If I live another 19 summers I shall have completed the traditional Biblical lifespan for a human being- three score years and ten. At this point I find it hard to conceive that my original plan to take retirement at that point, a mixture of two pensions social security and my own careful investments (ha!), along with winters sailing while renting my house to snowbirds, all seem to be pie in the sky. I am glad I have a job that allows me to work in a manner that an 80 year old could manage physically, even though with the most optimistic view it's hard to picture myself still enthusiastic after another three decades of 9-1-1 calls!.
I have been pondering this dilemma of aging in view of a widening appreciation for the fact that we are slipping into the Great Depression 2 that has been denied and avoided, as usual, by our leaders and influential commentators. It seems likely then as we humans tend to ignore history and thus repeat it, that we shall enter a decade of no growth and minimal expectations followed by a massive war to re-set the economy and start another round of prosperity. If that actually happened it seems the remainder of my active life is to be spent in a scramble for survival followed by a period of living in some manner on the Home Front while a generation of youngsters gets it's innocence blown away at the hands of old people fighting by proxy (Iraq comes to mind right now...). This is not a cheerful thought, even for a child free adult like me..
These reflections came to me from reading the Naked Capitalism column (in my Alphabetical Web List,) wherein I read the comments of one Enrique Mendoza an economist from the University of Maryland who suggests Irving Fisher, a Depression Era economist may have supplied the formula to relieve us of our current economic chaos. Fisher who is credited by some smart people with understanding the mechanism that created the Great Depression has advice for us in our hour of catastrophe says Mendoza:
The worst of the Great Depression was not so much the initial economic collapse, as dramatic as that was, but its persistence for several years. This is what we still have time to avoid and where our energy should be invested. The political spin about pushing for reforms and bailouts to “avert disaster” needs to be corrected, so that everyone’s expectations are not biased towards thinking that a trillion dollars of fiscal stimulus means back to business as usual. The emergency is real and present, but not to escape catastrophe. All the numbers we have about employment, production, world trade, the financial system, etc. show that we are already in a catastrophe. The emergency is to avoid the persistence of the stagnation that occurred during the Depression. The emergency is to prevent most of the next decade from looking like 2008..
If the next decade does end up looking like 2008 I shall be sixty years of age when we get out of our Great Depression 2. That's a dreary thought. And what's even more dreary is that our current crop of leaders have no idea how to get us out of this mess and the prospects for prolonged misery look inevitable, as long as the Treasury Secretary keeps pushing on the financial string..
Fisher suggested work for people in distress, support for asset stabilisation (which means help homeowners not banks) and better regulations and oversight in the future. Continuing to pour money into the banking system simply means we keep creating debt, wasting the money and failing to take our medicine and restart the economy. How far down this path will they take us? Or will we let them take us?