The stock market which has been a charging bull for the past couple of years took a polar bear plunge this month, primarily due to declining oil prices to a new low of $54 a barrel.
|U.S. Stocks have gone up to record highs in the past two years|
The recession which broke the back of the American economy in 2008 and ended officially in September, 2010 has resulted in the average American experiencing a loss of about 40% of their net worth since 2007. The results of the aftermath of the Great Recession are mixed. People who own stock, including those with retirement accounts with stock funds, have generally benefited from the hot stock market, at least on paper. Timing is everything in the stock market and when retirees take their money out of the stock market is key to whether they are winners or losers.
Young people under 35 years of age are heavily indebted and have not been able to grow their wealth at all having spent their first 10-15 earning years on a roller coaster economy. The minimum wage is stagnant with its real dollar value (accounting for inflation) more than $2 less than what is was in 1968.
Gasoline prices at the pump have declined to an average of $2.41 per gallon of regular This has benefited consumers tremendously with lower commuting expenses and lower prices on items that fluctuate in price due to transportation costs (e.g. airline tickets, groceries, etc.). It also creates instability in markets and damages alternative energy industries like electric cars and solar power as oil becomes cheaper. On the other hand, OPEC nations and countries where oil is their chief export (Russia, Venezuela and Middle Eastern Islamic nations) have lost billions of dollars and face an economic Armageddon
And among all the economic ups and downs, the world news is dire with inexplicable violence, religious terrorism, natural disasters, increasing censorship, endless wars and noisy, chest-thumping dictators. People of reason, in the USA and elsewhere in this world, need to pay attention to what is happening in the world at this time. Ignoring the signs of crisis will be at our peril. But a feeling of anomie seems to be overwhelming individuals.
For many people in the U.S.A., coming off an extremely negative election season where billions of dollars were spent to demonize candidates seeking office, they will turn more and more to their personal electronic devices to listen to music, play games and share monosyllable messages and pictures with their ever-enlarging circle of "friends". More and more people in the world's leading democracy are "taking a pass" on the responsibilities of citizenship and, instead, engage in private pleasures in this "brave new world". Yesterday's Winthrop Quigley's column in the Albuquerque Journal took on this very subject as he shared his correspondence with Mark Rudd, a figure of 1960's radicalism: