If you missed the news, the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is being built in China as modules to be assembled in California. Fourteen million Americans are officially unemployed and the U-6 (real) rate of unemployment in the Golden State is 22 percent. The project is, according to the New York Times, "part of China’s continual move up the global economic value chain — from cheap toys to Apple iPads to commercial jetliners — as it aims to become the world’s civil engineer." The original Bay Bridge was built during the Great Depression by Americans, employing thousands and, along with other infrastructure investments of the era, stimulating numerous American industries. We used to do these things and do them well. But no more. We buy plastic tubs from China at Wal-Mart to fill with other stuff we buy from China at Wal-Mart while working, if we're lucky, at stagnant- or low-wage jobs. We're crazy.
The last space shuttle mission is scheduled to begin Friday. After that, we cede space low-earth orbit to the Russians, who I guess won the space race after all, and more important exploration to China and India. In my lifetime, we put men on the moon, not because it was easy but because it was hard. NASA has been neglected since the Nixon administration, with the inadequate shuttles our only manned program. Now, nothing. We're told the private sector will take over. And it will do this...how? Why? Corporate America is sitting on its profits, not hiring Americans, not investing in America. I don't doubt some or another space boondoggle using federal corporate welfare, but Boeing is not going to take us to Mars. Where's the profit margin? We once did great things. Now we're crazy.
The Republicans are playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun on the debt ceiling. President Hoover is busy, as usual, negotiating against himself, begging for a few hundred billion in tax hikes while conceding trillions in budget cuts. These will only slow the economy at a time when the federal government should be aggressively investing in infrastructure (and not "roads and bridges"). Last I checked, Mr. Hoover has put Social Security on the table. Who needs John Boehner when the nominally Democratic president will give the social compact the coup de grace by himself. The nation sits cow-like as this transpires. The richest nation in history is "broke," we're told. Taxes can't be raised. It would hurt those precious "job creators," even though the Bush/Obama tax cuts have been an abysmal, demonstrable failure. Average Americans vote to protect the interests of the oligarchs. How else to explain it but...crazy.
Human-caused climate change continues apace. It's happening now. We're doing nothing to slow it, reverse it, or even prepare for it. After all, Fox "News," the Father Coughlins of modern talk radio and "researchers" sucking at the money teet of the fossil fuels industry say it's a hoax. Don't worry, be happy. Only a crazy nation would ignore this existential threat. Similarly, the suburban, car-dependent American world is about to run head-on at top speed into the reality of peak oil. Yet we've abandoned high-speed rail as House Republicans try to kill Amtrak and local transit systems struggle. A poll shows that a single-family tract "home" in the middle of nowhere is still The American Dream. Externalities be damned. Who would think this way? Crazy people.
Almost every news story I read is more confirmation of our national madness. And corruption, whether of institutions or the elite individuals who move from being regulators to highly-paid execs in banking, and back again. A historian or journalist is always careful about saying thus-and-such is unprecedented. But, can you think of another time in our history when this was happening? When William Howard Taft followed Theodore Roosevelt and abandoned progressive principles, the result was his defeat in 1912 and the beginning of a new progressive era. The follies of the Coolidge-Hoover years sent the Republicans into the wilderness completely for 16 years and discredited reactionary/moneyed politics for generations. Now the reality of what just happened to us was twisted into an anti-history almost immediately after the fact and the reactionaries are back in power.
Koreyel posted that we have a long way to go before we hit Peak Crazy, and it seems so. But if we employ the term as its used in petroleum engineering, peak merely means we've used up half of the commodity and the other half will be much more difficult and costly to reach and refine. The amazing thing about American Crazy is that it is truly renewable. But it does not operate in a vacuum. Soon, very soon, it will collide with reality. The result, I fear, will not be national renewal.