Government officials steadfastly avoid using the word "depression" as it is considered political poison, but make no mistake, we are in the midst of a great depression the likes of which we haven't seen in about 70 years. The fact is our economy is incredibly fragile. As of this writing, the rate of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has dropped from 5.6% to a paltry 2.7%. The national unemployment rate is at 9.5% with 17 states experiencing an alarming double-digit rate. So please, stop telling us everything is okay. It's not, and it insults our intelligence.
People have forgotten the effect the last great depression had on the citizens of this country. People were unemployed, hungry, homeless, and scared. President Roosevelt tried many government sanctioned programs in his "New Deal" to put the country back to work, such as the WPA, CCC and the PWA relief programs. Such programs could best be described as "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" as none of them did anything to re-ignite American business. We simply drifted and stagnated. The great depression of the 20th century never truly went away until the outbreak of World War II when the goals and direction of the country became vividly clear to us.
I have never seen the country as lost as it appears today. To illustrate, during the 1970's and 1980's there was a sense of excitement and ambition in business. Whether it was over the lunch table, at a party, or simple get-togethers, the talk was about what products needed to be built and how to tackle them, size was irrelevant; what contracts we were closing on, our pride in craftsmanship, and how our businesses were growing. We all knew where we were going and couldn't wait to get there.
You don't see anything remotely like this anymore. The only sign of success I've personally seen is a friend who owns a company that manufacturers titanium hips and knees. Everyone else is as muddled and confused as that described in the 1930's; and you have to remember, I know a lot of people, including builders, lawyers, accountants, programmers, waiters, cooks, teachers, administrators, and across the board in corporate America. Instead of enjoying a sense of confidence, achievement, innovation, ambition and conquest, we now possess a defeatist mentality. As a result, malls are empty, employee morale is down, cutbacks are common, bills go unpaid, credit ratings fall, customers are few and far between, and people are learning to live in what is called a "survival mode." Our "can do" mentality has been replaced by "can't do."
As in the great depression of yesteryear, we suffer from a lack of direction and vision which is rooted in the lack of trust in government. Frankly, I do not see any political party articulating a clear direction for the country to take, to wit:
"What are NASA's long range plans?" Nobody knows.
"What are our plans for transportation?" Nobody knows.
"Communications?" Nobody knows.
"Energy?" Nobody knows.
"Commerce?" Nobody knows.
"How do we plan to eliminate the national debt?" Nobody knows.
"Where are the incentives to encourage business to pursue certain paths?" Nobody knows.
If we do not know where we're going, how will we know how to get there?
President Obama's programs are having as much success as Roosevelt's "New Deal," creating "make work" programs yet failing to re-ignite business. I hope it doesn't take another World War for us to realize our priorities.
The great depression of the 20th century taught us an important lesson: as long as we remain rudderless, we will continue to float from one disaster to another and never be in control of our destiny. The depression we are experiencing is our own doing, there is nobody else to blame. Frankly, I never expected to see such irresponsible behavior in my lifetime and I'm mad as hell about it.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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