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The Economy: View From The Amtrak Train Window

Updated on November 3, 2012
Photographs by PIETER HUGO
Photographs by PIETER HUGO | Source

Scenes from a Train Window

ESSAY - Empire of the In-Between

Now there was a lot about the topic of this story that caught my attention, and it kind of drifts off a bit in the middle before coming back to the point, that is the point I would have made the focal point of the story. But as it relates to a train trip I myself took three years ago from California to South Carolina. The picture being drawn here is much bigger than is being appreciated. They are just revealing to readers about the train line between New York and Washington, I'm talking about America as a whole. Its much worst than is spoken of in author Adam Davidson's essay.

New York Times Photographer Pieter Hugo, does an excellent job of capturing the scenes of the ride from New York to Washington. But had he taken the ride I took in 2009 from Sacramento California to Kingstree, South Carolina he would have been able to paint a much more disturbing picture of what can be seen from the window of an Amtrak train through the American heartland.

The View From the Window Across the Land

In the west and the midwestern states I saw so much more decay along the tracks of the railroad, where once thriving communities had prospered from the fact that the railroad ran through their areas. Strip malls of mom and pop storefronts as well as major store and food store chains closed, replaced by Walmart Super center's under-cutting sales of local businesses, because of their ability to purchase goods in bigger lot quantities for less.

The closing of industrial centers that once thrive in the golden age of manufacturing goods for both domestic and international markets, which employed thousands of workers gone. Farming that once fed peoples families and the world at large, closed by government subsidy to not grow food. Land that no longer is farmed for the benefit of Americans that belong now to other nations, to feed people who once supported america's economy. Staggering poverty and unemployment due to the export of jobs to foreign countries and corporate downsizing. Boarded up ghost towns of once thriving communities are all that can be viewed from the windows of the Amtrak train.

Who is John Galt

Author Ayn Rand comes to mind also as the world she created in now classic Atlas Shrugged over sixty years ago, has become our reality in the twenty first century. Surely the motor that ran America and built it in to the world power that it has become financially and economically, is not running now, it has stopped. Consequently, so has the worlds of many peoples dreams and aspirations, has stopped and is coming to an end. The cry of who is "John Galt" echoes through the landscape of Americana just as in Rands novel, John Galt the man who stopped the engine of the world, John Galt the only man that can fix the engine of the world to keep it from ending. Well it's obvious that neither Obama or Romney is the elusive John Galt, as the the picture outside the window of the dying economy has existed for a lot longer, than Mr. Davison's NYTimes essay portrays just days before the eve of the election.

The Greater Depression

So let us raise our glasses to the death of the middle class, which is no more, let us raise a toast the new Great Depression. Which the politicians want to sell to us as merely a recession from which we can recover if only we can find John Galt and the men like him to help us rebuild the engine of the economy. For it is men like John Galt who have the knowledge to create and build the financial infrastructure that will save us all. But even as Mr. Davidson has pointed out in his essay that America still builds and manufactures goods, and Mr. Bernancke as neo Great Depression guru tries to guide us through to Roosevelt styled state of economic well-being. The picture outside the window of the train tells yet another story in a starkness that defies the proposed fantasy realities of Washington politics.

Problems of Titanic Proportions

The prophet George Carlin tried to tell us what our reality was becoming, as he shouted his message in the wind, heck Bob Dylan has for years told us that the answer is blowing in the wind my friends. But the warnings and admonitions go unheard still, go unheeded still, and the publics memory grows dimmer each day in the face of their vapidly deteriorating world, the rich complain as they continue to live well, eat well, sleep well, travel and vacation well. Oh well I guess its all going to hell. The decline has been evident for a long time now, the incline of our descent down the drain becomes steeper with each passing hour of the days ahead. soon the bow of the ship will break, and the stern will will rise before making that final ascent below the face of the waters. The sound of silence will replace the screams, the panic, and the anguish and agony of those losing the ability to stay afloat.

Nostalgia for the Good Ole' Days

So as the public is sold on the ideas that there will be better days, That the service sector will emerge as the savior of us all. Giving us above average pay, but below average unemployment. That we will no longer have to put in a hard days work at the factory, but can sit comfortably behind our desks, in our cubicles, in the fancy hi rise buildings of glass and steel that have been newly erected and fill the horizon through the window of the train. What about those with only a high-school degree or no degree at all, for whom far fewer jobs will be available, and the ones that will be, that pay poorly and disappear quickly. Their growing numbers become more evident through the window of the train also. The wealthy build their worlds behind the protected walls of suburbia, as the rest us left behind in the inner cities face the dangers that grow more and more with each passing day. The world of Mad Max looms ever closer as the divide becomes first a trench and now a canyon leading to an abyss. The future grow a grim fruit upon the tree of life, as we look upon the landscape through the windows of the train.

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