The Amazingly Rapid Economic Meltdown

Peter and I joked that the world could fall apart, but we were still going to continue on our trip. I have to say, at times, it did feel like the world collapsed in our absence.

I knew Happy Happy Lenderman had left a path of economic destruction, at least in real estate, but I had not idea how fast and dramatic the fall out ended being.

When we woke up after our first day in travelling, we saw the Salt Lake City newspaper had a headline that Washington Mutual Bank had failed. “Hey,” I pointed out the paper to Peter, “that’s our bank, isn’t it?” Luckily, it had been snatched up in some midnight deal by, ironically, our credit card issuer. Still, it was a joke that was to follow us for the rest of the vacation.

It was a relief to avoid the news, but any time we tuned in over the next week, it was all about a federal bank bailout, which everyone, everywhere, regardless of political leanings, hated as a political and/or corporate boondoggle. Somehow, though, the politicians spun a tale of imagined popular support, threw more pork in the bill to buy out any reluctance, and now I think the government has owns our banks, which really makes me nervous.

And when that had settled, the stock market crashed so dramatically even Peter couldn’t concentrate on the tour of the Gettysburg battlefields his dad was giving him. Since then, the stocks have bounced up and down like a yo-yo: so much for government interference stabilizing things!

However, it was to our benefit that gas prices plunged almost as rapidly as they’d risen in June. As we left Texas, we thought the $2.39/gallon price was an oil state rarity, but as I write this local gas prices are within 20 cents of that already.

But the thing that got me to write this post in the first place was a shopping trip I took today. Some of Neil’s pants have become so embarrassingly threadbare that even a cheapskate like me was moved to get him some new ones. We went to one of my favorite stores for children’s clothes, Mervyn’s, and found out the recently vibrant-seeming chain declared complete bankruptcy while we were gone. As we walked in, everything was 25 to 50% off, with no returnability, and most of the cashiers and dressing room attendants were already gone for good. I was too surprised to splurge at the discounts: I was trying to figure out which store would now be my go-to place for realiably sturdy childrens’ clothes.

It’s really a big shock, and an even bigger one as the changes seem sudden after a month of being away. I hope the crisis simply reached bottom surprisingly fast, because if this is just the beginning of the fall, we have a very rocky few years ahead of us.

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