see regular, if quite proposals to set up pipelines to feed the SouthWest with Great Lakes water.

    And since we’re using up groundwater faster than it replenishes just about everywhere in the US, the Great Lakes can easily look like salvation. 20% of the world’s surface fresh water is a lot in one place, but not against usage levels. The USGS put per capita usage at 1,430 gl/day in the US.

    Of course, the problem with groundwater is like oil, the more you use the more expensive getting the rest out is. But i do have a link to an amazing map of groundwater resources (for the planet).

    http://www.whymap.org/cln_092/nn_1055978/whymap/EN/Downloads/Global__maps/whymap__125__pdf,templateId=raw,property=publicationFile.pdf/whymap_125_pdf.pdf

  33. Frank Burns permalink
    February 24, 2010

    I hope there’s Rollerball, at least…

  34. No Mames Buey permalink
    February 24, 2010

    “5) Median standards of living will take at least a 20% drop within 10 years or so. Maybe more. Not sure exactly when, but if anything, the % may be an underestimate.”

    Ian, I agree with this premise. What should the typical American, that cannot or doesn’t want to emigrate out of the US, ACTIONS TO PREPARE for the “best case scenario” of 20% reduction of the median American standard of living? Some of my guesses, I’d love YOUR FEEDBACK:

    1 maximize revenues. If currently unemployed, considering taking a random nights/weekends PT job, u can still interview during weekday biz hours. Eg even if one is a PhD scientist, but unemployed, consider something like delivering pizza or convenience store cashier on the night shift, if that’s all that is available. If employed, consider a pt side job/consulting, small biz etc. If you’re a FT small biz, don’t overdose on credit/loans (supposedly banks aren’t lending much anyways even if you wanted to).

    1a consider if possible working in an occupation, resistant to offshore outsourcing by the nature of the work, with a strong union/employment cartel, which limits new workers into its cartel, hence establishing a floor on the unemployment rate, pay, working conditions for its workers. Consider the absurdity of the present situation, where unionized workers such as a routine phyisican, pharmacist, or heck even a nurse or police officer or air traffic controller, have better pay/working conditions than the non-unionized PhD biochemist contributing much more to society than those other workers, working on a big project with worldwide signficance like the human genone project. Of course, as these unions/cartels can be broken in the future, but it’s better than an occupation without a cartel. Ironically, in the “US free market” if you are not part of a strong cartel, you’re probably screwed, & get no support from the DC politrickians, with a few exceptions like B Sanders.

    2 minimize costs. Take a Clark Howard-ish approach to personal finances. For example if you have a reliable Japanese car that veteran mechanics say routinely go 200 – 300k miles, then keep driving it till at least 200K miles.

    3 avoid debt. Only take on debt for home mortgage, or perhaps education. In either case, take a very skeptical approach to ROI. Only take a mortgage if the house value/median income ratio for ur metro area is under at most 4.0.

    4 Invest as much as possible, using an asset allocation “Bogleheads” type approach via index funds/ETF with low expense ratios, low taxes, low costs to rebalance at least annually to get back to target asset allocation ratios.

    5 Invest a signficant portion in assets you feel could be resistant to US$ inflation. Potentially these include (do your own research)
    5a foreign stocks, such as VEURX which follows the MSCI Europe index of 16 rich European countries,
    5b gold, such as the etf GTU, which is run in & physically stores gold in Canada
    5c perhaps home mortgage would be a good “leveraged investment” under high US$ inflation, since say 1 is paying a fixed 5% rate when inflation is 10%+ This seems dangerous though as one is leveraged, & house prices could fall further putting one “underwater”.
    5d I wouldn’t count US TIPS, treasury b0nds tied to the CPI rate, as a good US$ inflation hedge, because the CPI can be understated by the US politrickians & weak regulators. If anything, perhaps a rich foreign countries’ TIPS, that run a trade surplus, & low debt-to-GDP ratio, such as perhaps Germany, would be more appropriate, but it is unclear to me if there is a way for US non-rich individuals to invest in these in a low cost, low tax manner.

    6 have a “medical tourism” plan for major medical work, for if you get somehow “rationed”/”recisioned” by your US private health care insurance (it can happen to anyone). IIRC from an article, the price differences can be incredible, some operation that cost $100K at a US hospital is $15K at an internationally-certified foreign hospital. Even if the purchasing power of the US$ crashes in half, that is still perhaps a comparison of $100K vs $30K, which literally could mean life v death for some medical cases. Side note – “free trade” doesn’t apply to the us health sector, with its cartel physicians, cartel health insurance, & cartel pharma; if it did how would there be 6:1 cost differencials? Dean Baker breaks this down in his Conservative Nanny State book.

    7 pick a significant other with same financial/work values. Perhaps this is the biggest thing one cand do. Many USians love conspicuous consumption, “keeping up with the Joneses”, have a sense of entitlement, etc. Life is going to be hard enough with a partner that “is on the same page” with you on these issues. It would probably be 2x worse with an entitled conspiscous consumption type. I read that financial values is a top reason for divorce, which would seem to support this point.

    WHAT DO YOU THINK, PLS COMMENT!

  35. February 25, 2010

    Maybe we should build an enormous blogging compound we will all ride out the Little Apocalypse. We can have flamewars with actual flamethrowers. Actually, we probably would be doing that at that point. Has Hollywood caught wind of this idea?

  36. alyosha permalink
    February 25, 2010

    The only thing I might quibble with is a right wing populist coming in immediately after Obama. The Rs might be in such disarray in 2012 that it comes down to a three way race between: Obama (the likely Democrat), a standard issue Republican, and a third party right wing populist (Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, etc). IOW, the Dems could win but only if the right is fragmented.

  37. David permalink
    February 26, 2010

    Ian,

    I agree that your baseline scenario may well come to pass, especially the parts related to employment. I was reading on the BBC website last week about a sociological study about a group of people born in the UK in one specific week in 1958. At aged 10 the subjects were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up and the follow-up was then done in 2008 to find out if indeed that is what happened when they became adults. Its fascinating, but what I found interesting was that 7 percent of the people migrated overseas. When you think that these people came of age in the late 70′s when the UK economy was suffering high unemployment, it was no wonder that so many left.

    In 1989, the U.S. birth rate was about 4 million per year ( see http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005067.html) and using the above 7 percent who emigrated from the UK applies to the U.S., means that about 300,000 who were born in the U.S. in 1989 would want to leave.
    If one applies that 7 percent to those born say between 1989 and say 1995 gives almost 2 million. In other words, if U.S. unemployment
    remains high for years on end, than literally millions of Americans would want to leave. Whether that is possible is another story. I focus on those people born in 1989 to 1995 simply because they are or will soon be entering the job market and their employment prospects are worst than those older.

  38. Ian Welsh permalink*
    February 26, 2010

    David,

    I assume the birth rate will collapse.

  39. March 1, 2010

    Not if the Christianists take over, Ian.

  40. Nostradigit permalink
    March 3, 2010

    Not hard to pick the next war at all. Any country that’s on the Israeli shit list will be the next target for war by the American Golem. We’ve already done Iraq for them, next is probably Iran.

  41. John permalink
    March 3, 2010

    A bit more substantiation would be nice.

    Looks to me like many people here like believing that the US will collapse.

  42. Testing permalink
    March 11, 2010

    Solving the smiley face item 8 conundrum

    First Item
    Second Item
    Third Item
    Fourth Item
    Fifth Item
    Sixth Item
    Seventh Item
    Eighth Item

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