The past two months I’ve taken in all but the final few episodes of Breaking Bad, America’s loathe letter to itself. What a metaphor for a nation’s transition from an ethos of earnest effort to a mood of criminal buffoonery. For you who haven’t tuned in to this cultural artifact, Breaking Bad is a cable TV series about a bland high school chemistry teacher, Walter White, who, facing an expensive battle with lung cancer, decides to get into the lucrative business of cooking methamphetamine, the most atrocious recreational drug there is. The series follows his misadventures in the trade.
Looking around America these days, if you can stand it, the sense of what it means to be a man has become a very shaky business.
One spring morning a couple of years back, toward the end of Mayor Bloomberg’s reign, I was walking across Central Park from my hotel on West 75th Street to the Metropolitan Museum of Art when I had an epiphany.
Many of us in the Long Emergency crowd and like-minded brother-and-sisterhoods remain perplexed by the amazing stasis in our national life, despite the gathering tsunami of forces arrayed to rock our economy, our culture, and our politics. Nothing has yielded
If being wealthy was the same as pretending to be wealthy then people who care about reality would have a little less to complain about. But pretending is a poor way for a society to negotiate its way through history. It makes for accumulating distortions which eventually undermine the society’s ability to function, especially when the pretending is about money, which is society’s operating system.
And so in his valedictory, Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke pulls one last dead rabbit out of his hat — it suffocated while the head-fake taper percolated in Ben’s brain lo these many months of jive talkin’. As the year turns, the central bank will supposedly monetize $10 billion less debt per month — $75 billion down from $85 billion — with $5 billion each deducted from the US Treasury stream and the rotten mortgage barrel. Was there a catch?
The financial wires and pod-waves are all lit up these days like it was happy hour at the Lottery Winner’s Lounge. It appears that the American economy — capital management division — has found the long-wished-for magic alternative energy source: horseshit. It is fueling the conversation all over Web and over the senile mainstream media megaphones. One technical analyst, celebrity Tweeter Ralph Acampora of Altaira Wealth Management, actually said this week that the USA would be “energy independent by 2016.” That’s rich. We’d only have to come up with 8.5 million new barrels of oil a day, or give up driving cars altogether.
Such is the power of wishful thinking that a set of fool-making memes now pulses through the word-clouds of financial chatter in America spreading the false good cheer that our economic troubles are behind us and pimping for perpetual motion in wealth expansion. A poster boy for this bundle of falsehoods is financial analyst A. Gary Schilling. Just last week, he was talking out of his cloacal vent about US “energy independence” and “the manufacturing renaissance” that will allow this country to magically decouple from the compressive contraction driving the rest of the world.
In these northern climes, this turning into the year’s final quarter feels written in the blood, or at least into the legacy code of culture. The leaves skitter across the streets in an early twilight, chill winds daunt
The ObamaCare website rollout fiasco, joined by the bait-and-switch “You can keep your current insurance (not)” tempest, obscure the fundamental quandary about so-called health-care in America: that it is a gigantic racket structured to allow countless layers of grift and counter-grift. The end product of all that artifice is that medical care costs twice as much in America as any other civilized country, and that it has to be operated by a cruel and despotic matrix of poorly coordinated bureaucracies that commonly leave people more disabled financially than the diseases that brought them into the system.