Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nothing is Different

That's what some republicans say.
Like Phil Gramm, McCain's economy mentor, they say we're all just a bunch of whiners. Everything's just fine.
Some people aren't convinced that anything bad is happening. Maybe that's because it hasn't hit their world yet or they're not paying attention.
Take George Will on This Week today. He says most people are paying their mortgages and things aren't that bad.
Things look different where I live. Things are different in my household.
Peggy Noonan says that nothing looks different. She compares today with selling apples in the street during the Depression, which is a silly comparison to make. The cost of living is higher today. The cost to compete in today's world is way higher than during the Depression. Today, you can't just make a living as a cashier. You have to have a advanced college degree. Today, you can't retire on next to nothing. You need a cool million.
Comparing today to the Depression is apples and oranges. Today isn't like the Great Depression but that doesn't mean it hurts less.
Peggy Noonan: I am thankful for something we’re not seeing. One of the weirdest, most perceptually jarring things about the economic crisis is that everything looks the same. We are told every day and in every news venue that we are in Great Depression II, that we are in a crisis, a cataclysm, a meltdown, the credit crunch from hell, that we will lose millions of jobs, and that the great abundance is over and may never return. Three great investment banks have fallen while a fourth totters, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen 31% in six months. And yet when you free yourself from media and go outside for a walk, everything looks . . . the same.
Everyone is dressed the same. Everyone looks as comfortable as they did three years ago, at the height of prosperity. The mall is still there, and people are still walking into the stores and daydreaming with half-full carts in aisle 3.
Everyone’s still overweight. (An evolutionary biologist will someday write a paper positing that the reason for the obesity epidemic of the past decade is that we were storing up food like squirrels and bears, driven by an unconscious anthropomorphic knowledge that a time of great want was coming. Yes, I know it will be idiotic.) But the point is: Nothing looks different.
In the Depression people sold apples on the street. They sold pencils. Angels with dirty faces wore coats too thin and short and shivered in line at the government surplus warehouse. There was the Dust Bowl, and the want of the cities. Captains of industry are said to have jumped from the skyscrapers of Wall Street. (Yes, those were the good old days. Just kidding!) People didn’t have enough food.
They looked like a catastrophe was happening.
We do not. It’s as if the news is full of floods but we haven’t seen it rain.