As we all sit on the edge of our seats, waiting for the proverbial economic "next shoe to drop," it is all but impossible to be nervous, if not terrified.
And who among us is going to be the first to stand up and say "We are already in a depression?"
What happened in the 1930's was an economic anomaly, and the likelihood of it ever happening again are minimal at best. However, a whole new form of Depression is entirely likely. This time around, with Global Economics and numerous Federal systems in place, the destitute world we see from the pictures of past are hardly what one would realize today.
Despite what we read, from any number of educated and wizened sources, there is one catch to the numerous bits of information and forecasts they throw our way.
We are in unprecedented times. Not one of these wizened souls has any idea as to what they talk about. It is only "educated guesstimates." Yet so many of us saw it coming, and we were powerless to stop it or protect ourselves. To really understand it, we need to speak with perhaps our parents, more likely our grandparents, people who actually lived through the Great Depression.
One consoling point is that Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the Fed is an ardent student of the Great Depression, and to date has proven a steady hand, although the huge obstacle he is facing is daunting at best.
The Bull market that we have all been so used to started arguably in 1981. That followed the 1970's and the worst Bear market precluding the Second World War. There have been numerous corrections, most memorably October 1987, which turned out only to be an exaggerated selloff that was erased in months, and others through the last 30 years have been more of the same.
And the only lesson learned is that anyone can make and spend money in a Bull market. It is a whole other set of rules in a Bear market, and none of us have that set of skills.
We were undoubtedly heading into a major recession in 2001, when September 11th happened and the uncountable amount of patriotic money that flooded the system in the following months--which under normal circumstances never would have shown up--catapulted us out of what quite arguably would have been the cleansing of the system which we are now seeing, albeit far to little, far too late.
And we have ignored a key economic stimulant since that date. We have two wars which have provided huge amounts of jobs and fiscal demands. They are not going away in the near future, but the reality is closer than we think. The adage of "War is good for business"- comes to mind.
We all need to acknowledge that we have lived for years beyond our means. Excessive mortgages, credit cards, cars. Life indulgences that in retrospect are ridiculous. Many of us have little or no savings. I see it amongst my employees, friends and even myself everyday. Most live paycheque to pay-cheque.
And while many of us have fabulous and well earned educations, we have forgotten the basic principle our parents and grandparents taught us--hard work and elbow grease. An MBA and a six figure salary is great, but if you can't fix your kids bicycle or hammer a nail, you will have issues.
How many of us even know what "four in hand" or "eight in hand" mean, and yet it might arguably be considered a welcome skill today. We are heading into a very new world, and those who are adaptable and able to make change will fair much better than those who cannot.
Realistically, most people under 40 years of age know nothing of saving and responsibility. It is the "me too society" in full bloom. At least those of us above 50 have some background of responsibility eschewed into us by our parents, but we have failed to pass this to our children.
In the 1930's, President Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration. It affected every community in America and created numerous roads, bridges, buildings and cultural facilities that we use today. It took millions of unemployed and put them to work, much of it manual labour, but given that or nothing, most had no choice. We will likely see similar programs become a reality in the near future.
It is not the Mortgage mess that has pushed us over the brink, but the excessive cost of fuel. Economies hinge on the cost of energy, and we have just managed to strangle ourselves.