I am writing this from Chicago, a fine example of an international city with small town centers in every neighborhood. It is a very livable city. A metro-area where a car is not needed. One can do most of their daily shopping needs by just going around the corner, on foot, to buy their daily items. The city and the surrounding immediate suburbs, which one might call the first tier development around the city, often has such independently owned shops.
Cruising around on my bicycle, I found many empty storefronts, and the home listings in the neighborhood publications appear to show homes priced 10-20% lower than a year ago.
Currently, I am sitting in a Starbucks located on a busy street surrounded by small shops, and restaurants serving the needs of the neighborhood with a feeder population I estimate to be around several thousand people. Such a shopping area shares its feeder group with other shopping areas, as well.
I believe that in many ways there is enough income to allow these businesses to survive. As one drives several miles west, where the second and third tier suburban sprawl is located, this residential tier expansion continues for 30 plus miles. The further one goes, the more one needs a car to meet their shopping needs and find big-box chain stores that the urban dwellers also patronize. I might add that there are chain stores within center city and the first tier residential expansion, as well.
Most of America is not so fortunate to live in such a convenient city. One major drawback is the outrageously high cost of housing. A two bedroom, wood sided, bungalow with tiny rooms most likely in need of repair or remodeling, a small backyard and single garage, if that, costs around $400,000!
Many of these same people earn higher salaries than those in Pittsburgh, but their monthly expenditures are likely to be higher. One thing we all have in common is the damage this economic crisis is doing to us all.
In my discussions with Chicagoans, they all stated that they are reducing their consumer spending. They are all finding it hard to pay their bills. Some are considering a part-time job, or finding a way to supplement their current incomes. Some have taken on a housemate, while others have cut way back on their weekend social and entertainment spending. Others, who may have had someone cut their lawns, are considering doing that job on their own. So many have been feeling that they are doing more work, and spending more hours for the job. They are feeling that much of their own personal time is now being spent doing work for their jobs. Restaurants are seeing fewer customers. Shops are seeing fewer sales. The consumer has reduced their spending.
The Federal Reserve reported households lost $51T, or 9% of their wealth just in the last 3 months of 2008. Over that entire year, household wealth dropped $11T, or approximately 18%. This did not include stock market investment losses! This was just household wealth.
The United States has been borrowing $2B per day over the last 10 years, much of it from China, to fuel our consumer and homeownership expansion.
Now the expansion has shifted to bank bailouts. Bloomberg News stated the government has authorized the Federal Reserve to either lend or actually commit $12.8T to the various Wall Street bank bailout programs following the decades of new home construction expansion and resale of homes.
Another common point the big city of Chicago has with smaller populated centers is that working America has seen a $50T loss of personal wealth. “The gap of lost wealth, $30.9 trillion, is approximately the combined annual Gross Domestic Product of the US, Western Europe, and Japan…Family net worth hit a record high of $64.36 trillion in 2nd quarter of 2007. By 4th quarter 2008, it fell to $51.48 trillion, a loss of $12.88 trillion”, as was reported by the economist Henry Liu. [Michael Whitney, Bernanke’s Financial Rescue Plan].
Working Americans no matter if they have a $400,000 home in a highly inflated market, such as Chicago, or a $50,000 home in a reasonably priced market have seen their personal and home wealth evaporate in less than 2 years. It is estimated that the 2009 foreclosures to be 2.1 million, or 400,000 more that in 2008. These statistics may translate into real problems even for the prosperous metro-Chicago area.
What may also affect job retention is the fall of industrial production, which dropped at an annual rate of 20%. GE saw a decline in profits. This decline indicates that consumers have slowed in their purchases of appliances, and this bellweather American company may be seeing shrinkage with across-the-board sales.
“Since 2007, industrial production is down 13.3%. Capacity utilization rate for total industry fell further to 69.3%, a historical low for this series, which begins in 1967 (Federal Reserve). The persistent fall in housing prices (30%) and losses in home equity only add to deflationary pressures.” [Michael Whitney, The Foundations of Our Economy are Strong-A Bulletin From the Captain of the Titanic.]
There does not seem to any real “Change That We Can Believe In” in the rescue of the working American.
On a different subject that has been brought to the nation’s attention this week, which I found in the article “US Water Contamination By Pharmaceutical Companies, Hospitals, Consumers”, by Donn, Mendoza, Pritchard, is frightening. We are being poisoned by big WMD-Pharmatoxins. Mr. Obama needs to grab hold of this national security crisis immediately.
271 million pounds of industrial chemicals released into rivers, lakes and other bodies of water comes from drugmakers. This includes antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones have reached the drinking water glasses of, at least, 51 million Americans. This article stated that most cities and water suppliers still do not test.
Also written was that two common industrial chemicals that are also pharmaceuticals-the antiseptics phenol and hydrogen peroxide- account for 92% of the 271 pounds identified. There are 8 million pounds of skin bleaching cream hydroquinone, 3 million pounds of nicotine compounds that can be used in quit-smoking patches, 10,000 pounds of antibiotic tetracycline hydrochloride, plus chemicals used to treat lice and worms.
Landfills leach pharmatoxins, too. Chemo-agent fluorouracil, epilepsy medicine-phenytoin and the sedative pentobarbital sodium and disposed of. 572 million pounds of buried drugs have been disposed of since 1988.
In Columbus, Ohio, drug maker Boehringer Ingelheim Roxane Inc. discharged an estimated 2,285 pounds of lithium carbonate into the wastewater treatment plant between 1995-2006.
Also, codeine, rat poison, pesticides are discharged into the water supply. In addition, the flushing of unused drugs is a problem. The article stated that it is commonly believed the majority of the chemicals discharged into the water supply came from humans and animal excretion. [End summarization.]
What we have is a national health crisis. Is there any reason why the immune systems of Americans are compromised unnecessarily?
thanks for reading, jerry