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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

October, 2005

 

Skeptic's Journal
Stuff Happens-Be Prepared
By Jeanette Pontaque

The general consensus is that "things" are not going very well these days. Each person probably has a different personal definition of what those "things" are. Someone said to me the other day, "can it get any worse?" Yes, it can.
You may ask what could be worse than an endless and useless war that increases terrorism potential, dramatic increases in poverty everywhere, an incompetent, fundamentalist administration in Washington, attacks on the Constitution and the division of church/state, rising seas a la global warming, and the instant refugee status of most of the Gulf Coast? Read on.
To date, most of us have been able to watch all this nervously from a safe distance, even while ranting or publicly protesting. After all, it is not WE who are being sent to Iraq to fight and die; it is not WE who have been made refugees in our own country; it is not WE who have had our jobs outsourced or downgraded. WE just watch it all happening on TV.
But that will change. Because there are going to be personal consequences for each one of us from all the greed, fanaticism, environmental rape and fiscal incompetence afoot today in this country.
Even in West Marin. Rising prices will only be the start. The low-taxes, high-spending fiscal policy of this administration pretty much guarantees a looming economic meltdown for the middle class and below. The country is knee-deep in debt., digging ever deeper at a fast rate. Correspondingly, huge numbers of individual Americans are also knee-deep in debt, with little or no savings for their future or a rainy day.
This situation plays right into the hands of the neo-conservatives (i.e. non-conservatives) who will use the Katrina expenses to gut as many government programs for "people" and basic infrastructure that they can. Just as they cut the money earmarked for levee improvement in Louisiana. . They wish to dismantle the government as much as they can.
All the red ink can only lead to even more borrowing, higher debt and higher interest rates. You may think (or not think) about where America borrows the money to keep the economy barely afloat these days. A lot of that money comes from loans and investments by China and Japan, among other countries. China is a huge competitor for oil, world markets and power. If push comes to shove, does any rational person believe that China will put America's needs before her own and not buy any more of our securities (and sell what they have) if it is to its self-interest?
The surplus gathered during the Clinton years has long ago been squandered away on pork, more pork, and even more pork. Oh, also the endless war at roughly $5 Billion a month and rising. Remember the continuing tax breaks for the better off among us? Add to that the coming financial nightmare of "rebuilding" the Gulf Coast and the lives of its former and present inhabitants while the Baby Boomers retire and the gargantuan prescriptive drug program lumbers on. While continuing to reduce taxes for the best off. But who's keeping track? Who is making sure the same-old sharks are not making their millions off the "help envisioned for Iraq and the Gulf Coast?" Even "good" expenditures that we all need are too often unregulated as to how the money allocated is actually spent. Billions are wasted or simply never seen again. Cronyism and corruption are running rampant.
I have heard over and over again that "Congress and the president are selling out future taxpayers in order to finance their spending spree today." We are all complicit in this madness, perhaps taking mental refuge in the assumption that only our children and grandchildren will pay the price for our excesses, political cowardice and impotence. It ain't necessarily so. A fiscal disaster could come much quicker, and be in the form of a steady melt-down, out of sight until too late for "the people." Remember Enron' unaware employees who lost everything? What to do to prepare personally? Act to get out of debt as much as humanly possible! For those in the Market, diversify investments and lower your risk tolerance and keep enough in cash to support yourself for at least six months. Start living within your means. Stop being a consumer and be a person.
Don't expect the government to help you out, because they will not be there for you. Your support will have to come from the community you participate in. So support that community!
That advice is good for the ultimate melt-down and for a natural disaster, such as the expected earthquake. Learn how to take care of yourself and your family the old fashioned wayÉ.by being prepared in advance.
West Marin is unique in that it has a number of communities, within which people can be helped and help others. But the best help is to be personally prepared and even have more than you need, so that you can help others. Can you take care of yourself (and others dependent on you) in an emergency of any kind? West Marin needs to reach for overall sustainability in the event of an earthquake. But each of us personally needs to reach for financial sustainability as well. The new mantra should be: Debt is bad, Savings are good! Bottom line: You are on your own. Act accordingly.

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