2012 and Amerika – On The Night Train To The Big Adios

“I might surprise my academic colleagues a little bit by saying there actually will be a perceptible, maybe even significant change, from December 21 to December 22. And that is a change of one number — 21 to 22.”



Well, well, well, it’s December 21st. I was promised an Apocalypse and I even had the pop-corn standing ready beside the microwave oven. Stinkin’ Mayans – they don’t estimate worth a darn!* It doesn’t mean they didn’t have a point. It’s just that this year really stank, and I was excited over the prospect of it actually ending ten days early. I was prepared to chalk up the blown use-or-lose leave and the death of Modern Civilization (if any?) as a couple of negative externalities.

We’ll have to hold off on that Apocalypse. The Yellowstone Caldera hasn’t shown enough seismic activity to make it worth the trip lately. Fear not, doom-mongers and pessimists. Winter is coming. It’s just a crutch-walk instead of a sprint race. You can take a leisurely stroll to the foothills. Here’s how RMJ thinks it will all end.

As Americans die and nobody replaces them,

The Majority of America’s Population Becomes Tax-Eaters. More of us are older each year.

the national economy steadily and predictably deteriorates.

More and more people age and sell assets to fewer and fewer buyers.

There is no American Exceptionalism in the above chart – at least none that indicates us as exceptionally less intelligent than all the other nations above at accelerating our own economic demise. We descend the same path as Portugal and Greece towards predictable and ineluctable mediocrity. Our world won’t end with a bang, but instead with a simpering, self-entitled whimper. Whatever do we do when we don’t have enough tax-payers to pay for the free birth-control?


One thing you do, once your society can no longer strike a healthy equilibrium between indulgence, redistribution and taxation, is you go off of some sort of Fiscal Cliff. I applaud Mr. Boehner for pulling the plug last night on his own unhelpful denial. We’ll find something pretty cool at the bottom of the Fiscal Cliff. It’s called reality. It may bite – but only if you try to feed it bull-hockey.

Charles Hugh Smith lays out the positive aspects of Boehner’s defeat at the hands of economic physics.

There are two definite upsides to the fiscal cliff:
1. We are finally starting a national discussion of spending-taxation trade-offs
2. We are at last starting to (grudgingly) accept there is no free lunch, what I call the Free Lunch Fantasy of limitless borrowing at near-zero interest rates: taxes for upper-income wage-earners will revert to previous levels while those drawing Federal dollars must accept reductions in spending.

This video runs 20 minutes, but I think it explains why the stupid had to fail.

So maybe my title was a bit histrionic. Maybe there are a couple of stations left for us to disembark The Night Train to The Big Adios. As Charles Dickens once wrote:

“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only?” Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood. “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”


Maybe 2012 can be considered a good year after all if it ends differently than most. 2012 can be one for us all to grow on if it ends in a sobering ratiocination of what we need to heroically face.

*- Some believe they weren’t done estimating. They just ran out of room on the paper on 21 December 2012.


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