THE BLOG
04/07/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Recession or Depression: Which is Right for You?

What is it with this economy already? Are we in a depression, as many believe, or merely a recession, as many believe? Could it possibly be some third, other thing, like a punishment from angry Cherokee spirits? A tracking error? Is it the fault of so-called "international bankers," as prominent antisemiticians maintain? Time once again to turn to the Simplificator, for an explanation in terms even I might understand as to what exactly is going on.

This current economic holocaust began officially some months ago, when it affected me. I lost whatever job it was I had, and since I'm sure I was great at it, or I at least showed up, there is no doubt that my firing resulted directly from a worsening economy. My sustained inability to find subsequent employment is further evidence of growing world-wide financial collapse.

Economists disagree on what distinguishes a recession from a depression. This is a big reason why no one respects economists. They want us to think of them as scientists, but they demonstrably are not. Real scientists can make accurate predictions based on previous experience. Tomorrow morning the sun will come up. Wednesday all fountain drinks will be half-off at I-HOP. Global warming is going to kill us all. Unlike scientists, no economist has ever accurately predicted anything. All they do is describe what's already happened, guess the reason, and then come up with an excuse why, when the exact same circumstances come around again, the situation that follows is nothing like it was the first time. Some people would say this is a lot like having a "system" for betting at the track. Idiots would disagree.

Years ago the country experienced what will soon be called the First Great Depression. It was a time of almost universal suffering and want, when shiftless bums aspired to the respectability of unemployment, anything that could be swallowed was considered food, and children as young as three months routinely climbed inside dead carriage horses to pull the swells around town in exchange for cigarette money. Historians refer to this period as America's golden age.

But all were not destitute even in this bygone era of universal moneylessness. Oil tycoon John Delano Rockefeller, the last man in the country who still owned a wallet, boasted holdings estimated at nearly $280. Film stars, the movie stars of the day, earned fortunes exploiting the public's desperate need to escape from their misery. For eight cents a family of six could see a matinee beginning at noon and not have to leave the theater for a month. Some people utterly forgot their hopeless squalor until the lights came up and they saw who they were sitting with.

Even today, there is comfort in the fact that not everyone is suffering. The ultra-super-mega-rich have retained more than enough wealth to fund the disgusting excesses that we covetously condemn them for. Flying around naked and stoned in their quintillion dollar space mansions, they look down at us and laugh at our antic attempts to survive. Although much of humanity will soon perish of starvation and shame, the rich will carry on the banner of our species, buoyed by a glorious sense of relief that they are not us. Just imagine it. For them, life is no terrifying lurch from one anemic paycheck to the next, where joblessness means ruin, despair, loss of friends, family, home and self-esteem. The very least of their number control vast sums that do not require them to work, and live in houses they actually own. I have never met anyone like this, but I have seen them on tv. It is healthy and right to hate these people.

Experts assure us that this (rece/depre)ssion, like all those before it, will eventually end. This is because they, along with beer companies and cable providers, receive massive government support to keep us from rioting. Some experts say it will take months, others years, but whether they foresee a short or long term crisis couldn't really matter less to them, because they all have well-paying jobs pretending to figure out why the rest of us are out of work.

The First Great Depression ended at the beginning of World War II. This is a total coincidence. True, the war re-employed the entire global workforce, created whole new industries, and killed off over five percent of the world's population freeing up jobs, land and resources. Most agree, however, it was Roosevelt's WPA, by restarting the careers of literally dozens of muralists and playwrights, that was the real engine behind the recovery. Government leaders assure us that resolving the present situation will not require a world-wide military catastrophe. One will soon begin, though, and our economy will once again return to productivity, with the lion's share of credit justly going to President Obama's program of installing solar panels on selected middle schools.