I, like the rest of the world, like to make predictions about things. Most of the time, my predictions are, like the rest of the world’s, flat out wrong. For example, I predicted that we’d have universal healthcare long before now, and that the American people would soon be sick and tired (and sick of being broke) of the messed up, overly expensive system we have, which leaves far too many people behind, and far too many more bankrupt.
Result: Apparently not. Well that sucks.
Most of the time I keep these predictions to myself. Unlike the garbage shillers on news radio and talk shows, I see no reason to inflict my stupidities on the rest of the world. It works out well when I can avoid making some bold claim that proves to be entirely without merit. Although truth be told, it is apparent that these days you can make the most nutso of claims and, if enough people believe you, no one will give a rat’s ass if you’re wrong. They’ll just wait for you to make a new claim and then grab onto that one for the wild ride ahead. (See: everything Q). The GOP have been successfully gaslighting the American public for decades with lying predictions of doom and despair about progressive policies.
Today, I’m going to break my silence and make two claims. That, of course, will guarantee that neither of these will come true. It’s not my fault if a cult springs up around these, though.
Claim Number One: within twenty years, the housing market in overly expensive cities will go bottoms up and burn like the Hindenburg loaded with napalm in a California wildfire.
Now, I picked twenty years because that gives me some leeway on timing. The further out you make a prediction, the more you can be wrong and no one will care. That said, I feel much more confident about this one then I do the other one (which I will present later).
First, there’s no doubt we’re already deep within a housing crisis in the United States, and its only growing worse. This crisis is most prevalent in the cities, particularly on the coasts, and most glaringly on the west coast. Housing costs in cities like San Francisco have soared to the point that a run down little POS two-bedroom will cost you well over a cool million, not including your cost to actually make the place livable. Such prices are not sustainable and have led to California having a homelessness crisis. Far from the right-wing view that homelessness is because poor people are lazy scum bags, the problem is far more complex and caused by gentrification, capital speculation, and the removal of housing units from the market to convert into short-term rentals (a la AirBnB). In California, it’s made even worse by NIMBY’ism that prevents addressing the problem with appropriate housing for the poor, as well as public policy ignoring the need for higher density residencies. I could go on endlessly about all the poor choices that have led us to here and now.
This can’t go on. When your country is one where wages have remained nearly flat for half a century (adjusted for inflation) while the cost of housing has far outpaced inflation, you end up with a middle class falling further behind. But rather than address the wage disparity – that would require raising minimum wage, as well as raising the top income tax brackets, corporate taxes, AND capital gains taxes, all of which the super rich HATE and pay politicians to help them avoid – we nitpick at the housing problem with tepid solutions that solve… nothing.
I have no answers though. I only know that, as long as things remain as they are (and I see no impetus for real change), this market is going to collapse in the next decade or two. When no middle or lower class individual can afford a home, they can’t afford to stay where they are. They will go to other states, and California will diminish for their loss. Same thing will happen in Florida, and any other city/state where housing prices are vastly overinflated.
Important note: if you are in the market right now, I’m so sorry for you. But do NOT engage in the pricing wars. Do NOT forgo inspections to save time/money and sweeten your offer. Do NOT accept an adjustable rate mortgage that can/will balloon when interest rates rise. Do not do ANY of these things the market wants you to do, because all you’re doing is making the rich richer and screwing yourself over. The sooner we all stop acting like trained dogs barking in unison, the sooner this situation will solve itself.
On to prediction number two:
Claim Number Two: the movie theater industry in our country is dying and will be almost completely gone in ten years, with the exception of niche theaters like iMax, with their massive screens and immersive experiences, or chains like Alamo Drafthouse, which draw customers in for the beer and food as much as a movie. Nothing says “America!” like being able to get drunk in public. Regular theaters, though, are toast. Goodbye, AMC (and please ignore the folks shelling this stock to you and telling you to “hodl!”; they aren’t doing you any favors, just trying to drive the price up to make a profit… but at least they know markets are just a circus sideshow).
There’s a lot of reasons why I say this. Movie attendance has been in a slow decline for decades, after peaking in 2002, and the pandemic sure didn’t do the industry any favors. The only reason they have remained marginally profitable (if they are even at ALL profitable) has been by raising ticket prices. But at what price point to people stop thinking it’s a good deal to go out to a movie? I think we’ve hit that limit. $15 per person per two hour passive entertainment pleasure is what I think the mark is. You pay that much for a streaming service.
The rise of big screen televisions, now moving into the maturity years of 4k, combined with cheap home surround sound systems, sounded the death knell. For many folks, Netflix and chill is almost as grand a spectacle as the theater, and with a fraction of the hassle. No ticket cost; no sticky floors; no person next to you with their phone lit up as they text a friend during the movie; no one talking over the actors. Movie quality features are being sent straight to our televisions, and likely to increase in numbers as more and more streaming stations rush to put them into production. Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Disney+, even Apple these days… streaming is the future, along with even better, bigger flat screens and better sound systems.
I feel this prediction is on shakier grounds, though. People love the movies. They love the experience of being jammed into a room with a few hundred other folks watching a feature film for the first time, despite the discomfort and distractions. I don’t know why. I personally don’t think it’s better than watching the film at home. Only once have I had an “experience” at a movie where I felt glad to be in a room with lots of other folks, and I don’t find audience reaction to “great moments” to be anything but a huge annoyance to my enjoyment of the film. But I’m an introvert. I take a movie as “a fun two hours,” not as anything more.I don’t get terribly, deeply moved most of the time, and when I do, I prefer to experience those emotions privately, not publicly. If I’m going to cry, let me do it at home on my own, not in a room full of strangers.
So maybe I’m wrong there. I think not, but I admit I could be. And when was the last time a prognosticator on these bloviating bullshit broadcasters admitted THAT?
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