An Erosion of Trust; and, The Ponzi Avalanche

“Just 17% of Americans say they trust the federal government.” Really? That many?

“‘I don’t trust these people, I don’t believe them,’ said Curtis Devlin, 42, an Iraq War veteran who lives in California, referring to national political leaders of both parties. ‘The people whose interests they represent are donors, power brokers, the parties.’” Mr. Devlin is not alone. If the poll numbers are to be believed, 83% of us agree with him. Can you blame us?

“Inside the White House, doubts about the official numbers [of Covid-19 deaths] are pervasive, though they come in different forms. Mr. Trump is in search of good news to promote his administration’s response to the pandemic and to press states to reopen.”

There’s a whole article on how these numbers are compiled which is so convoluted that I could barely understand it. The bottom line, though, is that if the Calculator-in-Chief doesn’t like the numbers, he demands that they go outside the usual data channels of the federal government to find numbers that he likes. End run, anyone?

Here’s another goody from the Churchgoer-in-Chief [not]. “‘The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now for this weekend,’ Mr. Trump said, reading from a prepared text before leaving after just about a minute without taking questions. ‘If they don’t do it, I will override the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less.’”

Agreed. We definitely need more prayer, but that really says nothing about needing more church services, does it? I ought to know. When I was in seminary, they called me The Promiscuous Pray-er; she’ll pray with anyone anywhere anytime. By all means, pray, Beloved, but pray at home. Or on hold. Or in line. Or wherever and whenever the urge strikes you. No gathering required. Zoom, anyone?

Furthermore, every legal scholar cited maintains that the Church-Champion-in-Chief can saber-rattle all he wants, but that he has no legal right whatsoever to override the determinations of the governors of the states. None. And where was that override when it was time for a national response?

Shall I tell you what I think is really happening here? His poll numbers with Evangelicals dropped by six points. Of course. “Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago rejected Mr. Trump’s call to open houses of worship this weekend, saying he had no authority to do so. ‘I think we have to realize that virtually everything he says has a political undertone and basis for it,’ she said.”

Anu Garg, the Fearless Leader of Word-A-Day has a quote at the end of each word he shares. This one appeared yesterday, “‘It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.’ Arthur Conan Doyle, physician and writer (22 May 1859–1930).” Sherlock Holmes’ progenitor ought to know.

Critic-At-Large Amanda Hess writes “The Pandemic Ad Salutes You,” with an exemplary, attention-grabbing video graphic worth a gander in today’s Times. “In coronavirus-themed commercials, consumption is reframed as a public service performed by heroes, for heroes.” There are legions of examples.

I picked the one with the accompanying video, an ad for Coca-Cola — which, fittingly, does not even appear in the ad. In its two minutes, I found myself bopping along to the solid beat soundtrack about superheroes. Here’s a text sample: “One Coca-Cola commercial, “To the Human Race,” created by a Malaysian advertising agency, elevates the subtext of these ads to text. “For all the scare mongering, there is also care mongering,” it says. “For every virus, there is a vaccine … in positivity.”

“The ads reveal the labor process and hide it at once. ‘I have a problem with all this hero talk,’ Karleigh Frisbie Brogan, a Trader Joe’s employee, wrote in The Atlantic. ‘It’s a pernicious label perpetuated by those who wish to gain something — money, goods, a clean conscience — from my jeopardization.’” She’s got it in one.

It’s also not the first time this ‘consume to repair the damage’ has been touted as a solution to a country-wide problem, at least not in the U.S. We, in fact, have heard this repeatedly. It is this, I believe, that actually allowed the Senate to GO HOME FOR VACATION [caps, bold, and italics mine] without enacting another relief package. Underneath it all, the market will save us.

The market will not save us. It never has. It isn’t now. It never will.

The reason is quite simple. The market is a reflection of our reality; it is not reality in itself. But because we are not encouraged to think about the nature of reality, or really, the nature of anything, we do not notice the glaring error in the conservative, libertarian logic that says we can spend ourselves back into both health and safety.

Opinion columnist Paul Krugman, as usual, has the right of it. “Trump can’t get beyond boosterism, insisting that everything is great on his watch. And he’s clearly still obsessed with the stock market as the measure of his presidency. So Trump and his party want to go full speed ahead with reopening no matter how many people it kills. As I said, their de facto position is that Americans must die for the Dow.”

Financial therapist Amanda Clayman, cited in a Paul Sullivan column called “Wealth Matters,” says, “This pandemic is like a black light. It’s suddenly revealing all the things that were present before but unseen.”

“‘Americans are going to emerge from the coronavirus recession emotionally scarred in a way similar to the military veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder,’ said Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist in Boulder, Colo., and a pioneer in the field of financial therapy. “We’re experiencing a mass trauma across the United States, if not the world,” Dr. Klontz said. “Our illusion that we’re safe has been shattered. It’s like a psychological earthquake.”

Okay, Beloved, I know there’s a ‘wee spooky virus thingie’ as a new bumpersticker has it that is a threat to all our lives. I know that unemployment applications in the U.S. are over 36.7 million at this point and counting. I know we don’t know when or if any of this is going to end.

But, what I think has shattered is not our safety, not really. What I think has shattered is the deeply held belief of Americans all over the country that our strident individualism is what makes us immune from the collective. We simply don’t realize how connected we are because we don’t look at it. Consider this one example:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio admirably promised to step up the City’s actions around food scarcity, pledging to provide and serve 1.5 million meals per day. Those meals require ingredients, preparation, apportionment, and delivery. Good enough. Landlords who hold commercial leases are not receiving their rent payments. A big portion of their commercial real estate tax bills are due in June, which, unless they are receiving their rents, they will be unable to pay. How will the City pay for the 1.5 million daily meals if they don’t receive the tax revenue?

That’s just one of a hundred million scenarios. Here’s another:

There was an article this morning called “Another Casualty of the Coronoavirus: Summer Internships.” It sent me down a rabbit hole of connectivity.

Large companies are rescinding offers for summer internships. New graduates who were counting on them to launch careers are not working. Malls and other retailers are just opening again; new workers will not be buying professional clothing. Or cars to get to work. Or riding public transportation. Or renting new apartments. Or even going into offices to work. Companies are preparing for a workforce that works from home; they will not need large commercial workspaces.

Enough already. I know, I’ll stop. But, jeez, when the alarm goes off in the morning, do you think about all the connectivities that function to get you to work at nine? We don’t, not really.

It’s happening with oil. It’s happening with electricity. “Negative prices were once relatively rare, but during the pandemic they have become almost routine in Britain, Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The reason is similar to what caused the price of oil to plunge: oversupply meeting a collapse in demand.”

Oversupply is meeting a collapse in demand. The oversupply is a market illusion. The demand is a marketing illusion. People in Britain are being paid to run off excess electricity to keep the national grids from shorting out.

Bernie Madoff is the most famous recent perpetrator of a Ponzi Scheme. Here’s the Wiki Quickie: A Ponzi Scheme is a form of fraud that lures investors and pays profits to earlier investors with funds from more recent investors. The scheme leads victims to believe that profits are coming from product sales or other means, and they remain unaware that other investors are the source of funds. A Ponzi scheme can maintain the illusion of a sustainable business as long as new investors contribute new funds, and as long as most of the investors do not demand full repayment and still believe in the non-existent assets they are purported to own.”

As shocking as this sounds, I am beginning to believe the evidence which is appearing right before my eyes every day that the U.S. economy is just such a scheme. I thought I knew in some dim recess of my brain storage that Signor Ponzi was a medieval money wizard, but he wasn’t. He’s a 20th century swindler.

“Carlo Pietro Giovanni Guglielmo Tebaldo Ponzi; March 3, 1882 — January 18, 1949) was an Italian con artist known in the early 1920s as a swindler in North America for his illegal money-making scheme. His scheme ran for over a year before it collapsed, costing his ‘investors’ $20 million.”

In the more than 35 years that I have counseled humans, I have spent a lot of that time, not even knowing it, being a financial therapist. When I started, there wasn’t such a thing.

“Dale Mackey, an event venue owner, and her husband went for a financial therapy session. Afterward she said, “I didn’t realize I have an emotional relationship to money until we started talking and I realized I’m scared or uncomfortable about it.” She’s not alone.

The concern that financial therapists have now is that people will get stuck in what is known as catastrophic thinking. “Listen for those thoughts that come up in our head that say things like it’s pointless to invest your heart and soul in something because it can just be taken away. Or the thought that says, ‘This is all on my shoulders, and I can’t depend on anybody.’”

“Virus Crisis Exposes Cascading Weaknesses in U.S. Disaster Response.” Of this headline, two words caught me instantly: cascading weaknesses. That’s what’s been revealed to us through the constant and consistent failures of our government and our economy to face this worldwide pandemic. It’s actually a little more than just a cascade. First, our trust was thoroughly eroded, and then, we had an avalanche.

No one, Beloved, can seriously entertain the notion anymore that all of anything is only on their own shoulders. We have to depend on one another, rugged individuals or not. Barbra Streisand deserves to be a National Treasure. She’s been right since “Funny Girl,” or, really Jule Styne and Bob Merrill were presciently right more than 50 years ago in 1964. People who need people — and we all are those people — are the luckiest people in the world.

Dr. Susan Corso is a metaphysician and medical intuitive with a private counseling practice for more than 35 years. She has written too many books to list here. Her website is www.susancorso.com

© Dr. Susan Corso 2020 All rights reserved.

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Susan Corso

Dr. Susan Corso a metaphysician with a private counseling practice for 40+ years. She has written too many books to list here. Her website is www.susancorso.com