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Is The Great Recession (TGR) the New Normal?

July 31st, 2011 6 COMMENTS

I enjoy a challenge. Not a Darwin Award challenge or a Mexican Drug Cartel challenge, but a normal middle-class, just risky enough to be an interesting kind of challenge. Three years ago, I thought that meant hiking the Appalachian Trail for a week or installing laminate flooring in three rooms or attending an extended family reunion and not passing judgment on my Appalachian cousins. They were manageable challenges, which had a start date and end date. Or, at the very worst, I could decide to opt out mid-stream.

Three years ago, the U.S. economy lurched into what my peers are calling “The Great Recession” (TGR). We all knew from the get-go that it was going to be bad. How couldn’t it be after nearly every U.S. citizen contributed in some measure to the collapse, either by living beyond their means or by allowing our political and corporate leaders to convince us that laissez-faire meant being lazy about our responsibilities. We forgot that humans can be benevolent and altruistic 49% of the time, but at our core we are self-centered and greedy. That’s why we have religion and governments and clans and tribes to keep us connected and restrain our worst instincts. At the same time, we forgot what it was like living in America in the late 19th Century or post WW1 to 1927. Somehow we thought were smarter than history because we had computers and miracle drugs and sweat-wicking clothing.

What we didn’t know about TGR was that it was going to last three years and counting. We thought it would mimic the recessions we’d know in our lifetimes: severe and painful but limited to a year or two. About every month or so, the government or the press would tease us with quasi-good news about unemployment, manufacturing numbers, the stock market, interest rates, etc. We would each fixate on different economic indicators, depending on our individual circumstances.

Economic Ray of SunshineLately, the new normal was becoming more normal, like finally coming to terms with a five-to-eight year prison term after wrestling with it for three years. We were making the best of a bad situation, and using the time to become a better person or a better company because you might as well use your time wisely. While I can’t and won’t speak for most Americans, I can at least say that there seemed to be a window of hope, a promising patch of sunshine on a cloudy grey day. The economy was improving, and those companies that were nimble and resourceful were doing well.

Left, Right, or Center

Now, all that is threatened. Regardless of your political leanings, left, right, or center, you have to be frustrated by the intransigence of our politicians. They have become ideologues, narrow-minded and uncompromising. And who can blame them. Based on the noise from their loudest constituents and wealthiest patrons, they are being told to take impossibly rigid positions, positions that once announced will be recorded and replayed again and again in future elections. Goodness knows, we don’t want our politicians to be “flip-floppers” who change their minds depending on which way the political wind blows (at worse) or based on the most logical arguments (at best). We have become what we criticize in other countries — narrow-minded, fanatical, and illogical. Slaves to our media, religious, and corporate talking heads who claim to want what’s best for our country, but who seem to thrive in a system that promotes chaos and benefits their financial pocketbook.

Perhaps, just perhaps, our federal government has become too transparent, too 24/7. Our politicians no longer have the luxury to befriend their rivals, to negotiate reasonable tradeoffs, to make mistakes. Don’t misunderstand me. The ethically challenged still get elected, as well as the just plain stupid. But, we need to give our leaders, the representatives, senators, and President, the opportunity to be leaders and not just politicians. We didn’t get into this situation overnight. We won’t get out of it overnight. Yet, there seems to be the “necessity” to fix it with either a machete or a vibrator. All pain or all pleasure.

That said . . . I don’t have an answer. And, if you think you do, then frankly, you’re delusional. But, what we can all agree on is that the ray of sunshine is fading quickly, and TGR is about to become the New Normal. We need a reasonable approach from the left, the right, and the crackpots.

A county judge once told me during a mediation session that he knew he’d done his job when both sides left unhappy about the final outcome but shook hands anyway.

Folks, it’s time to suck it up and do what’s right for the entire country, not just for those screaming the loudest. While I like challenges, I’m getting a little weary of this one. I bet you are too.

–Mel White


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100.


6 Responses to “Is The Great Recession (TGR) the New Normal?”

  1. Kevin Carty says:

    Something to think of as small business managers and owners.

    Reflect over the past 3 years. Specifically reflect on what we all did in our own businesses as sales decreased and expenses went up during the economic downturn. What did you/we do?

    We cut expenses where we could, partnered with others to gain better costs from raw material vendors, and took less! The third being a big part. All employees took less and some even suffered layoffs or partial layoffs.

    Here is a radical thought…looking at our government as a business, then why don’t our representatives in the House and Senate take a pay cut or better yet take a 3 month unpaid leave.

    When you fail at your job, you are held responsible right? When do we start “laying off” our government officials? I know it’s why we vote, but in sports, just because you have a 3 year contract does not mean you play for 3 years! Sometimes you get cut for not performing within those 3 years.

    Last thought . . . and a very personal one…this “theater” that our government has created is stupid and embarrassing. And it is just that . . . THEATER. Not reality. Beware of the fear-mongers on both sides of the fence. They are only concerned about creating fear and uneasiness in public opinion so they can use it as leverage for future arguments and votes.

    Sure would have be nice if government had not decided to become just another “Reality Show” on TV, playing more to the camera then to their constituents who rely on them.

  2. Kevin Carty says:

    Lest we all forget, our voted officials, Democrat and Republicans, voted for the current “budget plan” that required spending that exceeded revenue. Just that simple fact should have all voters scratching their heads and yelling at the top of their lungs “foul”!

    So listening to our representatives now “complaining” and “blaming” each other is ironic when they voted this budget in place with some deranged expectation of success.

    It’s like getting your Visa bill in the mail and then calling and complaining about the bill, even though you know you were the one who decided to spend the money.

    When looking at our government officials and their decisions, we all need to really “look” at what they are doing and quit listening to the talking heads on radio, TV and in newspapers. Too often, we base our thoughts and reactions solely on what we are being told by opinion makers rather then using our own common sense.

    Use the simple filter of your own businesses in your thought process, and think how you would have to react in order to keep yourself and your employees employed and prosperous.

    The answers are not that hard to find. Common sense is not something to be feared.

  3. As Bruce Cockburn sang, “The trouble with normal is it’s always gets worse…”

  4. Troy Stover says:

    First off – Mel, excellent job! Nicely written and insightful. So much so, I almost missed the “vibrator” mention. I too am tired of the challenge, but feel we may be able to end it if we make ending it the new challenge.

    Secondly – Kevin, for years I have been saying just that. We need a better way to fire our leaders who are found lacking. And more importantly, we need to USE it (locally, time and time again we see incompetent incumbents re-elected for yet another term…)

    Thirdly – and possibly off-topic, I strongly feel we all need to stand up and take responsibility for this. Too often I see citizens blame politicians, politicians blame industry, industry blames citizens, and so on. Our country became an economic force through everyone raising their hand – not pointing fingers.

    Again kids, nicely done – thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. The time has come for a very serious debate (not propaganda) to change the way we as a country do business. When every sector of the economy is struggling except one, this segment is booming at a rate never before seen, that is the public sector. We need to make our politicians become accountable to the people and not the special interests. As any responsible business or person knows that when expenditures exceed revenues the only way back to fiscal sanity is to “STOP THE SPENDING” and reduce expenses!

    Wouldn’t it be nice that when revenues in our businesses go down that we raise our prices exponentially to the good customers to cover this short fall and then on top of it give everyone substantial raises and bonuses, how many customers would we have then? This is exactly what will happen to our country when the main incentive for ownership and liberty is taken away. Ronald Reagan said “Freedom is only one generation away from extinction”! We need to fight against all expansion of our government or I fear that we are closer then anyone realizes to this result.

    We need to get back to common senses principles and values that made our country great! The American people are ready for serious discussion to put us back on track to economic prosperity; we will sacrifice, work harder and do what is necessary for a commonsense purpose. It is sad to say that political leadership always lags behind the public will; our people are patient and civil, but; this will not last forever. The politicians need to get out of the way and stop causing all these self-inflicted crises.

  6. I think you can safely say that The Great Recession is not the new norm, but the beginning of the end! Why do you say that? Well, let’s take a step back for a moment first and see if we can agree on two major points which are, that this mess is everyone’s fault; all parties, all presidents, and all leaders. Everyone! Second, you can’t get out of this mess without spending less tomorrow than you did today, and if you look at how much our debt is costing you and me each day, the sooner we begin the better. Are we ok so far? If not, go read a comic book!

    How can we compromise? We can’t! We’re way beyond that and here’s why. If you and I are negotiating over a new budget, and last year we were balanced, and I want to stay balanced and the other side wants me to compromise, then what’s the logical conclusion if I do compromise? We’re now in the red aren’t we? Next year, we get together again and once again in the name of compromise I give in, regardless of the amount, we’re even deeper in the red aren’t we? No big intellectual argument here! And that folks is what our screwy system is based upon. We as people and political parties are valued based on how much we’re willing to compromise. After all, isn’t compromise a good thing all the time? Compromise is never good based on arguments over absolute truths such as fiscal responsibility. Either you are physically responsible or you aren’t. PERIOD! And if you prefer not to be physically responsible, why can’t you be allowed to just do it with your own money and not mine?

    Now here’s where it gets sticky for the elephants and the donkeys because there’s so much coming out of each end. How can you have it both ways and make the uninformed public think you did your job? In times gone by, you pretty much knew who the players were and how they were going to posture with each other, and in the end, we hold hands and walk away happy. They’re trying that this time too, but now there are two dogs in the fight that weren’t vocally in the fight ever before, and they may not let the spineless republicans and democrats hold hands any longer. The new players are the Tea Party and the Progressives.

    The Tea Party says no more compromise; we want radical change like balancing the budget each year beginning NOW! Is there something wrong with “now”? A really radical plan was laid on the table this weekend which most of the Tea Party folks liked which suggested that we begin next year to take one penny out of the dollar, each and every year, and “not spend it.” Yes, cut the budget by 1% each year and within approximately 6 years, we’re all balanced and on an even physical footing. And should the economy grow during this period of time, the debt gets reduced even more as well. That”s too radical for the other side.

    The Progressives, have suggested another well thought out plan which would save us 1 trillion dollars out of 14 trillion over the next 9-10 years, and by slowing down the rate of increase of the budget each year(in other words, it never gets smaller), we can stave off certain calamity. Never mind that the new debt would now be about double of what it is now. In this scenario, the budget will never be balanced, but we won’t be forced to really give up anything either. That’s a happy thought isn’t it?

    My guess is that both sides are operating with such a high degree of pure toxicity in their veins based upon decades of selling out the American people, that the Progressive democrats will side with the “non tea party republicans” and form a large enough coalition to get a “compromise” in both the house and senate, which will allow us to move ever closer to that Utopia in our future called Zimbabwe. Ahh, isn’t compromise just wonderful!

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