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Mostly, they just sit.despair1

My five bikes, my classic muscle car.

I used to ride (and drive) them often. Did projects – upgrades, improvements. These days I do my best to keep them in operational condition. Basic maintenance. Roll them around the garage once a month to keep from flat-spotting the tires. Start each one and let it run for 15 minutes to keep the carbs from getting gunked up, keep the workings from seizing up.

That’s pretty much it.

Because I find I no longer have two things I once did. Money – and time.

The two are of course yin – and yang.

Having money buys you time. And when you’ve got no money, you no longer have time for things like classic muscle cars and motorcycles. All your time is devoted to figuring out how to earn the money you need in order to have the time for classic cars and motorcycles. This leaves you in a state of perpetual exhaustion and demoralization.

And so, The Stuff just sits.

It’s not just me, either. Everyone I know is exhausted and demoralized. Those who have jobs worry that they won’t have them next week.  We’re working twice as much for two-thirds the money. A perpetual hamster wheel that spins ever-faster without getting us anywhere. This is just as true for the Serious Professions as it is for freaks like me who (once upon a time) made a living via our writing. I know a doctor. He is “successful” in that he has plenty of work. But he also is short on money – and time. Or time – and money. The guy works all the time. And thus, has nil free time. And the money? On paper, he pulls in a lot. But what he ends up with is a shockingly picayune proportion of the total. After paying the fraus (the ladies who handle the insurance paperwork at the desk) and then insurance (liability/malpractice) and taxes and rent on his place… there’s not much left for classic cars or motorcycles, and forget about the time to play with them if he had them.

What happened to the American Dream?

George Carlin – the great comedian – called it a dream because you had to be asleep to believe it. But it wasn’t as bad as all that – and not too long ago.

It is now.

The country is sliding Soviet slowly.  Stalin physically exterminated the Russian middle class. The American middle class is not being physically exterminated, just incrementally diminished in a gradual process of grinding away that will result, one day, in the same thing – without the mass graves. It’s brilliant because it’s subtle – the slow-boiling frog analogy comes to mind. By the time he realizes the water’s getting uncomfortably warm, he’s already cooked.

Too late for you, guy.

Since – for many of us – earning more just to keep up is proving to be an impossible task, the only remaining option seems to be scaling down. Less stuff equals less need for money equals more time.

Maybe.

I’ve been following this thing called the “tiny house” movement. It’s the fighting retreat of the (former) American middle class. Ditch the big house – and big mortage. The big taxes. And, yes, the big garage. No more space for classic cars and a half-dozen motorcycles. But, breathing space. Time – and perhaps even money. (See here for more about the “tiny house” movement).

Life, after all, is short. And for most of us, the best part is the part we spend riding the hamster wheel, chasing the ever-elusive treat that we never seem able to reach, until one day our legs or our hearts finally give out and we realize it’s too late and we’re too old.

Game over.

There’s got to be some kind of way out here, said the joker to the thief… 

There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief…. 

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20 COMMENTS

  1. In the future the best way to live is going to be to live like youre grand parents or great grandparents did,

    in a small, paid for house, on a few acres, with no visible income for the govt to steal in taxes.

    in a climate where you dont need A/C so your electric bill would be minimal,
    and with a garden and some fruit trees and some rabbits, chickens and a couple hogs to provide dinner.

    • I think so, Justin –

      But, even then, they absolutely will not stop – ever (apologies to Terminator).

      Rant themed along these lines is in the hopper…

    • Please excuse me while I get a little old-man pissed-off here, but have we Americans become such wimpy serfs that we just shrug & say OK, I will just live in a little box with my TV, bicycle to work, and hope the paid helpers don’t bother me? All because our socialist mind-master-leaders threaten us with some overcrowded jail and IRS thug behavior if we don’t give them 2/3 + of our money? OK, rant over.

      • …It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’…

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGiX5tbLKiY

        now everybody stick your head out & yell. scripto-presto….

  2. Great comments, Eric. We, the formerly middle class, are being taken out, slowly but surely. The global leveling is underway now, and, before long, there will be two classes, the uber-wealthy, and the totally dependent and controlled.
    If you haven’t, read Tom Baugh’s Starve the Monkeys. See his website and read up. He has as good a handle on it as you do, and offers some grist you may not yet have ground.
    Grind finely, my friend!

  3. Even downsizing won’t keep you out of Big Brother’s evil clutches; we’ve lived in our now paid off house for over 40 years, but property taxes seem to increase every year despite my (retirement) income never going up. Our monthly tax payment is about equal to the mortgage, insurance, and tax payment combined when we first bought this house. The prop. tax payment is about half of my yearly Social (in)Security checks, which are also taxed by Uncle because I’m fortunate to have a decent pension. Nothing like being taxed twice on the same income; on a related note why are the PTB always whining about SS running out of money, yet I never hear anything about Welfare running short?
    My goal now is to join Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” who get more from Uncle than he takes and try to bankrupt the rat bastard befor I die.

    • Ditto that, Mike –

      “The schools” and “the children” are the constant bleat in my county – hear either and hold onto your wallet.

      It is literally impossible to work, buy a piece of land – and be left the hell alone.

  4. This is all happening exactly as planned. The central planners look at your paycheck and decide you make too much money compared to the Chinese or other 3rd world countries. They also realize that your employer isn’t going to be your employer for very long if he tells you you’re taking a pay cut next year so he can remain competitive. Instead, he turns to the government, with their printing press and “economic theory” that is designed to keep you poor and in debt, and asks them to inflate the currency. The government is happy to oblige, since they have all these bills they have to pay and can’t, so they just print their way out of it.

    The problem is when people realize the currency is being debased they demand COLAs and other adjustments to keep up. But the government figured this one out too, and they somehow managed to calculate inflation by using products no one buys as the benchmark. So that burger and fries you bought 5 years ago for $6.00 is now $10, but because food doesn’t count in the inflation calculation, there’s no inflation. Simple, right? Meanwhile, our “value” is getting dangerously close to third world wages, especially in manufacturing and service industries. Watch the news for companies “bringing factories home” and you’ll notice the trend has been increasing over the past 2-4 years and will only continue, because employees are getting cheap. It’s not just robots.

    We recently bought a new vacuum cleaner. We did a little research and figured with the wear and tear our carpets are subjected to we should buy a quality unit. At first I was a little put off by the cost of the high end cleaners, but then I did a quick search for the cast-iron Hoover my parents had when I was a kid. I found an ad for the exact model they have for $99, in 1965. In today’s money that’s over $700! The vacuum cleaner we bought would have cost $54 in 1965 dollars, and even though it’s fairly good, it is a far cry from the big Hoover mom and dad bought before I was born.

    The currency debasement screws up more than wages and purchasing power. If a business isn’t carefully watching prices and inflation they will find themselves losing money no matter how good sales are. It encourages cost cutting just to keep up, and quality ultimately suffers. The idea of making products cheaper out of cheaper parts means they won’t last as long as they should. That Hoover my parents bought is still working after 49 years. I seriously doubt I’ll get that much time out of the new vacuum.

    I know I’m preaching to the choir, but the answer is to get back to a metallic currency. Gold and silver keep the politicians in line, and over time will allow you to keep more of what you earn instead of watching your savings erode away. I’m not talking about investing in gold and silver, that’s prudent but subject to the whims of the markets (which could be destroyed at any time if the central banks liquidate their holdings), but a real live currency made of gold/silver/etc. Yes, there will be silver and gold certificates, just like it used to be, but if you want to buy a car with a bag of gold you should be able to do so.

  5. This thread is making it REALLY hard to scrimp together some money and commit it towards the purchase of a bike.
    In fact, I keep imagining all the cool garage sales you guys would have, and that i should maybe be having, too. You know,… before the bottom drops out.

    Especially in light of all that ‘Tiny House talk’ you guys have been typing. Whoa, is that ever enticing. … Just add pole barn.

    …And a donkey. ?

    • @Helot – Contrary to what we have been taught (go get it all for yourself on credit) cash is still king when used at the right time for the right value purchase.

      New US subprime boom – but this time it is for cars

      2 May 2014 Last updated at 10:54 BST
      http://www.bbc.com/news/business-27251118

      Not so long ago “subprime” was a word to strike fear into the hearts of bankers everywhere.

      Risky mortgage lending to people with poor credit ratings – who eventually defaulted on their debt – was the main trigger of the 2008 financial crisis.

      But are the banks back to their old ways? Subprime lending is booming once again in the US – not for home loans, but for cars.

      According to the credit agency Experian, the total amount owed on car finance in the US had risen to $750 billion by late last year.

      An estimated 36% of those loans have been made to subprime borrowers. So are the banks storing up serious trouble for the future – and maybe even another financial crisis?

  6. Eric,

    I can speak as one who saw similar signs all around me a couple of years ago and made the voluntary choice to sell our home to downsize. Started for my wife and I with looking into the tiny house movement as well…

    Ended up selling our 3500 sq foot house on 6 acres, 3 car garage… moving to a 1500 sq foot house with a single car garage and no more mortgage, car payments, bike payments … free and clear. I gave away a lot of stuff, sold a bunch more and considerably lightened my life.

    My family – including teenage kids – all agree it was the best thing we ever did. My only regret is not doing it five years earlier.

    We finally have the free time and money to go on family trips to sunny destinations in the middle of the winter (the best remedy for winter blahs) and to afford to be more generous with our time and money. I have far less stress, much more money for my hobbies and loves, ride my motorcycles more and don’t give a hoot what interest rates do. We all adapted effortlessly to the new, smaller home and now I think it could be a heck of a lot smaller still!

    Strategic minimalism is well worth exploring. I wish you well on your journey!

    Rod

  7. It’s an interesting conundrum. With our current “progressive” tax rates, the more you make, the more you pay in taxes. The more percentage you pay in taxes, the less you actually make. Therefore, you are penalized for being more successful while you are subsidized (through government programs for the “poor”) if you do nothing.

    I thought, naively, that once I finished my extensive education and started making good money in my profession, I would easily be able to pay off all my debt and live a very nice lifestyle with classic cars, bikes, boats, etc. Unfortunately, with the sudden increase in income came a sudden increase in taxes, bills, etc. I moved up to one of the highest tax brackets such that roughly 45% of my annual income is stolen from me before it ever reaches the bank account.

    Add to this the fact that what dollars DO make it to my bank account are rapidly losing what little value they DID have due to the Fed’s out-of-control money printing, so you can’t buy as much with it as you could even 5 years earlier.

    Then consider that, in order to prepare for retirement, which also seems a bit like a pipe dream, I have to squirrel away a very large percentage of what I do get to keep into 401k and other investment types in the hopes that the returns can just barely keep up with inflation (there’s little hope of actually exceeding the real inflation rate, not the manipulated CPI rate).

    Somewhere in among this I’m also paying on a mortgage on a house that was artificially expensive in the first place, thanks to the housing bubble created by the Fed. I’m paying for rapidly increasing food prices. My property taxes and every other tax are increasing. I’m paying on federal student loans so that I could afford to go through all the education I had in order to get the privilege of paying the government all these monies for their “services” such as starting wars with nations most Americans can’t find on a map or for supporting laws and regulations that I feel are counterproductive.

    Again, productivity is penalized.

    This is a great country to live in if you are unemployed and don’t want to work. You can “make” tens of thousands of dollars a year in “free” benefits stolen from the productive class. All you have to be good at is filling out paperwork and voting for the guy in the suit who promises you the most “free” crap.

  8. Mr. Williams shares with us the very important breakdown of today’s economic statistics.

    – April Unemployment Numbers Showed Deepening Economic Disaster
    – Unemployed Dropped by 733,000, but Employed Dropped by 73,000, and Labor Force Fell by 806,000
    – February-to-April Payroll Jobs Gains Were Bloated Heavily by Concealed and Constantly-Shifting Seasonal Adjustments
    – April Unemployment: 6.3% (U.3), 12.3% (U.6), 23.2% (ShadowStats)
    – Revised Retail Sales Growth Was Slower 2011-to-Date; Downside Corrections to Prior GDP Reporting Loom in July
    – Construction Spending Remained Stagnant
    – Year-to-Year M3 Growth Rose to 4.0% in April

    “No. 624: Employment and Unemployment, Construction Spending, Retail-Sales Benchmark, M3”
    Web-page: http://www.shadowstats.com

  9. Time to grab a beer, sit in a quiet place and think for a few minutes…..

    The US Has Become A Worse Police State Than Orwell Could Imagine
    there is no turning back, and the signpost ahead reads “Danger.”

    Paul Craig Roberts
    http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/05/01/us-become-worse-police-state-orwell-imagine/
    Indeed, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, we’re about to enter a Twilight Zone of sorts, one marked by drones, smart phones, GPS devices, smart TVs, social media, smart meters, surveillance cameras, facial recognition software, online banking, license plate readers and driverless cars—all part of the interconnected technological spider’s web that is life in the American police state, and every new gadget pulls us that much deeper into the sticky snare.

    In this Brave New World awaiting us, there will be no communication not spied upon, no movement untracked, no thought unheard. In other words, there will be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

    We’re on the losing end of a technological revolution that has already taken hostage our computers, our phones, our finances, our entertainment, our shopping, our appliances, and now, it’s focused its sights on our cars. As if the government wasn’t already able to track our movements on the nation’s highways and byways by way of satellites, GPS devices, and real-time traffic cameras, government officials are now pushing to require that all new vehicles come installed with black box recorders and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, ostensibly to help prevent crashes.

    Yet strip away the glib Orwellian doublespeak, and what you will find is that these black boxes and V2V transmitters, which will not only track a variety of data, including speed, direction, location, the number of miles traveled, and seatbelt use, but will also transmit this data to other drivers, including the police, are little more than Trojan Horses, stealth attacks on our last shreds of privacy, sold to us as safety measures for the sake of the greater good, all the while poised to wreak havoc on our lives.
    Black boxes and V2V transmitters are just the tip of the iceberg, though. The 2015 Corvette Stingray will be outfitted with a performance data recorder which “uses a camera mounted on the windshield and a global positioning receiver to record speed, gear selection and brake force,” but also provides a recording of the driver’s point of view as well as recording noises made inside the car. As journalist Jaclyn Trop reports for the New York Times, “Drivers can barely make a left turn, put on their seatbelts or push 80 miles an hour without their actions somehow, somewhere being tracked or recorded.” Indeed, as Jim Farley, Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Ford Motor Company all but admitted, corporations and government officials already have a pretty good sense of where you are at all times: “We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing.”

    Now that the government and its corporate partners-in-crime know where you’re going and how fast you’re going when in your car, the next big hurdle will be to know how many passengers are in your car, what contraband might be in your car (and that will largely depend on whatever is outlawed at the moment, which could be anything from Sudafed cold medicine to goat cheese), what you’re saying and exactly what you’re doing within the fiberglass and steel walls of your vehicle. That’s where drones come in.

    Once drones take to the skies en masse in 2015, there will literally be no place where government agencies and private companies cannot track your movements. These drones will be equipped with cameras that provide a live video feed, as well as heat sensors, radar and thermal imaging devices capable of seeing through the walls of your car. Some will be capable of peering at figures from 20,000 feet up and 25 miles away. They will be outfitted with infrared cameras and radar which will pierce through the darkness. They can also keep track of 65 persons of interest at once. Some drones are already capable of hijacking Wi-Fi networks and intercepting electronic communications such as text messages. The Army has developed drones with facial recognition software, as well as drones that can complete a target-and-kill mission without any human instruction or interaction. These are the ultimate killing and spying machines. There will also be drones armed with “less-lethal” weaponry, including bean bag guns and tasers.

    And of course all of this information, your every movement—whether you make a wrong move, or appear to be doing something suspicious, even if you don’t do anything suspicious, the information of your whereabouts, including what stores and offices you visit, what political rallies you attend, and what people you meet—will be tracked, recorded and streamed to a government command center, where it will be saved and easily accessed at a later date.

    “It’s a future where you don’t forget anything…In this new future you’re never lost…We will know your position down to the foot and down to the inch over time…Your car will drive itself, it’s a bug that cars were invented before computers…you’re never lonely…you’re never bored…you’re never out of ideas… We can suggest where you go next, who to meet, what to read…What’s interesting about this future is that it’s for the average person, not just the elites.”—Google CEO Eric Schmidt on his vision of the future

    By the time you add self-driving cars into the futuristic mix, equipped with computers that know where you want to go before you do, you’ll be so far down the road to Steven Spielberg’s vision of the future as depicted in Minority Report that privacy and autonomy will be little more than distant mirages in your rearview mirror. The film, set in 2054 and based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, offered movie audiences a special effect-laden techno-vision of a futuristic world in which the government is all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful. And if you dare to step out of line, dark-clad police SWAT teams will bring you under control.

    Mind you, while critics were dazzled by the technological wonders displayed in Minority Report, few dared to consider the consequences of a world in which Big Brother is, literally and figuratively, in the driver’s seat. Even the driverless cars in Minority Report answer to the government’s (and its corporate cohorts’) bidding.

    Likewise, we are no longer autonomous in our own cars. Rather, we are captive passengers being chauffeured about by a robotic mind which answers to the government and its corporate henchmen. Soon it won’t even matter whether we are seated behind the wheel of our own vehicles, because it will be advertisers and government agents calling the shots.

    Case in point: devices are now being developed for European cars that would allow police to stop a car remotely, ostensibly to end police chases. Google is partnering with car manufacturers in order to integrate apps and other smartphone-like technology into vehicles, in order to alert drivers to deals and offers at nearby businesses. As Patrick Lin, professor of Stanford’s School of Engineering, warns, in a world where third-party advertisers and data collectors control a good deal of the content we see on a daily basis, we may one day literally be driven to businesses not because we wanted to go there, but because someone paid for us to be taken there.

    Rod Serling, creator of the beloved sci fi series Twilight Zone and one of the most insightful commentators on human nature, once observed, “We’re developing a new citizenry. One that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think.”

    Indeed, not only are we developing a new citizenry incapable of thinking for themselves, we’re also instilling in them a complete and utter reliance on the government and its corporate partners to do everything for them—tell them what to eat, what to wear, how to think, what to believe, how long to sleep, who to vote for, whom to associate with, and on and on.

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