This past Saturday we enjoyed the second night of the Fireworks competition from yet a new vantage point, my friend and fellow blogger MJ’s condo in Yaletown. With our view from the 30th floor, it had to be the highest elevation from which we’ve ever seen the show. (Pam and I have been lucky enough to have seen it from 4 different locations over the last 3 years). This year was marked by plenty of talk and munchies, as well as Tanya (NetChick) and I both trying to snap pictures of the plumes with our iPhones. Best of all, we managed to post them on FaceBook just about as fast as we snapped them. Nerd paradise.
The fireworks this evening of the competition the USA’s entry (last Wednesday had been Canada’s). Normally, the phrase ‘Americans shooting rockets over Vancouver’s English Bay’ is not what anyone here wants to hear, but in this case, I guess it was OK.
Were We Rats Fleeing a Sinking Ship?
While we’ve been observing the third anniversary of having moved here, at the party, appropriately enough, I got to speak to an American couple who had just made the move here. In fact, they had just arrived a week or so ago, roughly in the same state of confusion and excitement as we had in 2005 (MJ is helping them to find a permanent place to live). The main differences between them and us is that they are moving from San Francisco (vs. our Boston), and our timing was, we all agreed, a lot better. In the last 3 years, the US Real Estate market, the US Stock Market and the US Dollar have all fallen markedly in value, leaving Pam and me in much better shape than the couple who unfortunately didn’t have the nerve to move earlier. They even had a place picked out, and just didn’t move on it.
As we compared notes, the topic of why we left came up. While it was true that in 2005, we couldn’t stand the direction the country was going (and note that we felt that way before the Torture, Illegal Wiretapping and other scandals became public knowledge). Despite all that romantic stuff about voting with your feet, the most concrete disaster that loomed on the horizon for us was the US Public Debt. During the Clinton era (our 8‑year nightmare of peace and prosperity), the US Government actually ran a budget surplus, erasing the deficits created by the Reagan/Bush I years, opening up the possibility of paying down the National Debt. Then along came WPIUSH, and an all-too-brief period of fiscal responsibility was quickly reversed. So, the real reason that we decided to leave the US was that we were concerned that the country was going down the drain fiscally.
Yes, it’s easy to see where most of it went (the war in Iraq, for one thing, along with the tax cuts for the top 2% richest Americans, as well as a multitude of funding and oversight debacles, some that have yet to see the light of day). Today, the situation isn’t getting any better. In fact, it’s getting even worse now than it was 14 years ago, when the Federal Deficit (and Debt) first appeared on our radar, according to Reuters:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Bush administration on Monday projected the U.S. budget deficit will soar to a record of nearly half a trillion dollars in fiscal 2009 as a housing-led economic slowdown cuts into government revenues.
The economic and fiscal deterioration will complicate efforts to bring the budget to balance and pose challenges for whoever takes over the White House in January, either Republican Sen. John McCain or Democratic Sen. Barack Obama.
“I believe whoever becomes the next president will have a very, very sobering first week in office,” predicted Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat.
Reacting to the White House’s new prediction that the budget deficit will hit $482 billion in the fiscal year that starts October 1, Conrad said that number easily could rise by an additional $80 billion when the full costs of the Iraq war are tallied next year.
The economy has been hobbled by the housing market collapse and soaring food and energy prices. In February, the Democratic-controlled Congress and President George W. Bush approved a $168 billion, two-year stimulus plan to ward off recession.
With the slowing economy and the cost of the economic stimulus plan, the White House said it thinks the deficit will hit a record $482 billion in fiscal 2009. However, it cut its forecast for the current fiscal year to $389 billion.
Even if we ignore where the money went or is even going now, the problem (the Debt) is still out there, like a ticking time bomb. Just as there were foreclosures on bad mortgage loans throughout the US, there will come a day when someone has to come up with a way of paying that debt. When will that day come? I’m not sure, but I can pretty much count on it being within the next 20 years, and the further out the US Government can push it out, the better for whoever is in power. Whether the President in that era is Barack Obama, Chelsea Clinton or perhaps one of the Bush Twins, there will come a day when the US Debt reaches some sort of a breaking point. What effect this will have is also hard to guess, but I can’t imagine a scenario where it will be a good thing. More than likely, the quality of life in the US will suffer, as it has suffered during the past eight years. People will work harder with less time for themselves for less pay, and under poorer working conditions. Decent Medical care will be harder to get and also be more expensive (again), Average Life Expectancy will get shorter (again), and daily life in general will get more brutal, violent, unfair and unpleasant, particularly if you are not very rich. There’s a good possibility that this event (call it a crash, a correction, a default, or whatever you like) will come at a time when Pam and I might wish to be retired and living on a fixed income, perhaps including some sort of a Government Pension. You can bet that those will get hit. Rather than end up poor and living in a country filing for bankruptcy (or something worse), we opted for a country that looked to be more solvent in the coming 20 years, at least.
So, once again, if this latest news (which came as little surprise) my instincts about where we went, and when we went have remained on track. I hope my good sense (and perhaps luck) holds. After all, part of ‘good fortune’ is being in the right place at the right time