Tracking the Meltdown: Sweating the Small Stuff

(11:00AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

The big economic news is all over the place-lately the truly dire unemployment figures which have administration officials suddenly hemming and hawing instead of bragging about “green shoots.”

But the unfolding depression is making its mark in a thousand pinpricks of pain as well. A newspaper that will flesh this point out a bit just rose to the top of one of the piles here at Casa FotM. It’s an issue from last month of The Millbrook Independent–a six page weekly whose masthead proclaims “Serving Millbrook and Stanfordville and the Greater Millbrook Region” in Dutchess County, New York.

Along with coverage of wetlands regulations and high school math scores were two articles that illuminated unexpected aspects of the crunch.

One, on the front page, plugged a new “state of the art” storage facility opening in a former bowling alley in Mabbetsville. It struck me as perhaps an unfortunate business to be starting in this climate, but the owner had a quote which led me to reconsider: “With the huge advent of home offices, people now need to store what was once in that room.”

And damned if the NYC exurbs aren’t fuller than ever of folks freelancing after losing their jobs. And one woman of my acquaintance is working most of the week at home on the computer for the big name financial firm she used to commute to every day.

The other story in The Millbrook Independent, on page 5, celebrated a local dairy cow, judged the #2 Holstein in the US. The owner, Stephen Van Tassell, explained that this ranking had permitted him to keep the farm’s finances above water by the sale of Sheray’s embryos. Otherwise things didn’t look so good with bulk milk selling for $11.70 a hundredweight “about as low as it’s been in the past, but our costs are higher, around $19 cwt, so the damage is greater.”

Even more significant, this little seven paragraph piece includes striking evidence of neoliberalism’s effects on US agriculture, combined with the impact of the contraction of global trade since the credit crisis broke:

What happened to getting milk prices pegged to regional production costs?

“It’s gone exactly the other way,” Stephen explained. “Now our prices are based on national and international supply and demand. Last year, we [the American dairy industry] exported about 15 percent of our US production. This year we are down to two or three percent. China seems to be importing less.”

Crossposted from Fire on the Mountain.


  1. while we continue to put the good of our workers a distant minor issue when compared to increasing corporate profits by outsourcing jobs.  

    Rare earth Elements are becoming increasingly important and/or crucial for uses in alternative energy,   technology, etc: (emphasis mine)

    High-technology and environmental applications of the rare earth elements (REE) have grown dramatically in diversity and importance over the past four decades. As many of these applications are highly specific, in that substitutes for the REE are inferior or unknown, the REE have acquired a level of technological significance much greater than expected from their relative obscurity. Although actually more abundant than many familiar industrial metals, the REE have much less tendency to become concentrated in exploitable ore deposits. Consequently, most of the world’s supply comes from only a few sources. The United States once was largely self-sufficient in REE, but in the past decade has become dependent upon imports from China…In 1999 and 2000, more than 90% of REE required by U.S. industry came from deposits in China.

    China is now realizing that their need for these elements has increased, so, they are cutting back on exports. According to a report on NPR this morning, China is cutting back exports at least in part to retain jobs for Chinese workers.  Also a Mining industry spokesperson had this to say about China’s using the rare mineral as a way to ensure that foreign companies will export manufacturing jobs to China, in return for gaining access to the minerals:

    “One of the stated goals of the Chinese government has been to bring more and more manufacturing into China, and they need to do that because they’ve got a lot of people in that country, a lot of whom are looking for jobs…And when you have a resource that everybody needs, called rare earths, you can pull the manufacturing facilities into your country by guaranteeing that people who relocate manufacturing facilities to China will be given priority on rare earth supplies. I think it’s an excellent strategic move on their part, and it has absolutely created many, many jobs in China. We think that there were probably about 900 jobs lost in the United States as a result.”

    Hmmm….”It’s created many, many jobs in China”   but has “only” cost about “900 jobs” in the US???  Unhuh…  And our government sat by and not only allowed this to happen, but had a large hand in making sure it happen.  Now, not only can foreign countries blackmail the US by threats to withhold oil, other foreign countries can threaten to withhold elements crucial to our technology, including computers, etc–and these elements are also crucial in the development of alternative energy.  

    Heckuva job US “leadership”.

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