Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Walking in Water

Far be it from me to deny the Prez his moment of glory over the 2009 auto bailouts, but he needs to let up on the optimism narrative re the economy and face reality. I know Time magazine's recent cover story, "The Optimism Bias," claims our brains are hardwired to see the bright side, and that this is good for human health and evolution, but there's a hideous truth stalking the rear window and tapping on the panes. The U.S. economy is no longer treading water; it is going under. And this time. bailouts won't save us.

As of a year or two ago, bailouts were an important part of humanity's rescue plan--but that was before before floods and earthquakes and tornadoes became the new normal. Now, every week, another piece of the planet sinks under water, or is completely wiped off the face of the earth by an earthquake or a tornado. It's pretty grim stuff that, so far, President Obama has been reluctant to parse into his strained equations for the "recovering" economy.

Only a couple of weeks ago, flood disasters along the Mississippi delta grabbed the headlines, and now, another wave of flooding threatens multiple cities along the Missouri River--meaning that, once again, businesses, jobs, and homes will be pummeled and thrashed out of existence. Lives and economies upended. Levees and dams are unable to hold back the deluge. In the case of the Missouri, the floods are a consequence of excessive winter snow deluging down from the Rockies as it melts. The flows at some of the dam gates are expected to be more than double any previous records. Emergency rescue operations have demanded round-the-clock help from all government agencies--the National Guard, FEMA, and the Army Corps of Engineers--even while the national debt is rising at the rate of $46,0000 PER SECOND. But these nightmare scenarios are not just happening here. They are happening everywhere.

In 2010 alone, about 92 million people were forced to flee their homes because of natural "mega-disasters" around the world, more than double the number than during the previous year, according to reports by experts at an international conference about climate change and population displacement held in Oslo, Norway, recently. The March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan left more than 10,000 people dead, some 17,500 missing, and about a half-million homeless. In China, more than 15 million people were forced to flee their homes following floods, while 11 million were displaced in Paklstan. Similar mega-flooding has also occurred in Australia, India, and most recently, the U.S. "The intensity and frequency of extreme weather events is increasing, and this trend is only set to continue...as human-induced climate change comes into full force," said Elisabeth Rasmusson, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Polls show that Americans are increasingly unhappy with Obama's handling of the economy, and growing ever more pessimistic about the slow pace of recovery. Disapproval of his economic record is at a new high--boosting Mitt Romney's chances in the 2012 election. The American electorate is just so god-damned predictable, like the stars keeping their courses. The last thing Republicans want to see is a robust economic recovery taking place just before the election. It looks now as if they may get their wish.

Discussing climate change is bad news for any politician in office, so I expect we'll just go on with the president's optimistic bluster about auto bailouts, more rejiggering of the relationship between economic growth and jobs, and more Congressional rants about the debt ceiling. As the fire balloon bringing collapse burns in the night sky, no one will ever connect the dots. The sleeping elephant in the room will shamble forth, scattering bricks and bones, and our lost and ruined world will overflow its banks until it drowns. Whoever made that haunting film "Waterworld" was clearly a visionary and ahead of his time.

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