May 10, 09 Phosphorescence
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Hearing politicians, economists, and others amongst the chattering classes begin to whisper that maybe we have hit the bottom of our economic freefall, I am reminded of one of my new favorite horror movies, 2005’s The Descent.  In the movie, four adventurous women descend two miles into an uncharted cave.  Of course, things go awry.  Trapped and panicked, one of the ladies believes she sees daylight and sprints towards the light despite her friend’s warnings that the “daylight” is only the phosphorous in the rocks.  Unfortunately, failing to heed the warnings, the woman falls and breaks her leg.  Things only get worse from there.

Phosphorescence, or the nonthermal emission of light after the stimulus has been removed, aptly describes our current economic condition.  The light that “those who know” insist they see at the end of this proverbial tunnel does not generate heat or energy.  It will only succeed in confusing us, causing us to lose focus and become even more confused and disoriented than before.  Case in point, the economy shed another 539,000 jobs in April.  Most news outlets were ecstatic in their reporting.  Since most economists predicted that the economy would lose over 630,000 jobs, this must mean that a recovery is beginning.  Home buying is up in some markets, and credit is a little easier to get.  Positive news, yes.  However, this news can only be met with cautious optimism at best.  We are no closer to getting out of this dark cave than before.

I want things to get better.  I believe that eventually we will emerge from this era smarter, stronger, and more resilient than before.  Yet, I feel condescended to when I am told that the economy is recovering because the banks we bailed out have begun posting profits and only 539,000 people lost their jobs.  It is necessary to stay focused because I am not convinced we have learned our lesson.  The powers that be want us to get back to business as usual as rapidly as possible.  Be aware of the phosphorescence masquerading as daylight.  Instead feel for the wind and listen for the still small voice inside it.  Only then will we navigate our way out of this treacherous cave.

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