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For more than a year we have watched the economic crisis wink into existence, signal its approach and finally melt all over us in painfully slow motion.
Because the technical definition of recession is six or more straight months of declining gross domestic product, the advance of the illness could be seen coming from a long way off and its likelihood has been left to grow wildly in the mind without definite confirmation or determined response.
And then the statistical lag time dulls the impact a little more.
Earlier this month Moody’s Investors Service finally declared that 30 U.S. states were indeed stuck in a recession and 19 others were threatening to join them.
Never mind which ones. Don’t act like we weren’t warned. Let’s just say it: We’re in a recession and now we’ve got to turn our minds to getting out.
Although it has been Topic A for the entire year and was clearly the single most decisive factor in the presidential election, this slow descent into a nameless futility has itself been debilitating, particularly when the political response was so typically flailing and feeble.
They really know how to milk a panic.
It doesn’t take an economist to see that the way to get out of this is fast forward.
But that doesn’t mean popping the clutch, or lurching down the street from whiskey bar to whiskey bar, buying rounds for every joker in the house.
Mainstream media abhors the R word. It sounds too much like the D word, God forbid.
A recession just doesn’t feel good and we don’t need it and besides teenagers could save the “cutback” nation single-handedly if they learned to spend their allowances better.
One national magazine recently offered some choice tips for living lower off the hog, for example, by getting a cheaper haircut. Altogether, they calculated, if their 10 or 20 best suggestions were taken to heart, the contemporary urbanite could save $500,000 a year.
That sounds like a plan, or at least very much like the Life for Dummies philosophy that got us here in the first place. It’s easy to put down, but harder than kudzu to eradicate.
Fast forward doesn’t mean repeating the mistakes of the past. It doesn’t mean gloating over a crashed and burned economic system. Altogether now, let’s break the cycle.
What it means is wising up. Fast. It means thinking ahead, knowing what’s coming next before we get there, acting effectively, making good moves and making them count. Not doubling down but doubling up, solving a problem by fixing a problem.
The sooner, the better. Less waste. No fooling around. No dawdling. Cut back on spam and swindles. Add vitamins, proteins, bucket brigades, housewarmings, infrastructure and smarts.
Not mindless platitudes, but hitting the ground running anyway.
There are clearly a few things that have not served us well. Among them, it would be very hard to recommend regressive taxes anymore, or gratuitous corporate subsidies, races to the bottom, unregulated blood-from-turnip business strategies that squeeze everything out and leave people without safety nets and institutions without resilience.
Without fairness, globalization has fallen flat. Without a sense of proportion, the quest for security is a golden fleece. Without a sensible and active respect for the planet, there will soon be nothing left to fight over.
Fast forward is a psychological state of health. It is doing what shoulda, coulda been done long ago in the first place, not what you got away with. It’s hard to get better without a fever. It may be impossible to survive without a healing crisis.
Let’s do it.