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Mostly just a bunch of pictures I've taken of things I've noticed lately, supplemented by a few from google maps.

Things that maybe, in daily life, one looks right beyond, without a second thought.  But, still, they are signs of our times.  Most of the pictures are from Nashville, not one of the hardest hit areas in the economic crisis (though there were the spring floods a few months back.)  Mostly just some pictures from the edge of town, and some nearby recently-built suburbs.

This offering is mainly pictures, with a few stories I read in the newspaper over the last week or two tossed in. Only a few paragraphs to read.

So, you see something, and it's just what's there.  Nothing to be made of it.

One here, one there.  Nothing of note, really.  Though some of them do seem to be falling back on Plan B.

Two?  That's just a coincidence.  So what if there's getting to be multiple coincidences?

Three times, though, and that's getting to be a trend.  (Like that above-the-fold picture.)  Four mailboxes here, three For Sale signs:

Unable to find work, unemployed turn to reduced Social Security checks early to stay afloat

Paul Skidmore's office is shuttered, his job gone, his 18-month job search fruitless and his unemployment benefits exhausted. So at 63, he plans to file this week for Social Security benefits, three years earlier than planned.
...
More people filed for Social Security in 2009 — 2.74 million — than any year in history, and there was a marked increase in the number receiving reduced benefits because they filed ahead of their full retirement age. The increase came as the full Social Security retirement age rose last year from 65 to 66.

The Tennessean in Nashville gave the same AP story a different headline:  Jobless Retire Early, Strain Social Security  As a result, the system's in the red.  It's only a brief period, since the monthly benefits are lower - for Skidmore, 75% of what he'd get had he waited till current SS retirement age of 66.  Over time, the numbers balance out.  But for now, Social Security's spending out more than it's taking in.

Nearly 72 percent of men who filed opted for early benefits in 2009, up from 58 percent the previous year. More women also filed — 74.7 percent in 2009 compared with 64.2 percent the previous year.

That's right:  About three-to-one, people filing to enter the Social Security system did so early in 2009.  That's up from about two-to-one in 2008.  Too bad they can't get Medicare early, too.

CNN puts other faces on the same story -

Elaine Armstrong, 63, Bradenton, Florida

At age 62, I was laid off from my job when the small landscaping company where I worked as a bookkeeper was acquired by a Canadian conglomerate. I had $10,000 in credit card debt at the time and aside from unemployment benefits, I had no other source of income.

Daniel Ryan, 63, Overland Park, Kansas

First, we got slammed on 9/11. It was supposed to be my first day at a new job as a marketing manager for a poster maker. After being stranded in Tennessee for a week [when all flights were grounded], I returned home to Kansas only to find an email that said the company decided not to fill the position after all. They were scared of what was going to happen with the economy.  That was just the beginning as I found myself in the world of age discrimination. Even though I had years of tech work for companies like Sony, Microsoft, etc. I was unable to get work. Then in 2005, my wife's company decided to shut down her office. It took her 5 years to get a part-time job!  So in short, we went from making over $100K per year to $16K per year. We had to have food stamps and we filed for bankruptcy.

There's millions of people like this.  The unemployment numbers would be even higher without them "voluntarily" leaving the work force.

Maryland Way, Brentwood, Tennessee

The pictures below are all from one road where a bunch of construction went on during the Bush/Cheney years.  These aren't all the signs along there, but most of 'em.  North end of the 7th Congressional district in Tennessee, south of Nashville, represented by that yappy, mean-spirited Republican Marsha Blackburn.  I clocked the distance, it's a mile-and-a-half.  You could walk it in half an hour easy.  (If they only had sidewalks!)

And right along that same stretch of road:

One of the high end selections on the list is this one, 6000 sq ft on 2 acres, already marked down $30k since last week to $449k.  Foreclosed and vacant, on the market nearly 6 months now:

They say that properties with mortgages over a million are foreclosed disproportionately to more modest places.  But there's a lot more lower end housing, all in all, and each of these currently foreclosed and vacant houses is somebody's dream crushed.  Somebody's spirit, bruised and maybe broken.  A lot of what they worked their lifetimes for, gone.  The future uncertain and frightening.

More foreclosed homes after an article posted by a FaceBook friend in Michigan.  Suicide dogs the long-term unemployed.

Thousands of users visit the web site [Unemployed-Friends] daily, offering one another everything from advice about applying for unemployment insurance benefits to emotional support. It is one of dozens of such sites helping the nation’s 14.6 million unemployed — particularly the long-term unemployed, the 6.6 million Americans who have been out of work for more than six months. "I am very tempted to walk in front of an oncoming semi right now. Sorry to go on ranting but I am getting to the point where I feel I have no choice. For those of you that want to know I am currently in Grand Rapids. I appreciate your words of encouragement but right now it doesn’t seem to be enough to keep me going."
...
The unemployed commit suicide at a rate two or three times the national average, researchers estimate. And in many cases, the longer the spell of unemployment, the higher the likelihood of suicide.
...
The stories appear in letters to Congress as well. "My dad, S, killed himself March 16, 2009 because he ran out of money and could not find work. My whole family had been devastated by the economy. He was 61 years old and could not take it anymore. He could not figure out how to keep the electric on, buy food, or keep a roof over his head. A day before his electric was to be shut off, and 2 weeks away from eviction, my dad took the hardest walk of his life. He left a note on the dining room table for my sister and I. His suicide letter said 'I love you. I had to do this. I ran out of money. I wish you both luck in your lives'. He left the door unlocked with the door key left in the lock. He carefully laid out two suits for us to pick from to bury him in," one person from Forest Hills, N.Y., wrote to Rep. Anthony Weiner (D). "I almost caught my dad in time, maybe another 10 minutes and I could have saved him."

Some dreams more a bit more lush than others, but most are fairly modest.

This in Palmdale, California, last month:

Many noticed this, being offered down the hall from NN10 in Vegas - while Elizabeth Warren was speaking, then appearing on a panel:

No matter how I turn it over in my mind, I come to the same conclusion - it's NUTS!!  Empty houses, people out of work.  For years now.  Homeless.

I've driven back and forth across the country a few times in the past coupla years.  A lot of times, you see people, families with little kids pulling a small camper on a pickup, maybe in an older model Bronco or Suburban stuffed to the top with stuff.  Taking all they can fit, heading somewhere.  Kentucky, Arizona, somewhere where they hope to have a chance.  I've seen 'em wash their hair at the water spigots in Interstate Highway rest areas, or in the sinks in the bathrooms.  

I talk to some of 'em - traveling with a dog makes it easy to strike up a conversation.  But they have so little privacy, I don't like to intrude by taking pictures.  Their circumstances are not quite so unsanitary or destitute as during the Depression years of the 1930s, but a pretty rough life all-in-all.  Not easy to even find a safe place to just sleep for the night.  Mostly white folks, mostly with lousy dental health and missing teeth.

This from a rest area along I-40 in California, near Needles on the Colorado River.

Rest area along US Hwy 20, Brothers, Oregon (Deschutes County)

Some states, they're shutting down the parks & rest areas.  This along I-40 in Arizona, heading east after NN10:

Used to be an uprooted man could maybe grab a few winks on a park bench.  Not any more!!

But they're still building shit like this.  Like anyone needs this kind of bloated housing!!

Same thing from the air, thanks to Google maps - still under construction:

This is some odd perversion of the American Dream - baronial Levittown, where they're asking $450k for a 2-acre building site.  This comes courtesy of the Bush Tax Cuts:

Personally, I can't imagine spending millions on a house only to be crowded up against the neighbors like these subdivisions all are.  Well, I can't actually imagine spending millions on a house, period.

It can't go on like this.  But yet I don't hear much of anybody in power offering up any plausible solutions.  One thing I'm pretty sure of:  Our economic troubles aren't over, and it seems more likely than not that there's more crashes to come.

Meanwhile, there's irreversible damage being inflicted while we're all supposed to be patient.  Voice of San Diego, 7/23/10:

How Fire Brownouts Affect San Diego Neighborhoods

If you live near a fire station affected by the city's rolling brownouts, it takes fire crews an average of between two and 35 seconds longer to respond to emergency calls, according to this updated monthly report from Fire Chief Javier Mainar. Citywide, the average response time to emergency calls has increased five seconds from last year.  Five seconds or even 35 might not sound like a large increase, but fire officials say each second is crucial when responding to emergencies.

New York Times picked up the story last week:

Struggling Cities Shut Firehouses in Budget Crisis

Philadelphia began rolling brownouts this month, joining cities from Baltimore to Sacramento that now shut some units every day. San Jose, Calif., laid off 49 firefighters last month. And Lawrence, Mass., north of Boston, has laid off firefighters and shut down half of its six firehouses, forcing the city to rely on help from neighboring departments each time a fire goes to a second alarm.

And fire department EMTs are the first line of defense in many medical emergencies.  Last month in San Diego, a two-year-old's airway got blocked by a gumball.  There's a fire station right by the family home:

But the station was empty that evening: its engine was in another part of town, on a call in an area usually covered by an engine that had been taken out of service as part of a brownout plan.

The police came to the home within five minutes and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, officials said. But it took nine and a half minutes — almost twice the national goal of arriving within five minutes — for the fire engine, with a paramedic and more medical equipment, to get there. An ambulance came moments later and took Bentley to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

People are scared, and there are those willing to milk it for their own benefit.  Personally, I figure the vampires of Wall Street and that little AIG unit officed in Wilton, CT have caused a good deal more damage to our nation than those 19 hijackers from nine years back.  Now we take our shoes off at airports, and get backed up stop and go for miles in 117-degree heat to protect us from a potential terrorist attack on Hoover Dam, that grandest of New Deal projects.

It doesn't do much of any good for the problems people are wrestling with, and decent people like the ones who operate this center are scared, somebody torches construction equipment in Murfreesboro (not far from Nashville) over the weekend, and some poor cabbie in New York gets sliced up last week.  Like that's gonna help!

Originally posted to Land of Enchantment on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 06:42 AM PDT.

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