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Are We There Yet?
Lately, I’ve become as fidgety as a small kid riding in a car bound for a place he’s never been.
“Are we there yet?”
The destination is the End of the Recession. Until we get ‘there,’ I am tumbled about in the backseat of an old roadster careening down a bumpy and pot-holed Recession Road. I am hanging on, bouncing up and down, praying that whomever is driving will sober up — and that we’ll get there in a hurry.
“Are we there yet?”
It seems like the economy – at least my own economy — has been in the doldrums since the dawn of man. Of course it hasn’t been nearly that long, but it sure feels that way, just like the wind-chill when one of those bitter Arctic cold fronts sashays through town. The pace of progress through the downturn has been glacial and with my luck it’ll be that way until two days after I’m dead.
“Are we there yet?”
I few days back, I came across a newspaper article that floated the notion that we’ve already arrived — that the downturn is already over. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), an economic policy group based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, “…the longest recession since World War II, lasted eighteen months and was officially over in June, 2009.”
One wonders to whom the people over at NBER were talking when they came up with this conclusion that the recession was DOA.
Despite what the economists say or the government may subliminally try to whisper in my ear (Call me ‘paranoid’ but I’m sure they do this while we are all asleep), the slump “ain’t” nearly over. It can’t be.
I know this because the after-effects of the crisis still dominate every aspect of my life.
Daily life became very different after the onset of thin times. Many months later I am still doing for myself things that I used to pay or even tip people to do for me. An accuser might say, “Aha! He was an extravagant lout … a profligate spendthrift when times and money were thick. Serves him right!” Heck, I was just doing my part to make the economy go. Paying retail was jingoistic, the American Way and as patriotic as a Lee Greenwood song.
But now, in the recession’s aftermath I buy at stores that insist I bring my own bags, sack my own stuff and pay for all of it with exact change. It’s a wonder they don’t make me meet the transport ships at the docks, unload the stuff and then arrange the new stock on the store shelves — all so I can qualify for “…our LOW WAREHOUSE PRICES .” Reality smacks me in the head when I look at the ‘PRICE AS MARKED’ and realize the store’s owners must’ve surely meant ‘WHOREHOUSE PRICES’ because even after all that extra credit work, I’m still getting the screw.
Another slice of life in the new altered state is that I’m buying all kinds of pre-owned implements (“used” is the more ‘down to Earth’ term –i.e. what the stuff really is) from cars to books to pick-axes. I’m also necessarily doing business — sight unseen– with Internet companies, who have a “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” approach to customer service. I also find myself constantly on the prowl for essential services whose advertisements brandish the words “FREE”, “CHEAP” or “NO CREDIT CHECK.”
My choice of entertainment has become different as a result of the recession. I rarely attend major league baseball games or pro football games anymore. Nor do I indulge in surfing of the TV cable these days. I got rid of it all long ago. ‘Contemplation’ is my current hobby. The reader will note that I’m not necessarily all that fond of reminiscence, going down Memory Lane or revisiting the scene of the crime. But the act of contemplation is free, requires no coupon, and doesn’t draw blood, produce sparks or smoke. All of these are good attributes in an era in which the price of good, clean fun —-not to speak of the better kind – is at an historical high.
The recession is also the occasion of my loss of influence on the home front. Clark Howard, the radio and TV broadcaster and most notorious ‘saver’ in America has muzzled my once very influential voice at my domicile. Now, when it comes to the matter of household expenditures, Clark has much more sway with the management (as I refer to her when her back is turned) than I do even though I am still ‘looked to’ as the ultimate Source of All Funding. If that weren’t enough, the management has taken to wearing T-shirts that goad or beg the question: “WWCD? – What Would Clark Do?” and “Jesus Saves Souls and Clark Saves Wallets.”
Even any Divine Guidance that I receive of late seems to have changed its tenor because of the economy. Last Sunday, the topic of Father O’Malley’s sermon over at St. Kennedy’s was “Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Job!” (Just between you and me, I’d wager – if I could afford it — that O’Malley has never once stood in one of those ridiculous, non-moving job fair lines.)
With regard to the aforementioned problem of false pronouncements by various economists that ‘the recession is already over’, who knows what gets into people? Comedienne Lily Tomlin once offered that “…reality is just a collective hunch.” I sometimes think that the various quasi-governmental authorities and bureaucrats subscribe to Tomlin’s theory as they try to convince the rest of us that our troubles are just in our heads. Often, I suspect, they are themselves are flummoxed in trying to come up with solutions to our societal problems. Exasperated and frustrated, they throw up not only their hands but also “…stuff against the wall” to see if and what will stick. Or they will send aloft, trial balloons to entice the rest of us to bite on some insane notion: “O.K., O.K., the last idea didn’t work, but listen to this next one…”
Methinks NBER — and very likely the government — is trying to pull one over on us with this ‘the recession is over’ thing. Nice try, NBER. Nice try government bureaucrats. But I’m not buying any of it. I know what I see and experience everyday. The recession still rages.
I suspect the recession will end someday. We’ll get there. Eventually. Until then, I’ll continue to go along for the ride… still tumbling in the backseat. I have but little choice in the matter. I am not complaining though. Well, not loudly anyway. By now, I count myself lucky that I am not being dragged along underneath the car.
Of course, I’m still anxious about the whole thing.
©Copyright 2011 Will Cantrell
Worthy of Comment
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