Three Rules for Living Through the Second Depression, by Chaz Valenza

I believe we are on the precipice of the Second Depression. Though President Obama is working valiantly to turn the country’s financial ship, it appears to me that the lack of a genuine
economic engine to create sufficient, sustaining, value-adding jobs will come too late. What should the common man do?

Much of the advice on how to live through such hard times is often too specific, not specific enough or draconian. How many of us are ready or should even consider survivalist methods? Who among us can afford to completely restructure their finances on a moment’s notice? Which of us can effectively plan now for the unforeseen severity we may or may not face?

Often to my amusement, I have found that everything in life can be boiled down to Three Rules that pretty much envelop the whole enchilada. I call these simple statements of essential truth a “Three Rules” poem. They can be fun, amusing, thoughtful, whimsical, et cetera. This one, presented for your approval and commentary, is dead serious.

Properly deduced, by sorting through the minutiae to find the lowest common denominator, a given Three Rules won’t tell you exactly what to do, but they should provide the framework for recognizing actions to a successful conclusion.

Here are mine:

Three Rules for Living through the Second Depression

1. Escape and avoid entanglements with scams and the authorities.

2. Stick together to defend each others right to food and shelter.

3. Make yourself useful.

Allow me to elucidate on each of the above.

Escape and avoid entanglements with scams and the authorities.

Debatable as it may seem now, this rule will become imperative. As the situation grows grimmer, more and more people and organization will devise ever more devious ways to steal the resources they want from those that can be conned or exploited.

As we have seen, much of what is called our financial system is nothing more than a cabal of greed that has worked diligently to sanction rules that effectively fleeced workers of their deserved earnings.

Look at any list of what to do during a financial crisis and you will find suggestions as to the preservation of your hard earned capital, should you have any, or a suggestion that you get out of debt. Good ideas, but they do not go far enough or wide enough to give anyone practical guidance and doable tasks.

First, let’s go wide. This rule includes all powerful or legally protected organizations that promise more than they know they can ever deliver. Here are examples that deserve skeptical analysis: unsecured debt of all kinds, especially credit cards with numerous fees, charges, penalties and usury interest rates; work at home scams; costly education with no job certainty; fortune tellers and spiritualists of all varieties; full commission sales positions with no base salary; internet scams; credit counseling; insurance; job counselors, resume services and business consultants; barter brokers; pyramid schemes and other versions of musical chairs; speed, DWI and other police traps to snare high fines and surcharges; et cetera.

If you haven’t already noticed, the police are out in force and quick to pull the ticket book trigger. Here in New Jersey, though the civil and criminal courts were subject to cost-cutting furlough days, no such thing happened in the money making municipal courts. Basically, now is not the time to get caught being late with payments or cheating on taxes, nor the moment to get on any bureaucrat’s building code violations clipboard. As the tax & budget shortfalls grow, expect to be hunted down for the most insignificant violation of any law, code or tax regulation.

The authorities will continue to work diligently to create money-raising traps disguised as public service. Be careful out there! That you’ve done nothing wrong, nor hurt anyone, may not matter. If caught in any such snare, don’t exacerbate the situation, minimize the damage.

Keep you relations with the government limited to only what it can do for you and beware that even these “community chest” transactions may include trade-offs, expressed, implied or otherwise that may work against you.

Going as far as possible, if you lose you job or you’ve been purchasing necessities on your credit cards, or you can’t afford the medicine or medical care you need or you’re about to lose you home or car, definitely consider escaping the entanglement and life sucking burden of debt. Are you feeling guilty about the option of filing for protection from your creditors? Consider this, you didn’t’t make the rules, but you have to live by them. Bankruptcy is in the rule book, use any and all rules to your advantage without any qualms.

Stick together to defend each others right to food and shelter

All of the accounts of the Great Depression remind us of how important organizing will be to survival in the Second Depression.

Face facts, it’s good to be member of any club that supports you in living a decent life.

I am no fan of organized religion, and I do not advocate its proliferation, but I must recognize its one aspect of value to the individual participant: community. Remember, you don’t have to believe in Santa to have friends. Any group will do, especially family. Have a pact to house each other if worst comes to worst.

In Florida, Max Rameau is housing the homeless in foreclosed property. He considers his work both civil disobedience and the morally proper response to human necessity. In desperate times, we will all do what we must. We must all protect the most basic human right to food and shelter for each other.

Do what they did during the Great Depression, support your neighbor and don’t let them be evicted. Homelessness is a nightmare that can bring the strongest of us to our knees. The right response is not to let it happen to our friends, family and neighbors.

Act locally to secure food resources to your geographic community, both near and wide. Industrial agriculture, the menace that brought you cheap, unhealthy and non-nutritious food, will starve you when you cannot pay the price. Recognize that hunger is a political/financial issue; it has nothing to do with a lack of food in the world. This will not change during the Second Depression.

During the Great Depression, there was abundant food, much of it warehoused and going to waste as scare jobs meant scare money and starving people. Monsanto, ConAgra,
Nestle and ADM are not going to feed you if you can’t pay; neither are McDonalds, Burger King, Fridays, Chili’s or the rest of the chain palletized food venues.

Support your local farms and fisheries as much as possible. Not only is that where your food will be grown, it’s where the local jobs will take root. Farmer’s markets, chef-owned and independent restaurants, the locally owned quality supermarket may be a little more expensive, but chances are they offer real value and will be there to underpin the your local community when times get tough.

Make yourself useful.

You can start right now. Play “what if” with yourself and do a little mental planning. What if, I can’t afford the rent? Make the call to friends and family so you will know where you can go and for how long. Figure out your finances now. Do what makes sense now in light of what is probably going to happen in the future.

If you have a job, keep it. If you hate your job, know the risks before you make a move. If you have savings, secure it. If you have debt, do what must be done to get rid of it. Sooner is better than too late.

If the worst happens and you’re out of work this is the rule to heed. Figure out what you can do. They’ll be plenty to do to help others and help you and yours.

As with food, jobs are going to become an important local resource. Local business are not going to move, but the may fail, without your support during the Second Depression. Consider local options for everything you buy now. Tech support and computer repair: the local geek shop or a Dell extended warranty? Banking: Citibank or the local credit union that will still FDIC secures your deposits? Customer service and support: deal with the person in Bangalore or request for a representative in the United States? It goes on and on: The local organic farm or Perdue? Quality clothes made in the USA or Wal-Mart’s Chinese imports? The big box home center or the local hardware store that is not just luring you in to sell you patio furniture? We’ve made too many poor choices in all these respects over the last three decades. Let’s think local and long term starting now.

Fix it. Paint it. Repair it. Weed it by hand instead of buying Round-up. Collect rain water for your garden. Basically, when your money is in short supply and your time is long, use your time and don’t spend the money.

Voting early and often may be out of the question, but if you got the time why not make yourself useful and give your elected representatives an earful. Now is the time to make your voice heard as our timid politicians tip-toe around and hope for the best.

In conclusion:

Apply these rules starting now to your particular situation, needs and environs. We can get through this if we start thinking and acting more deliberately and cut out those institutions that only want our money and have never cared a whit about us.

JWR Adds: Before you send me a Nastygram about Mr. Valenza’s article, please re-read my introductory note, above.