Can You Get To That?

(Originally published June 2010)

This edition of The Hanes Wine Review has been awhile in coming. In some ways attributable to laziness and general drunkenness. But mostly due to the distractions of trying to assess the times we now live in. One great line of pith I have read lately goes “History – it’s not just for historians anymore.”

The increased lag time to birth this edition has actually proven a boon of sorts, as the topic at hand has intensified over recent weeks. To wit, people, we are royally screwed. And anyone who can’t see this, well, harsh as it may be, kind of deserves what they get. If you think I have a pretty tin foil hat on, that’s your right. But the hat does look kind of sweet, trust me. Anyway, we are living in the midst of the greatest depression this country has ever seen. And perhaps the greatest global depression experienced since such things could be measured. Albeit measured inaccurately by any government or quasi-governmental extension such as the International Monetary Fund. The wheels are coming off the economy and no one amount of financial chicanery is going to stop it. You won’t hear this on CNBC, the nightly news or most any mainstream media. But you’ll know it when you feel it, and it won’t feel good.

It’s easy to go through life doing one’s day-to-day shuffle and, hell, I’m doing it too. But I feel embarrassed doing it. Because it’s mostly an exercise in futility given the shitstorm on the horizon. One thing I am doing is I have stopped collecting wine to age. Zero point in that. At the same time, I am drinking my stash as quickly as possible, it will be an unaffordable luxury not far down the road (wine having to be stored at 55 degrees and there not being any subterranean cool caves nearby). I’m not even that interested in buying new wines but, again, it’s part of the daily “ritual” and hard to give up completely. I am glad that I don’t have much responsibility. No children, just my niece in New Jersey who is well taken care of, for now. My elderly mother and aunt need help. I fear they will both outlive the existence of social security and Medicare, without which they are royally screwed. But, otherwise, I am fairly mobile. Just would have to leave a bunch of wine behind I guess.

So, let’s face it. The United States government does not have the answer. The Fed does not have the answer. The Europeans do not have the answer, same for the Chinese, Japanese, whomever. The famous phrase “extend and pretend” is the best they can do, given the way the dominoes are already falling. The Tea Party? Huge waste of time although it does make some not-so-bright people feel they are empowered to change things. Good for them! The time to have turned the boat around with minimal pain was probably like 15-20 years ago. Sucks to be us.

Collectively, we are to blame because we do like to consume and live a lifestyle beyond our means. But we were/are being good U.S. drones since the economy is structured such that it needs people to live a life of debt in order to grow. Hell, I was a good American, how else do you explain a man who never made more than $58k a year in his life possessing over $60k in available credit? That is, available until it was all maxed out. Whoops.

How many people living in the United States understand the concept “mark to market”? Or what a CDS is? Or the relative reasons for, and pros and cons of, deflation versus inflation? Or even what a “fiat” currency is? Like 0.000001%. Self included until the past couple of years. Now I go, whew, thank goodness last year I needed to cash in all my IRA savings to live off of. At least I got some value out of them which is more than could be said for them were they still in an account should I reach 65 years old. Another sigh of relief that I never bought a house. Not that I could ever have afforded one but that would not have stopped me from being able to buy one. With some luck, I can probably squat free in a nice three-bedroom a little further down the road and no one will raise a peep. At least someone will be in the domicile keeping it from deteriorating further.

The point is I sincerely wish more people would PAY ATTENTION to what’s going on and not act like current times are just a bump or two in the road. I say “people” rather than “citizen” since I think the underlying meaning behind the latter term is anachronistic at best. You are either being hosed by the individuals running the global financial markets (and by extension the government(s)) or you are doing the hosing yourself. Which includes a lot of people reading this rant right now. (Take off, hoser!)

It is, in my opinion, too late to do anything to “fix” things in their extant state. But it is not too late to at least educate yourself and contemplate appropriate next steps once the chickens do indeed come home to roost. Are you prepared? Do you even know what preparation looks like? Do you trust the government to look after your best interests? Who do you trust?

I’m not advocating violence in the streets, albeit it’s not the worst retort to years of political party-neutral robbing and pillaging. I’m not advocating vote the bums out and bring on the new “saviors.” I think we can all see where that got us in the White House. I’m not advocating defaulting on house loans or credit cards. Although I’m not not advocating this either. What I’m saying, see, is educate yourself and let your conscience be your guide. Do you do more good than bad? Do you think that all the little decisions made at work to increase profits is getting you where you want to be? Where the world needs to be? Will this be the case a year from now?

The time is nigh to circle the wagons, be close to and take care of family, and try to figure out who else you can truly trust. The list is not who you think it is today, even if you went to college with him or her. I’m taking care of my local family and anxiously waiting for the day my entire family will be physically close enough to each other to act as a single unit. Until then I am trying to learn as much as I can, separate the wheat from the chaff, and in the interim make whatever preparations seem rational and objective. I am also trying to stay as drunk as possible 24/7 as my own form of cowardice. The above, however, was written under the influence of freshly ground and brewed coffee.

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These are a good start. Off the soapbox. When there is a next edition, if there is, it’ll be about wine and not whine.