Friday, November 5, 2021

America in Twenty Years


Start with this piece: In 2022, “Things Aren’t Gonna Get Done” On An Absolutely Massive Scale, by Michael Snyder

Are we about to witness one of the greatest self-inflicted economic wounds in history?  Vaccine mandate deadlines are starting to arrive, and large numbers of very qualified people are losing their jobs as a result.

This, while we are already suffering from a massive labor shortage.  Businesses all over America are desperate for workers (and anyone driving down any main-street or involved in any business knows this).  But the workers should be out there:

The number of Americans that are currently working is still about five million less than the peak that was hit just before the pandemic arrived.

Five million gone, in less than two years.  And it isn’t like you could just pull someone off of the street to fly the airplane that no longer has a pilot due to jab status.

In New York, 26,000 municipal workers have said no to the jab, 26 fire companies shut down, trash is piling up in Brooklyn.  Supermarkets are planning for continuing product shortages by expanding storage space and curbing discounts. 

Then there is this Tucker Carlson opening monologue: An America in Decline: Supply chain disruptions.  Some short-hand notes from his comments:

Hospitals are asking patients to check closets for used metal crutches and other equipment to donate or return to the hospital – because they can’t get any.

Shortages of Thanksgiving turkeys, pet food, diapers, frozen food, bottles for wine, single serve packages of ketchup, bread, potato chips, toilet paper, paper for books, computer chips for cars, lumber.

Container ships stuck outside of port, lack of truckers, cost of shipping containers up 330%, trucking costs up 23% - not including fuel.  Gas prices up from about $2.00 to $3.30 per gallon in one year – in a country with more energy than it can consume. 

Adhesive, appliances, copper, drywall, electrical equipment, fabricated metals, furniture, HVAC equipment, lumber, PVC, steel – all “delayed,” meaning not enough available.

Meat, poultry, fish, eggs – more than 10% higher than last year.

Labor participation rate way down; walkouts due to jab mandates.  “You can’t run a company without these people – they are the ones who know how to do things.”  Cancelled flights continuing. 

“Here we are at the end of October.  Think ahead a little bit.  What’s this going to look like in six weeks when the entire United States decides to get on an airplane to visit families for the holidays?”

I will address Carlson’s closing point, as I don’t think he is thinking broadly enough – and neither is Snyder; the issue isn’t a Christmas issue or a 2022 issue…but before coming to this, to address why we are where we are – the most immediate or proximate cause.

It seems to me the simplest answer is the best answer: starting in March 2020, supply was drastically constrained while demand was drastically goosed.  There was a time last year that something over 40 million Americans had filed first-time unemployment.  Tens of millions of formerly productive workers, sent home to not produce anything.

But, not to worry: they were handed a few thousand dollars – while the Fed added $4 trillion to its balance sheet, the federal government added uncountable trillions in spending, and multi-billionaires saw net worth skyrocket.

So, supply was constrained – tens of millions of workers no longer producing; demand was goosed – uncountable trillions in new spending and bank assets.  To think this would have no impact on longer-term supply chains and prices was folly.

And now, on top of this: no jab, no job.  And it looks like millions will take (or have already taken) the no job option. 

But this is more than a Christmas problem or a 2022 problem.  I am wondering what America will look like in twenty or thirty years – assuming no life-ending man-made catastrophe like nuclear war, mass injections, etc.

I am going to use as the baseline the year 1971.  Why 1971?  The United States defaulted on its international gold exchange agreement, and many things began to change then.  Take a look at this website: WTF Happened in 1971?

Every measure of the relative position of middle-class income and wealth to the highest class went from a broader distribution to a drastic narrowing – all in favor of the top 1 percent or 0.1 percent.  Every measure of wages to total income began to shrink.  Every measure of inflation and debt began to skyrocket.  Income for minorities – growing before 1971, stagnated after.  The number of international currency crises – way up; bank crashes – way up. 

I can’t even begin to address the wasteful government spending programs – in every field from alternative energy to foreign wars to public transportation to banking and industry bailouts…etc. etc., etc., ad nauseum.  When resources are so casually wasted for decades, investment in productive resources (and capable people) is compromised.

But all of this comes to my question: I am wondering…who is going to make things?  Who is going to fix things?  Who is going to be able to do anything with their hands or with their mind?  I mean productive things – not things like inventing some new disgruntled class or developing some new grievance studies curriculum.  Where is the productive class in America, and what is its future?

Food, utilities, housing, airplanes, cars, appliances.  Who will build these?  Who will repair these?  I don’t mean just this winter, and I don’t mean just next year when millions leave their jobs instead of take the jab.  I mean as a result of the wasting of at least two generations of young people – wasted elementary school years, wasted secondary school years, and especially wasted post-secondary school years.

The Fed didn’t even begin tracking student loan debt until 2006, at which time it stood at $480 billion.  Today it is over $1.7 trillion.  More than tripled in fifteen years.  Where did this money go?

This table identifies college bachelor degree graduates by degree granted – from 1971 to 2019.  I have separately sorted the degrees based on those which are STEM related and those that aren’t (you won’t see this in the table; I exported the table into a spreadsheet).  STEM related fields had an increase in number of graduates of 305%; non-STEM related, 224%.  That doesn’t seem so bad, until you go further in the numbers.

STEM related graduates were about 150 thousand in 1971, and 465 thousand in 2019; an increase of three hundred thousand.  The major degrees behind this increase, each with a growth of over 80,000 more than in 1971, were in computer sciences, engineering, and biological and biomedical sciences – and you could argue that this last one has been a net negative for society, especially after the last year.

Non-STEM related graduates were about 685 thousand in 1971, and over 1.5 million in 2019; an increase of almost 900 thousand – or more than triple the increase of STEM related graduates.  The major fields, as follows:

·         Parks, recreation, and leisure: 52,000

·         Communication and journalism: 82,000

·         Multi/interdisciplinary studies: 47,000

·         Public administration / social services: 30,000

·         Liberal arts and sciences: 37,000

·         Business (includes personal and culinary services): 275,000

·         Psychology: 78,000

·         Visual and performing arts: 59,000

·         Family and consumer sciences: 12,000

·         Homeland security, law: 55,000

·         Health professions: 226,000

It gets worse.  The total for the entire period – almost 50 years: STEM related graduates: 5.5 million; non-STEM related graduates: 21.7 million. 

The unemployment rate for young college graduates exceeds that of the general population, and about 41 percent of recent college graduates -- and 33.8 percent of all college graduates -- are underemployed in that they are working in jobs that don't require a college degree, according to new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

They are working in retail; they are the barista at Starbucks or the cashier at your local department store.  For sure they aren’t changing oil at the local car dealer.

None of the above addresses important fields that do not require post-secondary education: trucking, mechanics, maintenance, carpentry, plumbing, electric.  Anything done with the mind and the hands.  Fixing things or building things.

I will go a couple of steps further – anecdotally, but confirmed by many people that I have spoken with.

·         Many college graduates in STEM fields have difficulty solving problems or thinking critically when they begin their career.

·         Almost every handyman or repairman I come across is at least 60 or even 70 years of age.


I am not satisfied that I have covered this well.  The topic has been on my mind for some time, and finally the one piece by Carlson and the other by Snyder have prompted me to write something.

Things aren’t working – all across America and in many fields.  The problem was certainly exacerbated due to the reaction in March 2020, but it didn’t start there.  Decades of market manipulation, investment in non-productive industries, and wasteful spending on governmental boondoggles have set America on a course of not being able to function.


“Build Back Better” became a slogan almost at the same time as covid became the black plague.  The implication of such a slogan: what is currently built must be torn down – else, there is no reason to build “back.”

These policies that have driven us to this point are being implemented on purpose; the economic writing was on the wall in 1971 (and the cultural writing was on the wall much earlier).  Those enacting these policies don’t care how many of us die in the meantime. 

They certainly don’t care how much of the economy is destroyed, how many planes don’t fly, how many ships remain unloaded, how empty the grocery shelves will be – that is the entire point.  You can’t “build back” until you first destroy.

All that matters is that they get to build back. 

It won’t be better.


  1. The story of King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:19 comes to mind. On being told by the prophet Isaiah that his kingdom was going to be overrun by Babylon but not until after his death, he shrugged his shoulders and thought, "At least there will be peace and prosperity while I am alive." (Loosely translated)

    Such is the attitude of so many Americans today. Eat, drink, and go for the gusto now because tomorrow we will all be dead. All that matters is that we pad our bank account and live according to our own desires.

    There is the thought that it takes four generations to complete the cycle. One to start a business and set it on course to succeed. One to build it to near maximum potential. One to coast at the top and initiate fatal errors. One to compound those errors and destroy it completely. Expand this concept to the size of America and it is plain to see that it fits quite well.

    I grieve for my grandchildren. They have no idea what awaits them.

    1. Amen, Roger! That ugly pattern just keeps repeating and repeating.
      I'm thinking of asking the pastor of a church I attend occasionally:"Is willful ignorance one of our options on judgment day?"
      Have yet to find one that actually talks about relevance to today.

    2. Roger, this also points to the observation that I first saw Hans Hoppe make: this is the reason monarchies are better than democracies. In a democracy, none of the political leaders care about the long-term value of the assets under their authority.

      Under a monarchy, this is not the case. And at least you get a chance that the monarch is a half-decent guy who knows how to properly care for the long-term viability of his kingdom and subjects.

  2. This post brought to mind my father, born in 1915 and took one year at university as a chemistry major until his family could no longer support him financially. Instead, he became a toolmaker. He could make anything with his head and his hands. Many if not most men in that age category had similar ability. My brothers, now in their 70s, exhibited this ability. But none of their sons, nor my own, do.

    I think everyone who follows this site knows, at at least senses, what has happened. Government knows best. If we object to this, we will be, at a minimum, marginalized. Peg

    1. Peg, I know some young people who are going from high school into trades: welding, machining, etc. Within a couple of years, they are making an income that most college graduates would envy.

  3. They aren't going to Build Back at all. The destruction is the entire goal.

    1. Yes. Postmodernism and critical theory can only deconstruct. This has now moved on from culture to the economy.

  4. The biggest deception in economy is equating $s to wealth or to economic development.

    I have a Facebook acquaintance who is an immigrant who is a Computer Science graduate and CTO level at a company. He posts economic things all the time on Facebook. I add an Austrian economics comment here and there. He hates it. He accuses me of being strongly biased when I make a praxeological statement on how microeconomic truths affect macroeconomic statistical data. He is a strict Empiricist. He confuses GDP with economics. He stated there has been no economic development since the 1970s based on data showing stagnating working class labor rates.

    He had no response to my comment that economic progress is clear comparing today to 50 years ago. We have more and better things relatively. The median wage earner is better off MATERIALLY. It is clear, obvious, unequivocal by simply thinking about it. But he can't accept that because numbers on a graph are the economy to him.

    People making things and services are what improves our economy. You can't look at $s. You have to look at the goods and services people can afford. I would say things are still getting better materially. It is an amazing testimony to how productive the market is. We overburden the market with money supply growth, central banking, and diverting workers to nonproductive jobs. But we are still building wealth.

    Just think what the market could do for political freedom if we put it to that purpose.

    1. RMB, I agree with you on the value (or lack thereof) of macro statistics such as GDP. Also, as you say, MATERIALLY we are better off - more stuff, no doubt.

      Of course, culturally we are being destroyed; meaning of life is lost on Western society (I know you recognize this also). Hence, despondency and depression set in.

      But the economic point I want to make: we cannot separate the growth in MATERIAL goods from the debt and central bank balance sheet asset growth. Ultimately, we won't know if the MATERIAL progress is sustained until after the inevitable liquidation occurs.

      We are seeing signs of the destruction of the division-of-labor society all around us. If it goes...well, it might not be back to the stone age, but it will certainly be a disaster for many.

    2. All good points.

      I will say that one way to dissect actual wealth creation from asset inflation is to ignore asset prices as a part of wealth. I don't care about how much your house costs. It is harder to understand retirement savings from that view point. But just looking at size of homes, quality of transportation, how much of a salary goes to food and clothes. Those things all look better over the last 50 years.

      The concern is that central bank planning and climate crisis central planning will make home, travel, and electrical power less affordable If that happens people will materially have less and less. Homes will get smaller. It will take longer to work to pay for food and rent.

      Frank Shostak on does a great job of distilling this kind of thinking down.

  5. Several other issues come to mind that could easily double, if not triple, the length of this article; one foundational area that (imo) everything else is built upon:

    Education rot:

    - competition and some level of testing were required to move to the next rung in the education ladder
    - 30 yrs ago you went to college with a target of graduating in 4 yrs (w/ some looking at 3-3.5 yrs)
    - it was unheard of that it would take more than 4 yrs to get a BS (even in STEM)
    - many students worked side jobs to pay for school, with 'loans' being used on a smallish scale

    fast forward to today:

    - competition and (worthwhile) testing is gone, replaced with "everyone wins", "everyone gets a trophy", "everyone gets a degree"
    - many college students think nothing of spending 5,6,7+ yrs to get their BS
    - heavy reliance on loans (with little/no forward thinking about, you know, how the h*ll are they going to pay off these loans)
    - first couple years of college are spent in remedial classes re-learning what they didn't learn in high school (to prepare them for college)

    - very little time is spent on skills and knowledge needed to just get by in real life like, say, managing one's finances, basic cost benefit analysis, basic root cause analysis, a basic premise of "dont' believer everything you hear" (aka, do not questoin anything we're told by politicians/govt-hacks/media)
    - education system (K-12, college) no longer teaches the "3 R's" but instead focuses on social/political agendas
    - instead of learning from history we now destroy/belittle/forget history


    As for the future of America (and most of the 'modern' western world), keeping in mind the overall emphasis of this article, ponder the next-to-last sentence:

    "All that matters is that they get to build back."

    Ummmm ... **WHO** exactly will be doing the building and **WHAT** exactly will they be capable of building?

    1. Your points are valid. As to the WHO, it won't be people who have the larger society's interests at heart...unless the larger society re-asserts control.

  6. Once everything is destroyed, it's a small step to be better than total destruction.

  7. I'm old enough to remember what the "economy" actually looked like 50 years ago. We had gas stations, hardware stores (that might also sell things like bicycles or shotguns), cafes or restaurants, drug stores, clothing shops generally catering to either men or women, a few odd boutiques or flower shops here and there, repair/welding/machine shops, and small (by today's standards) discount stores. Movie theaters were small (again, relative to today), few, and far-between. On a larger scale, but still on the private side, and attracting the most attention usually, were the industries, with a new one coming to town creating a lot of buzz in the community.

    On the public side, most of what touched us with any significance was primarily on the local side: the post office, the library, the city streets/water/sanitation departments, and, of course, the utilities. Things that happened at the state and federal level might make all the news, but once we switched off the TV, no one thought or talked much about it, unless there was an election pending. Evidence for this could be seen by the war in Vietnam, in which body-count statistics led the evening news, but veterans today will tell you that they would return home to find their former friends and classmates asking them where they had been over the last couple of years. It was the beginning of the send-your-kid-to-war-but-mine-will-go-shopping era.

    Fast forward to today and it seems to me that we have what I see is mostly an economy dedicated to window-dressing - so much seems to be about appearances and attention-getting, with most of it oriented towards food and entertainment. Every time I hear all the hubbub being created by the latest iteration of a Krispy Kreme or Hurts style franchise, or a 20-screen movie complex, or theme park, I can't help feeling a bit brave-new-worldish. Near my home is a newly-completely 70 acre public park which seems to be more of an amusement park than a traditional city park - distractions abound, with no room for quiet, relaxing meditation or connection with nature in the traditional sense that used to be much of the purpose of urban parks. Constructed from the use of private donations from wealthy patrons, it sports many new and modern artistic and architectural attractions, most of which cater largely to children and parents who are looking for something they can do with their overly stimulus-dependent kids. Thankfully, there are also large eating venues that serve adult beverages. No one seems to care what it costs to operate and maintain it all or what will happen when that money dries up and it is all left to street gangs and vandals, in a repeat of what happened to New York's Central Park in the 70's.

    Everyone is also praising the "revitalized" downtown, which is now home to numerous new bars and restaurants; each one competing to provide a more unique and distinctive atmosphere than the next.

    I see all of this happening around me and wonder, "is this really what we wanted our world to become? This, and literally nothing more?"

    1. This is a wonderful comment. Thank you for sharing it.

  8. I certainly lament the destruction we see all around us and the offshoring of manufacturing and other traditional jobs and skills. The distortions in the economy are real and the pain of the coming readjustment will also be real. I'm not denying that.

    But supply chain issues don't worry me. There are still too many entrepreneurial folks in these united states and still too much money to be made in finding solutions to problems. Whatever distortions government creates in enriching its cronies and other bootlickers, private businessmen and women will still be out there creating healthy businesses in the spaces between government policy and hiring folks willing to work.

    Government can always pay people not to work and destroy the economy this way, but there is a limit to this before they bring the whole thing down around their ears. In order to keep the Ponzi scheme going they have to moderate the destruction to some degree.

    1. Unless they want a new ponzi scheme.

    2. It is certainly within the realm of possibilities that the global elite will tank the American economy as much as they can to ride a new international model into existence. I just don't think they are competent enough to achieve something so grand. I think they are biting off more than they can chew. They'll probably try and will certainly do some damage, but the people here can be resilient when they need to be. Life is just still too comfortable for that need to arise I think. They need a reality check. Crashing the economy, if that is in the elite's plans, can often serve as that check.

  9. I think one thing a lot of people haven't considered is the role of the Federal Reserve and the Military Industrial Complex in the offshoring of American manufacturing jobs (to the extent I get this right, I have to credit David Stockman).

    When the Fed creates new currency ex nihilo, it enriches the early receivers and impoverishes the late receivers. The former group is very small and so the riches amass quickly. The latter group is very big and so the poverty creeps in slowly. In an inflationary environment, prices rise but so do wages, only slower, but the rising wages still give the majority of people the impression they are becoming wealthier. Prices can adjust daily, but wages are typically negotiated annually. So workers get paid more dollars over time but their actual wealth is diminished. This arbitrage in an inflationary setting creates a net transfer of wealth upwards - from you to your boss and other owners and from them to the banks and investors they depend on. And the only way to outpace this inflationary theft is to give all your savings to the very sorts of crooks who engineered this system to begin with and hope to ride their windfall profits into a decent retirement. It's ingenious and insidious.

    So regular people after decades of this sort of theft can no longer afford the high quality products made in America. And food is made less nutritious and with more chemicals, etc. Businesses anticipate this reduction in consumer spending and so they offshore manufacturing to places like China and India where labor is very cheap. Then they bring in the low quality junk that American consumers can afford (or are too short-sighted to avoid). See Guido Hulsmann for how inflation degrades culture and increases time preferences.

    But why the inflationary policy of the Fed? Much of it is to fund the endless wars the MIC constantly provokes around the world. Need we say more?

    But that is only half the story of the Fed and the MIC's involvement in this. The other half has to do with the Fed's manipulation of interest rates and its consequences. By creating more money ex nihilo, the Fed simulates an increase in loanable funds and this lowers the interest rates (so long as runaway price inflation is kept at bay). By lowering the interest rates throughout the economy, it signals investors to take on long term capital intensive projects. But why invest this newly acquired capital in America where the return is so small (2-5%) thanks to the Fed's manipulation of rates? Why not invest in capital-starved countries with cheap labor forces where the return can be much higher (15-30%)? Especially if the MIC will guarantee the safety of your investment outside the borders of the US.

    So I would say the Fed and the MIC are the biggest contributors to the hollowing out of the US economy. Interesting that these are precisely the two biggest targets that the great Ron Paul went after during his time in politics and still speaks out against on his liberty report.

    1. All very good. Few people make the connection of low interest rates and investing offshore.

      What happens when capital is subsidized (central bank supplying excess credit and low interest rates) and labor is penalized (minimum wage laws, required benefits, mandatory union laws, the jab)?

      In the words of Ross Perot, "that giant sucking sound."

    2. Or when capital is concentrated in the hands of the few (thanks to the Fed, regulatory policy, manufactured crises, etc.) and the labor pool (both skilled and unskilled) is constantly increased by immigration from Asia, Central America, Middle East, etc.? Bye bye decent wages.

      Yup. It's clear who benefits from all these shenanigans. Small guys go out of business or get bought by the big guys. Average Joe loses his livelihood thanks to the government, but he is supposed to be grateful for the peanuts offered him by the same thugs who deemed his job 'non-essential'.

    3. That's when they bring in universal basic income and mandatory digital currency. Do as your told or watch your children starve.