FLOTSAM & JETSAM: The normalcy bubble

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The normalcy bubble

Sam Smith

I was driving along when one of those smugly assured network financial advisors began talking about how to prepare for one’s retirement. I reached my destination before I got her name but I sure got her message. Basically, it was not to count on having Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or a pension – all likely to be gone. The only thing that would work would be a house whose mortgage had been fully paid. Of course, you’d need to own a house, have its value equal to the mortgage and be able to pay it all off.

It wasn’t until sometime later that what she had said really struck home. As routine network advice, listeners were being told that some of the greatest social achievement s of the past three quarters of a century were gone for good. Don’t even think about them.

There was no suggestion that we should feel angry about this. There was no explanation. There was no one to blame. Just the way things are.

I realized that I had just heard perhaps the most stunning evidence of the collapse of the American republic – not the result of a war, an act of terror, or climate change. But a disaster of greed being described as normal.

At this moment – in large part because of the networks and other media – Americans are accepting the disintegration of their country as an inevitable matter that they’ll just have to learn to cope with. Even as the pay of the CEOs of the largest corporations rises 23%.

It has even been suggested that the American economy isn’t even about America anymore. Its corporations are so much invested in and dependent upon offshore income, markets and depositories that 9% American unemployment isn’t even important to those driving our economy. Our corporations have become the economic equivalent of a cheating spouse, betraying promises, denying responsibility, abandoning offspring, and then deserting their home as well as their family.

Many Americans haven’t discovered this. Others have but don’t know what to do about it. Others are mad but afraid. Others are confused. So a network financial advisor can blithely tell them to forget about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and pensions as though it was just the way it is. The housing bubble has been replaced with a normalcy bubble in which the normal just gets worse and worse.

One day, and it may not be too far away, this bubble will also burst. The passivity, the uncertainty, the confusion will morph into something far uglier and far more violent. And the feeling that we can just talk our way through all this will no longer hold and we will have to finally face the awful truth of what has been done to us. And by whom.