Severe or not, I really worry about any nontrivial recession. There really hasn't been one since early in the Reagan administration. Both the Bush (I+II) recessions were mild, with some regional exceptions. They've sort of vanished from our cultural experience.
My wife was discussing this idea of a "recession" with her students this week -- not as an abstraction, but the experience of it. It is kind of weird because while these kids certainly live around, if not in, poverty, the last recession didn't seem to have any significant impact on the neighborhood. I think it is fair to say things have improved here fairly steadily over the past 15 years or so. I mean, there have literally been small factories near here that have closed in the past five years. I may be discounting their impact of because they always seemed like such weird anachronisms anyhow, but I don't think so.
Anyhow, Jennifer tried to describe what Farmington, Maine was like growing up in the 70's and 80's -- boarded up storefronts, high unemployment, etc. A lightbulb went off and one of the kids said "Like the Rhode Island Mall?" Exactly. A recession is like when everyplace feels like the inside of an out-of-fashion run-down mall. It is kind of good when you have to think up metaphors to describe a recession to high school kids, but scary to think of what one might do to the neighborhood and their lives.
Right now Adelaide Avenue, which the front of our house faces, looks better than it has in decades (these Victorians were as boarded up as Farmington's storefronts in the 70's), but behind our house on Hamilton Street are, I think, four vacant houses.
That's a great metaphor!
The Washington, DC area, where I live, has always been considered "recession proof" (the government never stops spending on itself). However, the number of stores closing (with no replacements) in the shopping malls around here has been climbing noticeably for most of this year.
That and some other little pieces that don't show up in the economic statistics, gives me a little of that eek feeling.
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