We live in a middle size Florida city.
I first noticed that the streets and highways of this extended city had lost most of their cars in 2008.
During the booming 1990’s and early 2000’s the city politicians robbed the public big time, by building streets and highways going out of the city to new suburbs which were popping up like mushrooms wherever developers could get fifty acres together.
The politicians ordered the roads and got kickbacks from the builders. Of course, the taxpayers didn’t care.
The developers built thousands of houses on swamps. Their houses were built of cardboard and toothpicks and would last, perhaps, a dozen years.
But, the public loved them and paid at least ten times their cost to the smiling developers.
It was the beginning of Nirvana for the dreamers who came from everywhere, including other countries, to taste Floridian sunshine and live in a state that had no taxes.
The public wanted new big houses and new big cars. The bankers smiled and loaned them the money.
The Wall Street money centers hired extra marketing manager who devised that famous scheme to bundle fraudulent mortgages into inscrutable packages and sell them to unwitting banks everywhere across the world.
It had to collapse, and, of course, it did. That was in 2008. The financial world panicked and screamed and suddenly the entire world was paralyzed.
NO MORE LOANS!
The public, like spoiled brats, were used to borrowing and buying, but never paying back. The word “Refinance” was written into every sales pitch on television. “Can’t pay it back? Do not worry. Refinance!”
The banks offered more money and the public took it. When the paralysis hit, the public and the banks were holding tons of worthless paper.
The public was shocked: “How do I pay for this huge car? How do I pay for my castle on the swamp?” or “Don’t drive your car and do not Ever! air condition your house! You are poor. Live with it!” So the public stopped driving and the streets emptied out.
Yet in 2009 and 2010 they slowly crept back. The Fed had given two trillion dollars of taxpayer money to the banks and that made the banks feel comfortable.
The banks had learned from law suits brought by the D.A.’s of the states that they could not collect on fraudulent loans, that is, where the borrower did not know what he was doing or what he was signing.
So the banks did not foreclose on the cars and the owners brought them back on the streets.
Whenever they could, the owners sold these cars. They were too big and consumed too much gasoline. A few cheap new cars appeared. They were made in South Korea and they had a look of “I don’t cost much, but I don’t last long.”
This growth of traffic did not last very long.
I had noticed that in the restaurants, people came for the first meal but almost no one came for the second meal. The recession/depression was deep and pervasive.
It wouldn’t go away in a few years. Like tuberculosis or a serious chronic disease, it would not go away with words or meager governmental help. So the cars began to disappear again.
I keep wondering… Will the streets be completely empty someday???