In 2012 the urban prepper covered what lessons could be learned from Superstorm Sandy because this was an example of a natural disaster and how unprepared people were for it.
Although every year the United States experiences natural disasters-some on a large scale and others on a smaller scale- in 2014 prepper experts predicted that the biggest threat would be an economic collapse; that there was a 64% chance one was going to happen.
Since the recession began in 2008, people have seen how devastating something like that could be even though it didn’t quite meet the qualifications of an actual economic collapse.
An economic collapse is when there is a breakdown of a national, regional, or territorial economy that is devastating; it is usually followed by economic depression, social chaos, and civil unrest that could go on for months-maybe even years-before the government actually does something.
In other words, it has to really hurt the rich and powerful. As bad as the recession was, it didn’t quite fit the bill.
Still, the recession gave people a taste of things to come.
One of the more recent examples of a possible economic collapse and one that should be of great concerns to cities that are in the process of gentrification such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Camden, NJ, New York, as well as Cleveland is the new reality of Atlantic City; an area that has been hit hard with the massive closing of casinos that resulted in the loss of over 9,000 jobs.
This is a story that every prepper should be aware of and should be concerned about because what has happened in Atlantic City could happen anywhere and eventually will.
Atlantic City had a long history of being a resort town that went back as far as 1870, but by the 1950s the city had started to decline due to crime, poverty and a lack of economic means.
Politicians looked for ways to rejuvenate and restore the town to its heyday. By the late 1960s there was talk about bringing gambling to Atlantic City which proved to be not such an easy sell to residents of the state.
In 1974 a legalized gambling referendum was presented to the politicians didn’t pass, but in 1976 it did.
There were promises made to skeptical taxpayers.
They were promised by the casinos as well as the government that all jobs would go to New Jersey residents (they didn’t); that money that the state would receive as a result of revenue generated by the casinos would go to improving the surrounding neighborhoods that were impoverished and dilapidated (it didn’t).
In May of 1978 the first casino, Resorts, opened in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
After that, casinos started to sprout up like weeds in the spring.
In 1979, Caesars Boardwalk Regency and Bally’s Park Place opened their doors.
In 1980, there were three more casinos (Sands, Harrah’s and The Golden Nugget), 1981 brought even three more (the Claridge, Playboy and Tropicana) and by the time the bottom fell out in 2014 Atlantic City had been the home to 15 casinos.
That’s a lot of casinos for a town that’s only 17.4 miles big (about 48 blocks) with a population of 39,551 people.
Although the state was getting rich off of the casinos, the neighborhoods weren’t. Instead of the state taking some of their money and revitalizing these areas, they concocted the 1977 Casino Control Act which called for the casinos to give 2% of their yearly gaming revenue to Atlantic City.
They did not.
So what happened?
The same thing that is usually someone’s undoing: greed.
Both city and state government became addicted to the money that was steadily flowing in. They built more and more casinos in order to get more and more money.
They wanted people to come to the casinos and stay there so they brought in top-name entertainment, stores, restaurants, and parking.
In the service and entertainment industry that is known as overhead and overhead eats away at your profits. The more overhead you have the more money you have to make just to turn a profit.
The lowest amount of money that New Jersey casinos’ made came in 1989 with $2.8 billion and 2006 was their best year with $5.2 billion.
In 2012 it had dropped down to $3 billion and they discovered that they had to share their possible profits with other states such as Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Delaware.
New Jersey no longer had the monopoly on gambling establishments on the East coast. Now they had competition.
The problem is that they ignored the writing on the wall as early as 1992 when Foxwoods Resort Casino opened in Connecticut.
For some reason they didn’t see a casino in Connecticut as direct competition. Perhaps it was because Mashantucket, where the casino was located, was 184 miles from Atlantic City.
In 1996 New Jersey also ignored Harrington Raceway in Delaware opening up a casino despite the fact that is was 148 miles from Atlantic City’s casinos.
It wasn’t until casinos started going up in Philadelphia and the suburbs in 2009 that Atlantic City acknowledged that they did have competition.
Instead of reinventing itself the way Las Vegas did in 2007, Atlantic City kept doing what they had done since 1978: make money off of gambling and they did this by building more and more casinos many of them after 1992.
Why? Because greed makes people arrogantly stupid.
As a prepper there are a couple of really good lessons to be learned by what happened to Atlantic City and why people who live in urban areas need to stay vigilante because the same problem is going to replicate itself in large cities within five years.
Lesson 1: Don’t trust the government.
If you are older than 21 years of age you should already have learned this lesson, but it never hurts to have a refresher course.
The state of New Jersey and the city of Atlantic City were able to convince taxpayers that casinos would be in their best interest because the neighborhoods would be improved, there would be a lot of jobs and money would be funneled into programs to help the poor.
In 1970 the percentage of people living below the poverty line in Atlantic City was 22.5% and in 2011 it was 29.3%. The unemployment rate in 1977 was 18.1% and in 2012 it was 17.8%.
These recent numbers were prior to the casinos closing which didn’t happen until 2014.
So who actually got helped?
Senior citizens and the disabled did fare a lot better than the neighborhoods, but the politicians as well as casino owners made out like fat rats.
Wealthier areas or areas where the state wanted to bring in the wealthy, saw improvements to the roads and commerce. These areas were not in Atlantic City.
There were minimal improvements to the highways, but only because the gamblers had to get to the casinos.
As the residents of Atlantic City have discovered, putting 100% of your trust into believing that you can depend on what the government says and does is a big mistake.
During any type of collapse it is thought that the government will be there to help you, but they won’t. At least not right away.
If you live in a large city that help will come quicker than for people who live in suburban or rural areas, but that’s only because that city’s government will need money.
If you owe any type of loan such as car, education or mortgage, insurance premiums or taxes they will come for you first.
Large cities may not be able to rely on assistance on a state or federal level so they’ll do what they have to and that means coming after the people who owe them money.
During any type of collapse, don’t expect the government to offer you any real assistance.
Take the Philadelphia Police Department (please). They have a little over 6, 600 officers and 1.5 million residents that live within the city. That doesn’t include any tourists or people who commute to work there from areas outside of the city.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the number of residents is a lot more than the number of police officers.
The city officials wants you to stay at home and not to bother them if an emergency hits.
Years ago there were bomb shelters, but they got rid of them. Now they’ll tell you that your home is your “shelter in-place.”
There is a shelter still in existence in Philadelphia. It’s located in the Broad Street Concourse.
It probably goes without saying that no matter how big it is, it won’t be able to fit over a million people in it.
It’s also safe to say that it’s awfully close to City Hall which is probably no coincidence.
Don’t bother calling your local council person. They most likely auctioned off entrance into the shelter to the highest bidder years ago.
In 2010 the White House’s West Wing underground command center began being built. This was in addition to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) that is located in the East Wing.
Even though both of these structures were built with taxpayer money, the regular folks will not have access to it.
It’s only for the rich and powerful; those who are politically connected and, no, paying taxes or voting doesn’t count as being powerful or rich.
So the lesson to learn from the residents of Atlantic City is to don’t believe the government and don’t depend on them because you’re going to be on your own.
Lesson 2: A penny saved is a penny earned.
New Jersey government officials and casino owners weren’t the only ones who made money on the backs of Atlantic City residents. Casino workers made out pretty good as well. The unions did really well.
Workers of menial jobs such as housekeepers, dishwashers and janitors made $50,000 a year or more (not including tips) while the median income for a housekeeper is $19,780, dishwashers make $8.62 an hour and janitors do a little better averaging about $9.00 an hour.
Waitresses made over $8.74 an hour (not including tips) while the median income for waitresses is $4.00 an hour, but even more depend on their tips because their hourly wage is less than that.
In Philadelphia and New York it is not unheard of for wait staff to receive hourly wages of $2-3 because the owners of the restaurant expect for you to make your own living wage through tips which are at the customer’s discretion.
Believing that they were set for life, many of these employees bought houses in the suburbs, purchased new cars, enjoyed vacations, premium health insurance and put their kids in private or parochial schools.
Very little money was saved because they believed that there was more money coming.
These employees let their union representatives and casino bosses convince them that the money will always flow in.
Lesson that should be learned: There is no such thing as lifetime careers anymore and haven’t been for a very long time. Try to live a simply as possible and reduce your debt. Even if it’s just a little bit, try to put something aside, but not in a bank.
Once an emergency hits, it won’t matter how nice your car is, how many credit cards you have or whether your house has central air conditioning. Pay off your bills, reduce your debt, stock up on essentials like food and water, and wait for the collapse to hit.
You won’t be able to buy your way out of a collapse, but you will survive the second wave: bill collectors coming to your door to get what’s owed to them.
Lesson 3: Don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses.
Even once the Atlantic City casinos were faced with competition, they didn’t pay attention to what their competition was doing.
Atlantic City offered a lot to attract people. They provided concert venues, valet parking, buses, restaurants and even hotel rooms. Many of the casinos that have gone up in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland offer none of that.
Atlantic City casino officials like to call these competitors Wal-Mart-style casinos.
These competitors were savvy business people. They didn’t want all the little extras that Atlantic City had because it bit into the profits. They also knew that they had a selling point that Atlantic City ignored: convenience.
People no longer had to endure driving long distances to go gambling.
Atlantic City was also so busy chasing after bigger bucks they ignored what should have been their customer base: New Jersey residents.
Lesson to be learned:
1. Bigger isn’t always better. You don’t have to have the biggest house or car, but you should have a big amount of supplies on hand.
2. Preppers should always pay attention to not only their surroundings, but what is coming up behind them in their rear view mirror. Any collapse coming will give you a sign or two, but you have to look for it.
3. KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid). Prepping or reducing your dependency on the government/big corporations shouldn’t be a grandiose event. Keep what you absolutely need to survive and get rid of the rest.
Lesson 4: All good things must come to an end.
This is a lesson that the casinos, New Jersey government officials and casino employees never once considered even when it was staring them in the face.
They saw the money that was pouring in came from a bottomless well and nothing in life lasts forever.
Ignorance of any one of life’s little facts is a dangerous game to play.
Despite what Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko said about greed being good, it’s not.
Lesson to be learned: Ignorance and greed destroy people. It also destroys economies which is what is going on with cities investing in gentrification.
As cities build more and more new housing to accommodate wealthier transplants that haven’t yet arrived, and there’s no guarantee that they ever will, the greed and ignorance is destroying the fabric of these cities.
The working middle class are being forced out along with the impoverished.
Eventually the rich will leave these cities and move on to greener pastures because that’s what the rich do: they move from trend to trend.
What will be left in its wake is a crumbling city that will resemble a ghost town more than a cosmopolitan environment.
The elected officials of these cities will realize, too late, the price tag that their ignorance and greed carries.
As preppers you have the ability of distancing yourself from this madness by making sure that where you live is indeed your shelter in-place from the coming economic collapse.
Lesson 5: Get your ducks in a row.
Atlantic City residents were never 100% sure where all the money was going. The one thing they were sure of is that it wasn’t going to them.
Governments like to keep a tight lid on what they’re doing with people’s money because of what they’re exactly doing with it.
In Pennsylvania casinos, since 2004, have brought in $17 billion in revenue.
Where it goes exactly no one who isn’t an elected official or is in an official’s pocket knows.
What taxpayers do know is that it’s not going to job development or the under-funded public schools.
When it comes to the government/big business, the environment or the economy preppers need to realize that they must to keep their eyes on the small details; to not overlook anything when prepping.
Lesson to be learned:
1. Be self-sufficient. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that everything is going to turn out right because you’re a tax-paying American (or American-ish). Elected officials don’t believe that they owe you anything especially the truth.
2. Be a winner at the game. In Monopoly, whoever has the most money and properties wins. You don’t need a lot of properties; just one. Prepping for an emergency and having what you need without worrying when help is coming makes you a winner because possessing the ability to survive is a game changer.
3. Stop stuffing the over-stuffed pig. Look at all the big corporations that you give your money to on a weekly basis. Is that lost revenue (out of your pocket and into theirs) going to help you down the road? No. The only thing it will do is lessen the money you have to prep for your own survival.
Will these corporations be there to rescue you? Of course not. They’ll be too busy counting their stacks of money in their McMansions far away from where you live.
Finally, when your local, state or federal government tries to tell you that making changes, raising taxes or building million dollar (tax-free to the corporation) buildings will improve the lives of everyday taxpayers use caution.
Ask yourself what’s in it for you?
Atlantic City residents are probably now wishing they had.
Above all, if these officials try to sell you a diamond ring for a ten cents, you’ll have a diamond ring not worth a dime.