Musings from Fourth Turning forums
The best thing about reading PDF online books like Tom Chittum's Civil War II: The Coming Break-up of the Us when you are in a real bad mood, is that you realize that even if the predictions in them come true, you really don't care.
You also feel "blah" enough to be in the frame of mind to see what utter hog-wash it all is. To think that in the world of the 21st century and futuristic high technology that the interaction of peoples, races, religions and ideas can be stopped is foolishness. Already Generations X and Y (Millennials, termed so by the Masters Howe and Strauss) are aloof and undaunted regarding matters of race: It annoyed them to no end, for example, that older Boomers such as Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews of msbnbc kept referring to Obama as "the first African American to be elected US President", as they know that, a. Obama is bi-racial, and b. race is a non-issue now.
The good that came from this wild goose chase, however, is this comment which was generated on the Howe and Strauss Fourth Turning Forums (of which I am a member) and posted by one j adams , about the decade of descent which the US has just been through, and for which we will now pay dearly:
Every once in while during a crisis or history-altering event, you run across a quote or an observation that sort of summarizes events on the ground, in a nutshell. Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker articulated one such observation during a recent chat he had with PBS' Charlie Rose.
"It seems to me what our nation needs is more civil engineers and electrical engineers and fewer financial engineers," Volcker said.
U.S.: a decade of descent
And there you have it -- the United States' decade of descent, in a nutshell. Volcker's observation speaks volumes about where the United States economy -- and the nation, at large, for that matter -- is today.
For reasons that historians will undoubtedly debate for decades (globalization, automation, flawed public policies, inadequate regulations, overconsumption, the availability of foreign capital, greed) the United States embarked on a financing boom -- creating an increasing array of creative and untenable mortgage types, accompanied by an equally problematic set of mortgage backed securities. It generated an unsustainable housing bubble, which ended as all bubbles do -- badly -- triggering the global financial crisis.
And yet, all the while, as Volcker observed, public investment in infrastructure -- the physical backbone of the economy, of the nation, really -- declined. That infrastructure is now in a state of disrepair. The nation's schools, hospitals, roads/bridges/mass transit systems/air travel system and even our electric grid are inadequate to meet the nation's current requirements, let alone the requirements of an expanding, vibrant, dynamic, twenty-first century economy.
Volcker's comment touched on an economic truth: it's very hard to grow at capacity if your infrastructure isn't up to standards. The U.S. didn't maintain its infrastructure -- a lot of Ph.D. power went into derivatives and swaps, instead of into building schools, hospitals, and the electric grid -- and as a result the U.S. now has an infrastructure hurdle, to go along with a financial hurdle, standing in the way of the nation's return to economic health. That inadequate infrastructure will artificially depress U.S. GDP growth below capacity until it's repaired.
Volcker underscored that the U.S. must begin the "physical rebuilding of the nation now," and prioritize which parts of the infrastructure are vital to the nation's productive capacity and must be repaired immediately, and which can wait for better times.
Beyond this, there were some discussions about the future of reality tv in the fourth turning phase of the American and global historical saeculum: I agree that what sells in a 3rd turning will fade away in the fourth: Its days are numbered, but like a long winter, the season refuses to die and continues hanging on.