Wanted : Dialogue on the Great Depression of 2009

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?

By Larry Ray / The Rag Blog / December 25, 2008

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.

[Retired journalist Larry Ray is a Texas native and former Austin television news anchor. He also posts at The iHandbill.]

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3 Responses to Wanted : Dialogue on the Great Depression of 2009

  1. Anonymous says:

    I wonder about a huge credit card default. Will people abandon credit cards and be forced to use cash?

    If economic ‘bright spots’ exist in countries, won’t migrants begin migrating as they did in the last depression? When they do will they walk away from their economic world as well as their geographic world – that is will they abandon anything they can’t sell to raise cash. Will they use their credit cards until they are ‘turned off’ and then abandon the debt left on the cards? If this is done on a large scale, won’t this continue to destablize banks and credit card companies? Doesn’t this portend incredible financial insecurity for the next 3 to 5 years, which will in turn feed the depression monster.

    The price of services such as cable, internet and phone must drop or people will discontinue using them, causing more financial stress on the companies providing such services. Bootleg wifi sharing will arise as it has done in eastern europe, with one user subnetting his connection to other people and families.

    Those with money will begin hoarding items likely to be in short supply as companies fail. Bootlegging and marijuana grow operations will expand as people desperate for income will attempt to provide what people want at the lowest prices possible.

    FEMA camps will be used to house large groups of homeless people and some areas that begin to display political instability will also be relocated to camps, it would be best to keep a low political profile til the camps are filled.

    Many social experiments will be tried and perhaps we will actually have clear highways as less people will be working. It will be a very strange time and anyone who survives it will try to warn future generations, just as our grandparents did. Too bad we have to keep making the same mistakes, over and over.

  2. One area of hot controversy will be whether or not “stimulus” efforts improve the economy as measured by increasing GDP.
    That does not address emotional issues, and is also intellectually bankrupt given what GDP does and does not measure.

    Better, but unconventional, would be to ask whether stimulus efforts increase happiness or not — and for a serious scientific introduction to that, check out the work by the Dean of the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Science. Link: http://environment.yale.edu/pubs/Money-Cant-Buy-You-Love/

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yes, it is a depression. More than likely it started in 2004. Indication is the spike in US personnal bankruptcies. The ability
    of the average US citizen to gain
    wealth distroyed with the mass exit
    of jobs. No jobs. Can’t pay the mortage. Can’t feed the family.
    Can’t support one’s self. The corruption on Wall Street fueled
    the distruction, toxic assets.
    Mr. Bush fell asleep. The US no longer has an substanstial industrial machine. A gift from Mr. Clinton. The present GDP is
    being propped up by the US government. The only vibal business
    is the FED. Every other sector of
    the US economy has defaulted. 19
    million empty homes in the US. 31 million Americans on food stamps. The Dow Jones has lost 50% of it’s value since October, 2007. Propped up with money from the FED. Jobs were hard to find in the spring of 2008. With the accelerated rate
    unemployment the employment market is impossible even with a degree.
    127 billion dollars to bailout AIG, alone. Major retailors going
    out of business. Major industries in default. This and much more are
    characteristic of a US depression.

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