Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Automobile- The Real Ponzi Scheme

We all know what a Ponzi scheme is, because rightwingers use that phrase to describe Social Security, which is fully funded by our taxes for the next 35 years, as a swindle.

Well, move over, SS, we have your real Ponzi scheme right here- the automobile. For a century we've been promised prosperity, and, true to form, early investors have been paid handsomely from those who come later- until now, when the average American is left holding the bag.

The automobile was going to build mighty cities, but instead served to empty them and leave them gutted. It was then going to build mighty suburbs, but we have learned that suburbs, by definition, cannot be mighty, and in fact often cannot even afford basic services over large areas.

The auto companies were going to provide good jobs with healthcare and retirement benefits to a vast workforce, who would in turn support a large domestic economy, but chose instead to move abroad and now are on the verge of defaulting on their pension obligations, and Detroit lies in ruins.

The car buyers were promised better mobility, to get to better jobs, and to enjoy their time off more. Instead, America became a land where most people work more than 40 hours a week, and households have two workers instead of one to maintain their former standard of living- and many suburban families find themselves driving constantly for activities we walked to in my youth.

The federal and state governments said the roads would be paid for by taxes on fuel, and now we have a $2 trillion backlog of necessary repairs to our overbuilt road system.

And now it's over. Americans, the 5% of the world's population that use 20% of the world's resources, are having a hard time understanding the "sustainability" thing. Not to worry- practical examples will be provided. We'll figure it out- eventually.

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