Thursday, February 19, 2009

Talking About It

Everywhere I am I hear people talking about the bad economy.
A volunteer at the office computer checks the stock market, yelps, "I just lost three hundred thousand dollars!"
Another visitor describes his financial history, beginning when he took his pension in one big payout, got very rich, enjoyed travel and giving big gifts, and now has lost more than half, and he's old.
My (pregnant) hairdresser's husband lost his job, and she has no health insurance.
I don't have to watch the news anymore; it's happening before my eyes.

Occasionally for no reason I get the benefit of a disquisition, as when a colleague informed me at length that it all started with Barney Frank doing something with Fannie and Freddie. To me, it was the greedy Republican deregulators.
The man I hired to paint my house went on even longer, while I sat on the staircase listening. The painter blamed on Bill Clinton wanting to make "a nation of homeowners."
"But that was George Bush!" I said. No matter, the actually genial gentleman explained to me the subprime market, the housing bust after banks took on too much risk, the cascading effect around the globe.
"But we're going to be fine," he assured me, "because we're the greatest country in the world."
I refrained from pointing out that Ancient Rome had been the greatest country in its day.

These conversations go far beyond a relative confiding they're "upside down on their house," back when talking about money outside the family was considered gauche; back when falling house values happened only in Texas.
Now, we live in interesting times, as the Chinese curse goes (wishing that you will).
And everyone wants to talk. I'm wondering if we're engaged in some mass psychotherapy with each other.

I mostly listen because I'm doing OK today. Maybe the people doing OK just aren't talking.


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