Archive for the ‘Loss Severity’ Category
Hurricane Sandy is another reminder of just how incredibly fragile the thin veneer of civilization that we all take for granted on a daily basis really is. Many of the hardest hit areas along the Jersey shore and the coast of Long Island have descended into a state of anarchy. More than 7 million people live on Long Island, and millions more live along the Jersey shore and right now they are getting a taste of what life would be like during a total economic meltdown. At the moment, there are still approximately 4.7 million homes and businesses that do not have power. Officials say that some of those homes and businesses may not have their power restored until the weekend of November 10th and 11th. Meanwhile, it is getting very cold at night. This weekend the low temperatures on Long Island are supposed to dip into the upper thirties. There have been reports of people diving into dumpstersbehind supermarkets in a desperate search for food, and there have been other reports of roaming gangs of criminals posing as officials from FEMA or Con Edison and then robbing families at gunpoint once they have gained entrance into their homes. If people will behave like this during a temporary emergency that lasts only a few days, what would they do during a total economic collapse? That is a frightening thing to think about.
Most gas stations along the Jersey shore and on Long Island are either totally out of gasoline or they don’t have any power to operate the gas pumps. It is estimated that more than half of all gas stations in New York City are closed at the moment, and officials say that more than 80 percent of all gas stations in New Jersey are not able to sell gas right now. So needless to say, the lines at the gas stations that remain open are horrific.
It is being reported that some people are waiting in line for hours for gasoline in some areas and that state troopers have actually been deployed at every gas station along the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway.
The following is how one New Jersey mayor described the situation…
“Gas lines are stretching for a couple of miles,” said Anthony Ammiano, mayor of Freehold, N.J., who recalled the oil crisis of the 1970s. “It’s like the Jimmy Carter years. It’s a flashback of bad memories.”
There have even been reports of people literally fighting each other over gasoline…
“It’s so crazy. Cars are pulling up and people are fighting each other. There is no gas around here,” said Mena Aziz, who manages a Gulf Express station in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. “It’s been so busy.”
According to Breitbart, there have been continuous reports of “fistfights and people bringing guns to gas stations” on Twitter. The following are a couple of examples…
— Camila Xavier (@camilaxavier) November 1, 2012
You know things are bad when you ask the gas station attendent “when do you think you’re going to get more gas?” and he just laughs at you.
— Prede (@predederva) November 1, 2012
Unfortunately, authorities are projecting that the gas shortage may last for another week at least.
How angry and frustrated will people get by that time?
There are vast stretches of the Jersey Shore and the coast of Long Island that will never be the same again. The following is an excerpt from a comment that a reader of mine from Long Island left on one of my recent articles…
I live in Massapequa NY …..No power to 95%. almost every home south of Merrick Road ( 1.5 miles from open water ) has been flooded. No electricity, no supermarkets in immediate area, no gas (approx 80% of gas stations closed on Long Island).
This was not just another storm. It was a life-altering event for millions of people.
Unfortunately, just as we have seen after every other major storm in recent years, looters are taking advantage of the chaos caused by Hurricane Sandy.
According to the New York Post, a number of arrests for looting have already been made on Long Island…
In the Rockaways, lowlifes were sneaking into clothing stores and cleaning out pizzerias. Two men and a woman were arrested for robbing a BP gas station on Beach Channel Drive, three men and one woman were cuffed for pillaging a Radio Shack on Beach 88th Street, and two people were arrested for raiding a clothing store near Beach 86th Street, cops said. Stores were emptied along a two-block stretch of Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island. Seven people were busted.
Over on Coney Island, looting appeared to be out of control during the immediate aftermath of the storm…
Thieves broke in to the badly damaged Mega Aid Pharmacy on Mermaid Avenue and reportedly stole more than 10,000 pharmaceutical items, including prescription drugs.
“The water went away and these people started walking down the streets and just robbed stores,” a pharmacy worker told HuffPo’s Andy Campbell.
Manager Stan Gutkin said the major heist essentially “breaks the business.”
Looters reportedly also targeted banks, other shops, and other pharmacies.
And residents are noticing.
“People are turning on each other — they’re attacking each other,” Ocean Towers resident Dena Wells told Campbell.
Amazingly, a number of not-so-smart looters have actually been displaying their looted goods on Twitter. Just check out the shocking photos in this article.
But most people living in the areas that were most affected by Hurricane Sandy are decent people that just want some assistance. One resident of Hoboken, New Jersey became so frustrated that he inflated an air mattress and used it to float down to city hall in an attempt to get some answers…
Nearly 20,000 people have been trapped at home in the New Jersey city of Hoboken, just across the Hudson River from New York City, amid accusations that officials were slow to deliver food and water.
One man blew up an air mattress and floated to City Hall, demanding to know why supplies had not reached residents – at least a quarter of homes there are flooded and 90% do not have power.
Just like we saw after Hurricane Katrina, the response by the federal government and by big aid agencies such as the Red Cross has been very slow. In fact, Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro has gone so far as to call the Red Cross an “absolute disgrace” and is urging people that live in his area to quit giving money to them…
“You know, I went to a shelter Monday night after the storm. People were coming in with no socks, with no shoes. They were in desperate need. Their housing was destroyed. They were crying. Where was the Red Cross? Isn’t that their function? They collect millions of dollars. Whenever there’s a drive in Staten Island, we give openly and honestly. Where are they? Where are they? I was at the South Shore yesterday, people were buried in their homes. There the dogs are trying to find bodies. The people there, the neighbors who had no electricity, were making soup. Making soup. It’s very emotional because the lack of a response. The lack of a response. They’re supposed to be here….They should be on the front lines fighting, and helping the people.”
If this is how angry and frustrated that people become over a temporary disaster, how angry and frustrated would they get if there was a total economic meltdown that was permanent?
Sadly, the truth is that what we are seeing during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is just a very small preview of what is coming on a national level.
Our economy is a complete and total mess right now, and things are going to get a whole lot worse.
When unemployment starts skyrocketing again and large segments of the population realize that there is no hope for a turnaround, many of them are going to totally give in to despair and become very desperate.
And as we are seeing along the Jersey Shore and on Long Island right now, desperate people do desperate things.
That is why I am constantly pounding on the need to prepare for what is ahead. There are signs of social decay all around us, and most Americans are not equipped to deal with the pressures that come with a major emergency. When things totally fall apart, you don’t want your family to be totally unprepared and surrounded by millions of angry and desperate people.
Hopefully Hurricane Sandy will serve as a wake up call for millions of American families. Time is definitely running out, and we all need to get prepared while we still can.
A curious thing happened to a middle-aged Frenchman in Monte Carlo last year. He had unexpectedly received a year-end bonus of 10,000 from his employer, and decided to visit Le Grand Casino for a weekend, where he could relax and gamble with his new found wealth. Since his wife and daughters were visiting his stepmother that weekend, he would be able to focus entirely on making some money. His first night was judiciously spent at the Roulette tables, where his sharp instincts and calculated patience presumably allowed him to double his allotted wealth in just five hours. It was an excellent night for the man, who was now 10,000 richer, and he spent the next afternoon lounging in a cabana at the hotel’s pool.
That night, the man locked away the initial 10,000 in his room’s safe and took the rest back down to the casino floor, where he quickly locked up a seat at his favorite Roulette table from the night before. His playing strategy remained the same as always – place a minimum bet on two out of three columns, switching one column each time he won a bet, and sitting out one roll each time he lost - no deviations from the strategy whatsoever. After a series of wild fluctuations in his bankroll, the man was left with only two more bets, and he decided to place them both on black. The tiny steel ball deftly rolled around the wheel for several revolutions and tensely bounced between a few numbered slots before finally choosing to settle on number 21 - red.
The man quietly finished his glass of red wine, shuffled up to his room and lay awake in bed. He couldn’t help feeling extremely frustrated about the events of that evening. Frustrated with the insidious game of roulette, with his own careless betting decisions, with his “bad luck”, with the other players who had won, with the man spinning the little steel ball, with the tiny ball itself. He kept replaying the spins in his mind, fantasizing about the money he would still have in his pocket if he had just made a few different decisions.
What especially haunted him was the would-be expression on his wife’s face when he unexpectedly brought home 20,000. The 10,000 bonus would surely lift her into a state of pleasant surprise, but the man speculated that, if he had managed to double that bonus in just two short days at the casino, her pleasant surprise would be magnified ten-fold into a state of blushing pride .
On his journey back home the next day, the man began to realize just how strange his lingering feelings from the night before were. After all, he was exactly even from gambling at the end of his trip, and had actually been comped for a night’s stay at the hotel and a few meals. He had even expected to lose a bit of money going into the trip, since Roulette laid players some of the worst odds in the Casino. The man reflected on the fact that his brief excitement from winning 10,000 on the first night had paled in comparison to his prolonged dismay from losing that same 10,000 on the second night. It was indeed a curious psychology that continued to puzzle the curious man, so he decided to do some Internet research when he arrived home. Hopefully, he thought, a new and more fundamental understanding of this psychology would finally put his mind at ease.
It didn’t take too many Google searches before the man came across the concept of “myopic loss aversion“, which explains that people are significantly more likely to experience pain or displeasure from losing a monetary amount than excitement or pleasure from winning that same amount, especially when they frequently evaluate financial outcomes. This disproportional dynamic is obviously powerful when it involves money that one can barely afford to lose, but it also forcefully applies to losses that may be small relative to an individual’s bankroll. Even the multi-millionaire corporate executive who drops fifty grand gambling at a Vegas poker table will be beating himself up soon after, despite the fact that he will most likely make multiples of that by the end of the year (or at least he believes that he will).
Many of us may be familiar with the painful/shameful process of losing significant sums of money invested in the “wrong” place at the “wrong” time, but it is much more difficult to imagine the negative reactions produced when an entire economy of millions is serving up losses which, in a few short years, will threaten to wipe out all of the financial gains accumulated over decades. After the most potent “winning streak” in human history, the majority of American society has been blindsided by equally potent losses, which continue to mount and show no signs of abatement:
- It is estimated by Zillow that average home prices in the US have declined ~27% from their peak in June 2007, effectively destroying $9.8 trillion worth of homeowner’s equity (in an economy worth ~$14 trillion). 
- About 15.7 million homeowners have negative home equity (owe more on home than it is worth), representing a whopping 27% of all mortgaged single-family homes. Joseph Stiglitz infers that these trends will lead to a total of about 9 million people losing their homes through foreclosure between 2008-2011. .
- According to officially under-stated statistics, the unemployment rate jumped from 5% in 2008 to ~9.6% in 2011, and the U-6 number puts it at ~16.5%. . The official rate is only that “low” because millions of people have given up looking for jobs over the past few years (magically removing them from the official labor force), and millions of other people with part-time, low-paying jobs are counted as employed (26% of new private-sector hires are temporary ).
- Between 2006 and mid-2008, Americans had lost about 22% of total retirement assets or $2.3 trillion, and $2.5 trillion in savings and investment assets. . Although a decent amount of this value has been recovered during 2009-10, it has mostly gone to a significantly smaller percentage of people who have held on to such assets and has only been achieved on the backs of taxpayers, who now owe interest on an additional $4 trillion+ in public debt (plus a few more trillion if we include the GSEs). . When the markets crash again, that public debt will be money completely wasted for a large majority of Americans, if it is not considered to be already.
- Credit card defaults hit a near-record rate of 11.4% in 2010, more than double the rate in 2007, and the average late fee had risen almost 10% from $25.90 in 2008 to $28.19. .
- Public employees face at least a $2.5 trillion state pension shortfall mostly accumulated since 2008, and the gap can only be made up through drastic cuts to pension benefits, layoffs and cuts to public services for all other citizens. .
- Profits of most small businesses (unincorporated organizations such as partnerships and sole proprietorships) have fallen 5% in the last two years. , . These businesses employ over half of all private sector employees and have created 64% of net new jobs over the last 15 years. .
There are many other losses that have befallen the American people over the last few years on top of those listed above, and recently they have also seen the costs of necessities increase. The real interest burden of private and public debt continues to weigh heavily on businesses, consumers, patients, students and civil servants. State welfare programs such as unemployment insurance, food stamps, Section 8 and Medicaid provide temporary crutches to dull the searing pain, but it is clear that these programs only continue to exist on recklessly borrowed time and will be selectively restricted to the American people in short order. The federal retirement program of Social Security, on which many retired Americans have come to rely on, is at the brink of insolvency (the difference between outlays and receipts for the SSA in 2010 was $76 billion ), and Medicare isn’t looking too much better.
American politicians and officials are promising their constituents that this value lost will be recovered, but most of them remember too many broken promises to find any comfort in hollow words. When structural shortages of oil imports become a factor, Americans will have systematically lost not only their financial investments, but their entire way of life and lofty perspectives of reality. Sooner rather than later, we will be forced to fully experience the penetrating anguish and regret associated with unprecedented loss, as the tiny steel ball ceases to bounce around and settles in its pre-determined slot. It is at this time which we will realize that there is only a thinly-veiled political fiction separating us from the furiously desperate protesters in the crowded streets of the Middle East.