Our Stinking Economy: A View from the Bottom

It’s pretty much unanimous: the economy will continue sucking for the foreseeable future.

In Slate, Annie Lowery reports that housing prices are at a new low, private-sector job growth is falling, along with industrial production, consumer confidence and Wall Street. The good news? Any fool could have seen this coming a mile away:

There is, finally, one bit of cold comfort: At the very least, the news is not really news. Most analyses of the kind of recession we are having—the kind that follows a massive financial crisis and an asset-price bubble that led to too much leverage throughout the economy—indicate that things should be pretty bad right now. They’re correct. The IMF, for instance, warned as far back as 2009 that the “combination of financial crisis and a globally synchronized downturn is likely to result in an unusually severe and long-lasting recession.” Economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff, who have studied 800 years of recessions and panics, concur. “I would say we’re right on track,” Reinhart says. “Yes, the recovery looks long, but that’s because we haven’t had a financial crisis this severe since World War II.”

That is not to say that there is nothing to be done, of course, or that the current state of affairs is inevitable. More stimulus or more aggressive monetary policy could help the economy, boosting employment and keeping the self-sustaining recovery going. But such measures are unlikely, given Congress’ concern with the debt ceiling and cutting spending.

She doesn’t come right out and say, “What? You got your hopes up? Schmucks.” Jolly sporting of her, wasn’t it.

When I read stories like this — if “reading” isn’t too active a word; they’re so ubiquitous, all I really have to take them in by osmosis — I feel a guilt-inducing sense of detachment. You see, I never really made it into the middle class to begin with. As a loan officer at a very sleazy mortgage brokerage, I had about three good months in a row, after which my pipeline fell apart. This happened just after I’d broken my favorite front tooth by biting into an extra-thick Twizzler I’d left floating in a very icy Thirstbuster cup. (Yes, even at 30, I was using Twizzlers as straws.) Not only did the disappearance of my income mean I had to return my Explorer to the friend whose payments I’d assumed, it forced me to walk around for several months with a big hole in my smile.

People took me for a tweaker, which was flattering because, at that point, tweakers stood a few rungs above me on the ol’ social ladder.

Anyway, after that, I realized I wasn’t cut out to be a businessman, so I took a series of no-brainer office jobs. You know the type of job I mean — the kind where the tattoos outnumber the people five to one, and where everyone’s marriage works because everyone’s husband is under house arrest. Anyone who had enough cash and credit to buy a real, live house or send their kid to a real, live college looked to me like a belted earl. Even now that I’m leading la vie bohemienne as a freelancer, economic tankings look to me like gout or porphyria or the Hapsburg jaw — afflictions for the beautiful people.

I know that’s balderdash, but I convince myself of it, anyway. Whiile the rest of the world screams, I sit smugly in a tranquil state of “blah.”


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