How Life Has Suddenly Changed in America
by Bill Sardi
Recently by Bill Sardi: Is The U.S. Economy Being Tanked By Mistake or By Intent?
Life is suddenly changing in America.
It’s 8:30 AM. I’m getting my 5-year-old son in the car to take him to preschool. I have to drive him down backstreets to school because the police are handing out traffic citations on the main drag, in the wake of downturns in public tax receipts. My son asks why? I tell him the truth. We are avoiding the police on their motorcycles.
I even find that if you live in California you can get a traffic citation and you don’t even need to pull your car out of the garage. Violation VC 14600(A) mandates payment of $214 for failure to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of address change within 10 days. It’s us versus the public employees now, their job or mine. My son enjoys the drama of trying to avoid the cops and says he will be on the lookout for me.
No more P.S. #24
I drop my son off at preschool, a church-run school. He won’t be attending public school like his parents did because we want him to learn values, not to believe he accidentally evolved from an ape-like creature, and we don’t want him exposed to all the propaganda injected into school curriculums about global warming, overpopulation, gay agendas, mandated vaccinations, the idea that the earth is to be valued above human life, or blind loyalty to government above God. Some of this thinking creeps into church schools too, so we are vigilant.
I’m back on the road, carefully driving under the speed limit. I feel like a driver on marijuana who is driving ever so carefully to avoid being stopped by the police. There are a growing number of intersections now snapping photos of me driving by. It’s all an effort to boost public revenues, not increase public safety.
The ghost office
I pull into the post office parking lot to purchase some stamps. As I enter, the post office is a ghost of its former self. For the past six years that I have used this post office there have always been long lines of customers waiting to be served by no less than three clerks. Today there is no one in line, and only one clerk serving a sole customer at the counter.
The last few times I have visited this post office, and another nearby branch, it has left me wondering where all the customers have gone. I read where the US Post Office is a few billion dollars in the red and is scaled down into a junk mail delivery service. Electronic mail has made a profound change in the way Americans communicate. You wonder, will the post office cease to exist at some time in the near future?
The hard-bare store
Now I’m headed to a chain hardware store, to pick up some salt tablets for the home water softening system. As I enter the store I think there must be a fire drill underway and everybody must be out in the back parking lot. It’s another empty store. Inventories on store shelves have been pared. With a search down every store aisle, I find three other customers and no one waiting in line at the cashier’s stand. The clerk hands me a $10 discount coupon if I come back this Saturday.
The revenuers at the front gate
I’ve arrived back home now to find a humane society man at the front gate. He wants to know if we have any unlicensed pets at home. I indicate no, saying we can’t have pets because we are located next to a hillside that is frequented by coyotes and a bobcat that would devour any pet that strayed outdoors. But I wonder how many more regulatory agencies like this are going to come visiting, searching for code violations? I wonder if the dog catcher paid a visit, not because there has been an upsurge in stray dogs, but because of a shrinking budget at the dog pound?
Turn out the lights, only this isn’t romance
I finally enter my home office, above the garage, making sure I don’t turn on too many lights. With all of the empty homes in California, I notice our electric bill keeps rising even though our kilowatt-hours of usage are down. We put in all LED lighting a few months ago. But we’re thrown into tier 4 and tier 5 pricing schedules in order to pay for all the people who cannot afford to pay their electric bill. We will install solar panels on the hillside this year and avoid paying unduly high electric bills that will soon approach the average home mortgage payment.
Extended family burdens
I’ve got to make a phone call now to set up a small new business venture with my wife’s uncle. With the downturn in the construction industry, he is nearly out of work as a fire sprinkler design engineer. I think everybody who has a job is now being confronted by family members with requests for loans they can’t possibly repay, or to move in and share rent, or maybe even come work for you. Everybody had better get used to family members on their doorstep.
Looking over my shoulder
That job completed, I move on to keeping daily watch over the frail economy. What is the stock market doing? I don’t own stocks, but the market will determine whether a crash has started and maybe whether the value of gold will go sky high. Who knows when that long-predicted day of reckoning will occur? It seems closer every day. I wonder if I will have to run down to the bank and pull out my money, and then run to the grocery store and buy everything on the shelf before hordes of panicked Americans realize there is a bank run underway. We lost $16,500 in the Indy Mac bank failure. That’s about $24,000 in pre-tax dollars. So it’s not like this is an irrational phobia.
I find I can’t share all the frightening things I learn about our collapsing American economy with my wife. Our spouses are nesters and home builders, who work tirelessly toward building a secure and safe home. The financial realities of the day are too stressful. If you want to maintain your marriage, you find someone else to trade notes with about the economy, not your wife.
My wife feels more secure with a lot of money in the bank while I am concerned the bank will fail and our currency will be devalued.
Today Credit Suisse predicts a future glut of gold will cause a huge decline in the price of gold, while another noted economist says the stock market will collapse when government props are removed, which would drive the price of gold upwards as investors search for other places to invest their money. How to gauge sudden changes in the economy presents many challenges.
Ah, remember you have a job to do
At this point, I haven’t got a lick of my own work done today. It’s like working while looking over your shoulder. My income is down by two-thirds from a primary source while Goldman Sachs reports record profits off of bailout money. You have to wonder. It seems like an economy where all are for one, the bankers, and none are for all.
To rescue a nursing mother
Now the most distracting part of the day begins. A young mother, an acquaintance by telephone, who has called a number of times in the past with questions about personal health issues, calls to explain she is driving her car down the freeway but feels she is having a panic attack. Her heart is pounding fast. The back of her neck is tight. Her fingers are freezing cold. She had a recent skin rash, she explains.
She says this all happened a few days ago and she had to call the paramedics by the side of the road. She is nursing a newborn, and she doesn’t have health insurance. Her milk is drying up. Her bowel movements are less frequent. Her doctor found nothing wrong after the prior episode. Her husband is busy making a living as a house painter.
I’ve got a mother on the phone line with a baby in the car and she is driving in a pouring rain storm while having a panic attack. She wants to know if she is having a stroke.
Being a health reporter as I am, I get more of desperate emails and phone calls like these from people who have no health insurance and are facing a health crisis. You try to steer them in the right direction, towards home remedies that are known to be effective and low cost. I can’t play doctor, I can only provide information.
But what to do with this panicky mother driving the car? I ask about her location. I advise her to drive to a store and get some iron pills, that her symptoms are consistent with iron-deficiency anemia. She heads for a store miles away. She is obviously not thinking clearly.
I ask about her location and go online to find a CVS Pharmacy is just ahead. I advise her to pull off the freeway and pull into that store parking lot while I’m calling the pharmacist on another phone line to inform her there is a customer having a panic attack with a baby in their parking lot, and could they help out.
The store people come to her aid, recognizing she isn’t thinking clearly, and find her some iron pills that don’t cause stomach upset. I advise her to open up the bottle right then and take an iron pill immediately. She does this and within minutes she is feeling much better.
In all my telephone log shows, with cell phone dropouts, I had to handle seven phone calls from this distressed mom. The iron pills did the trick. It will take her about six weeks to rebuild sufficient red blood cell levels.
Back to reality
Now, what was I doing? I have a job to do, e-mails to answer, telephone calls are piling up. I have a writing assignment, and a radio interview scheduled later in the day that I have to prep for. It seems like there are so many sudden changes in my daily schedule I can’t get anything done. I see zillow.com just sent me an e-mail showing the value of my home has dropped by $50,000 in the past 30 days. Don’t you just love the immediacy of the world we live in today?