The Panic That Never Ends

Sanden Totten at MPR’s “LoopHole” blog writes about the “phenomenon” of ‘Survival Panic’:

In the coming months, mental health experts expect a rise in theft, depression, drug use, anxiety and even violence as consumers confront a harsh new reality and must live within diminished means.”People start seeing their economic situation change, and it stimulates a sort of survival panic,” said Gaetano Vaccaro, deputy clinical director of Moonview Sanctuary, which treats patients for emotional and behavioral disorders. “When we are in a survival panic, we are prone to really extreme behaviors.”

The U.S. recession that took hold in December last year has threatened personal finances in many ways as home prices fall, investments sour, retirement funds shrink, access to credit diminishes and jobs evaporate.

A little background here.

My first job out of college paid a princely $3.35 an hour; by the time I got tubed at KSTP, I was making maybe $6 an hour. It was OK at the time – my bills were minuscule. My rent was $135 a month, no car payments, gas was cheap, no real serious other bills; if I sold an article or did a voice-over or production gig on the side, I was living pretty large for the month.

Then, of course, follow many lean years – exacerbated by what (if you’ve been following the last year or so of my endless “Twenty Years Ago Today” series) would probably have been diagnosed as clinical depression, if I’d been smart enough to see a doctor at the time. I worked in bars, and then more low-paying dead-end jobs in radio, and then some even worse temp jobs. The kids entered the picture around this time, which straitened things even more. I didn’t top $20K a year until 1994, after my youngest was about a year old, when I’d finally snuck into the world of IT, first as a technical writer and, from 1998 on, as a User Experience guy.

That wasn’t the end of it, of course; IT isn’t always much more secure or stable than radio. Companies fold; contracting jobs end without warning or, seemingly, reason. The 2001 recession left me out of work for five months, and doing subsistence contracting for five or six more in 2003.

I do fairly well these days, of course; it’ll be interesting to see if I can ride out a recession without another dislocation. Knock wood.

In short, I don’t know that I, personally, have “survival panic” over the economy, so much as an ongoing,lifelong “100 years’ war of survival”.  I guess I’ve gotten to age 46 without a whole lot of expectations about the material manifestations of “Success” in life.

Which, on the one hand, means my house isn’t getting into VH1 Cribs or Architectural Digest any time soon and, on the other, means I probably won’t be one of these any time soon…:

For those who need to abruptly curtail spending, that leaves a major void, said James Gottfurcht, clinical psychologist and president of “Psychology of Money Consultants,” which coaches clients on money issues.

“People that have been … identifying with and defining themselves by their material objects and expenditures are losing a definite piece of their identity and themselves,” he said. “They have to learn how to replace that.”

Now, don’t get me wrong; growing up as I did around all sorts of survivors of the Great Depression, I know that pathological frugality can be pretty debilitating, too.

Still – if this is the alternative…:

Beth Rosenberg, a New York freelance educator and self-professed bargain hunter, said she stopped shopping for herself after her husband lost his publishing job in June.

She is now buying her son toys from the popular movie Madagascar for $2 at McDonald’s, and is wearing clothes that have hung untouched in her closet for years.

She said it has been stressful to stick to an austere budget after she used to easily splurge on $100 boots. “I miss it,” she said of shopping.

…I don’t feel so bad.

Hopefully Bush’s late-administration Hooveresque socialist thrashings and Obama’s FDR-like delusions don’t stall the recovery so long that the pathology has to swerve from one pathology all the way to the other one.

27 thoughts on “The Panic That Never Ends

  1. How, pray tell, do you expect a recovery to come?

    What is its manifestation? What is its engine?

    Promised off-shore labor management done on-shore, is a vacuum of empty nonsense.

    The process of making money out of money is dying along with Bear Stearns.

    The necessary infrastructure, the necessary heavy product capacity, crumbled and/or gone.

    What sector, Mitch? IT is offshore. Financial Services, a joke – so what sector Mitch? We are exposed to essentially slave labor prices – I wonder, when you ‘got into IT’ if there had been 1,000,000 H1B visa Indians ready to do your work for 50% of what they paid you, whether you’d have ‘gotten into IT’ – not meaning would you have chosen to, but COULD you have?

    Mystical, euphamistic reference to a recovery does not a recovery produce. Your blind faith in nonsense is nonsense. The economy WILL rebound from it’s current predicament – but recover? Not without fundamental structural changes, for the underlying problems were not solved, will not be solved, by any bailout.

  2. John Roosh, I have a question for you, why are banks hoarding money? What will be the impetus for them to stop? You are a financial expert (according to Mitch) – what will be the outcome when they loosen the purse strings?

    It’s easy to snipe – desparately easy really – but make honest meaningful policy suggestion, not so much. That’s why I asked Mitch to name a sector which will lead a ‘recovery’ – I mean – I can name one – specifically alternative fuel agri-business – and alternative energy production systems (like wind turbine manufacturing) – I just don’t see the latter as large enough to fuel a recovery.

    So, the point is, please expound upon what you think is going on with the financial markets right now, and what you think will happen in the near term.

    I have some ideas – frankly some from coworkers – for example, the CEO of my company is Alan Blinder – Deputy head of hte Federal Reserve for a time under Alan Greenspan – he’s also an economics professor at Princeton, and works with Bernenke and Paulson on this bailout- he gave a company wide discourse on the financial markets 10 days ago, so I have some idea what HE thinks will happen – but I’d like to hear it from the experts – so what’s up? What will the course of events be in the financial (banking) markets?

  3. IT isn’t always much more secure or stable than radio.

    Very true words. And they’ve been true since the 60s. It’s one of the very few industries where bloody fang capitalism can still be seen. It changes too fast for the lawyers in Congress to keep up.

    Still, it does tend to pay well, and if you’ll note the tech companies aren’t going begging for a bail-out. Because it’s such a dynamic industry, so freely creating value and destroying the least innovative, credit in the traditional form is hard to come by, and most IT companies tend to be heavy into cash. Having cash tends to let you ride out most dislocations, provided they’re not too disruptive.

  4. Peni,

    Do you even pay attention before you write? Do you bother to remember what Mitch Has written here over the years? Or do you just like to hear the voices in your head as you type?

    While I do not doubt the expertise of the CEO of your company, your inability to understand complex topics from a rational point of view is on display daily here & on your own blog.

    Certainly, a recovery will not occur while we continue to pursue a leftist agenda, whether that be a hard leftist agenda like yours, or a soft leftist agenda like Bush or McCain. And since that is the only agenda you believe to be true, I understand how & why you are showing your own survival panic.

    Perhaps you should pick up a book about life in the Depression. Not political, not pro-new deal/anti-New Deal, but about how hard life in the Depression & even the war years really was. That could give you a bit of a reality check. As our economy stands right now, it is still stronger than France’s & Germany’s was in the boom years, When you leftist freaks wanted to be more like Europe… Well, here you have it!

  5. IT is offshore. Financial Services, a joke – so what sector Mitch? We are exposed to essentially slave labor prices

    That salary you get is probably reasonable, but the cost of the imported goods you just love to consume are unreasonably cheap relative to what you do. Oops, I guess that means that your salary relative to the rest of the world IS to high.

    Why’s that? It seems that certain foreign countries like to sell product here, but rather than taking the dollars back to their country they buy government bonds. Fewer dollars back there make US goods more expensive there and keep their their goods cheap here, so they can boost their economies at the expense of US workers and manufacturers.

    So running a deficit funded by foreigners like we’re doing is great thing IF you’ve got a thing for exporting US jobs and manufacturing abroad, and IF you’re rich enough to exist mainly on investments.

    Remember what happened when the dollar fell and oil rose more here than in the rest of the world? Jobs came back because shipping became an actual cost, and labor’s share went down.

    That wasn’t sustainable simply because by exporting so many US jobs overseas for so many years, when the US went into recession those jobs got cut, which hammered the currencies of the BRIC countries. In “normal” recessions before the 80s the world’s economies were far less integrated into the US economy, so when we went into recession it hit everybody, but not too much and not like this one. The fraction of local consumption was larger then and outsourcing not an issue.

    Now? By exporting our jobs via deficits whenever the US goes south, everybody goes south.

    One good thing about Obama’s promise to spend money in ways that would do a drunken sailor proud: inflation will hammer the dollar relative to the world’s other currencies. He’ll be stealing the capital of those who were foolish enough to lend money to the government by giving them pretty paper in return for plasma TVs.

  6. What sector, Mitch? IT is offshore.

    Not ALL IT is offshore. It is true, lots of helpdesk/support operations for large companies are in India where they are willing to work for $5-10/hour. However, if enough people who pay for support complain loudly enough, support sometimes gets brought back over here (case in point: Dell). There is also a large developer base in Bangalore. They are usually given the mediocre defect repair and QA work, while the more senior people in the US are the ones who are kept on for new code/new projects.

    However, computers don’t fix themselves, or plug themselves in. You still need local people for set up and repair and support. In larger companies, on the half-IT/half-admin scope, you need project managers as well.

    Finally, no company worth working at is going to offshore infrastructure management and administration.

  7. Oooh, noes! Teh Peevee says it’s teh end of teh Worldz!

    Say, Peev?

    You go to a job every day that hangs by a thread, knowing full well that if your little niche dries up you really don’t have a fall back skill…and then head out to the intertubes for a couple hours of carefree asshat dancing only to get PWN3D!!1! every where you go?

    Tell us; how much does it suck to be you?


    And how much more does it suck that the people you hate the most are the people that will succeed in any circumstance?

    Think about it, little guy.

    You goofs have just elected “THE ONE”; you have your ilk safely seated as majorities at all levels of government and yet it is you and your pals that are wetting your pants while some of us (me!, me!) just completed a nice refinance on the house that allowed us to pull the trigger on that kewl slate floor we’ve been hesitating about!

    Hell, if I get laid off, I’ll just going into the razor blade business and set up shop on Grand Avenue…..

    (Oh, BTW…you better run back to Flush’s little misery pit…you’re getting PWN3D!!1! again over there.)


  8. Maligna, your ability to comment off-topic is a real talent; if only it were translatable to compensation or goodwill.

    Alas, neither nor.

    Your commentary would be no less relevant if you simply rolled a toy car across your keyboard for a moment and then hit the Submit Comment button.

  9. For once I actually agree with the peevster more than I disagree with him.
    Suppose you had a male kid who wasn’t college material and was blessed (despite his other qualities) with a merely average IQ?
    Forty years ago you could send him to Dunwoody & from there he could make not-too-bad a living in the trades, or you could try to pull some strings and get him in a manufacturing union.
    If I had such a kid these days I would point him towards the military or other government work.
    Capital has been valued over labor for too long in the US.

  10. “…rolled a toy car across your keyboard for a moment and then hit the Submit Comment button.”

    Bwahaha! Now that is what I call colorful metaphor!

  11. So which’ll it be Terry? Shall we go back to a self-supporting agrarian or barter system?

    The trades are still a viable vocation; union trades, well not so much.

    What that means is that the tradesman you hire will have to sell his worth with the quality of his labor instead of a implied threat of mob action.

    Meanwhile, those who were blessed with high intelligence will continue to make the lives we lead while not working easier and more comfortable…and they will get paid commensurate to their success.

  12. Peevee? Come back, please, and tell us again how much yourlife sucks.

    Gads, I’m in a great mood today!!

  13. I don’t know what the answer is, Swiftee. A good place to start would be limiting the number of workers we import from foreign countries.
    As it is, in boom times we import labor from countries where it’s cheap to live. In bust times they go home. How can an American worker compete for wages when he has to salt enough away in boom times to maintain a first world lifestyle when the jobs dry up?
    A more efficient economy does not necessarily equal a better economy.

  14. Well, you’re probably right Terry.

    Of course the party of Scrubs sees a potential electoral victory with every container load of “new arrivals” from China and every trunk load of “immigrants” from Mexico, and they have “the conn” right now, so it doesn’t help to worry about it. If comes to that, I guess I’d be more than happy to prove that I can dig a better ditch than a Mexican illegal.

    But, hey, let’s not go there today.

    Today is Dance In A Moonbat’s Bitter Tears Day!

    Whoo Hoo!

  15. Time and time again I hear the handwringers and the naysayers talk of what savages American’s will become or how we are doomed as a country when times get hard. And time and time again the people in this country prove the naysayers wrong. When times get hard, I, for one, am not going to crawl under a rock and cry about how horrible life is, I’m going to pull myself up and figure it out. And I believe that most of the people in this country think the same way. Maybe I’m a flag waver, but I think people in this country are strong and resiliant, and I am not ready to give up on this country.

  16. Peev, in the spirit of the season (and because I’m home with the flu) I’ll ignore most of your ill-tempered, off-topic, fact-challenged, purely-talking-pointed rant.

    IT is offshore.

    It was about 14 years ago. I realized that being a tech writer bored me stiff (with all due respect to the techwhirlies who read this blog). I eventually landed at a little dotcom, and was presented with two opportunities:

    1) be a programmer
    2) be a usability/human interaction/human factors guy.

    I did a ton of reading, and found this bit by human-computer interaction guru Alan Cooper rather compelling; he predicted that, given trends in place in the early nineties in the IT busines, that by 2020 the US software industry would be:
    a) Architects
    b) Business Analysts
    c) User Interface designers
    d) Project/product/program managers and other such administrative and management types.

    So I took door #2.

    Was Cooper right? Am I recession and offshoring-proof? Time will tell, but at ten years’ remove I’m feeling better about it than some people are these days.

    My point, Peev, being that I don’t control the economy; if I work real hard at it, I might control my little corner of it.

    So we’ll see.

  17. Shiftee boasted: “If comes to that, I guess I’d be more than happy to prove that I can dig a better ditch than a Mexican illegal.”

    Just like when you used to to dig latrines in the Army, Shiftee.

    Angryclown’s money is on Shiftee. He’s a regular John Henry of digging shitholes.

  18. Peev,

    I’m running a bit of a fever, so my head is swimming too much to have gotten everything in one pass.

    But seriously, dude – your comments have nothing whatsoever to do with my topic. Your need to try to shanghai every single topic over to whatever bullshit you want to rant and rave about is…curious?

    Why not do that at your own blog? Just because my comment section has two orders of magnitude more readers than your blog doesn’t justify this narcissistic need you have to make my comment section *all above Peev*.

    Seriously. Get help, or whatever it takes, but if it’s off-topic, take it elsewhere.

  19. Yeah, well I always seem to be able to unearth your presence AC, so I see where you’re coming from…

    Except I was in the Navy, where we just tossed our shit overboard…kind of like you moonbats are doing with “The One” right now.

  20. Perhaps, Mitch, you ought to post Peev’s Standards of Commentary from his blog… the one where he reserves the right to delete comments and ban visitors for posting off-topic comments.


    At least, just apply it to him… and edit his comments to add the text of his standard. Maybe in red font.

  21. Shiftee, a former seaman, said: “Except I was in the Navy”

    And now you’re a biker? Dude, how about easing up on the Village People obsession before you turn gay cop or Indian chief?

  22. Swifty, you may be able to dig a ditch better than a Mexican illegal but you can’t dig a ditch cheaper.
    Unless you share living quarters with a half dozen other ditch diggers in a condemned tenement or foreclosed house. Or you are living with your cousin who gets a free roof over their head in exchange for ag work.
    Then you might be able to not only underbid everyone else for the job, you might be able to afford to pay a coyote to smuggle your 14 year old wife to the US. Or maybe all of your fourteen year old wives.

  23. ou ought to post Peev’s Standards of Commentary from his blog… the one where he reserves the right to delete comments and ban visitors for posting off-topic comments.


    I gotta check that out.

    Yet another symptom of projection…

  24. Mitch,
    Check this out:

    penigma dot
    blogspot dot
    dot html

    (Emphasis mine… nonense, Peev’s)
    A couple of rules – we are here to actually have debate leading toward agreement and suggestion. Flame wars and trolls will be warned, and then, will be banned. Flame blogs are the province of ego-centric bloggers and their apple-polishing followers – I don’t have an interest in any such a place. If you chose to conduct yourself that way, well, you’ve been warned.

    The other point is that I’ll draw from other sources. I don’t steal ideas, content, or credit. I also don’t get my talking points from anywhere, coordinate my ideas with anyone. I’ve worked on a few political campaigns as a volunteer, but don’t currently and will disclose any such associations should they arise.

    Comments from the “Certainties” post are interesting, too.

    Your comment seems like canned reply, since it really wasn’t on point. Please confirm you aren’t working as a paid advocate for McCain sending pre-packaged messages on websites.

    If you are, plese desist from doing so on my blog.

    If you do not confirm as such, I will be required to block your posts in future.


    August 25, 2008 2:47 PM

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