Difficult as it may be to believe, I'm beginning to see the first signs of an economic recovery here in Silicon Valley, a breakout that might even be big enough to pull the entire U.S. economy out of our current mess.
The question now is whether the Feds will actually let it happen …
This has been, from the beginning, a paradoxical recession for me. I followed pretty closely the Credit Crisis, then the Banking Crisis and, now, the Employment Crisis. And although I've accepted the reality of these sequential economic disasters, and although I've been reporting on the bad quarterly financials of one local high-tech firm after another, there is, nevertheless, something unreal about the whole thing.
Part of this, I'm sure, is sheer denial. Although it is a natural human tendency to take diverse events and intellectually string them together into a trend, there also seems to be a countervailing tendency to take large distant events, especially if they are spread over weeks and months, and revert back to thinking of them as unrelated.
I remember my parents telling me that neither of them -- my father in Washington State, my mother in Oklahoma -- even noticed the stock market crash in 1929.
For my mother, who was sent home from school a couple times as the horizon went black in mid-day, the Dust Bowl was the cause of thousands of farmers just west of her packing up and heading to California, not economics. Rather, the Depression was just a slow, almost unnoticed, slide into a world of fewer jobs, less money and poverty.
And it wasn't until the Banking Crisis of 1933 that the magnitude of the Great Depression hit home. By then, my mother's family was living off produce from her grandparents' farms, and my father was reduced to hunting for the family table.
This downturn, too, has a kind of dreamy, slow-motion feel to it. But the fundamental difference is that, thanks to modern technology, information about our current predicament is omnipresent on the Web and cable television and available in unfathomable depth.
I can, sitting here at my computer, hit a few keys and call up thousands of blog commentaries on the stimulus package, watch videos of the key players in Congress (as well as in the administration) and even read the thousands of pages of official documents and legislation related to the crisis.
Indeed, I can say without hesitation that, unlike my parents, my relationship with this current economic crisis is not one of blissful ignorance from too little information, but something close to intellectual paralysis from having access to too much information. Did anybody in 1929 draw parallels to the Panics of 1873 or 1893? Could the average citizen obtain a copy of a draft of Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act or listen to a debate about Hoover's policies every hour on the radio?
But if my parents' and grandparents' generations were blindsided by the news coming out of Washington and Wall Street, just the opposite seems the case for us today. Sure, nobody seemed to have seen the Crunch coming, but once it began, the entire U.S. economy seemed to rush out ahead of it.