You are prepared for the worst of times, now, or you will find yourself in a rush over the next 2 months to get prepared.
I've gone over the basics before and it comes down to survival level preparation, not the 'do I have a few days of food around the house?' sort of preparation, although that is a necessary precondition it is not sufficient to longer-term survival. This longer-term stuff deals with preparation of food, water, fuel, sanitary supplies, medicines, weapons, ammunition, and necessary rugged clothing to get through the worst your local climate can hand you. I am in the last stages of energy preparation and getting in efficient refrigerator and freezer space to run off of solar units. I am lacking in one or two 'nice to have' things (an end of civilization vehicle capable of getting through an EMP) but otherwise will be set for whatever the future brings in one month.
That is worst case scenario planning.
I will not go into a 'best case' scenario, but the moderate road to the long slog out of our dire circumstances is finally appearing. It will be a long slog, make no mistake about it, and there will be a change in our short-term outlook due to necessity at the National, State, local and personal level. The National level is the easiest to encompass and has the most number of 'knowns' to it, which means that examination of probabilities are based on where we are at, what we know of the situations involved, and what can be done to ameliorate them. What won't be happening on a fast scale, although over 20 years it is a more than faint possibility, is a federal government 'reset button' being hit to make each and every department and each and every law with its regulations tie directly back to the US Constitution. Getting back to Constitutionally limited government is a goal, not a destination, in that it can never be fully reached, there will always be more to cut and there will be constant vigilance necessary to stop backsliding. With that said, the easy stuff is also the 'hard stuff' to enumerate.
- Social spending – This is Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (M&Ms), welfare (under multiple programs), unemployment benefits, and any other program that is meant to redistribute wealth from taxpayers to the poor, needy and those who generally don't pay income tax. Yeah, they pay FICA, so? It is a tax, not necessarily income tax (although the distinction is fine) and the program it funds is in the red and will go completely insolvent in the near future. That is true of all the 'entitlements' that no one is actually entitled to, and they are all taxing and spending programs when all the feel good veneer is rubbed away. The worst are the M&Ms as they have been one of the prime causes for raising the cost of medical care through the 'help' of government being unwilling to pay the full cost of care for those in the programs thus raising the price for everyone else. Add in the subsidization of medical 'insurance' via the tax code, and no one knows exactly what medical care costs any longer as no one is willing to pay an unburdened price for it and the burdened cost is already built into the system.
Solutions to social spending are various, but they all include keeping those 'in the system' in it, and restructuring to abolishing the rest of the system. One of the reasons I caution to get stocked up months or a year in advance of necessary, daily medical supplies is that something is going to have to give and you don't know what will come out the other side. Moving to a user-choice based system is necessary and mandatory as the various governments have demonstrated a stark incapacity in actually knowing what they are doing in the health care arena. You own your body, and caring for it is your problem, and as your property that keeps you tied to this world you might want to stop letting other people decide your fate for you. When government controls your health care in any way, shape or form, it controls you. Retirement is something that you must consider for yourself, sans government, so that no matter what government tells you that you must do, you are prepared to thumb your nose and say to it 'go away, my life is my own'. The idea of retirement may come to be obsolete within two decades if, and only if, we survive past this time of trouble. That is a ray of hope, for those of you looking, and it goes beyond retirement to medicine, more on that in a bit.
- Industry, energy, natural resource utilization – Federal restrictions based on feel-good ideals and bad science are leading to a catastrophe in the US for energy use. That for a Nation that just might have the greatest reserves of coal, natural gas and, yes, oil on the planet. A cynic in the 1980's pointed out that we are exhausting the rest of the world's supply, first, so that ours will be the only one left once the rest of the world can no longer get to the easy stuff. There is a glimmer of truth in that, sad to say, but never has it been taken to such immediately destructive ends as we are in today. Basically the idea that the federal government has purview over these areas of the economy flies in the face of limited government power distribution, in which the States and the people get those things that are few we hand to the federal government. Regulation, politics at the National level, and a religious fervor based on junk science and bad faith are now putting the US in extreme peril of a catastrophic energy increase.
The basics of getting out are clear and simple: hand these things back to the States and those few cross-State concerns that do not tread upon federal domains can be worked on by the States in the plural. Federalism is the number one answer to these and many other problems, and by shifting the scale to the more local States there is an overhead burden removed from it as local economics will dictate results. Did it take an EPA to clean up the Cuyahoga River? Yes. The Ohio EPA did that, and beat the federal government by years by seeing this as a problem long before the leftist song singers arrived as that burning of the river had been a frequent event. A pro-active State government utilized its powers (which are many) to deal with a problem tailored to local conditions. Worked, too. The States have demonstrated that for off-shore oil exploration that their record is superb for near coastal waters and stringent as well. Perhaps they can apply that to 'economic zone' waters off their coasts as well, and tailor local solutions and enforcement to their needs. Alaska doesn't have the same problems as Louisiana or Florida, so why have the same straight-jacket of regulations applied there or anywhere? The States can serve as a hotbed on getting their lands back by asking the federal government, per parcel, to show where the State legislature actually allowed the federal government to hold that land. Or, in a lovely twist, just declare 'eminent domain' on those lands and take them out of federal control. As on land, private drilling is now yielding great returns on investment, perhaps it is time for the States to remember that they OWN that land and that grants to the federal government can be rescinded.
- The weeds of regulation – There are numerous departments and agencies within the federal government that have little useful purpose. Energy, Education, Labor, HUD, choice parts of Interior... plus quasi-government organizations that do things out of the reach of Congress like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Sallie Mae, Ginnie Mac, Federal Reserve. When the Federal Reserve tells Congress it won't print money to cover new debt, and then prints money to cover new debt, you have a purely rogue institution that is opaque to outside scrutiny dictating the health of the economy to the citizens. These and a host of other organizations for the Arts, Humanities, and other educational venues all need to be cut, the quasi-governmental agencies turned into stock based companies and the Federal Reserve slowly relieved of its power of diluting the dollar.
Some of these can come quickly, just by cutting cash off to them in the budgetary cycle. Others, like the Federal Reserve, that have proved to be openly hostile to the American public and our currency, need to be ground down and if not out of existence all together then given competition by establishing other banks to take over similar duties and making them all accountable to stock and bond holders that must be US citizens. Removing the power of government to put quasi-governmental agencies in charge of home mortgages is a long-term losing proposition and a drain on the federal budget. So must student loans. And the entire subsidy system that increases the cost of food to line the pockets of large agricultural concerns. The States can regulate agriculture and screw it up small scale so the Nation is not put at peril by our own government at the large scale.
These are moderate and intermediate transfers and changes that must happen for the Nation to survive and it involves the disentanglement of the US federal government from assumed powers and puts it back on the course of having to do its few duties. That is a goal, not a destination.
In the very short term, there is the distinct and growing possibility that the current regime in DC will not get re-elected. They will try, of course, via voter fraud and through compliant Secretaries of State or whichever State level official is in charge of counting the ballots, but if it isn't close, the cheating disappears as a factor. All is not sweetness and light thereafter, however, although minimal and bare prospects do improve.
There may be a wholesale repudiation of the policies of the last four years (Rep. King from IA, I believe it is, has put a bill like that forward this session and one might expect the same in early JAN 2013). Even that as a GIVEN the problems of the M&Ms, SSA, and federal intrusion into the loan and banking industry IS STILL THERE. It is a problem, a major problem, and a structural problem that requires removing, altering or swapping out large parts of the structure set up by the federal government. The nausea of Fannie, Freddie, Ginnie and their friends at HUD and the Federal Reserve may, finally, put in place something to get these groups disassociated, abolished or made into stock held companies by US citizens and put the federal treasury beyond their reach for good and all. That is EASY compared to the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth over the M&Ms, SSA and 'entitlements', and yet they, too, must be altered, changed and parts of them abolished as well. Be prepared to put in good people in 2014 to continue the work, and then in 2016 because it won't even have really started by then. This easy stuff, whacking the weeds out of the way and getting entire departments abolished or turned into temporary block grant accounting groups is easy in comparison.
All of this happens against the slowly building backdrop of One Step Out.
I expect radical Islam to come to power and consolidate and then begin bickering with each other almost endlessly: it is what Caliphates do until they become decadent and collapse.
China has a dustbowl, a demographics collapse, inflation, jobs fleeing to places like Vietnam, a crony banking and industrial system that makes our problems look tiny in comparison... that won't last as it can't go on forever and it can't even go on much longer. Islam in the far west provinces, Maoism returning just a bit closer and a tiny town able to bring the government to its terms all point to a major set of problems in China. In a century it may not look anything like modern China in size or scope, although it may be able to keep more coastal ethnic enclaves together.
Japan is at the point of either removing most of its government or disappearing as a people and Nation. Simple survival choices over the next few years.
India grew fast, economically, but without depth to it and now the faltering steps forward are seeing great problems, internally.
A wheat rust has spread from Africa to the Middle East and now is heading into central Asia which is bad news for all involved. Russia still has a demographic problem, an Islamic problem, multiple ethnic problems, organized crime as part of the government, and still suffers from lack of infrastructure advancement.
Europe is on the ropes and poverty is about to return there. Unilever, the large corporation, is now marketing to Greece as it does to places like Indonesia with individual packets of shampoo and a new meal in single serve packs of potato and mayonnaise. This is where Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France are headed, as well. Germany is chucking the 'Green' stuff to build 23 new coal fired power plants as it can't depend on foreign sources of energy and solar power just isn't all that dependable.
The good news?
First, modern medicine is joining the nanotech revolution. Just like biotech, before it, that means new drugs, new cures, a lower long-term cost, and an extended life span. Really, if you can lead a healthy and vigorous life up to, say, 100 years old, then why should anyone think about 'retirement' in their 60's? Or 70's? Or 80's? Or 90's? Do you see where this is headed? This is about the demographics of ageing and how it has changed over the 20th century. Ray Kurzweil pointed this out in the 1990's, I think it was, and that the rate of adding 1 year to life span had been decreasing throughout the 20th century going from nearly 10 years to 4 years at the end of it. Which is to say that for every 4 years you age, you get an added on average 1 year of life expectancy (not a guarantee by any sort, but it is demographics and averages). This was an accelerating trend throughout the 20th century starting with good public sanitation, boosted by antibiotics and mass immunization, and then going after some of the harder diseases that were ending lives early. Nanotech and new approaches to bacteria and viruses, plus the full working of the human genome and its part in chronic diseases now show the promise of eradicating things like cancer, influenza and, possibly, even ageing itself. When life expectancy goes up 1 year for each 1 year you live, you essentially have a lifespan limited to one where accidents becomes a major killer (not septicemia or heart disease).
To get to there from here requires a hard disentangling of government control over medicine. Want a brighter, longer lived and healthier, plus lower medical cost future? Get government out of it.
Want to see M&Ms, SSA and a number of other programs in serious trouble because they are horse and buggy style laws in the equivalent of the jet age, then continue asking the current set of questions and not look towards our future. If you mortgage that future, now, you are dooming billions to early death, disease, and continued misery. As I said earlier, surviving the next 20 years generally intact is a major concern. Prepare. Now.
- Final Frontier – Forget the oceans, although they will serve as a source of lovely raw materials for stuff on Earth for at least a century. The next great bonanza is in space, and we aren't talking automated probes, either. There are now a number of players stepping in to the one policy that Obama has that I can endorse: get the federal government out of providing space transport. It was meant to HURT the US, yes, but it is, instead, making NASA a mere contract agency to get stuff into space from the private sector. The current crop of companies are start-ups and now competing to get material, supplies and people to the ISS. These start-ups are relatively low-key and using relatively old technology that is on a slow trend towards moving the cost per pound to orbit down. It gets economical at about $1,000/lb. and that is very doable with old technology. To get the next quantum leap down ($100/lb.) will also require old technology but with new materials to get stuff to the edge of the atmosphere and then go on from there. At that cost point getting an individual, with space suit, consumables, etc. drops from the cost of a new house to that of a new car. There is already a consortium of computer age billionaires (the tech boom moguls) who are starting to invest in getting to space in a big way as they see industry being cheaper and easier in space than on Earth. Pull one good sized asteroid into orbit and you have more gold, platinum, and other precious metals than are currently in the global economy... and it is all accessible. Lunar material offers the same sort of promise. Both have the building blocks of industry in silica, iron, copper, tin...
Want to pay off the US debt? Asteroid in orbit does that in short order. Be nice if we had a country worth being in that rewarded such stuff, huh?
- Sidelined Cash – To survive the Quantative Easings by the Federal Reserve a lot of investor money has sat out the Obama years. The last time the Federal Reserve acted like this, it had to jack interest rates up to 20% for a couple of years to get that money out of the system. Any investor who sees the regulatory lid taken off of the investing and wealth producing class, you know the people who create jobs, will have an opportunity to invest in the recovery. That can be done directly, through investing in start-ups (space, nanotech, medical) or through the expedient of becoming a private lender without the overhead of public lending institutions. These are contracts and if making less than the Federal Reserve rate looks half-way decent, it also means getting some of that cash that is headed towards destruction into your pockets for further investment elsewhere.
Tech cash is one place that will be the source of this, as well as a few other places like the energy sector (where a lot of cash will be flowing into it). An entire energy production, refining and transportation industry for fuels and even electricity will create a boom in the economy. Some of that will go into other venues (space transport, infrastructure construction) that offer a good amount through doing nothing more than just lending money becoming a bondholder in most cases when its not a direct loan. A strange time when the Federal Reserve is trying to get money out of the economy and private investors are trying to get it into the economy.
- Rise of the new education paradigm – The current educational system, designed in the 13th century, is about to come to an end. The Khan Academy, free online content from Universities, and the idea that education goes beyond learning the basics but that you do have to learn the basics, means that our world moves out of the brick and mortar buildings and putting children into holding pens to be lectured, to something that becomes interactive, self-paced and unlimited. And cheap. You can't afford an education with the overhead of the old system, but the new system means that you will no longer be tied to a place for your education, but wanting to learn as something you do. If your lifespan goes on way past 80 and you are still active and fit, then why not? You will also change careers multiple times or see the idea of a 'career' disappear completely.
This fundamentally alters what we call 'poverty' as only the very least capable of people will be those unable to apply themselves to leading a good life: the permanently infirm, those bereft of mental faculties, and not much else. Depending on just how long fertility is extended, the idea of 'prime childbearing years' and a 'biological clock' disappear entirely. If you are getting the idea that simple changes in our understanding of biology, technology and its availability changes our perspective on government and its actual necessity, then you are catching on. The programs, governmental organizations, taxes and all else that became part of the 'safety net' of the mid-20th century are dependent upon a set of circumstances that are about to be altered in ways that are beyond easy comprehension, but the possibility of you living to see those days are very, very good.
If you survive the next few years.
This is a fight for freedom, liberty and the unleashing of the human capability for the good of oneself and all mankind. Socialism, that closed border system of limited capability and resources, isn't the future of mankind and the socialistic and progressive ideals are ones that depend on scarcity and rationing for very limited lives. When your life gets longer, the ideals fall apart as they are 'overtaken by events', or OBE. That old system that was built on good feelings and feel good because you foisted caring for others onto government is about to be OBE. The crashing of economies that will happen, the grasp for temporal power is coming straight up against human liberty and freedom where the utilization of your positive liberties will make the last century's stupidity something that we will only scratch our heads about in 50 years. If you are able to spend any time for that doing your new job in orbit, on the moon or in space, or even just down the hall but teaching about the world and skills necessary on a global and perhaps solar system basis. Thomas Jefferson thought that the US would expand to the west was, perhaps, something that would be done in hundreds of years, not decades. Once the pressure valve to get away from asinine and misguided government is opened, just how large will the flood to the future be?
I have no idea. All you have to do is keep the course, remind everyone including the politicians that your liberty is supreme in your life and that you give very, very few things for government to do and that government is now in the way of the good of yourself and your fellow man. There is a lot to do in these years, a lot of heartache, a lot of battles, a lot of screaming, and yelling and denial of what is coming because it looks like nothing we have ever seen before. I welcome that future and the work involved.