Chris Wilson at Slate Magazine has put together a beautiful animated map which depicts the economic crisis. Where jobs are gained, he puts a blue dot, and a red one where they’re lost. The bigger the dot, the bigger the loss. The animation runs month-by month, and by the end of the three years (the present), it looks like America has been bombed from space.

How many of these job losses hit people with dependants? How many cut off benefits to a family? And how many of these people will ever be able to get jobs like these again. This isn’t just about boom-and-bust economic cycles, the fabric of our Continent’s economy is changing before our eyes. Manufacturing is disappearing, big industries are consolidating and major resources like oil and fish are vanishing.

What this most recent global meltdown shows is a “perfect storm” where all the factors lined up. It wasn’t just mischievous bankers. It was a world system which has been stretched to the breaking point. And it isn’t over. We may have put seven trillion dollars worth of duct tape on it. Not only did this piss away any savings we might have had, but it only made the basic problem – trillions in bad loans – worse. And it isn’t just money – in real economic situations – production, fishing or farming, one can often pull a lot of money out in the short term by making awful decisions in the long run (like not spending money repairing them), and live-or-die recession situations bring that out. Notice how quickly renewables spending started to dry up when auto companies needed bailing out?

Ten years from now there will be far less oil left. There will be less farmland, less trees, less fish, less ores and coal veins, much less fresh water and far more people. National debts, bolstered by the bailout, will be far more taxing on every dollar we spend. Whether the next “bubble” will “burst” because of high fuel costs, risky investing or the high cost of responding to natural and industrial disasters, it cannot be far off. If there’s one thing that went through my head while visiting New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, it’s that there’s no way even America’s economy could take that kind of damage more than a handful of times. It isn’t just the cost of responding, or even the repair bill. It’s the fact that the economic systems which support such things have been levelled. To quote one guy on the Greyhound Bus going through Biloxi, “I haven’t seen anything like this since Vietnam”.

Like Katrina, and like the last recession, the worst of this will fall on ordinary people.

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