According to some strange committee with an exceedingly Soviet-era name, the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research, the recession actually, officially ended in June 2009.
Let’s see, in June 2009 I was three months into a new job for which I had received a $10,000 raise. For the first time in our lives we actually talked about buying a house, and the cars had their first oil changes in almost a year.
I spent the remainder of 2009 learning how newspapers don’t work, at least under the current system of trying to sell ads into something with a shrinking circulation and free online advertising, if you know how to get it.
I watched mills close down, which was actually good for business, because everyone wanted to read about how this mill closure would affect our mountain community. Car dealers couldn’t sell cars and Realtors acted more desperate than usual.
Ripple effect. Apparently Missoula isn’t anywhere near the center of the pond, therefore a rock, in this case, the recession, makes waves that won’t hit us for many months, and which will continue to hit us for many months after the pond has settled.
But there are almost five million people on some form of extended unemployment insurance in America. Did someone forget to tell the economy that the recession is over? Why are employers so reticent to hire?
Why are malnourished newspapers still cutting their workforce and cannibalizing their future in reactionary measures tied to quarterly earnings?
Who are we?
I remember growing up in the waning years of the Cold War. We had Ronald Reagan and Star Wars and warheads pointing at Russian satellites and cities. We were Americans working hard because we had freedom and a dream with no limits.
It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we had a national identity. We had a purpose and a common enemy in Communism.
Today we have two wars and a murderous idealism as an enemy. But you can’t bomb that out of caves, as we have come to learn. And you can no more force freedom on people than you can force Communism on them.
Our identity is no longer that of automaker, iron worker, mill worker, logger, empire builder. I see mill workers learning how to become IT managers in school, government retraining for their lost jobs.
Our leaders won’t create health care reform, because we don’t know we’re sick. Our schools are suffering, because we’ve invested in everything else under the sun except for our children.
We’re in an identity crisis of epic proportions. But then nearing 300 years as a national conscious is a long time when you’re at the top of the food chain. If struggle shapes your identity, perhaps we haven’t struggled enough lately.