Here is a quick multiple-choice test that will assay your knowledge of the current recession.
Please choose only one:

A. The downside is over and the economy is getting better.
B. The economy is in the tank with no upturn in sight.
C. It will take a long, long time, but things will return to normal.

Some economists, such as Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, are on record as endorsing “A.” John Chambers, CEO of technology heavyweight Cisco Systems, notes dramatic decreases in orders from banking to retail. Reuters news agency reports that as unsold goods are piling up in warehouses, the housing meltdown continues, and oil prices continue to creep upward. All this would put a checkmark after “B.”

The choice of “C” seems logical except for that word “normal.” This is the aspect of the recession that few people speak or write about because it is so dismaying. A case in point: the millions of Americans who lost their jobs, or whose job descriptions were re-scripted, may never return to normal or to what conditions were before the recession unfolded.

Many employers used the recession and the license to reduce staff as an opportunity to get rid of troublesome employees, real or imagined, without risking discrimination lawsuits or union litigation. Bonnie Erbe, writing in U.S. News & World Report, notes that in a recession, age discrimination is more prominent than racism. There was a time when unions such as the American Federation of TV and Radio Artists (AFTRA) or various unions representing TV engineers and technicians would never have allowed what’s now going on in several major cities.

I refer to the blunder of making a “one-man band” out of TV reporters. In Washington, D.C., for example, reporters are being asked to operate the camera as well as interview newsmakers. This involves the sound, lighting, camera shots (zooms, close-ups, etc.) as well as cutting the piece for format and timing with the camera’s built-in editing features. Some final editing and polishing would evidently be done at the station just before air time by technicians. Surprisingly, the various unions are going along with these procedures, even though it means a reduction in jobs and more work for those who survive.

Employees are hanging onto jobs that are oppressive, jobs that underpay, and jobs with no apparent future. Those who operate “search firms” or job-finding services are finding their own conditions almost as turbulent as the job seeker’s. The job finders have files that are slimmer than ever before. As a result, the firms have quietly begun implementing plans to trim their own workforce or consolidate offices. Their job is compounded by the fact that employers are already swamped with job applicants. Thus, they don’t need a search firm for the occasional position that is created by a firing, resignation, or retirement.

Then there are the applicants themselves – many without a clue how to job hunt. A friend who is currently looking told me he is waiting to hear back from some firms to whom he sent resumes. I asked how long since he mailed the resumes. He said about a month. How many resumes did you post? Maybe ten or so, he replied.

Ten resumes a month? In today’s employment climate, this individual is NEVER going to get a job offer. In addition he, like thousands of others, is simply looking for a regular paycheck in desperate times. There is no thought given as to whether the job will be a good match; what a particular job promises in terms of future opportunities; or whether the position offers even a modicum of self-fulfillment.

With the national unemployment rate hovering at near 10%, gone are the aspirations of working for a company of your choice, with a satisfying position, and a promising future. Recent data reveal a sharp rise in layoffs in virtually every sector of the economy. According to Kiplinger Reports, there are some industries that are “recession proof,” such as security jobs and health care. But would accepting a job as a security guard or hospital aide provide the long-term stability and status we all seek? Marking time in a job that simply keeps creditors from becoming a part of your life is not a career move. It is simply survival.

The damnable thing about this unrelenting recession is that it has ruined lives in the long term – not just income opportunities for the moment. The recession has certainly had a psychological impact, ranging from worry about family finances to the impact of the recession on children. To those who postulate that the recession will soon be over and that things will, in a short while, be back to normal, let them consider this analogy. For many, many Americans the recession was like being hit by a car. It came without warning. The damage was instantaneous, and the horrific results long-lasting.

To continue the analogy, the “recovery” may well leave the car accident victim without the ability to walk or otherwise return to a normal routine. The recession may will cause corresponding impairment, in that the victim may spend a significant amount of time in the wrong job or one that offers only partial opportunity to move forward in both status and income. In the long term, many core businesses will simply cease to exist. The U.S. government will become more and more embroiled in our lives while trying to keep further bankruptcies from occurring.

Does any good come from a recession? According to Jack Shafer, writing for Slate, bad times can be good for health. There is generally less obesity, less drinking, less smoking, and fewer industrial accidents (fewer people on the job). Finally, there are the children. The moral fiver of the nation’s children, says Shafer, went to rot because we gave them everything they asked for. Now that they’ve got nothing, they get nothing, and they’ve never been richer. It’s hard to find a silver lining these days.


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