Friday, October 17

Aftermath (2008)..

(Today is April 6, 2022. Fourteen years after I wrote this blog about my impression of the 2008 financial meltdown, I realized how little has changed in our culture and politics. km)

One of my many guilty pleasures is watching "House Hunters" on cable's HGTV channel. Until a year ago, this subject was pretty non-partisan, non-political, non-controversial, and I enjoyed learning about housing prices and expectations in other parts of the nation. My husband and I have worked methodically to get those granite countertops, hardwood floors, extra baths, etc., to get the maximum profit from our comfy retirement nest egg. Well.... it looks like we'll enjoy these tried and true sales amenities for a few years longer now, and we'll postpone retirement for a few more years, if at all. We're just grateful that one of us has a decent job and we can pay bills. The young couple in today's episode was so unbelievably picky. Wrong wall colors, small bath, too close to the railway, ad nauseum. The many choices they examined were not perfect, but their expectations were too high for anything other than the Taj Mahal. I can see that the housing meltdown is spawning a buyers market of unprecedented ugliness. After pondering my new reactions to HGTV, I decided to tune out all "financial crisis" discussions for a while.

That resolution lasted until the Charlie Rose show. I listened to Shelia Bair of the FDIC explain the mechanics of this economic crisis and the huge part housing debt plays in our downfall. I am not surprised about the failure itself, just the timing. I thought we had more time to cash out before this crash, but now we're stuck in the middle, and like millions tonight, I pray we will ride it out in one piece. I recall a surreal moment in 2002 when the "Internet bubble" burst and every newspaper discussed job losses and the post 9/11 economic downturn. At that time, I discussed my recent layoff from a telecom industry giant and the temporary employment job market with my Dad. We had a bite to eat in a mall after seeing a movie. It was mid-week, and the mall was busy. Obviously, lots of people were spending money and were not working. We both were puzzled about this illogical phenomenon. "They're living off the refi's on their houses, I bet," said Dad. "We'll see a lot of foreclosures in a few years at the rate these people are spending." Many citizens, jobless but with homes, did not drastically alter lifestyles (i.e., join the ranks of the poor) but racked up refi and credit card debt to pay bills, take vacations, buy cars, iPods, big-screen TVs, etc. It's been in the news for years. Our republican leaders ignored the warnings and urged us to party like it's 1999 - go, spend, support the economy by buying things was the message, and it worked great for years. In fact, that's what the republicans did by deficit spending us into the poor house. We are witnessing the aftermath of unregulated spend-and-go vs. pay-as-you-go political and financial policies. Consequently, middle classers like me are shocked into cutting back, living with less, lowering expectations, and exploring ways in which to survive an alien world without money.

I am old enough to recall the bleakness of the 70s recession and how living in the middle of Kansas on a commune sounded like heaven at that time. Those were communal, pull-together times, and the light shone at the end of the tunnel despite the deprivation and grimness. Now, it's every republican for himself and let's demonize the poor while branding anyone who suggests "spreading the wealth" as terrorist traitors to the corporate nation. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, and maybe I cling to the unfashionable notion expressed and embodied in Barak Obama's presidential speeches that we all are "our brothers' keepers." I care that everyone is vulnerable to devastation, even those young Reaganite "trickle downers" who scoff at social security programs, safety nets, the notion of the working poor and only worry about their stock portfolios and gun collections. Many of them have families with oldsters like me willing to band together and spread whatever wealth is left to keep afloat.

Maybe this economic meltdown will illustrate how anyone is prey to the ravages of poverty and generate some compassion in a desert of selfishness. Even Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, admitted that the master/slave "trickle-down" economic theory, which allows greed-driven, for-profit entities to self-regulate, is wrong. Electing another republican proponent of this consistent disaster is also wrong. American voters can be like spoiled, clueless homebuyers when it comes to picking a president and complain about the wall color and the street noise while their options for survival dwindle into dust. Or, vote for a workable solution: tax cuts for the little guy, tax increases for the big guys, affordable health insurance to support citizens and businesses, a purpose-driven political agenda, and a desire to stop the partisan self-destructiveness.

It makes sense to have a community activist take charge because "community" is what's been missing in America for a very long time.

May all beings survive and thrive during this tough economy.