Blogs by L J Hippler
Recession, Economics and Dead Men Walking
7/16/2008 11:59:07 AM
The guy on the news said the markets have suffered the worst six month period in thirty-eight years. Now that’s some damning news when you think of everything lumped into that time span: 911, the Dot-Com bubble, the 91 recession and the crash of 87. They were some monumental acts to top.
As an economy, we’re absorbing two outside shocks, the Home Equity crisis and the skyrocketing price of oil, two wicked body blows that knocked the wind out of us. Looking at the big picture, we’re taking it pretty well. The financial pundits like to say they they’re amazed at the resilience of our system right now. Some years ago, Osama Bin Laden said: “America will be punished with $144-a-barrel oil.” At the time he said that, oil was at $9-a-barrel. We passed $144-a-barrel oil in June; and we’re dealing with it.
Speaking of oil, last week I took my car in for an oil change. I take it to the dealership as I have since 2000. There were only a few cars waiting in the lot that used to be packed every morning. There was a single, middle-aged guy in the service area. He had his head down, staring at a stack of dog-eared forms two inches deep. “The boy will be back in a minute,” he said, looking up at me with wild eyes.
“That’s okay,” I said.
“I’m kind of overwhelmed here.” The guy felt he needed to say that, as if I was going to raise hell because I had to wait thirty seconds. That’s when I saw the look on his face. We used to call it dead man walking. It’s the look people take on when they’re about to lose their jobs, when they see it coming like a freight train and they’re hoping some miracle will happen to stop it. Once you’ve come to know the look, you always recognize it. It’s a look I’ve sported a few times myself.
“That’s fine,” I said. “Not a problem.”
Everyone, from Donald Trump to the janitor that empties the Donald’s waste can, knows we’re not really in a recession, that, technically, a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative GNP growth. That hasn’t happened yet. Technically, a recession involves an unemployment rate of six percent. We’re at five and a half percent.
Half an hour later, when the younger guy came to get me in the waiting room, I asked him if there were any surprises. “No,” he said. “But your head gasket is going to need replacing. We have the gasket in the parts department.” As we walked, I saw that the dealership’s finance office was empty and dark with the desks pushed together in the middle of the room. There was a single dark-haired girl, who looked like a high school kid, behind a half door with a paper sign on the front of it that said Cashier.
“I think we’ll do the gasket next time,” I said, knowing that by the next time I need an oil change they probably won’t be there.
The basic economic principals still hold true. When economic forces are out of balance “The rational business owner and the rational consumer will conspire to transfer wealth and resources to those areas and institutions providing maximum utility.” And they will. And thank God for that process. Americans have historically been the best at doing that dance.
But in human terms the economic ballet of change and redistribution is never quite as stately as described in the text books. A lot of times we’re clumsy or just don’t know the steps. The best we can hope for is that we’re still standing when intermission comes.
More Blogs by L J Hippler
A Little Validation - Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Curb your enthusiasm – but let the bigotry fly. - Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Best Case, Worst Case and Most Likely - Monday, December 29, 2008
On Hotness - Sunday, November 16, 2008
The Week That Was - Sunday, October 12, 2008
When-and Where-You are Gaius - Monday, September 15, 2008
Dialog - Monday, August 18, 2008
Recession, Economics and Dead Men Walking - Wednesday, July 16, 2008
There’s No Place Like . . .Where Your Stuff Is. - Monday, June 30, 2008
A Little Validation - Thursday, June 05, 2008
Money, Class and Living Well in Fiction - Thursday, May 08, 2008
LIVING small - Monday, March 31, 2008
Who is bigger-than-life? Who’s not? - Friday, February 29, 2008
You write what now?” - Thursday, January 31, 2008
About last night . . . - Monday, December 31, 2007
Here's the thing . . . - Thursday, November 22, 2007