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Michael J. Panzner Headshot

Coming Soon to a Neighborhood Near You

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Right now, all eyes are on Washington's latest efforts to try and "fix" our troubled economy.

Pretty soon, though, the focus is going to shift. Around the country, people will be turning their attentions to the next round of fallout from the burgeoning crisis. Only this time, the bad news won't be about rising rivers of red ink.

Instead, it will be about the blood running in the streets.

After almost four decades of relative calm and complacency, there are signs that the social mood is beginning to sour. Americans are becoming unsettled by circumstances they don't understand. They are frightened by job cuts, bank failures, and widespread foreclosures. They resent what they see as bailouts for the rich and bonuses for bad behavior.

Not surprisingly, they are also getting pretty angry about it.

Up until now, however, Americans have been content to give Washington enough time to live up to its promises. After all, central bankers and other policymakers have managed to pull rabbits out of their hats before. In addition, new leadership has given many people a fresh sense of hope.

But the truth is that those who are in charge are floundering and don't have the answers. In fact, they have been behind the curve ever since Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke first insisted in the spring of 2007 that the subprime crisis would remain "contained."

Worse still, Washington's "solution" is to repeat the mistakes that helped get us into this mess to begin with: borrowing and spending beyond our means -- and trying to delay a thorough economic cleansing that is long overdue.

Unfortunately, history suggests that when the gulf between expectations and reality widens too far, people start saying "Enough!" At that point, they start responding in a more aggressive, less tolerant fashion.

Already we are seeing such a shift taking place in a growing number of places around the world. Day by day, reports roll in of marches, strikes, protests, and violence, spreading from country to country in Europe and elsewhere.

Today, for instance, Bloomberg reported that arsonists in Berlin were torching Porsches and BMWs as the "recession fuels attacks on wealth." On Wednesday, according to Reuters, Greek protesters shut down airports and disrupted public services, the latest in a wave of protests in that country amid a sharp economic downturn. Last Saturday, Agence France-Presse reported, 120,000 Irish protesters brought Dublin's city center to a standstill over government austerity measures aimed at stabilizing the once high-flying economy.

Suddenly, it's more than just statistics and data points for Germans, Latvians, Russians, Bulgarians, the British, the French, Lithuanians, and many others. It's no longer a question of hanging on until things get better.

Rather, it's about angry people, many of them young and restless, who feel lied to, marginalized, and extremely hard done by -- and who are no longer willing to put up with it.

Welcome to your future, America.