Last Tuesday, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the recession is “very likely over.” Many radio talk show hosts, television personalities, and others who are utterly clueless on matters of the economy weighed in to assess the validity of the Chairman’s statement. I’m not going to argue with the man. If he says the recession is “very likely over,” then I believe him. After all, I’m not an economist.
To me, the more pressing question isn’t whether we, i.e., U.S. Americans, believe the recession is over, but whether we learned anything from it. It’d be fine with me if frugality and thrift maintained their sex appeal once we regained confidence an economic recovery was underway. Oh how glorious this nation would be if we continued to live within our means. Unfortunately, my cynical side prevents me from envisioning an America that’s financially prudent.
In late 2008, when it seemed everything was falling apart, the media promised an economic downturn that rivaled that of the Great Depression. If you know any Depression era survivors, then you’ve likely witnessed frugality at its finest. But this recession, wasn’t long or deep enough (that’s what she said) to get us to turn away from our frivolous ways.
If we become a nation of savers again, it won’t be because the most recent downturn instilled in us a burning internal desire to get our ish together. It’ll be because we don’t have a choice. Seems financial institutions finally got the good sense to deny credit to broke people.
Perhaps you experienced the discomfort that results when your income is disrupted while liquid savings are nonexistent. It’s possible the nonstop calls from collectors drove you over the edge. Maybe you learned your lesson. But I can’t help but think of other life altering events that convince us we’ll change our ways….and then we don’t.
For instance, do you know anyone who’s ever had a heart attack, been incarcerated, or gotten hair extensions? It’s easy to say what you’ll do once you’re delivered from the pain. I’m no exception. Almost without fail, I forget the habits and desires that led to my suffering, and revert to what is comfortable. Even if it leads to my downfall.
It’s possible my fellow Americans will hold tight to their new found spending habits. I’m pretty sure they won’t. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.
What’s your take on it?