A Hot Mess, by James Howard Kunstler

James Howard Kunstler finds potential catalysts for cataclysm in Hurricane Harvey and the impending debt ceiling contretemps. From Kunstler at kunstler.com:

It wasn’t until more than a week after Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans in 2005 that the full extent of the damage was recognized and so it will go with the hot mess where Houston used to be. Mostly, it is inconceivable that the business activity which made Houston the nation’s fourth largest city and, according to Chris Martenson, equal to the 10th largest economy in the world, will ever return to what it was before August 26, 2017.

The major activity there has been the refining and distribution of oil products, and no activity is more central to the functioning of the US economy. So the public and our currently clueless leaders across the political spectrum, plus a legacy news media lost in the carnival of race and gender freak shows, is about to discover the dynamic relationship between energy and an industrial economy.

The pivot in this relationship is banking, which enables the conversion of oil’s raw power into everything else that goes on in a so-called advanced economy. The popular assumption is that federal disaster relief can compensate for all losses. That assumption may go out the window with the Houston flood of 2017. And no amount of federal aid can compensate for the hours, days, and weeks that will tick by as businesses struggle to return to something like their former level of normal operation.

Many businesses will never recover, especially the smaller ones that support the big one — the little tool and die shops, the construction outfits, the trucking and shipping concerns, the riggers and pipefitters, the cement companies, and so on. All of that activity existed in highly rationalized chains of on-time production and service and nothing will be on-time in Houston for a long time to come. The arguments over insurance coverage have not even begun, and then there is the question of how businesses in this perpetual flood zone will renew their insurance. Or how might they relocate to higher ground? And how do they pay for that? And where is higher ground in this vast, swampy lowland?

To continue reading: A Hot Mess

 

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