The Ruling Class

I recently enjoyed a luncheon at a retirement home for missionaries.  I asked the lady sitting next to me what had led her into such service.  She was in her mid-nineties and began by saying, “When I married my husband, it was during the depression…”  She paused momentarily to reflect, then clarified her statement.  “I mean the first depression.”  Now I needed clarification and asked her why she added that qualification.  “To distinguish it from the current one,” was her matter of fact reply.

Here was a woman who could see through experienced eyes what most of today’s economists seem to be missing.  At least for her, and I’m certain a large number of other Americans, we are in a second depression right now.  The smart guys will argue.  They will point out many reasons why that’s not possible.  They will explain away the very real fact that this recovery is currently marked, with just one possible exception since World War II, by the weakest measures for most economic barometers ever seen at a point two years after an official bottom.

The difference of opinion stems from methodologies.  Economists will apply statistics; they will employ graphs.  They will extrapolate trends into the future, connecting dots with a ruler.  This lady has no use for a ruler.  She connects the dots using a check book.  She doesn’t rely on such official data to determine how she should feel.  Perhaps she is an exception and most Americans are much better off.  The truth is, no doubt, somewhere in between.  The crux of the matter is determining just where that mid-point lies and how many people are crowded onto the short end.  Not too long ago I watched two ladies at the local drugstore picking up prescriptions.  They cobbled together what money they had, then pushed those medicines they couldn’t afford back to the pharmacist.  Maybe they should have bought a ruler instead.