I’ve been really out of it these last few days as my first round of exams begin. I spent nearly the entire day consumed with sampling distributions of the mean, the factors that influence power, and the central limit theorem. Yes, psychology can be that boring.
During a study break tonight, I opened my email and learned that the president would be addressing the nation this evening (you gotta love the Politico.com “breaking news alerts” that arrive an hour after everyone else knows). I missed his address, but I managed to read a few stories about it. These lines really stand out for me…
“…a long and painful recession.”
“America could slip into a financial panic.”
“We cannot risk an economic catastrophe.”
At 32, I have really only known good times in America. I’m old enough to remember the burst of the dot.com bubble in the late 90’s, the economic meltdown in Asia just before, and the last painful American recession in ’91-’92. My father is a retired steelworker, and my family weathered a few strikes, but an “economic catastrophe”? That’s new territory for me.
I’ve always lived in a world where if you work hard, spend your money wisely, live responsibly, and follow the rules, you will have a living wage, a roof over your head, and food on your plate. Even now, although I am a “poor” graduate student, I still have health insurance, a stable salary, and a comfortable, albeit small, place to live.
What is an economic catastrophe for Americans? We live in a country where the solution to a cash shortage has always been to whip out the credit card. If the government doesn’t have enough money to pay for our two Middle East wars, we take the Bank of China MasterCard out of our wallets and cut taxes for the rich anyway.
But what happens when the ATM is empty? Where do we go if the bank forecloses? How will our lives change if we suddenly discover that we deluded ourselves into think we had it so good?
I’ve been depressed since I came back to the States. How could I leave the love of my life? Why did I give up a good-paying job? Who walks away from such a comfortable life? (Where can I find decent Chinese food?) I’ve been telling myself that my education and my hard work will ultimately reward me with job security. I’ll be able to find a good, stable job with my education, no matter what.
But what happens if we don’t bounce back this time? What if our run at the top has finally come to a sudden end?
You can say, “Hey, this is America! The bottom will never fall out. We always find a way to keep going.” How many times this week have you heard politicians say, “I don’t bet against the American worker or American ingenuity?”
But how many people bet would have bet against September 11th on September 10th, 2001?
So what do you think? Are you nervous? Am I crazy?