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What Depression?

Posted: December 6, 2008 9:05 p.m.
Updated: December 7, 2008 4:55 a.m.
 
I was there at the start of the Great Depression. It was November 2008. It happened in a Mervyns in Santa Clarita.

I was trolling through the picked-over, 99 percent off, everything-must-go pile, along with the throng of bottom-feeders like me.

We were all scrounging for the killer deal, the shirt or belt or pair of socks so ridiculously cheap that we had to grab it.

No one stopped to ask why this national store chain was selling its stock at less than it paid for it.

All the clawing customers pulling from the heaps, all the scrambling seasonal help replenishing the heaps, all the security guards making sure the store got that 15 cents on the dollar, all of us looking past the obvious, looming, 800-pound-gorilla question:

Why, after 59 years in business, is Mervyns closing all 149 stores? And it's not just about Mervyns, but also the other stores and banks and commercial operations of all kinds that are in trouble.

Why aren't we running for the exits screaming, "Oh, my God! We have much bigger issues to deal with than these red-tagged fuzzy slippers!"

But we don't run screaming for the exits until the exits are already blocked with flaming debris and there's no way out.

That's how all people are. The worse it gets, the more we whistle a happy tune and wait for the all-clear siren.

In the meantime, we shop and dine and vacation like there's no tomorrow. It's even better now.

Gas is back to less than two bucks a gallon, hotels and cruise ships are giving away trips, and Mervyns is selling stuff at 99 percent off!

It's November 1929 and the stock market has crashed and a few of us have taken the quick ride to the sidewalk from the eighth floor, but most of us are still reading the news about that crash thing and thanking our lucky stars that we were too smart to get sucked into that mess.

The stock market is a window to the future. In a rising market, it's the light at the end of the tunnel. In a crashing market, it's a harbinger of doom.

In November 2008 we said, "Thank God I didn't buy stock," or "It's OK that my house lost half its value, I'll just stay here until it comes back up." Look down, you're bleeding.

Merry Christmas!

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