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Good times

16-8-2009

When times are good, it is easy for everybody to get along. But times are changing.

Devalued dollars and soaring interest rates. Sky-high oil prices and hyperinflation. Wheelbarrows of money for loaves of bread. This is the future of the U.S. economic implosion that you are already living in.

And economic catastrophes don’t just affect the economy. You are sitting on a social powder keg.

The economy is changing life in America. One Trumpet reader commented that the Germans are adding thousands of new words to their language, some of which constitute an effort to define various modern economic crises. In the reader’s home country of New Zealand, one breakfast cereal’s motto has become: “A great way to start your morning, no matter what state the economy’s in!” Popular daytime shows and print and online articles are about the topics that are on people’s minds the most: people losing their jobs, families with home foreclosures, how to feed a family for less in these hard economic times, and so forth.

Many Americans are finally being forced to make lifestyle changes—some of them very unpleasant. Tension is building with every foreclosure. Yet, as Trumpet reader Lisa says, “things haven’t even gotten that bad yet!”

Much of the population remains apathetic—sung to sleep by sweet-sounding political soundbites. Our leaders tell us that the recession is over, the bottom is in, a V-shaped recovery has begun. The current administration has guaranteed hope and change, and Americans are hoping for a miracle. But real change never comes.

America’s leadership is setting America up for full-scale disillusionment.

At the time of America’s most perilous economic predicament in 233 years, the White House and Congress are pushing universal health care and carbon taxes. Could America’s leaders be more economically suicidal or out of touch? At a time when legislators have asked people to dig deep and borrow trillions of dollars to keep the big banks and the economy from imploding, politicians are pushing welfare-state handout programs that are practically guaranteed to crush every taxpayer under their ponderous weight.

If universal health care follows in the dubious footsteps of Medicare and Medicaid, the true cost of government-care will be many times what the salesmen in Washington claim.

Meanwhile, if you fine companies for emitting carbon dioxide, those companies will pass down the costs to their customers (you and me). If they can’t do that, they will move out of the country. If they can’t do that, they will close.

Lies about no taxes and more jobs are being exposed. And trust in Washington is breaking.

The reaction to the Obama administration’s request that people report any e-mails, news articles, or web pages of people and organizations critical of the government’s universal health-care plan is a prime example.

It stirred up a hornet’s nest. People fear big brother. They fear government.

Much of this fear is manifested in the widespread volatility of the town hall meetings in recent days. Across the country, crowds of people turned out to learn more about the health-care reform proposals. Scuffles have erupted, and angry listeners have regularly shouted down politicians in what has turned out to be a hugely sensitive issue for many people.

Health-care proponents claim that Republicans are sabotaging the town hall meetings by sending protesters. Although some of this may be occurring, high-ranking Democrats have jumped on this as an excuse to label anyone who speaks out against taxpayer-funded health care as a radical right-winger. Big media too has joined the bandwagon, insinuating that people who listen to talk-radio are extremists and somehow not American.

Right now the clash is between political ideologies. But how much would it take for the fighting to turn into something much more dangerous?

Look at what happened in Britain on Saturday. The Daily Mail reports that people couldn’t go out onto the streets of downtown Birmingham for over two hours as a full-blown race riot took place. Apparently a group was demonstrating against violent Islam when a larger group of black and Asian people turned up and violence ensued. “You had people burning the Union flag. People were being kicked—some of them weren’t anything to do with the protests,” said Gary Nichols who watched the disturbances from his city center apartment. “It all seemed to be very systematic—groups were arriving in cars and getting involved in the violence.”

According to Mirror.co.uk, “the rival groups fought a terrifying pitched battle …. Families ran for cover as the yobs laid into each other with planks, bottles and placards. Officers in riot gear struggled to control the violence.”

See what happens when people no longer trust or respect those who rule the land? They start taking the law into their own hands.

How much would it take to set off Birmingham-type riots across America? As the economy continues to grind down, the answer is: less and less.

Hope is going to be smashed by reality. When the shape of America’s recovery is more like a staircase to the cellar—that is, no recovery, only small respites on the way down—then America’s lack of social cohesion will really be revealed.

Remember New Orleans? After Hurricane Katrina broke the levees, thousands remained stranded without electricity or communication, enclosed by rising waters. With police stretched to the limit, society simply fell apart. Soon the city descended into a cesspool of criminals. Mobs ransacked shops, steeling anything and everything of value that wasn’t submerged. People armed themselves with knives and guns from weapons dealers and pawn shops, or with whatever they could find.

“Many of these people under normal circumstances wouldn’t think to do such things,” wrote columnist Joel Hilliker. “[B]ut desperation drew them toward depravity. They watched others do it—they felt abandoned by the government—they became intoxicated with bitterness and a sense of entitlement—and they convinced themselves there was nothing wrong with their criminality. Thus, the city plunged into lawlessness. Within two short days, thugs and gangs held siege. Arsonists arbitrarily set buildings ablaze; snipers fired at military helicopters; crooks assaulted trucks trying to reach survivors with provisions. The chaos was so violent that beleaguered national guardsmen were given shoot-to-kill orders—against ungovernable American citizens.”

Here’s the take-home lesson. When times are good, it is easy for everybody to get along. Times of crisis reveal people’s hearts. And as any student of human nature can tell you, people are not naturally born good (Jeremiah 17:9).

Unfortunately, America is heading into the worst economic times ever. What some commentators have called the Greater Recession is really just the early stages of a Greater Depression. Life in America is changing, and not for the better. The public disillusionment and social disruption when the green shoots and imminent economic recovery fail to materialize will be a tragic spectacle. Expect social discontent and race wars to flare. The town hall meetings are just the first sparks of a greater social powder keg ready to explode.

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