11-18-11: The Day Everything Changed

One out of three Americans is destitute. Surely this is more important than 9-11. So where’s the outsized response?

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  • Great comic. I think there’s a direct correlation between lack of schooling in biology and the current state of the country. In bio class, I recall, quite clearly, being told that we all have parasites and viruses and bacteria in us that take from us and return nothing to us. But, the teacher continued, most of these parasites take so little, you aren’t troubled by them.

    Now, however, the parasites aren’t just taking a few blood cells or a little muscle tissue. We’re coughing up blood and our skin and hair is coming off in clumps. Want to know the best part of it though?

    Calculate how much you owe to various credit cards: just a horseback figure will do. Say it’s $7,000. If you lost your job right this second, could you pay off your credit debt completely using just unemployment and stray jobs? I’ll bet most people can’t. And that means that if you lose your job, you will have a pretty good chance of losing EVERYTHING. In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, they had a great term, a “cascade failure.” Basically, the one failure leads to more failures, which leads to more failures. A chain reaction of disaster and misfortune.

    When the whole economy drops off the cliff (and it’s coming, unless something massive happens to wake up the majority, we can’t be more than two or three years away from it) that 1 in 3 will shift to a whole new fraction (2 in 3 or 5 in 7) as all the people with a “love handle” of debt find that now it’s starting a cascade failure. The needle will go right to the post as the new poor come up with ways to get by on less food, less entertainment, less everything (thus eliminating jobs, exacerbating the problem). But those credit cards will still want their minimum payment at 17%. You miss one payment, bang, you now have a $35 penalty and your interest rate is 29.99%. Unless you get on the phone and beg these people to lower the interest again back to a “reasonable” 17%.

    All these people will fail to be able to pay their credit cards eventually. One day, you’ll finally stare into your bowl of slightly irregular corn flakes and start crying. And then you’ll give up. The credit ratings will go right to hell. They’ll lose housing, access to sanitary conditions, access to food storage, access to warmth, low-level health problems with start (UTIs, scabies, etc.) Without the aforementioned items, those low-level health problems will turn to significant health concerns. Tooth decay. Now you’re really getting into the big-ticket items. $3 for toothpaste sounds trivial. Until you only have $20 for the entire week. And what about your iPhone? $70 a month is it, for access to Internet and all that? No phone, no job, so once you lose that, you might as well stop bothering with the resumes.

    Most of these people will never get back onto the economic ladder. Why? Job applicant with a couple teeth missing, some skin problems. Probably a couple of arrests with convictions for minor things like shoplifting toothpaste and soap or public loitering. A ruined credit rating. Yes, some organizations will look past all that to hire someone, but that’s the same mindset that gives us teenagers who are convinced they’ll end up playing in the NFL or working for Facebook. Actually, Facebook employs about 1600; your odds are better at getting in to the NFL.


  • Alex is basically right, but on the Gocomics site, one comment to this comic was to the effect that the most desperately poor person in America would be upper-middle class in any other country in the world.

    The fact that this belief is totally false is not just lost on about half of Americans, they think anyone who doesn’t accept it as Gospel is an Enemy of America who deserves to end up like the Nuremberg convicts, Saddam, Qadhafi, and Anwar Awlaki.

    The current world economic system is everywhere re-distributing wealth upward, but nowhere as intensely as in the US, and nowhere outside the US with as much support from those whose wealth is being eroded upward.

    I read or heard somewhere that all the ancient Greek tragedies had a) a prophesy which b) the protagonist fulfilled while trying to evade. The example was Oedipus, who had been warned that he’d kill his father and marry his mother, so he left the couple who’d adopted him (Why? asked the critic), and, as he was running away from his adoptive home, he killed an older man and married an older woman.

    The critic asked, ‘If you’d been warned you might kill your father and marry your mother, and wished to avoid that fate, wouldn’t you try very hard to avoid killing an older man, and refuse to marry any older woman?’

    But, having been warned by such oracles as Prof. Krugman, a significant fraction of the American people, like Oedipus, are all in favour of killing that older man and marrying his widow as the only way to avoid their prophesied tragedy.

  • @Alex, yes I have always thought the biology metaphor was hugely apt. Especially so as conservatives often shoot to make psudo-biological social Darwinism type arguments to justify their viewpoints (in spite of rampant disbelief in the work of Darwin among their ranks.) Where the social Darwinist arguments fails is precisely what you have implied. Beyond the egregious error of assuming our society is a meritocracy instead of a plutocracy, any such social Darwinist argument must also make the incorrect assumption that society is more like an ecosystem of interacting entities and not a singular entity seeking homeostasis among its many parts. By its very definition, society is a social collective, meaning it is an entity not an ecosystem. Organisms in ecosystems that interact with other organism via Darwinist rules and are dominant, are usually healthy top level predators. This is what many of the conservative elite imagine themselves to be. Meanwhile the only organisms that try to dominate the complete system from within an entity via Darwinistic rules are horrific diseases (both externally originating like AIDS, or internally originating like cancer) and malevolent parasites. This is what most of the conservative elite actually are.

    On the plus side disease and parasites that are too much of a burdon to their host tend to kill themselves off (for example Ebola Zaire). This actually proves that such parasites, social or otherwise, actually aren’t fit for survival at all in spite of how powerful or virulent they might appear. So that gives me some positive hope when looking at the behavior of our modern social elites. On the minus side horrific parasites and diseases usually kill themselves off because they killed the host they were feeding on to quickly to escape to a new one. That doesn’t bode so well for the rest of us… However, one positive note to this, is that the host is society itself, and not intrinsically the people that make it up. So even though people suffer horribly as society gets drained from above, when society finally collapses under social parasitism, everyone doesn’t effectively die with it, only the parasites do. Everyone who is still left gets to build a new society, and if they are smart, it can at least start out as a parasite free one.

  • Speaking from the vantage point of a third world country, this would actually be one where two thirds of the population are poor. You’ll get there eventually, faster if the “Revolution” comes.

  • @michaelwme: Yes one of the obfuscating issues for the average American is that American currency buys a lot in some other countries. Thus given the same number of dollars, an American, however poor at home, is considerably richer in many other nations. But, a lot of that is only via hypothetical international purchasing power, something that is not actually available to most impoverished Americans. In lieu of that it is possible those dollars won’t buy as much at home in the US, as being paid for a similar job in the other country in the less valuable currency could buy there. As a result the hypothetical American can actually be effectively poorer relative to local and available purchasing power then someone in another country, even when that other person is making considerably less then them in terms of the absolute international value of their two incomes when adjusted for currency exchange.

    As for Oedipus, I get allegory you are going for and I won’t argue with your statement, but you have completely missed the reason Oedipus fulfilled the prophecy in the original tale. Oedipus NEVER heard of the prophecy himself. The prophecy was given by the oracle of Delphi to Laius, Oedipus’ father, before Oedipus was born. When Oedipus was born Laius, fearful of the prophecy, tried to have new born baby Oedipus killed, but if you want a job done right you got to do it yourself and not tell a servant to take care of your dirty work for you. Oedipus then grows up as a shepherd’s adopted son without knowing who is real parents are or having ever heard of the prophecy concerning him at all. Then Oedipus goes on to fulfill the prophecy in complete innocent ignorance of the whole ordeal.

    The only self-fulfilling prophecy aspects in this story are found in the actions of Oedipus’ father Laius. Laius responds to the prophecy of Oedipus killing him by trying to kill Oedipus. But, it is only because of Laius’ botched attempt to kill Oedipus that Oedipus ends up killing Laius and marrying his own mother.

    Obviously this is irrelevant to the point you are trying to make as Oedipus is just a fictional tale. But in the future you might want to phrase your allegory to fit the actual self-fulfilling prophecy portion of “Oedipus Rex”, which are again only found in the actions of Oedipus’ father Laius. Alternatively you could use a different allegory that you are more comfortable with.

  • Meanwhile OWS just had its teeth kicked in by a DHS-coordinated assault, which by definition was illegal since the country cannot militarize municipal police forces. I wonder what the OWS reaction to that will be? Probably a silent protest, or perhaps a chant. “Hey Hey Ho Ho, DHS has got to go”. Yeah, that ought to do the trick.

    But, hey OWS has only had two months (two months!) to organize right? Right. Never mind that numerous illegal wars have been initiated, fought, and continue to this day – and beyond. Never mind that Wall St. looted the public coffers three years ago. No, OWS has only had two months (two months!) to organize!!! Once OWS gets REALLY organized, LOOK OUT ESTABLISHMENT! You can be sure that soon enough OWS will have REALLY organized chants: “Hey Hey Ho Ho, establishment has got to go!”. Those silent protests will become so quiet the establishment will be literally quaking in their boots. Whatever will they do? That’ll get ’em!

    Go OWS! Go OWS! Woot-woot! Woot-woot! Go OWS! Go OWS!

  • Also, Michael Moore’s new documentary “OWS: The Movie” is sure to be a game changer. OWS people can buy a $12 ticket to see themselves getting beaten, maced, and dragged to jail. Then they can sit in the theater at the end and chant: “Hey Hey Ho Ho, violent cops have got to go!”. I’m sure that will lead to the voluntary resignation of many cops who will feel shamed by the OWS chants. Throw in a few silent protests and it will literally remake the police force as we know it.

    Moore will be selling “OWS: The Movie” tee-shirts of course, as well as other OWS merchandise. He’ll tell you all about it as he makes the talk show circuit promoting the movie. At the premiere there will be a full buffet including 40 different types of cheeses.

  • Ex,

    The problem is that OWS hasn’t been organizing for these two months. Look, I’m sorry, building a pweety widdle wiberry in the middle of your shantytown is stupid. Period. Several significant flubs were made, and they would not have been made if OWS had had any leadership. Oh, that’s right, leaders are bad.

    OWS should have been treated as a business from Minute One. Like so:

    1. It’s a business, children are not welcome.
    2. It’s a business, drum players will be told to leave. Period.
    3. It’s a business. The home office (Z Park) is a base. If you are here it is to sleep because you have nowhere else to go, to get a meal, to attend a workshop, or to write a physical letter to an assigned politician. Do not “hang” around. What should you be doing when you aren’t here? A significant portion of your time should be spent physically interacting with the staff of your assigned politician. Sit in his waiting room, talk to his staff, talk to the other people in the waiting room. Make sure everyone knows what your fair and reasonable goals are.

    THAT is organizing. Not doing dumbass interviews with MSM about what you were fed and where you’re from. I can’t believe no one bothered talking to the protesters: “When the reporters ask questions, unless it’s your name, steer the conversation right back to what your goals are. Don’t let them turn this into something for the fashion pages.”

  • When did protests become a mini college Alex? I don’t know if your aware of this, but listening to people blather does not lead to change. What exactly are these workshops to teach? How to take a baton shot to the head? How to find a mate while “Occupying” a space? Mostly the idea of educating people of political belief is silly, its pretty much proven that unless your preaching to people that are over about the age of 12 your pretty much wasting your breath, call me a soviet era communist, but comfortable people aren’t going to actually rebel sorry….

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