Obama's Budget: CME to the GDP?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Via Matt Drudge, I learned of a type of solar event called a coronal mass ejection (CME), which could wipe out modern civilization under the right conditions. Such conditions existed in 1859, before we became dependent on the power grid that would get knocked out. During the eight-day "Carrington Event", named for the British astronomer who made the connection between the solar storms he observed and events on earth:

There were eyewitness accounts of stunning auroras, even at equatorial latitudes. The world's telegraph networks experienced severe disruptions, and Victorian magnetometers were driven off the scale.
Another source elaborates on the "severe disruptions":
[T]elegraph systems crashed, machines burst into flames, and electric shocks rendered operators unconscious. Compasses and other sensitive instruments reeled as if struck by a massive magnetic fist. For the first time, people began to suspect that the Earth was not isolated from the rest of the universe. However, nobody knew what could have released such strange forces upon the Earth–nobody, that is, except the amateur English astronomer Richard Carrington.
That was nothing compared to what such an event would look like in today's much more electrified world, according to a team of scientists who have been considering the problem.
IT IS midnight on 22 September 2012 and the skies above Manhattan are filled with a flickering curtain of colourful light. Few New Yorkers have seen the aurora this far south but their fascination is short-lived. Within a few seconds, electric bulbs dim and flicker, then become unusually bright for a fleeting moment. Then all the lights in the state go out. Within 90 seconds, the entire eastern half of the US is without power.

A year later and millions of Americans are dead and the nation's infrastructure lies in tatters. The World Bank declares America a developing nation. Europe, Scandinavia, China and Japan are also struggling to recover from the same fateful event - a violent storm, 150 million kilometres away on the surface of the sun.
The article, oddly enough, attempts to place a dollar estimate on the damage caused by our electrical infrastructure getting fried and the sequelae of the immediate, yet protracted and near-universal blackout for the most productive parts of the country:
Hurricane Katrina's societal and economic impact has been measured at $81 billion to $125 billion. According to the NAS [National Academy of Sciences] report, the impact of what it terms a "severe geomagnetic storm scenario" could be as high as $2 trillion. And that's just the first year after the storm. The NAS puts the recovery time at four to 10 years. It is questionable whether the US would ever bounce back.
The last sentence is all I need to hear about this. If money can't buy anything because nobody can make anything, price tags become meaningless and all is lost.

Fortunately, the natural conditions that could cause such a catastrophe obtain only about once every 500 years and there are ways to prevent or mitigate much of the damage discussed in the articles. (One not mentioned is the introduction of freedom to the utility industry. Specifically, decentralization as described in the penultimate paragraph of Raymond Niles' "Property Rights and the Crisis of the Electric Grid" would, I suspect, contribute to a sort of "natural immunity" to such a disaster.)

But what struck me was the $2 trillion dollar estimate of the damage, as well as the time frame projected for the recovery (if any) of the United States. Consider also that Obama's own nominee for Commerce, Judd Gregg, has said that his ten year, $3.6 trillion "financial plan" would bankrupt the country. I think that this scenario is a good way to visualize what this means, as I shall explain.

There is a photo essay making the Internet rounds of what $1 trillion in $100.00 bills looks like. More relevantly, I once computed that government confiscation of $1 trillion amounted to "about $3,000 [taken from] every man, woman, child, and infant alive today." Making the outrageously generous assumption that half of that number could and would engage in productive activity, that translated to $6,000 per productive individual.

I was computing how much a mere $1 trillion financial "bailout" would affect an average working American -- before the "bailouts" snowballed with Bush and Obama's eager assistance, and before Obama proposed his Ten Year Plan.

Just to make things simple, let's pretend that the bailout is only a $3 trillion dollar, government-forced liability for the producing public. (I suspect that it's closer to $10 trillion.) And let's further ignore the estimated $9.3 trillion in projected government deficits over the next decade. That still leaves us with everyone who works for a living being saddled with at least 6.6 times $6,000 of debt not his own, or nearly $40,000 over the next decade.

I can't even afford a new car as it is. What does Barack Obama hope I'm going to forgo next in order to make his redistributionist scheme work? What does "work" even mean to Obama? This is a man who has never held a real job, clearly has no idea of how free market economies work, and has spent his whole life surrounded by leftists who do not want America to succeed -- so I wouldn't count on him being on the same page regarding the term "work" as any ordinary American.

(And to think that I haven't even touched all the new regulatory hoops he wants producers to jump through as they attempt to work with such a leech sucking from each jugular!)

How all this is supposed to "work" is an important question, no matter how hard everyone tries to avoid it. The coronal mass ejection that could bring the modern world to its knees in 90 seconds would certainly "work" as a means of destroying civilization. It would "work" faster than Obama's budget, but when the material means that people need to produce (and hence survive) are sufficiently depleted, people become unable to produce, to trade, or to survive. Sure. Obama might collect or print the amount of money he blithely quotes as a "price tag", but what if it can't buy anything?

Picture Zimbabwe without Western aid.

Picture America after a coronal mass ejection at just the wrong time, but perhaps in slow motion at first, until things snowball.

Now, if you value being alive, renounce the creed of self-sacrifice and work to stop Barack Obama. More important, learn what freedom actually means, and work to reestablish it in America.

-- CAV

No comments: