Saturday, January 10, 2009

Economic Indicators, &tc.

A front-page headline in the Wall Street Journal today read, "Unemployment Worst Since 1945". For those of us not privy to the significance, 1945 was the year that the U.S. emerged from the Great Depression with the help of good ole WWII.

I don't know about you, but my impression is that we haven't seen the worst of it. I work for Siemens Corp., one of the largest companies in the world. We had some layoffs maybe four months back, but nothing huge. There is no way that Siemens is going to come through this unscathed. They are too big and their business will be impacted. So we haven't really even started the layoffs, and I think a lot of companies are in the same boat.

Pope Benedict XVI once remarked that it was unfortunate that the word "schadenfreude" existed in the German vocabulary. It is with some guilt that I admit my schadenfreude at the current economic situation. I have been a consistent doomsayer, so there is some small pleasure in watching the wheels come off the wagon. We're at 7.2% unemployment, and the worst of it hasn't even hit us yet. In Peggy Noonan's column today, she had an imaginary American wondering where her food would come from when the economic infrastructure broke down.

Also from Noonan's column today:
This is not a nation of 300 million people in extremis and on a morphine drip; it's a nation of 300 million people who are alive, alert and ready to go.
She's raised this point a couple of times, and it is a good one. We are strong, and we've got to stay positive. But I have my doubts. We've been on top a long time. There is a critical point in a contest when the champion is bloodied and shaken; it's been a long time since he's been in this position, since he's been desperate. Fear and panic are more likely in a strong country that has forgotten what it's like to be on the ropes.

I'm not going to panic, yet. But I am going to invest in a generator.

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