The Devil’s Cleaning Lady

70 thoughts on “The Devil’s Cleaning Lady”

  1. There’s a reason that the auto shops in the San Fernando Valley look the way they do and it’s not much about security. In the mid-90s the Los Angeles city council passed new regulations that stated in part that auto shops must have a “minimum 6 foot high wall around the parking area. Made of non-combustible material”. Welding some sheet steel to the chain link fence was the quick way to comply. That avoided the expense of a concrete wall and its attendant permits, inspections, and property owner permissions. There was an exception, provided all the cars in the lot could be driven away with nothing more than the key. Unrealistic for repair shops.
    So instead of having places that looked like mini junk yards, we have ones that look like mini concentration camps. But they are in compliance.

  2. Up until January 2020, we in Van Nuys were allegedly enjoying the greatest prosperity this country had ever had with something like 3.5% unemployment, and supposedly falling crime rates. The housing prices were sky high, but if you wanted to work, you could work, provided you were OK driving an Uber, or delivering marijuana by app.

    But something was quite wrong. There was something quite sick in our society, especially as we would see 100,000 people living under bridges, mentally ill people on park benches, etc

    The Mayor woke up to the homeless crisis about a year and a half ago after his attempt at yet another ballot measure to raise funds for education was defeated. Then the statistics came out that the homeless were increasing, and Garcetti still wanted more money for housing, yet no housing was built. So he was useless to us as a mayor. In a time of “prosperity. ”

    Then Covid-19 hit. Like a slow-motion bullet train. And one side of the political ideology ignored all evidence and said nobody needed to wear masks. (“Herd immunity. Do me a favor and cough on someone”) And the other side thought that maybe we needed more testing and more masks. And the mask, which has been so proven effective in other countries, especially Asian ones, is eschewed, and the numbers of infected and ill people keep rising, and our economy cannot function. Children cannot go to school. People cannot go out to eat, shop, and attend sporting events.

    These photos document a region that has fallen sick for many years under a variety of ailments caused not by politicians alone. Since the 1980s Van Nuys has lost industries, and its population has grown, and that population is mostly undocumented, and they require housing, schools, police, fire, and health care.

    There are all sorts of con games and criminal activities going on here by all people: fake handicap stickers, identity theft, health care forgery, illegal waste dumping, daily holdups, robberies, shootings.

    Our taxes are supposed to provide for something we recognize as civilization.

    For years I’ve photographed and written about this area. Wondering why it is not possible to convert vast parking lots to housing and even agricultural use. Why it’s not possible to build shops and housing more than four stories tall on streets that are eight lanes why. Wondering why the small illegalities of dumping, tagging, and littering are so prevalent and why the automobiles are still king of the road and not the walkers, the bikers and the runners.

    There is a shopping mall down the street from me that is shabby and poorly maintained. It is owned by the seventh richest family in Hong Kong, worth $17 billion dollars. The slum mall on the corner of Victory and Kester is owned by a multi-millionaire in BelAir. The family who inherited Farmer’s Market on Third and Fairfax and is a descendant of Gilmore of oil and real estate fame, lives down the street from me. There is money galore around here, a lot of it.

    Yet somehow this city and this area cannot get its act together.

    And now we have a new radical agenda of defunding the police, of allowing criminality to spread even further. And do you think the day when there are even less cops to respond to break-ins, shootings and even fireworks will also herald a new moment of racial justice? I don’t think so.

    We are tearing ourselves up and bowing down to ideologies, but we should be calmer and more rational and take stock of how our nation, legally and morally and systematically, can create a more livable nation of decent housing, decent education, decent health care and decent jobs.

    And to those who use Twitter as their judge and jury, you too are destroying democracy by persecuting, indicting and sentencing strangers to mob justice. That is not the way forward either.

  3. Johnny,

    It seems in your life (and blog) you want to take the 10000 foot view about structural problems, etc. and I admire it, but statues are toppling in Golden Gate Park and you may be soon forced to pledge allegiance to The Revolution or face the consequences. Wrongthink has arrived.

    Now, I have been incarcerated for petty crime and have no special love for cops or our unfair system in general, which desperately needs reform. On the other hand, with this kind of thinking becoming mainstream in our backyard – – I know where I stand.

    1. The people who pull down statues of dead white slave owners are the same economic demographic as the folks who arrive at the Michigan State House with automatic weapons. They’re getting a raw deal and they demand structural reform. These different factions just express their grievance from opposite perspectives. Those differences are entirely cosmetic. The Left and the Right know perfectly well engagement with the usual authorities and asking pretty please with sugar on top is a waste of time. Systems don’t reform themselves. They fail and are replaced by new systems. When half the country is left out of the goodies failure isn’t far off. Do I approve? No. Do I participate? No. But I’m absolutely getting my ducks in a row in anticipation of some seriously bad shit.

      1. I understand your analysis, but I wouldn’t say they’re the same demographic. Furthermore, at this time in American history, the Left is more dangerous than the Right, even though I personally identify as left of center on most issues.

        In the Left corner, we have WHITE university educated yahoos who, truth be told, got hoodwinked into debt, thinking a Master’s in Sociology would bring about Obamatopia. Their response, when Obama turned out to be an empty suit and Trump was elected, was to bide their time for The Pogrom and physically assault/block/cancel/dox anyone who doesn’t agree 110% with their beliefs, according to their Marxist training. That time turned out to be the George Floyd killing, which they shamelessly hijacked.

        Even among reasonable people who are very sympathetic to the original cause, there’s a lot of hand waving about the beating/looting/killing that followed but hey, gotta break a few bad whitey eggs to make a utopian omelette, right? Those evil white landlords (i.e. people named “Johnny”) are Nazis! Kneel to show solidarity! The blood soaked irony is that Antifa’s “brown shirts” are literally brown skinned people who aren’t getting any power regardless.

        In the Right corner, we have the WHITE working class who, truth be told, got screwed as factories moved overseas and immigrants, illegal and otherwise, gladly accepted whatever remained of working class job opportunities (meat packing plants, convenience stores, etc) and worked harder than these fat Mountain Dew guzzling slobs imagined was possible.

        And so they stewed on the dark edges of the Interwebs between PT shifts at Jiffy Lube, pointing fingers at anyone but themselves for their sad failure to take advantage of their home field advantage and skill up in a harsh economic environment. Racists they certainly are but they’re also heavily armed and ready to die at the “Alamo” of “Western Civ”, even though they rarely travel out of state, much less the European “Homeland.” These dumb ass and close minded people are everything I was trying to escape growing up, but…

        Ulimately I believe in absolute free speech, public safety and property rights as non negotiables for a civilized society. I will continue to advocate for the reasonable “missing middle” in this debate, but history isn’t comforting for the voice of nuance during a Fourth Turning. If push comes to shoving my family against the wall, I’m a redneck with a gun. Or an expat with a black eye. But never a Antifa apologizer. We’ll see. Good luck.

          1. I’ve gradually come to realize that many of my extended friends and associates here on the Left Coast are actually more heavily armed than they admit to in public. It’s like the Christian Republicans in the South who quietly have gay biracial grandchildren and don’t mention it at the country club…

            1. There’s plenty of hypocrisy to go around. The real issue is that no one looks at their own. It’s easier (and much more comforting) to blame “the others” (whoever they might be). Meh.

  4. You have as always Johnny ignited the spark with a fine wisdom. I lived in Long Beach, Ca back in 1974, oblivious to the political and social machinations that worked below our fetal grasp,, Life was something I did when I couldn’t sleep. Now there is a reality slapping me in the face, saying “wake the fuck up, Dick Head.” Life did that to parents years ago in the 20’s, they then tried to explain it to my rolling eyes, when I was a boy wearing my Davy Crockett hat at the dinner table.

  5. Right, a generation set out to “beat the system” and they succeeded in beating it to death. Some took too much out, other put too little in, in both the public and private sectors. Generation Greed.

    They’ll do anything to avoid facing head on the country they are leaving behind for their children. The upsurge in tribalism is just an attempt to blame someone else. And nothing sparks as much fury as calling them out on it. The whole reality of what has occurred is under Omertà.

    The Antifa (whoever they are) vs. Proud Boys (whoever they are) thing is probably just repeating arguments from the 1960s. Meanwhile the whole world has changed.

    1. Just to follow up, how do the generations that are still in charge, who have benefitted from leaving those to follow so much worse off, keep this fact and issue out of national discourse?

      How do they keep it from being talked about, with all the talking heads, and the screaming heads?

      How is it no one will dare, dare to speak up for everyone born after 1957 or so — especially those born after 1980, who are worse off still?

      How do they get away with avoiding even psychological and reputational accountability? So that if nothing else, they might be a little embarrassed about further demands for more resources for their own needs, whether tax cuts or more services?

        1. The burdens they are leaving behind will live for at least 50 more years.

          And Argentina, our bellwether, never recovered from their own something for nothing, blame the other side Generation Greed.

          It makes be feel a little better that the Subte still runs — not long ago with century-old equipment.

  6. Los Angeles is not the most beautiful of cities as it exists today. But without the cars, if most of that asphalt and cement were replaced with, lawns, parks, greenery and infill buildings to make the city more urban and walkable… it could be spectacular. If the plans and multi-billion dollar investments of autonomous vehicle investors like Alphabet, Intel, Tesla, NVDIA, Chevy, Ford, Honda, Toyota and some others, a car-lite future where corporate owned one seaters like the Renault Twizzy operating with Uber style systems, each vehicle serving between 5-10 people may be in order.
    Few people remember or can even imagine it, but before the twentieth century it was common for American cities to have open sewers, a layer of manure on the streets deposited by odoriferous and loudly clanking horses, trains belching black smoke, the noise of hawkers, live animals and crowds as dense as anywhere in the world. Tenement neighborhoods in New York City were the most densely populated in the world, running water was still not standard, nor were indoor toilets, tenements often lacked sufficient courtyards or air wells, coal was often burnt in apartments for warmth creating terrible air pollution. Industry spewing smoke and pollutants and creating incredible noise was intermixed within and between residential buildings. The LA of today would seem a paradise to people back then. And if autonomous vehicles fulfill their promise, the LA of twenty years from now may seem a veritable garden to those of us who know the city today.

    1. I understand your vision of a bright future with autonomous vehicles inducing a verdant city with no traffic. And for some (who can afford it) self-driving cars are already mostly here. But I strongly suspect that for the overwhelming majority we’re likely to get something very different. I see fleets of minivans selectively gathering up particular people and driving them to designated productive activities. The communal work van will be much more common than the personal robot chauffeur. Will the city green up as a result? Yes and no. In some locations the eight lane arterials might be retrofitted to linear parks. But with massive declines in retail and a corresponding drop in tax revenue the bulk of the suburban commercial corridors will revert to “nature” as a result of neglect, disuse, and incremental abandonment.

      1. I would think that in a metro like LA (demand for housing way outstripping supply), a large number of those strip malls will be redeveloped into housing. It would bring in more tax revenue than an empty strip mall, and be less of an eyesore. Of course in some places it might be necessary for the mall to be abandoned and become an eyesore before folks let it be redeveloped into apartments or condos.

  7. Great shots; the place looks like a graveyard.. A strange ugliness – so not like a graveyard at all.. Perfect illustrations, a double narrative. (I’m not an American BTW). Cheers.

  8. I found this post implicitly racist. You began by bemoaning your friend’s complaints and then affirmed them with your images. Brown people behind fences and bars. Didn’t see any white people in the same environ. “Chaotic drama surrounding Black Lives Matter and George Floyd”?? It’s not drama, it’s peoples lives. “Your friend has valid points.” About what, peaceful protest against 400 years of systematic racism?

    1. If all you saw in those pictures was “Brown people behind fences and bars” perhaps the accusation of racism behind this post should be aimed towards a mirror.
      The characteristic that the protests in entirety have been peaceful is false. To the average person, as personified by his friend, their attention is drawn towards the riots that have broken off from justified anger towards a myriad of problems, namely police brutality. He suggest that the far-flung ideologies of the left and right will compromise, but it will be many years if we can not look past our own point of view and concede that the concerns of others may be valid to some extent.

  9. Your friend might be rather fond of Los Angeles, indeed an abiding patriot, and recognize that living in Van Nuys is the tradeoff required to obtain it. Spending the core decades of one’s life on a mortgage (a death contract) in a given location reflects the weighting of priorities: price point vs. commute time; square footage vs. aesthetics and amenities…but none takes greater precedence than public safety.

    There is a generation of us who re-entered the urban core based on the full faith and credit of Broken Windows policing only to discover our little sheetrock castles may have been laid upon sand. The systemic victory was so absolute the Millennials had no living memory of urban chaos at all. Who could have forseen a new crop of mayors and councils elected by advocacy groups deliberately dismantling the edifice of law and order? Ten years ago this would have been political suicide, even in LA. So Johnny is right about these things being cyclical.

    Here’s where I disagree. The long term accumulation of unaddressed obligations: pensions, water and power delivery, sewers; while enormous, are solvable. These are, to employ a glib analogy, hardware problems. The hegemony of BLM-as-de-facto-government is a software problem. Societal malware. Soon we will be staring at a blue screen. No apps can run until that is sorted.

    1. The “broken windows policing fixed crime” theory is, at best, much disputed. Removal of leaded gasoline (and the corresponding removal of widespread behavioral problems and IQ reduction, with a roughly 20 year lag), is a plausible contributor.

      1. CA removed it in ’86. That’s 34 years. There goes that silly pet notion. Still waiting for that lag……………….If you’re hanging your hat on that……………Good luck.

        1. At the risk of clogging up our host’s comments with unrelated stuff, check out CA’s official statistics, which show crime decreasing starting in the late 1990s. What caused this is up for debate, but the trends in the numbers probably aren’t.

          1. You know, of course, the demographic argument the “Freakonomics” guys have made: abortions by young unmarried women in a bad (economic and/or social) place led to a lower percentage of children in poverty in the 1980s and fewer potential (young male) criminals in the 1990s.

    2. People are quite willing to live in places that are destroyed by wildfires every 20 years or so. What’s that compared to a little smash-and-grab looting 1 mile away in the commercial district?

  10. Maybe everyone’s right? Yes, police are killing people. Yes, we’re not talking about black crime. Proud Boys vs. Antifa, CHAZ to CHOP and Kente cloth (sing it)… all these ugly symptoms of our cultural and institutional decay. Yes, yes, yes.

    I hate violence though. I’ve never come out the winner when it comes to blows (or even mildly heated debates). So my reaction to this Fourth Turning has been flight rather than fight. Opt out of these false polemics. Stay home and Plan B.

    My Bay Area city is fine right now, but what about the next decade? Suddenly, cities that were way too normcore in my youth are looking pretty good. San Diego? Salt Lake City? Or even (suppress the vomit) Irvine? I’m getting old. Got kids to think about.

    Or the ultimate opt-out: leave America. Just leave the damn grilled cheese on the table. Instead, embrace the Metric system, functional public transit and rational immigration policy. This guy ( comes off as a shyster but I like his catchphrase: “Go where you’re treated best.”

    (Sorry Johnny no matter the content I end up leaving a derivative of the same comment!)

    1. Irvine? Cut to wavy TV image and a voice over. Nooooooooo. I don’t think leaving the States is a guarantee that things will be better. It’s bad all over. I like the idea of a second passport just o be on the safe side. I have friends who are going down that path.

      1. What’s with the bagging on Irvine? If you have whelps it’s a fine place. Basically zero crime. Edgy, hip and “urban”? No. If you have whelps that’s far down on your personal Maslow Hierarchy. Second passport? Yeah I looked at it. If you’re a “native American”, such as myself, whose forefathers came from England, Germany, and Ireland around 1850……’re fkked. What else ya got?

        1. …or before 1850. Yep, it’s the Midwestern suburbs and cars for us. At least there are farms within driving distance here.

          Digression: when I was a kid in SoCal, there were still farms and feedlots amongst the ‘burbs. Irvine was still a ranch. Cherry Valley was still orchards, and there were a few citrus groves in OC. There was a big feedlot along the 405 down towards San Pedro/Long Beach.

      1. I’m pursuing Italian citizenship by descent, which would give me the right to live/work anywhere in the EU (including Switzerland). Currently, I’m considering (Northern) Italy itself, as well as Ireland, the Netherlands and Switzerland. I hope to do an exploratory trip next year, pending Covid policy…

        I have looked into other English speaking countries, which would be my preference, as I have kids to think about. I’m too old to have a realistic shot at Canada or Australia. NZ or the UK are difficult but possible if I had an employer sponsorship. All the Commonwealth countries have similar points based systems that favor young, educated and highly skilled immigrants. That’s what I meant by rational.

        All of this of course is with keeping my U.S. passport and home in California, which I would rent out for this “gap year” while working remote. I just figure: if I can have more options and a little adventure, why not? Life is too short for Van Nuys.

        1. I am kind of doing the same thing, except I suspect I am about 10 years older than you and my folk have been here too long for any citizenship by descent.

          So now I have a house in Phoenix Arizona and one in small town Ohio. I have friends in both places and that is about as much diversity of options as I can manage. We will see how it plays out over the next year or two and then probably sell one of the houses.

    1. Well, Nancy, there is alot of subjectivity in your statement and also surely strategic photo framing by Johnny (to prove a point).

      I can show you ‘ugly’ human settlements in rural northern Michigan too. But I’d rather be low income and living in the marginalized parts of a Metro of 13,000,000 than be low income and living in marginalized parts of a mircopolitan of 30,000.

      1. Years ago, I had a girlfriend in Valley Village. The San Fernando Valley indeed is that depressing, in my experience, for the most part. Now, there are many beautiful/walkable neighorhoods in the LA metro but you usually have to traverse a sea of ratty strip malls to get between these oases. All that being said, I do miss LA sometimes. It has a sexy, crazy energy and openness that NorCal just doesn’t.

      2. No, the East SFV actually looks like that. It mostly looks like Mexico with better plumbing and electrical (for now). Drive around Whiteman Airport if you really want a glimpse into El Futuro de los Estados Unidos.

        1. I was born in LA and spent big chunks of my childhood and adolescence in various parts of the greater SoCal metroplex. This is the landscape I knew as a child in Canoga Park – the sister city to Van Nuys down the road.

          I really don’t want this to be about race or ethnicity. Like the Devil’s Cleaning Lady I would prefer we see Van Nuys as an expression of class. America has always had a low wage army to do all the dirty grunt work. The Irish, “Negros,” Sicilians (like my family,) and more recently Latinos, Sudanese, Filipinos… They were always characterized by the upper crust as being too brutish to make proper citizens.

          This portion of the population has to live close enough to wealthy areas to commute to work as gardeners, dish washers, construction workers, and nannies, but far enough away to be in different school districts and such. These same workers also make excellent renters who help generate the revenue that keeps their employers’ strata solvent.

          These neighborhoods look the way they do because they (and the people who live in them) are a sacrifice zone. The wrong side of the tracks. Intentionally neglected. A necessary evil if you want the grass cut, the pool maintained, and the new master bedroom addition to come in on budget.

          If we removed the sacrifice zone and only paid native born white folks to do these things they would cost a lot more and/or profit margins would be radically smaller. We could reorganize society that way, but it’s easier to just hate on the Mexicans for making Van Nuys so ugly.

          1. These neighborhoods look the way they do because they (and the people who live in them) are a sacrifice zone. The wrong side of the tracks. Intentionally neglected. A necessary evil if you want the grass cut, the pool maintained, and the new master bedroom addition to come in on budget.

            The other thing sacrificed was the middle class, which is now mostly gone in CA. Whatever keeps the UMC and rich happy, I guess.

            If we removed the sacrifice zone and only paid native born white folks to do these things they would cost a lot more and/or profit margins would be radically smaller.

            I don’t think you could find many whites to do these jobs. Mostly, they were never born. The ones that were born went to “college” rather than work a trade. The remaining ones willing to work a trade are paid well if in a union or otherwise get the treatment described here. The solution to low white fertility was to bring in immigrants, mostly from Mexico which is why much of it looks like Mexico. Is Van Nuys neglected? Sure. Lots of things are neglected in this state now. Describing Van Nuys and that whole area as looking like Mexico (actually, I think a lot of Rosarito looks better) is not “hate” but the describing the consequences, most of which are going to get a lot worse.

        1. I have young adult (Millennial) kids and stepkids, and a flock of grandchildren including a couple of boys with brown skin. (I am German-Irish white.)

          I want to see them all grow into and through adulthood with a fair chance, which is about 30 more years and about the age my own father is now.

          The scary part is that in just a few years we will be dependent on our accumulated assets. A major system reset would come at a time when we’re not young and flexible enough to work through it. By then I may be like Johnny’s friend, figuratively shaking my fist and shouting “get offa my lawn”. But I hope not.

          1. Ah! .. A lawn is but a field of lifeless ‘stranded’ assets. Don’t have one. Grow a garden .. makes life more tolerable. Make it a ‘family affair’. Shake that fist from terra firma instead, while you harvest your rewards with the other!

  11. Spot on. Two quotes:

    “The world is never anything other than an uneven playing field. Some are rich, some are poor, some are smart, some not so much, etc. If every trace of racism disappeared tomorrow, the unevenness of life would remain. “Privilege” takes many, many forms, only some of which have color attached. But the secret to living cannot be the eradication of all unevenness, all privilege, all unfairness. Only a bulldozer could attempt such a thing, and every one of us would become a plowed-under victim.”


    “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.”

    The problems of our nation will never be solved because political institutions are about trading power for compromise. All we ever see in politics and protests is one side seeking to take power from another and then using it to impose its views. The true battle is in the human heart; real change can only happen there. And nothing happening on the news will change the human heart.

  12. OK, I’m interested in yr analysis, but please say more about this: “The real problem is that we’ve spent the last forty odd years dismantling all our institutions and running up a massive bill no one intends to ever pay. We did this willingly and intensionally, because we didn’t want to be constrained by societal obligations.”

    1. History runs in long slow cycles. One generation experiences a painful traumatic series of events and learns from the crisis. They create strong institutions and build enduring infrastructure along with a solid social contract to make sure there’s never a return to those tragic events.

      Then time passes. That generation ages. Their children have no memory of the crash and its side effects. They reject the restrictions and guidelines laid down by their parents. They rebel and dismantle the frameworks and safeguards. They take the infrastructure for granted and let it decay. They run up debts. And for a long time nothing bad happens. The systems can handle it for decades.

      Time passes and a new generation comes along. They inherit the debt, the accumulation of benign neglect, and consequences of active destruction. A new series of disasters unfolds with no institutional strength left to manage any of it. The pain is intense. The losses are real. So that generation picks up the broken pieces, invents new institutions, creates a new social contract, and builds new infrastructure.

      The cycle repeats…

      1. Institutions do tend to become ossified and more about the people working in them and their favored constituents, who may pay well in order to be so favored. It’s the unfavored who do the knocking down, and potentially continuing happily for decades after such knockdowns before possibly facing some consequences does not seem very persuasive in trying to stop anyone from storming the gates.

        1. Jerry Pournelle coined what he called “Pournelle’s Iron Law of the Bureaucracy.” He said every institution has two types of people in it, those dedicated to the mission of the institution, and those dedicated to the institution itself. Over time, the second type take over, as they become the internal rule-makers (for the good of the institution, you see) and leadership gate-keepers and come to control it and then intentionally or not, squeeze out or marginalize the mission-focused people. So the organization that started out to stop environmental degradation morphs into a fund-raising outfit with fancy offices and important board-members.

          The people running it still think they’re champions of the environment, because they’re looking out for the well-being of the organization, but the people who actually did the real work are gone, or marginalized and the outfit simply consumes resources.

          Same thing has happened to almost all of our institutions – public, private, corporate, etc. Full of bureaucrats doing everything they can to preserve the institution but doing next to nothing that actually qualifies as fulfilling the mission. Well, except for the ones full of con-artists busy looting the place.

      2. Nice concise synopsis Johnny.

        How many 20 year olds know that rivers used to catch fire in the USA? How many think its just a myth? Do you think a republican president or legislature could pass a clean water act today?…a clean air act? The children/grandchildren of today’s 20 year olds will once again see “rivers catch fire”, and that’s what it will take to re-up a “clean water act”, so to speak.

        Also, it seems that in most cases ones country must first be occupied by and invading army before a genuine social contract is upheld. I don’t think we’ve had that happen quite yet.

        1. I suspect the invading army this time around will be climate change. And I suspect the next social contract will be written by eco-fascists, who will recognize that they need to clamp down if they are going to do anything effective to mitigate the damage.

          I hope the Green People’s Party are more inclined to allow some shadow version of 20th century western civil rights than the Chinese, rather than less.

        2. Lie down and take your meds. That was the Cuyahoga, in Cleveland, and we don’t produce enough “stuff” to produce a flaming river of a half century ago.

          1. We do still make a lot of stuff, just in a way that reduces waste and toxic byproducts. We don’t dump as many byproducts wholesale into air, rivers and pits out back. Because of the laws that force producers to internalize some of the cost of mitigating pollution.

            For instance, steel production in the US fell by about 1/3 in the Carter-Reagan recession of 1980-82, but has been generally at that level for the past 40 years.

            Electricity production has increased tremendously, as has oil and gas extraction and basic chemicals production and domestic auto production (a lot of which is by companies other than the Detroit 3).

            Heavy industry is alive and well in the US. Just not where it all was 50-100 years ago. And with fewer pipes and smokestacks spewing toxic waste.

            1. True about the heavy stacks & production. They’re still spewing the same toxic wastes, they just tend to play regulatory wack-a-mole and stay away from places with fresh water, such as the shores of Lake Erie. Much easier to not get a Clean Water Act & Marine Mammal Protection penalties in Phoenix than in Buffalo, with their pesky river otters, spotted salamanders, and great lakes drinking water.

      3. This fits in with Peter Turchin’s historical theory. We had our golden era. We had our era of elite overproduction and immiseration. Now, we’re in the unstable elite competition era with its roughly 40 year cycle. We haven’t quite collapsed, at least not yet, but we’ve been working on it.

        1. And Joseph Tainter’s theory.

          Plus we get to deal with climate change and (shale notwithstanding) increasingly “tight” (expensive) oil. And ocean acidification. And insect apocalypse. And, and, and ….

          1. I would go much further, positing that humans will change morphologically to fit these strange new times .. developing the flukes, blowholes, and fins necessary for ocean living .. while the cetaceans – the porpoises, the dolphins, and whales – grow legs once again, having the last laugh!

        1. The 1970s are tricky. Everyone remembers it as a time of decline and failure compared to the growth of the 1960s or the boom of the 1980s. But the numbers from the 70s are instructive. The US was an enormous lender to the world compared to the monsterous borrower it is now. The US manufactured most of its own products and exported plenty. American households and businesses had low debt to earning ratios. Blah, blah, blah. The last 40 years saw a huge increase in leverage to create unsustainable growth, an evaporation of savings, and a gutting of the middle class. We put everything on a credit card and the bill is coming due.

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