When the Debts Come Due
by Seth Cagin
Oct 27, 2008 | 814 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print

We’ve all known that we couldn’t live like this forever, running up debt on a global scale, mortgaging the American future for who knows how many generations to come. Even those who ran their own businesses and conducted their own affairs prudently share in the gigantic federal debt and we are all victims of an economy that is cratering not from “liquidity,” as the titans of finance like to declare because it sounds like something temporary, but from debt, which is far more intractable.

There are mountains, or galaxies, or oceans of debt, debt to fight the Iraq War, debt to bail out the banks, debt to give tax cuts to the rich and obscene paydays to corporate executives and hedge fund managers, debt leveraged to pay for luxurious lifestyles, debt to enable us to remain addicted to petroleum, debt that can never be repaid, not in my lifetime or my son’s lifetime, and probably not in the lifetimes of his children, who are not yet born.

Just so, with the painful acknowledgement that most of the debt is uncollectable, the house of cards collapses.

Here at The Watch, we had a painful meeting last week. Would we be fooling anyone if we refused to admit that sales are drastically down, and have been since March? We have no choice but to shrink along with the economy. We’ve lost staff to attrition and layoffs may loom. We are reducing our publishing schedule in Telluride from twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays to once a week, on Thursdays, starting next week. The Ouray County Watch will also be published on Thursdays, enabling us to circulate both papers together to our entire region.

Like most other businesses in the region and countless businesses nationally and across the globe, we can only hope that stripped down, we will survive. We are determined to do so, whatever it takes. But we won’t pretend we aren’t nervous as hell as we try to plot a successful strategy in these most uncertain times. For businesses, planning is impossible when you can’t foresee what will happen next week, never mind what will happen next year.

If there is a silver lining this week, it is that next Tuesday is Election Day, and if we are lucky and the American people elect Barack Obama, and particularly if they do so by a large enough margin so that he has a mandate, there will be an opportunity to turn the page. Let us make no mistake: the crisis of the present moment, as Barack has said, did not happen by accident. It represents the culminating failure of the conservative philosophy that has dominated American life since 1968, when Richard Nixon was elected. This has been a philosophy that believes, as Ronald Reagan famously put it, that “government is not the solution, government is the problem.”

Thus, among modern conservatism’s grievous errors, we have had the ideological deregulation of markets and the systematic dismantling of government’s oversight functions, enabling greed and leading directly to the present moment. It is no comfort that Alan Greenspan, a primary architect of both deregulation and easy credit, admitted last week before a Congressional hearing that there’d been “a flaw” in his ideology.

Wow. An “ideological flaw” has led to a “once in a century” financial crisis (according to Greenspan). And to think that I thought it was something sinister.


All we can do now is vote Barack and take cover.
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