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Now It's a Recession

Unaware of the Caliber of Disaster.

by Barnabas
May 7, 2003

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<i>Now</i> It's a Recession_Barnabas-Unaware of the Caliber of Disaster. The Music Man warned the people of River City that they were unaware of the caliber of disaster about to befall their community because a pool table had been installed in town. His song and dance mocked the gullibility of all who are suckers for bad news.

The United States could use more of those suckers right now. We really do seem to be unaware of the caliber of disaster about to befall us, and are determined to remain unaware until it hits us one by one.

The St. Paul Pioneer-Press cartoonist, Kirk Anderson, a smart and original contributor to their editorial page, was recently “downsized” for economic reasons—theirs, obviously, not his. For his last cartoon he drew himself sitting on the curb outside the newspaper office, surrounded by his lamp, drawing board, and other tools of his trade. The caption said, “Now it’s a recession.” He expressed the irony in a hundred thousand lost jobs over the past six weeks or so: as far as you are concerned, there is no recession as long as you’ve got your job and a regular income. We tend to think that John Donne was wrong, and every man is an island, entire to himself.

A gifted and experienced editorial cartoonist may be able to get another job, and I hope he does. But there are other signs of recession not as individual in their consequences.

ITEM: The hospital where two of our children were born, an anchor in its neighborhood for over a hundred years, is currently owed $10,000,000 by the federal government. This money is not a hoped-for bail-out but a contractual obligation that the government is failing to meet on time. If this one medium-sized hospital is carrying an unpaid bill like that—a bill owed by all of us—one wonders how many private institutions out there are being stiffed by a government that is managing its obligations by not meeting them on time. This is a failure of ethics, not of policy, that directly affects employment and services.

ITEM. If a tax cut will have such a positive effect on the economy as claimed, then it must be equally true that huge losses in the private sector caused by unethical and cynical mismanagement have already had a profound negative effect upon it.

ITEM. In an unstable time, there is no guarantee that tax cuts will be reinvested in the private sector. People may just as expectably put that money in government bonds as protection against recession.

ITEM. Cutting services to eliminate deficits means cutting jobs. If we can’t afford libraries, we can’t afford librarians. If we can’t afford swimming pools, we can’t afford lifeguards. And we can’t all work at Wal-Mart, because somebody besides the employees has to shop at Wal-Mart.

John Donne was right: no man is an island. When enough of us enter our own private recession, we’ll become aware of the caliber of disaster that has befallen us, and we’ll have one big public depression together.

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