Poor Us: The Great Depression 2.0

About: Poor Us

Dorothy Thompson

“The forces of decency always hope for the best and almost always wait until it is too late.” Dorothy Thompson, Journalist (1894-1961)

“Poor us” is a phrase that can be taken two ways–as self-pitying sentiment or unvarnished descriptive–but given the current state of affairs, both meanings can be applied to all of us (with the exception of Goldman Sachs’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein who made $73 million in 2007 and therefore can only be accused of poor taste). Even former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan suffered a loss. While still rich in dollars, he took a big hit in the ideology when it turned out that the free market he’d trusted with the keys to the economy promptly drove it right over a cliff.

If Greenspan could be shocked by such behavior, which is what he told Congress,  then I suppose I shouldn’t beat myself up over my own stunned surprise at the collapse of Bear Stearns and other Wall Street firms, but I do.  As a journalist (often by trade and always by inclination),  I imagined myself  to be well informed and a discerning skeptic on what the Powers That Be claim and the pundits debunk. For instance, it  didn’t sound right to me when Bush told us to go shopping after 9/11 or when the median price for a California ranch-style house hit $600,00, #750,000, $1m. What I entirely failed to grasp was that somehow I –all of us–were going to be on the hook for those crazy excesses.   Like Greenspan, I thought Wall Street wanted America to stay open for business, but we were both let down.

I don’t think we can afford to be  fooled again.  I know for sure I can’t. Poor Us: The Great Depression 2.0 is my attempt to catch up with current events by trying to figure out what’s just happened to us, how those changed conditions are impacting our lives and to put together a working idea of what to expect and do next.  My hope is that once the blog has been around for a while, Poor Us will not only gather and pass on a first draft history but will find correspondents who have news to share from other corners of the crisis.  Of course, it would be just fine with me if the story wrapped up sooner in a unexpected recovery than later in soup lines.  Maybe if we pay attention, the worst won’t happen.  In 1932 Dorothy Thompson interviewed Hitler.  She got tossed out of Germany for failure to fawn over him and wrote a book warning the world of the threat posed by someone she disparaged as “the very prototype of the Little Man.” She was ignored.  I’m not going to make the same mistake.    I’m taking Dorothy Thompson’s words about decent people hoping for the best, but failing in the end as a warning rather than a prophecy, and operating under the assumption that it’s not too late. If not I’ll invent a hobo code 2.0 with polls for rating tent cities around the country and Twitter streams from the Newly Dispossessed. I’ll try to make it entertaining either way.

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