Friday, April 3, 2009

Bad News for (Financial) Pain Suffers

I just read my first CNN article on the silver lining to the the recent financial cloudburst--relating the good fortune of a family that purchased, for $200,000 a house that had previously sold for a half million dollars. The gist of the story was that one man's misfortune is another's opportunity. Happy overweight dad and two his two daughters smiling at the camera. The losing former homeowner was nowhere to be seen.

I am afraid that the bad news of home price declines, with the theme of American dream turned into nightmare, has been mined for about all its worth. It is so 2008. A bit like the fall in the stock market. The new media event will be focused on life ever after, after the housing bubble popped, after the stock market meltdown, after debt fueled consumer spending shuttered into lower gear, in the new economy with its ongoing elimination of legacy sinecures being sequentially rooted out wherever they may be found in the old economy.

Don't get me wrong There will continue to be bad news. That last story--the death of the sinecure gig--will meane rising unemployment, and the next year may feature a dollar crisis of some sort. The auto companies have just begun their turn in the barrel, and don't count the financial services sector out--they'll be back this summer with some major institutional failures and outright government takeovers, then later, again, with a wave of indictments. I'm telling ya, that Wall Street story has legs. If there are any newspapers left to print it.

But the bandwidth devoted to innocent victimhood, of decent folks just minding their own business when, bam, they got blindsided, is about to contract. Look for uplifting tales of hardworking retirees returning to the workforce, making a new contribution and finding the good life in a new venue. With a little luck, maybe we'll have a morality play about universal health care coverage, and develop an approach to paying for universal medical coverage as good as the health care generally delivered to employed people in this country. That wouldn't just be a story, that would be social progress.

Remember, when we hit bottom, we start to look up, even if the recovery is the most gradual of hells.

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