Yes... But At What Cost?

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

This is how our entire status quo maintains the illusion of normalcy: by avoiding a full accounting of the costs.

The economy's going great--but at what cost? "Normalcy" has been restored, but at what cost? Profits are soaring, but at what cost? Our pain is being reduced--but at what cost?

The status quo delights in celebrating gains, but the costs required to generate those gains are ignored for one simple reason: the costs exceed the gains by a wide margin. As long as the costs can be hidden, diluted, minimized and rationalized, then phantom gains can be presented as real.

Exhibit One: the US public debt. If you borrow and blow enough money, it's not too difficult to generate a bit of "growth"--but at what cost?

Exhibit Two: opioid deaths. One of the few metrics that's climbing as fast as the national debt is the death rate from prescription and synthetic opioids:

Exhibit Three: student loan debt. Here's a chart of debt that is federally originated but paid by individual students: the infamous student loan debt that has shot up over $1 trillion in a few years.

You see the point: the cost are skyrocketing but the gains are diminishing. The costs of maintaining the illusion of "normalcy"--for example, that going to college is "still affordable"-- are soaring, while the gains of a college education are declining as credentials and diplomas are is oversupply. (What's scarce are the real-world skillsets employers actually need.)

Americans are in pain, and the cartel-sickcare "solution"--"non-addictive opioids"--is reaping a horrendous toll on all who trusted the sickcare system to deliver non-addictive painkillers. Should the newly addicted sufferer no longer be able to get the synthetic opioid prescribed, the option of choice is street smack (heroin), and this is why heroin deaths are soaring along with deaths caused by synthetic opioids.

Pain has been relieved--but at what cost?

The elites within the Big Pharma and higher education cartels are reaping enormous salaries, bonuses and benefits while these cartels wreak havoc on America's vulnerable underclass (i.e. the bottom 90%). Monumental sums of cash are flowing from the many to the few while the many become addicted to opioids or enslaved to student loan debt.

The financial media is euphoric over the billions of dollars of profits reaped by smart phone manufacturers--every kid needs one, right? But at what cost, not just the financial cost, but the cost in addictive behaviors spawned by smart phones?

iPhones and Children Are a Toxic Pair, Say Two Big Apple Investors ( The iPhone has made Apple Inc. and Wall Street hundreds of billions of dollars. Now some big shareholders are asking at what cost.

This is how our entire status quo maintains the illusion of normalcy: by avoiding a full accounting of the costs of a system set to maximizing profits by any means available, a system of public-private pillage overseen by the protected few at the expense of the vulnerable many.

It's as if we've forgotten that debt accrues interest, i.e. claims on future income. Debt is easy to ignore in the initial euphoria of spending the "free money," but once the depreciated value of what was purchased and the interest starts weighing on the borrower, the borrowed money is revealed as anything but "free."

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skbull44 Arnold Mon, 01/08/2018 - 10:19 Permalink

As archaeologist Joseph Tainter argues in The Collapse of Complex Societies, the burgeoning costs of increasing complexity and the law of diminishing returns has led to the collapse of virtually every complex society to date. We are no different. All that is needed is more time to pass for the collapse to pick up speed and blow past all the fraudulent myths that we will be fine... 

In reply to by Arnold

skbull44 Fritz Mon, 01/08/2018 - 11:02 Permalink

My guess is that the Fed/government will attempt an expansive bailout (of 'favoured' debtors) with a colossal expansion of fiat/credit speeding up the shift away from the US petrodollar. The feedback loops created will expedite the collapse as suggested by the Seneca Cliff scenario of Ugo Bardi (…). Only time will tell...

In reply to by Fritz

hongdo skbull44 Mon, 01/08/2018 - 17:31 Permalink

Thanks for the Cassandra reference on the simplified models.  Makes a lot of sense that the feedback effect of pollution accelerates the decline of growth.

I wonder if Krugman ever understood this?  If he did he would not run around encouraging broken windows and wars - increasing pollution.  Just shows what a moron he is.

In reply to by skbull44

LightBeamCowboy Fritz Mon, 01/08/2018 - 15:08 Permalink

Fritz, I learned a lot about Repug vs. Dem fiscal beliefs when I found out years later that the Great Budget Debate of the Reagan admin, that made headlines for weeks as the supposed two sides of the aisle fought it out as if the life of the nation was on the line, had in fact been about a 1.2% difference in spending proposals. Both sides know, if they know anything about debt-based fiat currency, that if they "balance the budget" or even just cut spending a teensy bit, the whole system will implode.

In reply to by Fritz

Cursive Mon, 01/08/2018 - 09:52 Permalink

At what cost? That's not the question.  The question should be why supposedly "free men" are subjagated to an economic system explicitly run by private bankers for the benefit of private bankers.

PitBullsRule Mon, 01/08/2018 - 09:53 Permalink

Good point.

If you had 40 Billion, would you spend it on a wall?

Probably not, but since its 40 Billion of other people's money that will be tacked on to a 20 Trillion debt, who cares!  Just build it and lets see what happens!

Here's what happens, they dig tunnels under it, they float up the coast and come in on the beach, they come in through Canada, and we have a 40 Billion dollar fuck up to look at as a monument to your stupidity.

Cursive gmrpeabody Mon, 01/08/2018 - 10:05 Permalink

I'm fine with building a wall, but he has a point.  If people want something badly enough and the rest of society is not willing to place and enforce sanctions against it, then it will happen.  I guarantee that if you made hiring an illegal alien a capital offense and actually enforced it by executing offenders, we would not have a problem with illegal immigration.  The wall?  It won't make a difference as long as people can hire illegal aliens (or host them with public funds in sanctuary cities) without impunity.

In reply to by gmrpeabody

Demon Slayer PitBullsRule Mon, 01/08/2018 - 10:10 Permalink

You would think that a wall would pay for itself by negating future costs of sustaining illegals costs of education in our schools. You would think that we would save billions in court costs / free lawyers, incarceration costs, crowded highways, degraded schools by slowing down education for non English speaking low IQ third world people. Freeways, highways, streets, and giant gang ridden barrios with their ugly clown music. Illegals raping, driving drunk killing whole families, and their bs La Raza and Mecha subversion crimes go unnoticed..for what? Democrat votes?

In reply to by PitBullsRule