The dated conversation

People are shocked! “Shocked” at gas prices. How long have we been having this conversation? Corollary – how long have we been avoiding this conversation?

Obviously, everyone and their mother is mad, mad, mad about the high price of gas, in part because Americans now are back to driving just about as much as they did before the pandemic. We’re not going to the office, but we’re not staying home. From Virginia to Colorado, drivers are liable to pull up to the pump and be greeted with a sticker of Joe Biden, pointing at their total: “I DID THAT!”

A look back at 2011 suggests an interesting counterfactual: What if, facing those high prices, we had made changes on the demand side instead? Believe it or not, this was what some people thought might happen. President Barack Obama took that moment (and the conditions created by the auto bailout) to set new Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, known as CAFE, which put in place ambitious fuel efficiency goals for automakers. “Slowly but surely Detroit is shifting its attention from SUVs to cars,” All Things Considered reported in March of that year.

You won’t believe what happened next! It’s all ugh. I don’t wish anybody ill on this point. It’s certainly not enjoyable to being filling up on $4.39 per gallon multiple times in a week, but come on. The conversation about more roads all-the-time, living rilly rilly far from work, school, shopping goes back quite a bit farther than 2011. It’s not just smaller cars but a whole suite of living conditions that continue to be – ta-da! – unworkable, which should be the new unsustainable. The larger unworkable situation – sprawl, mostly non-existent public transit, and yes, gigantic vehicles – makes $4 gas that much more painful, as well as Groundhog Day all over and over again.

[You] Make it stop.

Turning Japanese

I try to resist the impulse to use pop songs in post titles, but I’m only human. My disdain for Wally what’shisname, however, remains in tact. S’why I get feverish in certain airports, methinks.

So Krugman believes we are fiscally morphing into our seemingly reserved and genuflective brethren. But if you look at what is meant by the words Japanese, economic and model in the 1990’s vintage, you’ll see that what people refer to as the ‘lost decade’ was merely a decade of flat growth. Well, tell you what:

Get. Used. To. It.

Otherwise called a starting place, for most of what is going to follow. The dissonance of what’s happening in the financial economy right now, talk of recovery and longing for normal times is all due to the fact that there’s no going back. And we shouldn’t see this as a bad thing. Our pent-up imaginations have all the rough stuff shoved to the fore, and we’ve conditioned ourselves to be righteously afraid of it. But it’s just us, our dogs, cats and cattle, and back in there somewhere also is the idyllic train rides to see your lover and long walks to the park, stolen flowers, broken kisses and other things you can’t put on a price tag on without them seeming like an old lady‘s hat. The fact is old ladies are people and hats are things they wear out in the sun.

We’re trying to understand the tunnel of love from a technical standpoint and well, the two just don’t mix. You can’t say where or how we’ll come out of this, but seeing that as the fun part takes a little more than the promise of low, low prices or assembly-line built excitement. Sorry.

Technical note: I discovered posterous, and am trying to make the most out of the sweet spot of not knowing what it’s for before that, too, passes.