Recession? Over? When?

In July of 2008 I wrote a humorous look at the economy and sent it to Harpers Magazine.

It would be another 6 months before the Bureau of Labor Statistics would determine that we had been in a recession for the past year. And many in the Markets, Congress, and the administration were surprised—surprised we were in a recession? Surprised we had been in a recession for over a year?

Amazing!

But Main Street knew. Main Street felt it, and is still feeling it. For many hard-working Americans—especially those that are losing their jobs in huge numbers every week—the recession has not ended. It seems it has only ended on Wall Street, at the Big Banks, AIG, and on CNBC!

Now that the current administration, some economists, a whole hoard of Wall Street analysts, financial television and radio, and the wing nuts on the right have declared an end to the recession I felt it would be a good time to repost the article.

•••••

Read my prescient piece on recession from July of 2008:

Recession?

The morning started out like any other. The sun was shining outside. Another beautiful day in Southern California.

I was standing at the kitchen counter eating a half bowl of my favorite cereal. Or was it one that was on sale. I no longer took the time to sit because I could finish the bowl, which was now two-thirds non-fat milk, one-half water, in less time even though I knew that if I ate more slowly I would feel fuller longer.

I had the radio on as usual. I now listen to only the left half of the dial—doing my part to conserve energy. They announced that jobless claims had improved last week to 365,000. After a couple of minutes wondering how 365,000 people losing their jobs last week could be an improvement, I was relieved that I wasn’t among them.

My euphoria was almost palpable and the warm glow of having a job was interrupted by the free ringtone on my cell. It was my publisher.

After going through the usual author/publisher small talk: how was the signing Saturday, how’s the 2nd manuscript coming, did you see who’s on the Times Best Seller list this week, he hit me with a bombshell.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but I’m going to have to let you go.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Don’t you read the newspapers man? We’re in a recession!”

After I explained that I couldn’t afford the newspaper and no longer had cable, and only listened to the radio, I begged him not to let me go. All I had to do, I told him, was sell more books. I assured him that we were halfway to making it big, and gave him all the reasons he couldn’t cut me loose.

When I was about midway through the list he interrupted.

“I don’t have time for a long, drawn out conversation,” he said.

It was obvious that he didn’t have rollover minutes, but he assured me his company wasn’t listening in on our conversation. I half-heartedly pleaded with him not to do this and he hung up on me.

The day suddenly turned dark. In a quandary I tried to sort out what had just happened. Did this mean I was no longer a published author? I wasn’t sure, but I was now one of the improving 365,000—the unemployed. The word improving didn’t seem to lift my spiraling mood. I knew Frank Luntz had something to do with the word. He’s a big reason we’re knee deep in bullshit.

My appetite was suddenly gone. The last half of my cereal no longer looked good, even though I knew I would be left with only one-third the energy needed to get through a day in which I now had nothing to do. I was half-tempted to write off the whole day.

After a half-minute or so of deep contemplation I began feeling despondent. Thirty seconds later it was obvious to me that this recession could lead to another great depression. Mine! And already I was slipping into a place from which, I was certain, I could never recover.

The half-finished manuscript was just beyond my left elbow. Suddenly, I came to a horrifying conclusion. I wouldn’t have to finish it. In an all too vivid moment of clarity I knew what I had to do. I would end this torment by cutting my wrists. I reached for page six, then decided to use page seven on the other wrist. I paused, realizing that that was exactly what this administration would want me to do. I wasn’t going to appease them. I placed the pages back in their place.

I shuffled through the manuscript and pulled out page 12 and 13.

Fortunately, before I could pull a Van Gogh, my phone rang. I answered it knowing full well it was only delaying the inevitable. It was my publisher.

He told me he had agonized over severing our three month relationship and had spent a lot of time reflecting on what he had done, trying to come up with a solution. He had a plan. If I were willing to work for half of what I had been making he could pay me a third of what I was being paid before. If I agreed to these terms, he said, he would double my bonus if I could reach a milestone that was twice as many books as I had sold already.

I was elated, never having been recruited for a job before, and jumped on the offer. I realized that I was the winner in this new agreement considering I would eventually be making twice as much as I was previously making if I could reach a milestone that, based on current sales, wasn’t even remotely achievable.

Before he could change his mind I offered to help in every way possible and quickly explained how I had, over the agonizing minutes since he’d let me go, come up with a couple of possibilities.

First, I proposed, in the second printing of my book we could move the ending to the sequel, thereby, reducing the cost of the printing by at least half. This would, of course, mean less for the printer so we could ask the government to give him a tax break and the money he would save would allow him to buy another printing press and hire two more employees which would stimulate the economy.

The positives of this proposal were immediately obvious to my publisher. The boost to the economy would eventually trickle down to him and then to me, the author, as well. And we would help employ two more people who could buy my book.

Since I was moving the ending of the first book to the second, I suggested that we only include the first third of book two, therefore, cutting its size in half.

My publisher was on board with my changes and suggested that we could also cut the number of book signings I would do. With the price of oil doubling we could reduce the cost of travel by at least one-half by doing 50% fewer signings.

That superb idea was not wasted on me and I promptly pointed out that that would afford me twice as much time to write the next book that was now half its original size giving me more time to think about the ending which I was now pushing into book three.

It was amazing how much we were saving by putting our heads together. Two heads are better than one and we were excited about joining forces again, assured that our efforts would help end the recession in half the time.

So elated was I that I offered to begin listening to the right side of the radio dial where the economy was booming. My publisher agreed it would eliminate all of my anxiety and that would help me sell twice as many books.

He hung up. I returned pages 12 and 13 to the manuscript realizing that they would now become pages 156 and 157. That meant that I was almost completely finished with my second novel.

I picked up my bowl of now soggy cereal from the counter realizing I would need more energy to finish my nearly completed manuscript. I was motivated knowing that with this recession near an end I could soon buy real milk for my cereal.

It was now approaching mid-morning. Staring out the window, the sun was shining—the sign of another beautiful day in Southern California.

A reluctant smile crept across my face as I realized I had somehow averted unemployment. Nor would you find me on the rolls of continuing claims. With a lot of thought and a few well placed band-aids I had avoided a recession that was sure to ravage America if we were to believe what everyone on the left side of the radio dial was saying.

Now that I’m back to work the economy is booming. Isn’t trickle-down economics great?

•••••

Trust me, the recession is still on for about 70% of the American people. It will continue for several years, until the wealth is fairly rebalanced and people are being reemployed. The taxpayers, who are still struggling to de-leverage, bailed out the Big Banks—that caused the worst recession since the 30’s—who are in the process of giving their employees hundreds of millions in bonuses.

Move your money from the Big 10 Banks to solid community banks by going to Move Your Money and sending a message to the banks, the Fed and the Treasury.

We’re not going to take it anymore!

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