Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cents and Sensibility: exploring depression as it relates to the economy, the movies and Real Life. Discuss.

I've been in a bit of a funk lately. So what better time to divert my attention than by watching a movie?

I thought I'd work on the Cents and Sensibility project and watch a movie at the same time. So I did what any self-respecting depressed person would do; I looked for a movie to watch that was made during the Depression.

The Depression started with the market crash of 1929 and officially ended when World War II began.

Which wasn't at all depressing, apparently.

As we're vociferously attempting to replay, a good war tends to liven up the audience.

And there are folks who say this recession we're in might be a sequel to what our parents caught wind of, if you're as old as me.

I'm no economist, but a bit of googly research shows that the national debt was 19.5 billion smackaroos in 1932. That's a lot of ching, especially considering the cost of a new house was $6,510 and the average income was $1,650 a year. A gallon of gas cost .10 back in 1932.

Fast forward to now. Stephen Dinan reported just two months ago in the Washington Times that the national debt will exceed the size of the total U.S. economy this year, topping out at $15.476 trillion. Other articles by Dinan are nothing less than depressing.

Mortgage scam after-parties have been hard on the housing market. A mere four years ago, the average price of a house was $205,000. That average price dipped to $156,000 this February, just two months ago.

We all know how painful it is to fill up the tank. I did just that, today. Perhaps the 3.49 a gallon I spent requires a bit of perspective.

One 1932 dollar is equivalent to $14.79 in 2010.

All of these facts make the head spin like Linda Blair's noggin in the Exorcist.

I honestly don't understand the entire economic picture that lets us know we've gone Full Monty Depression. It has to do with the GDP over time, lots of charts and graphs and smarty-pants calculations. Then add a sprinkle of the big lie Alan Greenspan was spewing when he was in charge of the Fed, and you don't know who to believe.

All I know is what I know. I know I made the same amount of money in 2010 as I did before I had my kid who's about to graduate from high school.

I've completed my 2010 taxes. And yes, it's been verified. I officially make the same amount of money now that I made 18 years ago.

Welcome to my financial underpants drawer. My fiscal medicine cabinet.

But let's be clear. That's not why I'm depressed. I live very nicely, because I've figured out how.

My depression springs from a completely divergent well of ennui. So I just wanted to watch a movie. From the Depression.

There were a whole bunch of movies that were made in the '30s that were very depressing. Of Mice and Men. The Grapes of Wrath. The Human Comedy. Which really isn't that funny.

There were comedians who oxymoronically lightened the mood during the Depression. The Three Stooges. The Marx Brothers. Laurel and Hardy.

There were the musicals. The Broadway Melody of 1938 springs to mind.

So much tap dancing.

Like a sad person who desperately wants to convince you that they're happy, the Broadway Melody series took a jolly, bouncy spin on the Depression.

I became filled with a sense of aloneness trying to find something to watch from the Depression during my depression.

So I did what any depressed person does.

I reached out to the familiar.

A documentary.

And I found a Front Line doc titled The Warning, from a couple of years ago. As you can see, it's titled, "PBS releases documentary exposing the manufactured depression".

Maybe we should un-fund that damned PBS.

Or maybe we should see the writing on the wall.

Depression can come in many forms.

All I wanted was some clarity. Some relief from the sad.

Some black and white to lift me from my depressive torpor.

Sometimes reality seems way too colorful.


  1. Let me say that I don't know you, but I love your blog. It is one of my simple treasures each Tuesday morning to log in and see what you wrote! Thank you so much!

    I just had a question. Do you make the same as you did 18 years ago in "actual" dollars or in your googly research did you figure it out? I was just wondering the same thing. Maybe it would make me feel better? Or more likely, even worse! :)

  2. Yes, I make the same amount of money, literally, as I did 18 years ago. And in the meantime, I've had two kids, I've had the lovely experience of divorce, I'm underemployed, obviously.

    But I'm happy.

    I have two amazing kids, I have just what I need, I have a fabulous network of friends, a kid who's wise beyond his years when it comes to cooking, another one who's on his way to college. They're such good people, both of them. It's about the who I have; not the what I have. I'm so privileged.

  3. And I have to also mention that I'm completely happy tonight, because you don't even know me, and you're reading my blog with regularity.

    You have no freaking idea how happy that makes me.