0

Lessons from a recession - Martha Carr

The June unemployment figures have been released and the numbers have risen to 9.2 percent, with 18,000 new jobs created, well under what experts had predicted.

While many pundits will try and predict what that all means, none of them knows for sure, but they hope to come down on the correct side and score a fat book deal. That way, they avoid their own personal recession.

Here are a few possibilities, though, of what could happen, the good and the bad.

It's possible that the economic ditch we drove into headfirst is so deep that the usual incentives to businesses to create new jobs that have been used for the past 50 years just aren't going to cut it this time.

The advent of the Internet age coupled with a global market may just mean that a lot of old industries are never coming back to pre-2008 numbers.

It's also possible that all of the manly breast-beating that's going on in Washington by both sides will further extend our financial pain. The inability to find a compromise may mean we default on our debt as a country, and that has some very real consequences that could turn out to be worse than the mortgage crisis.

We may look back at that as simple and naive, if Obama, Boehner and the lot don't stop insisting on being quite so right at our expense.

Feel free to shake your fist at all of it, but keep it to just a minute or two because there are still things to do in America. Don't give up quite so easily, it's not in our nature.

Here's where we're going to take a few old-school lessons and combine it with a new idea that's peculiarly unique to our times. The old lesson is that we're going to have to downsize our egos and accept that we may not ever sit in a corner office or eat lunch out of anything but a brown bag.

However, if we can appreciate what we do have, and more importantly, who we still have in our lives, then maybe we can get over the self-pity and recognize that we can pay some bills, just not like a rock star. That's how we got here in the first place.

Our values got turned on their heads, and instead of appreciating what we had, we all collectively got stuck in a race to see just how much we could own. If it was more than you had, that was even better. All of us did it. Don't leave yourself off the list.

Every time we bought something off the TV that we didn't need and would rarely use, instead of putting that money into the bank, we were in the game. Every time we bought just one more Beanie Baby with our credit card, instead of paying the bill down to zero, we were in the game.

OK, so the new lesson is that technology has sped up to the point where we have to embrace constant change if we want to stay current, at all. It was cute to act like we didn't know what Twitter really was or how to Skype with someone in Australia or even how to align the newest software so that we could work on several documents at once.

But then the Great Recession hit and the jobs we did have, disappeared. Entire companies that survived the Great Depression ceased to exist. Old industries, like newspapers or high finance, started scrambling for new ways of doing the same thing, so they could just survive.

Here's your choice in all of this. You can complain and lament what was, or you can add up what you still have, give thanks and start asking how you can help.

So far during the Great Recession, I have worked for the Census and met a lot of neighbors, helped a local painting contractor, Red Line Painting, with his marketing and got to know a good businessman with an enormous heart, and I've written a lot of Internet copy for a lot of small businesses. That's besides writing a new thriller and a lot of columns.

It's all good. There have also been a lot of holidays with friends around my table who needed a place to gather and potluck movie nights to keep down costs and still have a night out. There were picnics with free fire dancing and hanging out at Lake Michigan. That's just a drop in the bucket.

What I'll remember most from these years, when I tell my grandchildren who I'm still hoping Louie delivers some day, is that we all got through it together and learned how to count on each other till it all became second nature.

We stopped trying to tell each other just how important we are and started to listen. Who knows, maybe we'll look back at these years and just be grateful. Come to think of it, you could even start now.

Tweet me @MarthaRandolph and let me know your best Great Recession stories. www.MarthaCarr.com.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at Martha@caglecartoons.com.