Dead Leaves

Written by David Glenn Cox

It gets quiet here in the garage on the weekends and it is a welcome respite. I can tell the time by the sound of the trucks and the traffic noise is my alarm clock. Yet today I was greeted with a thundering silence. a silence that hurt my ears. An awe inspiring strange stillness as if the world had just stopped.

Dave from the shop up the road came by to ask if he could use our car dolly. He had a car that needed a transmission that he was going to repair and sell. But instead he is going to haul it to the metal yard because he needed the money today. A sign of the times, capitalist eating their capital like farmers eating their seed.

Shane from the cabinet shop next door has been working on some small projects. When I walk to the library I go by the truck rental yard where he used to rent a truck to deliver his cabinetry. It was a distinctive looking truck because it was faded on one side and I see it sitting idle in the dirt parking lot. Shane has no work so the rental yard has no rental; Dave has no work and has begun to sell his belongings to keep the doors open.

My own son has begun to talk again about becoming a cop because he sees no future in his own business. Its harder now than it once was and he’s frustrated dealing with people without any money. He used to handle cars in the $5,000 price range and now it’s $3,500 tops! He does a cash business and few have any cash so they go instead to the sell your soul finance it here car lots.

It’s a paralysis, a weakening as one by one the leaves wither and fall from the trees. I see an illness with a thousand different symptoms that strikes us all differently but has only one deadly result. Even the businesses that remain open have a hard time seeing a future. The Captain D’s a block or two away is selling ice! A ten pound bag of ice for a dollar and I had to look twice to see if I was reading that right. A restaurant selling bags of ice? It makes sense, I suppose, the icemakers are cranking out product and if you’re not selling soft drinks you need to do something with the ice.

July set the record as the second lowest new home sales number since records have been kept but when was the worst month? That would be in June and the prices continue to fall. The median price for a home fell to 2003 levels and the number of new homes on the market reached its lowest level since 1968! New home starts are expected to be one half of 2007 levels in 2009 new home starts were two-thirds of 2007. That means that the crisis is getting worse, 35 percent of all home sales are now distressed sales either, short sales or foreclosures.

These numbers mean little work in the future for carpenters, painters, and electricians. Little cabinetry work for Shane next door, little work for the factory suppliers and concrete people. It just expands outward as the cruel economic winds blow and the leaves fall. These dreams deferred for millions and millions of Americans of all ages and races. Young couples afraid to have children, the middle aged afraid they’ll get sick and the elderly afraid to retire.

Home foreclosures might well reach three million this year with four members to a household that is twelve million American put out into the road. According to the census 43.6 million Americans now live in poverty and 77 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and as strange as that sounds I envy them. Living, with a paycheck and expecting another and maybe even another.

What’s going on here? Why does the media continue to talk about teabaggers and Mosques? What’s wrong with this country where its leaders ignore us or worse still play politics with our suffering? The economists might have declared the recession over without ever considering that it is a depression but you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

41 million Americans on food stamps, 10 million on unemployment, four million more on welfare. Thirty million children in the national school lunch program and our economy grew at 1.4% but our trade deficit declined for the same reason as everything else because the people have no money. The major banks earned $20 billion in profits this last quarter based on the free money policy from the Federal Reserve but try as they might the banks can’t escape this vortex either.

Millions of Americans no longer use banks and millions have lost their credit and will never reach the income level to get it back. The foreclosed and dispossessed will most likely never own property again or will ever to be able buy a new car again. And round and round it goes until the wind scatters us like dry leaves as the businesses suffer as well and will fall to the ground to be added to the pile.

This is no longer a matter that can be ignored we have developed a corrosive economy where millions of Americans are being pushed out of it permanently! This is what FDR meant when he said, “I see millions lacking the means to buy the products of farm and factory and by their poverty denying work and productiveness to many other millions.”

This cancer eats away at all facets of our national life as I read of workers coming to work and shooting their co-workers. I thought about the desperation of a mother with children losing her job in this economy. This is a national trauma and a national disgrace. Our current President Hoover said the other day after a week of proposing a continuation of tax cuts and proposing even more new ones that he acknowledged that he feels our pain but does he feel our shame?

To have worked all of our lives to achieve just a small modicum of a decent life and to lose it all. To no longer have credit or a bank account and because we don’t have these things to be no longer considered unemployable. Where your leaf once was on the tree only determines the length of your fall for the destination is the same for us all.

The question becomes the same question that FDR once faced, that without radical and concrete change can capitalism survive? For the millions fallen to the ground why should they even care if capitalism survives? In an economy that is seventy- percent consumption it means only a continual downward spiral to the ground. Democrats are worried about losing control of Congress but if the political class were to look down the road little further they might see even a darker picture.

Human nature does not change, first we lose our prosperity, then we lose our property, then we lose our future, and then we lose our temper. Can the political oligarchs continue to choose guns over butter, drones over children and boardrooms over living rooms? Can they continue to believe that they themselves can escape the vortex of a collapsing star? Like petulant children they refuse even the possibility of taking their medicine and so people suffer.

“Ours is a land rich in resources; stimulating in its glorious beauty; filled with millions of happy homes; blessed with comfort and opportunity. In no nation are the institutions of progress more advanced. In no nation are the fruits of accomplishment more secure. In no nation is the government more worthy of respect. No country is more loved by its people. I have an abiding faith in their capacity, integrity and high purpose. I have no fears for the future of our country. It is bright with hope.”

-Herbert Hoover

Note the tone and tenor of our former President Hoover direct from Candyland with sugar coated phrases and hopeful platitudes. It is this same avoidance of reality that plagues us today.

“Restoring the economy requires that we maintain the flow of credit to families and businesses. So I’m gratified that a majority of the U.S. Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, voted today to give me the authority to implement the rest of the financial rescue plan in a new and responsible way. I know this wasn’t an easy vote because of the frustration so many of us share about how the first half of this plan was implemented. There was too little transparency and accountability, and it didn’t do enough to get credit where it’s needed most — small businesses and families struggling to keep their jobs and make ends meet.”

-Barack Obama

“True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.”

-Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Change is coming; the system as it stands is not sustainable. You cannot tax cut your way to higher wages and job growth. You cannot easy money policy your way to prosperity and jobs. There is no such thing as a jobless recovery any more than there is a sexless pregnancy when you have these things its because someone’s getting screwed. These political voices of both parties drone on and on endlessly as much to convince us that they have the answer but even more to cover up the thundering silence that is growing all around us.

“No Nation can long endure half bankrupt. Main Street, Broadway, the mills, the mines will close if half the buyers are broke.”

-Franklin Delano Roosevelt