Monday, March 2, 2009

The rumblings of a depression

The state of my own personal recession has distracted me from the original intent of this blog-- which was more of a macro take on personal wealth-building with micro examples from my life. Yet another example of how easily the urgent can take the place of the important. It is time to return to the important.

A depression is coming.

Yes, I said it. Some will now forever label me as a kook. I don't know if it will be soon, but I have a strong impression it will be in my lifetime. While many of you are bemoaning the mess your kids and grandkids will never be able to sustain, I despondently acknowledge that I am a part of that group. Being 21 right now is no fun.

Why am I so confident that a depression is coming? Because Americans no longer have any common sense.

Imagine a 64-year-old cashing out his retirement in small bills, taking it (in a large bag) to the top of the tallest building in his city, and dumping it all out. What charity! All that money going to help those who really need it! There are homeless people down there! There are people down there who will pick it up and spend it! Hurrah!

This seems to be the government's idea of stimulating the economy; and we trample each other on the streets trying to catch a couple of $1 bills and believe that this is the answer to our prayers and we could never survive without it. Meanwhile, our hero on the roof now has no job, no money, and 25 dependent grandkids to feed.

Our American hero of a grandfather is now at the mercy of anyone willing to give him money and at risk for having to feed his family dog food just to keep them alive. I'll leave how this could apply on a national level to your imagination.

The fault in this situation lies everywhere. We can trace it all the way back to eliminating the gold standard and establishing a fiat economic system. Our economy by definition is every bit as much of a 'bubble' as the 'dot com bubble' or the 'housing bubble.' We can blame it on our own exorbitant consumer debt, the Clinton administration's forcing financial institutions to give loans to people who couldn't afford it, the Bush administration's Iraq war. The fact is that there is plenty of fault to go around.

The reality is that contributing factors are now being added exponentially so that they are getting bigger and coming faster. It's like an avalanche; or a rapidly growing snowball of impending economic doom. "10 trillion dollars in debt? Let's add another trillion or two! That will fix it" ...And the snowball approaches faster and faster. It has already eaten some outlying villages in the form of massive layoffs and unemployment.

I do not claim to be a prophet or a macro-economic expert. I also do not want to get eaten by a giant snowball of doom. But my hope is waning. Our new President and Congress do not seem to have the sense we all need them to have. God bless them, I don't have a personal problem with the President or anyone else, but I can feel my confidence in their ability to bring us out of this mess slipping away.

Perhaps the President will bring us out, cut the deficit, bring us back into a surplus, then actually use the surplus to get us out of this hole. Adding a trillion dollars to the red column within the first 30 days of office is not the strategy I would use, but hey. As for me, I'm working on getting my own house in order.

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