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Change Is Coming; Get Used To Your New "Normalized" Lifestyle

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Remember that lifestyle that we all enjoyed back in the year 2000. Remember it with fondness because it's gone and it's not coming back. Welcome to a new, "normalized" lifestyle that will be yours into the foreseeable future. This society, long caught up in the grip of hyper-materialism, went too far, too fast and now that bubble has burst. Dramatic changes to our lifestyles are coming and, like it or not, we will just have to learn how to live much simpler lives, doing more with less.


Economists say that America is experiencing a "new normal" but what exactly does that mean? Well, this new normal can be defined in this way: in a typical business cycle we periodically encounter a recession, or a contraction of the economy, that normally lasts 12 to 18 months. After that things return to normal as we get back on the same economic level.

But this current recession that was brought on by the unexpected economic shock of 2008 is not at all normal; in fact, the majority of economists and analysts indicate that this economy will not return to previous levels because of serious underlying factors that compound our problems. They say that this era of a new normal will bring great change to our lives; that it will call for more personal austerity, lowered incomes and a new appreciation of our most basic needs: our families, homes and health.

As we enter this new era there are three contributing issues that will have a significant and lasting impact on this society and our lifestyles: 1. America's addiction to imported oil. 2. The collapse of our manufacturing sector. 3. This government's agenda of perpetual war.

America 's addiction to imported oil: In the very near future this issue will greatly affect our lives in significant ways. You will hear more and more about the subject of Peak Oil; in its simplest terms Peak Oil represents that point in time when the world's total demand for oil will surpass the production capabilities of oil producing nations. Many experts indicate that we have already reached that point.

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While the world is not going to run out of oil for a very long time here is the dilemma we face. The demand for oil in China, India and many other nations with growing economies is rapidly rising. At the same time, the world's oil reserves have been shrinking and major new oil fields have not been discovered. Oil is becoming more difficult and expensive to pump from deeper wells. This means that in the coming years the cost per barrel of oil will steadily increase and affect every element of our lives.

With the Middle East in the midst of a people's revolution, we are seeing gasoline nearing $4.00 gallon, with $5.00 gallon right around the corner. This is an ominous sign of things to come. Americans are going to pay a very high price for the failure of our leaders to institute ambitious, comprehensive government/business programs to develop new sources of energy.

The second issue that will impact our lifestyles is the fact that our once mighty manufacturing industry has been decimated; it has become a mere shell of what it once was. Tens of millions of American jobs have been outsourced to overseas nations, leaving displaced workers collecting unemployment or working for the minimum wage. These workers, just trying to survive, represent a great loss of purchasing power in this consumer driven economy. Who is leading the effort to create millions of new American jobs? No one!

Last but not least is fact that our military actions and occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have America mired down in a massive quagmire that is sucking the financial lifeblood out of our nation. Mr. Obama, the orchestrator and facilitator of these wars, is well aware that every dollar that he feeds into the furnaces of war is a dollar that cannot be used to rebuild America's domestic foundations. Why, then, does he allow this travesty of justice and morality to continue? Because all evidence now clearly indicates that this president works for the Military-Industrial Complex, not the American people.

Now let's illustrate just how this combination of our oil addiction, our decimated manufacturing base and our perpetuation of war will affect all elements of our society and our lifestyles.

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The majority of Americans are going to live in smaller homes, let's say 2000 sq. ft. rather than 3500 or even larger; McMansions will go out of style. Our cars will also be smaller; we'll drive fewer large SUV's and pickup trucks, but many more hybrids and electric cars. We will live closer to cities and commute fewer miles to work; the suburban sprawl reaching into the countryside will disappear. We will rediscover trains and mass transit, fly less and reduce our interstate highway travel. Campers and recreational vehicles will accumulate rust on the lots.

Mortgages will be more difficult to obtain, with higher interest rates. You can forget about borrowing on the equity in your home (if you have any) or securing a second mortgage to buy that summer vacation home on the lake, complete with a new ski or fishing boat. You can also postpone investing in that time share in Cancun or the Bahamas. We will learn to stay in our current homes much longer rather than making moves around the country as we once did when good jobs and relocations were common.

Our kids' education will suffer greatly as thousands of teachers lose their jobs because of states' massive deficits. Just recently it was reported that the city of Detroit will have to reduce city schools by one-half, or a total of 70, with class size increasing to 60. It will become increasingly difficult to attend state colleges because of state funding problems that will increase tuition. Our children, in many cases, will have to be satisfied with attending community colleges but they'll just have to get used to it.

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Michael Payne is an independent progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues; and especially with the great dangers involved with the proliferation of perpetual war, the associated defense (more...)

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