mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Yes, I realize that the economy sucks. Do we really need to sensationalize it?

Ever since it became clear in the last year or two that the economy was slowing down, the media started going out of it's way to try to find parallels to the worst economic situation of the last century, the Great Depression.

Last fall, it was the "runs on banks", as people lined up outside IndyMac after it failed. Of course, people during the Great Depression had a very good reason to be lining up outside banks - because once the bank ran out of money, their life savings were gone. Now, we have FDIC protection that means that unless you are both rich and stupid enough to keep 100 grand chillin' in your bank account, you don't have to worry about the bank running out of money. But the media acted as if the reason for the lines was an actual crisis and not stupidity.

Now I've seen two more. The first was via this fw finance thread about the rise of tent cities. The article concentrates on two tent cities. The first is in Reno, Nevada. It mentions a tent city that sprung up next to a homeless center there. But it mentions a number of reasons it was there, most of which are only tangentially related to the economy - an influx of people traveling there to find jobs, the closing of a shelter that's only open in the winter, and the fact that they are about to build a new, bigger shelter. Since that kind of thing takes a while, it suggests that Reno has probably had a shortage of homeless shelter capacity for a while.

The other place that they talk about is Seattle - but from the way the article is written, it sounds like Seattle has always had homeless encampments, but homeless advocates have been trying to get more attention drawn to them because the government has recently started cracking down on them in areas that are gentrifying.

As anyone who has ever visited a major city knows, homelessness is not a new problem, and it's only partly related to the economy - many of the homeless can't or won't work, and have other issues like drug and alcohol addiction and mental health problems. The mere existence of homelessness does not prove that the economy is getting worse, especially since the examples they cite seem to be more anomalies than trends.

The second OMG headline comes via Consumerist. Evidently, some people in California are standing in line to get free bread from the Salvation Army. Now, food banks are not a new invention, and the fact that a charity is handing out free bread hardly seems newsworthy. Now, if more than one person at a time wants that free bread, it is going to cause a line to form. It's hard to imagine that this is the first time since 1929 that anyone has given away bread, and that people have queued in line to get it. It's not news, nor is it a sign of OMGWTFBBQ!!! levels of panic.

Now, there are plenty of very real statistics that show that the economy is not doing well - rising unemployment numbers, falling GDP, the Dow hitting lows not seen in over a decade. These are real things that tell us far more about how the economy is doing than people in tents or bread lines - but they don't make as exciting a headline.


At 11:41 AM, Anonymous R Johnson said...

Throughout the rise and fall of economy cycles, the problem of drug and alcohol addiction remains constant. Fortunately, there are qualified professionals available to help those who are seeking to break the cycle of addiction.


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