Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dialogue: The Great Depression of 2009?

What happens after the last strains of Auld Lang Syne fade away on New Year’s Eve, and the glow of the historic inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20th quickly dims? By then, the deep economic mess we face should really start to sink in across America.

Those of us in our Golden Years may see things coming that those of more recent generations can’t even imagine. Its really a matter of what our parents knew about the great depression in the 1930’s and what they taught us when we were young. But if you were born in 1970, by the time you were old enough to remember daily life, things would have probably seemed fine. Your parents grew up when America was taking deep swigs of the new good life and opportunity after WWII. My folks were little kids when the 1929 crash happened. They grew up in the depth of the depression and did without. So, I got stern warnings about spending and saving money. Warnings that 40-somethings today probably didn’t get. And 40-somethings certainly didn’t see thrift and restraint reflected in the America of their youth.

How prepared are Americans today to cope, adjust, improvise, and to help one another as things really get tough in the coming year or two? Could really bad times that go on and on bring about a forced reset of the American psyche? A sea-change in leadership is coming, but a new Obama administration will begin work in the midst of global recession. Our new leaders will inherit record-setting national debt, and the diplomatic debris and great political uncertainty left by Bush and company. Massive government stimulus and work programs will be part of the long term solution but individual responsibility for daily survival will be key on the community level.

Compared to the more than ten years of misery, loss, unemployment, hunger and grinding uncertainty following the crash of 1929, we are a much stronger nation today. But the ability of average Americans to make do and to do without will be an unfolding saga. Will the new jobless again be forced to depend upon soup-kitchens and handouts to survive? Can we even imagine that? Millions, who for decades have been spending money they do not have, using a wallet full of credit cards to get whatever they want, will be forced to take a hard look at themselves. A pay-as-you-go world is a great social leveling force.

I would like to see an exchange of ideas about what you see coming on the basic person to person level. Post a comment and let's hear your thoughts and observations. Hardship can also create positive changes. Will humbling loss and poverty merely increase crimes like shoplifting and burglaries or will it bring out a renewed American strength and pride? What role will the internet and wireless communication make as times get really tough?

Let's start by exchanging ideas and talking to one another early on.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

We are already hearing people talk about losing everything and not knowing what to do. I think there is still a sense of false pride that is going to make things even tougher for lots of people.

Anonymous said...

Things are going to be tough for many people for a while. Yet many brought a lot of their problems on to themselves. Using credit cards charged to the maximum and buying houses they knew they couldn't really afford. Although this is a problem that many of the younger generations (20-40 and 40-60 years old) have, even quite a few of the "old timers" (over 60) fell into this entrapment.

Anonymous said...

I know Bush & Company made some stupid mistakes, but this problem started after Bush 1. Clinton & Company started the slide, Bush II took an already rollin' snow ball and gave it a big shove. With the help of Barney Franks and his ilk, then the all democrat congress in '04, they have taken us over the edge. The super scary, scary thing is we still have ted the honorable (maybe not for long, but will be quickly replaced) upstanding, moral God fearing Kennedy and Barney franks with his Buds, in places of the most serious responsibility. Even worse, obama is bringing new and visionary change to WDC with mostly the left overs from the clinton disaster to fix the problems. Looks like were totally screwed to the wall. I see the answer as Stash Cash (and Gold), embrace your gun totin', God fearin' friends and buy LOTS of ammo. And yes, the 40's and younger crowd is in for the BIGGEST surprise of their lives. Only problem is, they are going to put the hurt on the over 60 crowd who has been doing it right all along!

BBlacky said...

Fine blog, Larry. Lot of work - rich results. Its literary simplicity is of particular appeal. I've been living the last 21 years in Jakarta, after an ill-fated attempt to re-integrate into American society. I had migrated to Vancouver in 1970 with the FBI hot on my tail (Fresno State College perfesser who got radicalized by his Vietnamese students and ended up eating his draft card with catsup on it - another lifetime). In 1980 I went to Japan to teach video production, then spent 1984-86 in Thailand. At that point, at the age of 45, I thought it best to try to work once again in my native culture. Big error. So I do copywriting, teaching courses like "Intercultural Communication" (how to work with businesspeople from other cultures, including difficult ones like the Chinese and Korean). You can check out my slow-motion site (sort of a blog) at iglu-cilutung.blogspot.com. What I find most amazing about the economic crash - sudden to many hypnotized consumers but the alarm had gone up years ago, as we know - is the sudden 180 degree shift away from anti-Islamic paranoia, the phony war on terror with all the theater which made 'murka so entertaining to watch all those years (duct tape your windows! report suspicious strangers!) - entertaining but scary. It's a big cold dose of reality for anybody under, say, 80. I'm a cold war liberal sex deviant from the 1950s, thank you, and my parents grew up in the Depression. My father operated a Sinclair Service Station in Bryan, and flew the first Waco biplane from Bryan Airfield (Aggie, unfortunately - the whole family - I am the traitor). Enough of this fan letter for now. Cheers bb

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