Most Popular
1. Banking Crisis is Stocks Bull Market Buying Opportunity - Nadeem_Walayat
2.The Crypto Signal for the Precious Metals Market - P_Radomski_CFA
3. One Possible Outcome to a New World Order - Raymond_Matison
4.Nvidia Blow Off Top - Flying High like the Phoenix too Close to the Sun - Nadeem_Walayat
5. Apple AAPL Stock Trend and Earnings Analysis - Nadeem_Walayat
6.AI, Stocks, and Gold Stocks – Connected After All - P_Radomski_CFA
7.Stock Market CHEAT SHEET - - Nadeem_Walayat
8.US Debt Ceiling Crisis Smoke and Mirrors Circus - Nadeem_Walayat
9.Silver Price May Explode - Avi_Gilburt
10.More US Banks Could Collapse -- A Lot More- EWI
Last 7 days
US Interest Rates - When WIll the Fed Pivot - 1st Mar 2024
S&P Stock Market Real Earnings Yield - 29th Feb 2024
US Unemployment is a Fake Statistic - 29th Feb 2024
U.S. financial market’s “Weimar phase” impact to your fiat and digital assets - 29th Feb 2024
What a Breakdown in Silver Mining Stocks! What an Opportunity! - 29th Feb 2024
Why AI will Soon become SA - Synthetic Intelligence - The Machine Learning Megatrend - 29th Feb 2024
Keep Calm and Carry on Buying Quantum AI Tech Stocks - 19th Feb 24
How to Profit from the Global Warming ClImate Change Mega Death Trend - Part1 - 17th Feb 24
Why Rising Shipping Costs Won't Cause Inflation - 17th Feb 24
Intensive 6 Week Stock Market Elliott Wave Training Course - 17th Feb 24
INFLATION and the Stock Market Trend - 17th Feb 24
GameStop (GME): 88% Shellacking Yet No Lesson Learned - 17th Feb 24
Nick Millican Explains Real Estate Investment in a Changing World - 17th Feb 24
US Stock Market Addicted to Deficit Spending - 7th Feb 24
Stocks Bull Market Commands It All For Now - 7th Feb 24
Financial Markets Narrative Nonsense - 7th Feb 24
Gold Price Long-Term Outlook Could Not Look Better - 7th Feb 24
Stock Market QE4EVER - 7th Feb 24
Learn How to Accumulate and Distribute (Trim) Stock Positions to Maximise Profits - Investing 101 - 5th Feb 24
US Exponential Budget Deficit - 5th Feb 24
Gold Tipping Points That Investors Shouldn’t Miss - 5th Feb 24
Banking Crisis Quietly Brewing - 5th Feb 24
Stock Market Major Market lows by Calendar Month - 4th Feb 24
Gold Price’s Rally is Normal, but Is It Really Bullish? - 4th Feb 24
More Problems in US Regional Banking System: Where There's Fire There's Smoke - 4th Feb 24
New Hints of US Election Year Market Interventions & Turmoil - 4th Feb 24
Watch Consumer Spending to Know When the Fed Will Cut Interest Rates - 4th Feb 24
Blue Skies Ahead As Stock Market Is Expected To Continue Much Higher - 31st Jan 24
What the Stock Market "Fear Index" VIX May Be Signaling - 31st Jan 24
Stock Market Trend Forecast Review - 31st Jan 24

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Protect your Wealth by Investing in AI Tech Stocks

Exploding U.S. National Debt Means Bye Bye Miss American Pie

Politics / US Debt Oct 21, 2009 - 08:50 AM GMT

By: James_Quinn


Diamond Rated - Best Financial Markets Analysis Article“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.” - Bertrand Russell

Don McLean was born in 1945 and grew up in New Rochelle, New York. He was one of the earliest Baby Boomers. He was born at the beginning of America’s last High, as described by Strauss & Howe in their book The Fourth Turning. America’s victory in World War II began a new 80 to 100 year cycle consisting of four turnings of 20 to 25 years. The four cycles are a High, an Awakening, an Unraveling and a Crisis. These cycles have been recurring throughout history due to the generational mood changes as people age. Don McLean grew up during a High. This was a episode of safety and security. He basked in “Dr. Spock permissiveness, suburban conformism, Sputnik-era schooling, Beaver Cleaver friendliness, and Father Knows Best family order.” His idyllic life changed on the morning of February 3, 1959 when he read the headline in the newspaper he was about to deliver.

A long long time ago
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while
But February made me shiver
With every paper I'd deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn't take one more step
I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
So bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

American Pie – Don McLean

To Everything There is a Season

Don McLean was 14 years old in 1959 when he read the bad news on the doorstep. He didn’t realize it at the time, but the American High was coming to a conclusion. The assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 marked the end of the High and the start of the Awakening. A stage of turmoil was about to erupt across America. Strauss & Howe describe the mood transition of the country from a High to an Awakening:

 “An Awakening arrives with a dramatic challenge against the High’s assumptions about benevolent reason and congenial institutions. The outer world now feels trivial compared to the inner world. New spiritual agendas and social ideals burst forth, along with utopian experiments seeking to reconcile total fellowship with total autonomy. The prosperity and security of a High are overtly disdained though covertly taken for granted. A society searches for soul over science, meanings over things. Youth-fired attacks break out against the established institutional order. As these attacks take their toll, society has difficulty coalescing around common goals. People stop believing that social progress requires social discipline. Any public effort that requires collective discipline encounters withering controversy. Wars are awkwardly fought and badly remembered afterward.”

As the chart below shows, the progression of generations through the four cycles of life can be documented back to the 1400’s. I’ve always believed that George Santayana’s quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, was a profound statement. After examining Strauss & Howe’s generational theory, it may not matter whether you remember the past. You are condemned to repeat it. A generation that is 80 years removed from the last similar cycle is incapable of understanding or learning from that prior cycle. Individuals may study and understand the mood changes that shifted the country on a certain course, but they are helpless in changing the powerful force of a generational life transition. Every person born on this earth has a maximum stay of about 80 to 100 years. They hopefully will make it through the phases of childhood, young adulthood, midlife, and elderhood. These phases can’t be reversed or rearranged. This is why the four cycles of High, Awakening, Unraveling, and Crisis must occur in that order. When Don McLean was writing American Pie in 1970 at the age of 25, he wasn’t aware that he was capturing the Awakening mood of an entire generation in one song.

The Turnings in Anglo-American History

The Day the Music Died

As a young boy, Don McLean was often housebound due to a bad case of childhood asthma. It was during this time that he developed his love of music and learned to play the guitar. The 1950s were an era of happiness and affluence for the burgeoning American middle class. Americans had a feeling of optimism about their prospects for the future, and pride in their nation which had emerged victorious from World War II, setting the world free from the tyranny of Nazi Germany. Popular music mirrored society. Performers such as Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and Bill Haley and the Comets churned out feel-good records that matched the mood of the nation. Don’s idyllic childhood came to a shattering conclusion between 1959 and 1963. His music idol, Buddy Holly, died in an airplane crash. His father died in 1961, when Don was 15 years old. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.

Don entered young adulthood during the 1960’s as he develop into a musician and made connections in the music industry. He came of age during the Consciousness Revolution. It was marked by urban riots and campus rage, together with Vietnam War demonstrations and a rebellious hippie counterculture. It gave rise to feminist, environmental, and black power movements and to a steep rise in violent crime and family disintegration. The Civil Rights movement, Martin Luther King assassination and the Robert Kennedy assassination were major episodes during this tumultuous period. McLean wrote the song American Pie in 1970, about one-third through the Awakening era. American Pie presents an conceptual story of McLean’s life from the 1950s until the end of the 1960s, and at the same time represents the evolution of popular music and politics over these years, from the happiness of the 1950s to the darkness of the late 1960s.

In 1970, the Vietnam War was at its height. Four unarmed college students had been shot dead at Kent State University by National Guardsmen while protesting the invasion of Cambodia in early 1970.

Alan Howard, author of The Don McLean Story: Killing Us Softly With His Songs, described the period of turmoil and Don McLean’s role in closing this chapter:

“The 1960s was the antithesis of the previous decade. The exuberant simplicity of the 1950s was displaced by a much more volatile and politically charged atmosphere. People were asking questions. The cozy world of white middle class America was disturbed, as civil rights campaigners marched on Washington, D.C., and Martin Luther King Jr delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The following year saw the 1964 Civil Rights Act become law. On the world stage, America’s leading super-power status was being challenged by the Soviet Union, and its military might was being tested by the Vietnamese. Even in music, America soon found itself overrun by a British invasion. The 1960s was a turbulent time for McLean’s generation.”

“By 1971, America was still deeply troubled. The Vietnam War was out of control. The anti-war movement was gathering momentum and being listened to. Other events of the time, such as the successful launch of Apollo 14, did little to restore national pride. “American Pie,” in the opinion of the song’s producer, Ed Freeman, was the funeral oration for an era: “Without it, many of us would have been unable to grieve, achieve closure, and move on. Don saw that, and wrote the song that set us free. We should all be eternally grateful to him for that.”

The generation defining song marked the end of the fierce phase of the Awakening.  After the ferocity crested with Watergate in 1974, passions turned inward toward New Age lifestyles and spiritual rebirth. The mood petered out during Reagan’s optimistic Morning in America reelection campaign in 1983, as onetime hippies reached their yuppie chrysalis. American Pie has been voted the 5th greatest song of the Twentieth Century. It didn’t fit the requirements of a standard pop music hit. Singles were supposed to be 2 to 3 minutes. McLean’s song was War and Peace in comparison. The song ran for an unheard of 8 minutes and 33 seconds. The lyrics contained 877 words. The song is sad, emotional, touching, inspirational, religious, and confusing. It somehow touches you deep inside. Don has never interpreted the lyrics for the public. His view is:

"You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me... sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.”

I personally consider American Pie to be the greatest song ever written. I was eight years old in 1971 when the song came out. I shared a 100 square foot room with my sixteen year old brother. I would go to bed at eight o’clock and he would be studying at his desk with the stereo on. My childhood memories are filled with the tunes of Don McLean, CSNY, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles, and the Stones. In the late 1980s I spent many a summer weekend night in the Princeton Bar & Grille in Avalon, New Jersey. The saddest part of the evening was at 2:20 a.m. when the DJ would play American Pie, letting everyone know that closing time had arrived. I can still hear the echo of hundreds of drunken 23 year olds singing at the top of their lungs. This is a particularly happy memory, as I met my lovely wife at the Princeton Bar & Grille.

 In the past, generational mood changes were reflected in literature. George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm were reflective of the mood during the last Crisis era. The music of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s captured the mood of the country. Ohio by CSNY, Mrs. Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel, Revolution by the Beatles, and Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones all reflected the chaotic times, but American Pie is the national anthem of the Baby Boom generation. McLean documents the progression of music and national mood with his haunting lyrics.

Consciousness Revolution

Did you write the book of love
And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?
Now do you believe in rock and roll?
Can music save your mortal soul?
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?
Well, I know that you're in love with him
'cause I saw you dancing in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues
I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died
I started singing

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

                      American Pie – Don McLean

McLean’s lyrics in this verse reflect the music of the 1950s with sock hops, slow dancing with girls and making out in pickup trucks. Then it all ended on the day Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. Richardson died. In the chorus, American Pie represents rock and roll music. His Chevy represents America. McLean and his friends used to drink at a bar called the Levee in New Rochelle. When it closed, McLean and his friends moved on to Rye, New York drinking away their sadness at the loss of Buddy Holly. The final reference is to Holly’s That’ll Be the Day lyric, that’ll be the day that I die.

Now, for ten years we've been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rolling stone
But that's not how it used to be
When the Jester sang for the king and queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
And a voice that came from you and me
Oh and while the king was looking down
The Jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned
And while Lenin read a book on Marx
The quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died
We were singing

                            American Pie – Don McLean

This verse begins with a reference to Buddy Holly being dead for ten years. Bob Dylan has assumed the role of the king of rock and roll. McLean thinks he has sold out his folk music roots. He replaced Elvis as the king. McLean wasn’t convinced that Dylan deserved this stature. The Beatles hadn’t burst onto the scene in the U.S. The funeral dirges refer to the fact that the music of the 1960’s didn’t measure up to the music of Buddy Holly. The music reflected the disintegration of public trust and reaction to an unsupported war.

Helter skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast
Landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass
With the Jester on the sidelines in a cast
Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance
Oh, but we never got the chance
'Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?
We started singing

                            American Pie – Don McLean

This verse refers to Charles Manson’s murders inspired by the Beatles song Helter Skelter and the Byrds’ Eight Miles High and their subsequent problems with the law over drug use. While Bob Dylan was laid up after a motorcycle accident, other bands tried to take his place. The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s album changed rock and roll forever. Still, it wasn’t music that you could dance to. McLean didn’t like drugs or the drug references in music. He saw drugs as evil and a major reason for the decline in American society.

Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again
So come on Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
'Cause fire is the devil's only friend
And as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in hell
Could break that Satan's spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died
He was singing

                      American Pie – Don McLean

The one place was Woodstock. The Baby Boom generation was lost in space. They were alienated from their Hero Generation parents. The hippies were lost in their drug induced psychedelic stupor. There was no time left to go back to the good feelings of the 1950s. He refers to the Rolling Stones’ Jumpin Jack Flash and the murder of a fan during the Stones’ Altamont Speedway Concert by the Hell’s Angels during a performance of Sympathy for the Devil. McLean was a religious man. He was angry at what he believed were satanic influences on the music of Mick Jagger and the Stones. The fan was sacrificed while Jagger performed.

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store
Where I'd heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn't play
And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
And they were singing

                      American Pie – Don McLean
The girl who sang the blues was Janis Joplin and she turned away by overdosing on heroine. The sacred store was record stores where they used to let you preview the records in the 1950s before buying them. By the late 1960s they wouldn’t let you listen anymore. The teenagers screamed as the National Guard shot them down at Kent State. The church bells were broken refers to all the dead singers. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. Richardson. They died and went to heaven.

Awakening through Unraveling

In 8 minutes and 33 seconds, Don McLean captured the angst and turmoil of an entire generation moving from a High halfway through an Awakening. McLean was unhappy with the America of the late 1960’s. The Awakening cycle continued until 1984. The youthful enthusiasm and the attacks on the establishment dimmed as the country exited Vietnam and experienced the trauma of Watergate. Emotions cooled as the 1970s progressed. The 1970s and early 1980s are remembered for closure of the gold window by Nixon, Nixon’s resignation, stagflation, oil embargoes, even or odd gas days, the Ford Pinto, recessions, Saturday Night Fever, American hostages, Carter’s ineptitude, Reagan’s optimism, John Hinckley’s assassination attempt, John Lennon’s assassination, 18% interest rates, and 11% unemployment rates. This was not a cheerful time in America. The success of shows like Happy Days reflected America’s longing for the “better” days of the 1950s. The old cultural regime had been thoroughly discredited and institutions had been delegitimized. America’s mood was ready to change again, as 1984 approached. The Boomers entered their self actualization phase concentrating on wealth accumulation and personal fulfillment.

Strauss & Howe described the journey from Awakening to Unraveling:

The Tomorrowland of the 1950s had evolved through Space Odyssey in the 1960s to Star Wars in the 1970s and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in the 1980s, a spiritual future in which human consciousness triumphs over machines. The visions alternated between perfection and disaster—between utopias celebrating "love" and dystopias annihilating everything. We no longer believed that progress required self-expression more than self-control—even if we still assumed that our nation must be advancing somewhere.

An Unraveling begins much like a High, with a renewed sense of purpose and spirit of optimism. Ronald Reagan’s 1984 Morning in America and Bear in the Woods presidential ad campaign symbolized the new spirit:

“It's morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country's history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly 2,000 families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It's morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?”

“There is a bear in the woods. For some people the bear is easy to see. Others don't see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it's vicious and dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who is right, isn't it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear....”

An entrepreneurial force was unleashed with the re-election of Ronald Reagan. The economy soared as Reagan began a massive military buildup and slashed individual and corporate income taxes. The stock market skyrocketed as leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers dominated the business world. Reagan’s mantra of smaller government was good PR, but it never happened. He cut taxes, but never cut spending. Deficits became acceptable. The National Debt at the beginning of Reagan’s Presidency was $900 billion. Today it stands at $11.9 Trillion. The military buildup proved phenomenally successful as the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its war in Afghanistan and attempt to keep up with the U.S. military buildup. A “greed is good” attitude permeated Wall Street and spurred Boomers to seek riches at any cost. Fraud was rampant in business across the lands. Bankers led the charge. The S&L crisis led to the failure of over 1,000 banks. Citibank and Chrysler needed to be bailed out by the government for the 1st time. The last hurrah of good feelings occurred when General Schwarzkopf and his U.S. forces pulverized Sadaam Hussein’s invading army in Kuwait in 1991 losing 379 men versus 35,000 dead Iraqis.

The 1990s deteriorated into a series of culture wars as Pat Robertson’s Moral Majority and Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition staked out their positions. The dissatisfaction with the status quo was made clear when populist Ross Perot was able to garner 18.9% of the national vote in 1992, leading to the election of Bill Clinton. Pessimism and gridlock marked the 1990’s. With a Republican Congress and a Democratic President, virtually no major legislation was passes between 1994 and 2000. This restricted government spending while tax revenue soared in the late 1990s with the stock bubble. The result was budget surpluses.  Individual self interest dominated personal life, and intractable national problems like Social Security and Medicare didn’t demand immediate action, so they were pushed off to the distant future. The public became disillusioned as the two parties degenerated into name calling, accusations and shrill rhetoric. Incivility in public discourse, a widening chasm between the haves and have nots, all-encompassing distrust of financial and governmental institutions and leaders, and a debased media and public culture led to a national pessimism.

George W. Bush assumed the Presidency in a Supreme Court contested election in 2000. His mandate was smaller government and a no nation building foreign policy. When he took office, the U.S. had a budget surplus, was involved in no wars, and had a National Debt of $5.7 trillion. Today, the country has budget deficits approaching $2 trillion, is still involved in two wars of choice that have cost $900 billion to wage, and the National Debt stands at $11.9 trillion.

Source: Treasury Dept.

In the last nine years the politicians running the United States have managed to increase our National Debt by $6.2 trillion dollars, when it took 211 years to accumulate $5.7 trillion of debt. This may explain why Congress’ approval rating is 21%, an all-time low. The 9/11 terrorist attack marked the beginning of the end of the Unraveling period. It set in motion the over-reactions that would insure a future Crisis of epic proportions. The combination of easy money from the Fed, complete lack of enforcement of existing rules and regulations on the financial industry, reckless and fraudulent lending by the financial industry, waging of two wars of choice in the Middle East, the President urging citizens to borrow, spend and buy houses, multiple tax rebates, the addition of trillions in unfunded Medicare liabilities, trillion dollar bank bailouts, trillion dollar stimulus programs, national healthcare, and complete lack of energy strategy have created a perfect storm that has only just begun. The country grows more pessimistic by the day as intractable problems that have been ignored or shunned for decades now must be addressed. Strauss and Howe describe the mood:

“Cynical alienation has hardened into a brooding pessimism. During a High, obliging individuals serve a purposeful society, and even bad people get harnessed to socially constructive tasks; during an Unraveling, an obliging society serves purposeful individuals, and even good people find it hard to connect with their community. The approaching specter of public disaster ultimately elicits a mix of paralysis and apathy that would have been unthinkable half a saeculum earlier. People can now feel, but collectively can no longer do. Think-tank luminaries have exulted over the history-bending changes of the Information Age, while the public has glazed at expertise, cynically disregarded the good news, and dwelled on the negative.”

The rock band Green Day captures the angst of the Unraveling era. We have been waging a war and losing the fight.

Sing us a song of the century
That's louder than bombs
And eternity
The era of static and contraband
That's leading us to the promised land
Tell us a story that's by candlelight
Waging a war and losing the fight

They're playing the song of the century
Of panic and promise and prosperity
Tell me a story into that goodnight
Sing us a song for me

                                 Green Day – Song of the Century

Millennial Crisis – The Fourth Turning Has Arrived

A Crisis arises in response to sudden threats that previously would have been ignored or deferred, but which are now perceived as dire. Great worldly perils boil off the clutter and complexity of life, leaving behind one simple imperative: The society must prevail. This requires a solid public consensus, aggressive institutions, and personal sacrifice.
                                                                  Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning

The current Crisis era began with the housing bubble that peaked in 2005 and the subsequent collapse of the financial system in 2008. The government response to a Crisis caused by thirty years of debt accumulation by consumers has been to spectacularly increase the amount of debt in the financial system. Since consumers won’t spend and banks won’t lend, the Federal Government and the Federal Reserve have decided to spend our grandchildren’s money today to prop up a corrupt evil empire. As White House lackeys and Federal Reserve shysters parade on TV day after day assuring the American public that the crisis is over and crowing that their wisdom prevented a 2nd Great Depression, the truth is they have planted the seeds of a far worse Crisis. The government actions taken so far, along with legislation chugging along in Congress will add $13 trillion to the National Debt by 2019. That would put the National Debt at $25 trillion in 2019. If interest rates are 5% in 2019, the interest on the debt would be $1.25 trillion per year. Realistically, interest rates would likely by 10% or higher in 2019. At that rate, the interest bill would be $2.5 trillion per year. The United States generated $2.1 trillion of total revenue in 2009.

Government debt as a percentage of GDP will reach 99% in 2019 versus 24% in 1974. The Paul Krugmans of the world will point out that Japan has a debt to GDP of 170% today and they are doing OK. What he won’t point out is that they have endured a two decade long recession and started it with the benefit of huge trade surpluses and personal savings rates exceeding 10% by consumers. The U.S. has neither of these attributes. The good news is that we will never reach the $25 billion National Debt. The bad news is that the country will collapse well before 2019. As a gang of marauding starving homeless former Goldman Sachs investment bankers beat Mr. Krugman about the head with his Nobel Prize, he can try to explain to them how another trillion of stimulus would have done the trick. Every decision made by our “leaders” in the last year has been a short-term solution without worrying about future consequences. This has been the politicians’ response for decades. Amazingly, the people that inhabit the halls of Washington and live in the ivory towers of academia actually believe that debt will cure a disaster created by too much debt.

“The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.” -  Bertrand Russell

During World War II the United States was self-reliant in terms of oil – producing almost 1.8 billion barrels per year. U.S. production rose to an all-time high of approximately 3.4 billion barrels per year in 1972. Thereafter, the drop in U.S. production began, and we are now back below the 1946-level of oil production when the population of the United States was 141 million. Today, the U.S. population exceeds 308 million. Worldwide total liquids production peaked at 86 million barrels in 2008. All of the easily extractable oil and gas in the world has been found. Additional supplies will be found deep below the ocean, in challenging arctic regions, in tar sands, and shale. It will be dramatically more expensive to extract oil from these sources.

The United States is dependent on 600 million barrels of oil from Mexico every year. By 2012 Mexico will become a net importer of oil, so 600 million barrels of oil will need to be supplanted. Iran’s oil production is in decline as capital investment has been ignored for years. Russia’s production has peaked. Saudi Arabia continues to lie about its ability to ramp up production. Their oil fields are 40 years old and in terminal decline. By 2012, the world will only be able to produce 80 million barrels per day. There is no doubt that demand in 2012 will be higher than today’s 85 million barrels per day as China, India and other developing countries continue to grow. The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, but use 25% of the world’s energy. There is no doubt that $5 a gallon or higher gasoline is in our near term future.

We have had a Department of Energy since 1979. Over this time we have become more dependent on foreign oil. No nuclear power plants or oil refineries have been built in the U.S. in 30 years. Pipelines and energy infrastructure rusts away, while we twiddle our thumbs and agonize over the health of the planet. Doing nothing is a decision. It is a decision which will have dire consequences. Ethanol, solar, and wind will not save us now. It is too late. The United States depends on oil, natural gas, and coal to supply 87% of its energy, with nuclear power providing another 7%. The beloved solar, wind and geothermal sources supply 1.5% of our energy needs. The onset of peak oil will devastate the suburban American way of life.

Source: Perot Charts

The ignored hurricane sized threats that will now morph into a dire Crisis are:

  1. Unsustainable budget deficits leading to a $25 trillion National Debt
  2. $100 trillion of unfunded future Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid liabilities
  3. Peak oil leading to $200 a barrel oil

Marc Faber, famed investor, acknowledges the inevitability of collapse due to the bastardization of our capitalistic system:

"It's a total and complete disaster and the crisis we had is just the appetizer to the big total breakdown of financial markets and of governments in five or 10 years time when the whole system goes bust. The future will be a total disaster, with a collapse of our capitalistic system as we know it today, wars, massive government debt defaults and the impoverishment of large segments of Western society. Unless the system is cleaned out of losses, the way communism collapsed, capitalism will collapse. The best way to deal with any economic problem is to let the market work it through."

Apocalypse or Glory

Those who believe our Crisis has passed need to study the past. It is unlikely that this Crisis comes to a climactic conclusion before 2025. As with the song American Pie, music is currently reflecting the Crisis mood that has engulfed the nation. Match Box Twenty’s How Far We’ve Come and Green Day’s Know Your Enemy reveal a foreboding about the future. A song that has risen up the charts recently captures the essence of the Crisis. The song is Uprising by the group Muse.

The paranoia is in bloom, the PR
The transmissions will resume
They'll try to push drugs
Keep us all dumbed down and hope that
We will never see the truth around
(So come on!)

Another promise, another scene, another
A package not to keep us trapped in greed
With all the green belts wrapped around our minds
And endless red tape to keep the truth confined
(So come on!)

They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious

Interchanging mind control
Come let the revolution take its toll if you could
Flick the switch and open your third eye, you'd see that
We should never be afraid to die
(So come on!)

Rise up and take the power back, it's time that
The fat cats had a heart attack, you know that
Their time is coming to an end
We have to unify and watch our flag ascend

                                            Muse - Uprising

The song captures the fundamental nature of what has occurred in this country. The ruling class, through the public education system; by allowing cheap drugs in the poor communities; by public relations misinformation; and the entertainment media, have been able to withhold the truth from the ignorant masses. The society is consumed by personal wealth and attaining that wealth. Those who attain wealth through any means are admired. “Greed is good” still thrives today. Goldman Sachs is the poster child of greed gone wild. The non-wealthy are left to deal with the endless red tape of getting anything done, from doctor visits, to cell phone billing plans, to 1040 tax returns, and obtaining handouts from the government. The song is a call to revolution. We are tired of being degraded and trivialized by the politicians and fat cat bankers that run this country. There is a growing army of angry citizens who know they are being manipulated and controlled. The time is approaching when violence will be required to take the power back from the fat cats. When people lose everything they have worked their whole lives for, there is nothing left to lose. Once the financial system implodes, government will be helpless to print more worthless currency. The uprising that will occur during this Crisis will be bloody, as those in power will not relinquish control without a fight. The flag of the righteous and unified will ascend. Thinking Americans are what the ruling elite fear most.

 “Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth -- more than ruin -- more even than death.... Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.” - Bertrand Russell

This is the fourth Crisis period in American history. The prior three were the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression/World War II. We’ve experienced two revolutions and one world war that killed 65 million people. There is no way to avoid what awaits us. Like the seasons, we must go through Winter before we can experience Spring again. The only question is what events will transpire to generate the public fury that always occurs during the Crisis era. Will it be a foreign conflict over oil that transforms into a World War? Will it be a nuclear missile exchange in the Middle East? Will it be a nuclear device detonated within the U.S. borders? Or, will it be a domestic civil war due to a total collapse of our economic system? The conflict is likely to be triggered by natural resources or lack thereof. 

“When society approaches the climax of a Crisis, it reaches a point of maximum civic power. Where the new values regime had once justified individual fury, it now justifies public fury. Wars become more likely and are fought with efficiency and finality. The risk of revolution is high – as is the risk of civil war, since the community that commands the greatest loyalty does not necessarily coincide with political (or geographic) boundaries.”  - Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning

We are years from a final resolution. The cast of characters who will decide our fate is unknown today. Barack Obama will not be a major player in the climax of this Crisis. He will go down in history as the James Buchanan or Herbert Hoover figure that only insured that the Crisis would grow bigger and more painful through his actions. The country is likely to turn to an aging Boomer to lead the country through the violent phase of this Crisis. The initial phase of this Crisis has passed, much like the stock market crash in 1929 and the appearance of a recovery in 1930. The “solutions” that have been implemented thus far will drive our deficits skyward, drive the dollar downward, and ultimately push the economy into a depression. The confluence of a deepening depression with the onset of peak oil shortages in supplies and soaring prices between 2010 and 2014 will plunge the country into chaos. As the world loses confidence in the leadership of our country, they will exit our debt and our dollar. The collapse of the U.S. currency could result in a number of calamitous scenarios.

When governments are confronted with dreadful domestic problems and faced with lack of oil supply, a foreign enemy will materialize who just happens to have vast amounts of oil. Since the supply of oil will be just as restricted for China and other Far East countries, there is likely to be armed conflict. Once war begins, no one can predict which direction it will go. If it spirals out of control, nuclear annihilation is a possibility. The collapse of the U.S. dollar would result in millions of Americans being financially wiped out. Millions of angry Americans with no gasoline and no money might get unruly. The possibility of civil war will be high. Will the American military fire on American citizens? The ruling elite will order the military to attack the riff-raff, but they risk the military turning their guns on them. The greatest risk in this scenario is that Americans turn to a strong leader who assumes dictatorial power in the guise of safety and security.

“The Crisis climax is human history’s equivalent to nature’s raging typhoon, the kind that sucks all surrounding matter into a single swirl of ferocious energy. Anything not lashed down goes flying; anything standing in the way gets flattened. Normally occurring late in the Fourth Turning, the climax gathers energy from an accumulation of unmet needs, unpaid bills, and unresolved problems. It then spends that energy on an upheaval whose direction and dimension were beyond comprehension during the prior Unraveling era. The climax shakes a society to its roots, transforms its institutions, redirects its purposes, and marks its people (and its generations) for life. The climax can end in triumph, or tragedy, or some combination of both. Whatever the event and whatever the outcome, a society passes through a great gate of history, fundamentally altering the course of civilization. Soon thereafter, this great gate is sealed by the Crisis resolution, when victors are rewarded and enemies punished; when empires or nations are forged or destroyed; when treaties are signed and boundaries redrawn; and when peace is accepted, troops repatriated, and life begun anew. One large chapter of history ends, and another starts. In a very real sense, one society dies – and another is born.” - Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning

Our current Crisis could end in apocalypse or glory, triumph or tragedy. America has exited every prior Crisis stronger and infused with a new vitality. In each case a strong leader (George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt) guided the country successfully through the Crisis. There are no guarantees that this Crisis will lead to a stronger more vital America. Has the corruption of public officials and their utter contempt for the U.S. Constitution gone so far that we can no longer get back to our founding principles? This is a question that will be answered over the next fifteen years. The American dream can be restored or destroyed forever.


“History offers no guarantees. Obviously, things could go horribly wrong – the possibilities ranging from a nuclear exchange to incurable plagues, from terrorist anarchy to high-tech dictatorship. We should not assume that Providence will always exempt our nation from the irreversible tragedies that have overtaken so many others: not just temporary hardship, but debasement and total ruin. Losing in the next Fourth Turning could mean something incomparably worse. It could mean a lasting defeat from which our national innocence – perhaps even our nation – might never recover.” - Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning

My sole purpose one and a half years ago when I started writing about what I saw happening in this country was to convince enough people that the fiscal and foreign policies of our politician leaders would lead to disaster, so that we could change our path and I could leave my three sons a future brighter than my own. I have come to the conclusion that less than 1% of Americans or 3 million people really care about the path of destruction we are on. Approximately 1% of the population owns 90% of the wealth in the country. The actual number of people in control of the country is quite small. There are maybe a couple thousand people who control the reins of power (100 people in the White House, 535 Congressmen, 50 bankers, 20 people in the Federal Reserve, 9 Supreme Court justices, 100 people in power at governmental agencies, 50 media titans, 100 corporate CEOs, and maybe 200 rich influential people such as Gates, Soros and Buffett).

The majority of Americans are oblivious to the Crisis that has already begun. They are distracted by their latest text message, shopping at the mall, worried about the next credit card bill, engrossed by the adventures of balloon boy, and trusting that their elected officials know what is best for them. What will blind side them is the depth and ferocity of the next stage in the Crisis. They will need to choose sides when the time comes. I will choose the side of truth, freedom, liberty, and adherence to the U.S. Constitution as it was written. This old man will join his three sons at the barricades when the time comes. The fools and fanatics who run this country are certain. I am not certain of the final outcome, but I know which side I’ll choose. Do you?

Join me at to discuss truth and the future of our country.

By James Quinn

James Quinn is a senior director of strategic planning for a major university. James has held financial positions with a retailer, homebuilder and university in his 22-year career. Those positions included treasurer, controller, and head of strategic planning. He is married with three boys and is writing these articles because he cares about their future. He earned a BS in accounting from Drexel University and an MBA from Villanova University. He is a certified public accountant and a certified cash manager.

These articles reflect the personal views of James Quinn. They do not necessarily represent the views of his employer, and are not sponsored or endorsed by his employer.

© 2009 Copyright James Quinn - All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

James Quinn Archive

© 2005-2022 - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


22 Oct 09, 00:45
keep writing

Excellent read. You captured the feeling and belief of where, how, and why...

22 Oct 09, 14:06
there's still reason to remain optimistic

Although I agree that there are three huge problems facing the United States - out-of-hand public and private debt ; climate change ; oil addiction and terrorism - I doubt that we're going through anything like a Millennial Crisis.

What you haven't taken into consideration is that strong and long-lasting economic growth can relativize a high debt burden. In 1950 for instance, gross national debt accounted for roughly 94% of GDP. Between 1950 and 1980, the total amount of national debt tripled, but in 1980, national debt only accounted for 33.3% of GDP.

Inflation and economic growth can bring debt back to a managable level. And with the the green energy revolution ahead, it is likely that the U.S. economy can grow again at rates which increase prosperity and ensure stability.

for more info, check out this blog post:

"things look pretty bad, don’t they? yet there’s reason to be optimistic" at

25 Oct 09, 15:14
more debt does help debt

you really seem to have a poor understanding of Keynesian economics... the same thing that got us out of the great depression. more debt does help debt.

Alex Philipose
30 Nov 09, 20:14
national debt

I know this has nothing to do with illinois, but I am sending you this just to let you know.

Congress passed an act in 1961 which allows people to donate to the bureau of national debt. You can donate any amount of money to them.

Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in