I see big and small signs of the times. Just yesterday I read that by 2010, companies like Old Navy, Borders, and United Air Lines will cease to exist. Newspapers and niche publications are disappearing overnight. And the car brands Chrysler, Pontiac, and Saturn will no longer be manufactured.
Then there are the smaller things. A few weeks ago I learned that my favorite music magazine, Blender, had been canceled. A week later I received a returned renewal check from them for $9.97. This means that the last-ever issue of Blender featured Kelly Clarkson on the cover—I wouldn't exactly call that closure. Also, lately many food items seem understocked in the delis and grocery stores. I can't seem to find cashews anywhere these days.
To date, over five-million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December 2007, with over two million occurring in 2009, and 80,000 in the month of March alone. The unemployment rate, currently at 8.6%, was last this high in 1982 when Reagan was in the middle of his first term. By the end of that year unemployment spiked to 10.8%—a figure not seen since the Great Depression. It took nearly five years for that number to stabilize at 5.4% toward the end of 1987.
So as bad as things are now, they've been worse. And in following this historical precedent, the economy has been proven to rebound, albeit over a period of time. I'll take that as a sliver of hope.
But for all the millions of people who've lost their jobs, my question has been, and remains: Where are all these people going?? We're truly living in nightmarish times, and it's so bizarre to see our economic senses heighten as corner cutting, penny pinching, and general conservation become the new mindset of the most excessive and indulgent nation on the planet. In some ways this efficiency is a good thing, and it's in line with many of my more frugal attributes. But by and large, I see it as another troubling sign of the times.
The real kicker for me was last week when my company laid off a third of our workforce. Friends, colleagues, and company vets alike were all unceremoniously let go, just like that. Coupled with survivor's guilt was the realization that even a company that's been constantly growing since its inception—and defiantly in the face of this recession—wasn't unaffected or invincible. No one is safe. Ghosts and survivors.
So is our world really coming to an end? Well, it's not 1984 just yet, but these hard times will only get harder. In true Darwinian spirit, it's survival of the fittest, but something tells me the real fight has yet to begin.
All of it has reminded me how fragile our mighty nation is once the economic infrastructure and monetary system bottom out. And in particular, this quote:
"Give me control of a nation's money, and I care not who makes her laws."