The hot question for today: Really? The recession ended last June?!
The New York Times has a “Room for Debate” piece pitting the opinions of seven experts against each other discussing specifically “Is This What a Recovery Feels Like?” Those pieces informed what I said here, along with much of Robert Reich’s recent blogging.
The economy is a tricky issue, especially for those of us in our 20s. We grew up in times that were much better than they should have been. The crash of 2000 really didn’t affect us and things like terrorism and foreign wars have been retaining our concerted attention since we were able to fully understand the world around us. The economy, though, was pretty good. And our youth? Well, we grew up in one of the best economic periods in US history under President Clinton. Clinton’s term began when I was in second grade. By the time I was in high school, we’d been flying high for awhile.
Now though, most of us are coming to terms with the fact that things are not good and they are not going to be good for a long time. And maybe the recession is over. But all that means is things are not getting worse.
There are benefits to the downturn that should not be overlooked. I’m not saying that it is good for people to be out of work. But I think the Great Recession has brought to light some serious flaws in our operating procedures. Banks need to be better regulated, despite their claims otherwise. We need to consider why it is that minorities, especially African-Americans, are hit disproportionately hard by the recession. Businesses need to be thinking about operating efficiently in the good times, rather than waiting until things get tough to streamline processes. We need to operate sustainably.
As future policymakers, La Follette students have a particular need to be cognizant of the lessons from the recession (like not counting on others to pull us out of it). When things are good and we want to expand social programs, we need to be aware of what would happen to these programs if the economy faced another huge shock. Demand for these services will increase quickly. We need to make sure we can handle that. Want to cut taxes? Great, but what will happen when some bubble pops and the government needs to be relied upon for job creation?
My fear is that the lessons won’t be applied in a sustainable way. People need to treat money like it is finite (because it is). We need to learn to save for the lean times, so the lean times are lean and not starving. And for the immediate future? I say embrace the opportunity to focus our priorities on what matters. Use money to improve transportation, fix aging infrastructure (that might kill us if we don’t), regulate those who need it, and improve sustainability.