by Steven Neill
October 30, 2012
Ignorance Is Not Always Bliss
The day was like any other day in late August 79 AD, overlooking the spectacular Bay of Naples. A mild but steady breeze blew cooling air from the calm Tyrrhenian Sea as the sun rose slowly on the horizon. The dogs barked, children played, and adults moved from place to place in this placid oasis of leisure in the Roman Empire. What a magnificent day to be alive so wrote Pliny the Younger, nephew of Pliny the Elder in a letter. The Elder Pliny was the senior military man in the area and possibly the most educated living Roman on natural science.
Despite all his education and experience, Pliny the Elder was more concerned about relaxing after lunch with his group of friends than heeding the ominous rumblings coming from Vesuvius. They watched with curiosity as a column of smoke “like an umbrella pine” on the far side of the Bay belched forth some 9 miles into the afternoon sky. Pliny, like the other inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaneum had no inkling of the cataclysm that was about to envelope their world.
The signs of a major event were many but disregarded because the connections between seismic activity (earth tremors) and volcanic activity were unknown at the time. In AD 63, a monstrous earthquake severely damaged both Pompeii and Herculaneum, leveling entire sections and damaging many others. But the Romans were extremely resilient people who thrived on adversity, met the challenge head on and began extensive rebuilding.
Unfortunately, that quake was only a warning. From then on, a series of smaller earthquakes plagued the area, damaging what had been repaired and creating more destruction. The Romans believed themselves to be up to the challenges and were busy repairing and rebuilding all the way up to that fateful late August day when the clock had run out on Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Those who fled immediately that morning as the eruption started stood a chance of survival, but as the hours passed, so did their possibility of living. Lasting over 24 hours, the eruption created a witches brew of ash and pumice which darkened the sky and fashioned an otherworld picture of a ghostly haunt forcing most residents to seek the protection of buildings.
Around midnight, the first pyroclastic surges and flows exploded from the mountain speeding towards Pompeii and Herculaneum at 100 mph. When it hit, the inhabitants were turned into charcoal in seconds and the region was smashed with molten death. Those that survived the first waves were buried in 10ft of falling pumice. Then subjected to countless blasts of pyroclastic surges which crushed the upper levels of buildings and left the corpses encased in successive layers of pumice. The damage was so cataclysmic and the cities buried so deep that they were not discovered until 1748. Since then, Pompeii has been a gateway to a lost world and a stark testimony to the cost of remaining oblivious to the signs of upcoming catastrophe. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Pompeii as well there should be. It is a story of ignored signs, misunderstood symptoms, lost opportunities, and should act as a warning to us today.
The Devil In The Details
We look back on Pompeii and wonder why they didn’t flee. Surely, someone must have been able to connect the frequent tremors and occasionally violent earthquakes with the rumblings on Vesuvius? Didn’t they remember the massive quake a few years before and leave while they still could? Some did and survived but most were too busy or simply listened to such learned men as Pliny the Elder and went about their lives, in their lovely city by the sea.
Are we truly any different? America’s decline over the last 20 years has been rapid and dramatic. We have lost over 56,000 manufacturing establishments since 2001; 58% of the jobs created in 2008 are considered low wage in today’s economy; America can soon expect a significant increase in the price of food because of high fuel costs and major crop loss due to a catastrophic drought over most of the bread basket of our country; Over 100 million Americans are now enrolled in some welfare program while over half of America is at least partially dependent on the government; The US dollar is slowly losing its place as the world reserve currency which will increase the costs of borrowing more money; but the real 800 pound gorilla in the room is the national debt.
The United States Government admits to owing $16 trillion which is now 100% of our GDP. Bad things happen to countries that have that debt ratio. It is a risk to both long term median growth and national stability, but $16 trillion is only the tip of the iceberg. This figure does not include the amounts the Treasury assumed when it nationalized Freddie Mac and Fannie May nor any of the nearly bankrupt agencies such as the Post Office, Amtrak, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation. Then you have public sector pensions that are estimated to be underfunded by over $1 trillion.
But the real McCoy is the unfunded liabilities of the Federal Government which are primarily Social Security and Medicare. According to Gary North “The total unfunded obligation of the federal government to voters is now $222 trillion.
It has been estimated that the worth of the entire United States is around $60 trillion. So in reality, the government has promised to pay out 4 times the net worth of the entire country. They could confiscate everything from every person in this country and still owe over $80 trillion dollars. This is unfathomable, un-payable and truly criminal.
To top it off, if the government were to use the accounting methods it requires all businesses to use, the actual annual deficit is $11 trillion a year, not the $1.4 trillion they claim. So where does that leave those who are counting on Medicare and Social Security to tide them over in their twilight years?
Crystal Ball Not Required
My hope in writing this article is threefold: 1) to show that the inevitable calamity facing Americans today is much bigger than either Obama or Romney can correct, and just like the eruption of Vesuvius, it is only a matter of time before it happens. 2) To show people that the government now has two choices, default on their debt and/or promises or continue to create money out of thin air. Argentina, Zimbabwe, and Weimar Germany took the latter route and the results were horrific. 3) To get people to take action now. Investigate what real wealth is and decide if their current investments are safe. This means having enough cash on hand should the financial crisis make credit cards and checks off limits; putting up extra food and water should the system break down and necessities become unavailable.
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The ancient citizens of Pompeii and Herculaneum did not understand the connection between the frequent tremors they experienced and the approaching explosion of Vesuvius. This ignorance killed most of them and buried their cities for over 1600 years. Today, some of the readers of this article will not understand the connection of our national debt with the upcoming financial crisis. But you need to start. Stop listening to the modern Pliny the Elder in today’s’ media and government when they say all is well. Start researching on how to prepare for the upcoming crisis. Today we can see the plaster of Paris molds of the victims in Pompeii. Future generations will be able to read about those today who did not understand the signs of the times. Your choice is simple, prepare for the inevitable or go back to business as usual like the people of Pompeii.
© 2012 - Steven Neill - All Rights Reserve
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