Bad Times Made Gooder

"Are we in a recession?" the journalist asks the government official, the economist, the securities analyst and a host of other financial experts from A (accountants) to Z (zombie accountants). And

"Are we in a recession?" the journalist asks the government official, the economist, the securities analyst and a host of other financial experts from A (accountants) to Z (zombie accountants). And from the interviewees come, "I think it's too soon to tell ...," "If production and consumption remain soft into the next quarter ...," "I don't know if I'd want to characterize the current conditions as a recession ..." — weak and waffle-y preambles that alert us we're getting a "response" as opposed to an "answer."

Not here. Here, the same question is answered clearly. Unequivocally. "Yes, Geraldo, we are in a recession."

As the above interviews unfold, I also note that the same experts who won't admit we're in a recession nevertheless have very definite ideas about how to end it. "My economic stimulus package ..." "A sales tax moratorium ..."

"By cutting interest rates ..." "Bomb Swiss competitors of U.S. businesses ..." (this last put forward by the CFO of American Cuckoo Clock, Inc.).

Again, not here. This space isn't about partisan conjecture or unproven theories for recovery. It's about providing real world survival strategies to those workers too young to remember the last economic slump — i.e., the Bush pre recession of the early-'90s. Come. Let me guide you safely to the other side of the economic abyss.

1. Do cut back. Don't cut out. Sure, money's tight, but denying yourself entirely is a prescription for failure. Scaling back is a much more effective approach. For instance, order your pie sans à la mode. Drop horseback riding for piggyback riding. Instead of filling and refilling your vehicle with expensive gasoline, start pushing it to your destination. Replace costly prostitutes with budget-friendly cheap sluts.

2. Safeguard your investments. Today's market has far more plunges than peaks and is no place for the unsophisticated, non-plugged in, part-time investor like you. This is the time to park your money in safer, proven investments. Like deposit bottles and Beanie Babies. Another hedge against uncertain times is precious metals; unfortunately, as their name implies, the cost of entry is prohibitive. Suggestion: Fill your portfolio with the so-called bourgeoisie metals: manganese, bismuth and molybdenum.

3. Sue somebody. Stop kvetching about this being the age of frivolous lawsuits and go cash in on one, dingus. Did your restaurant coffee burn your tongue? Sue. Is the water company supplying your house with a clear, odorless liquid that has the potential to drown you? Sue. Did your oldies station play "Bette Davis Eyes" and you can't get it out of your head? Sue. Most importantly, if you lose your case, don't give up hope. Go find a lawyer to sue your lawyer.

4. Remain bold. This is no time to stop playing the lottery or cut back on gambling. After all, if you don't win the rent, who will?

5. Swallow your pride and your principles. If you find yourself out of work, be ready to take whatever comes along. Too often people think they're socially, educationally and/or ethically "above" a certain kind of work. To that I say, where would this great country be if every Cats touring company, every Mary Kay representative, every Mrs. Donald Trump felt the same way?

7. Think "outside the job box." If unemployment persists, don't get discouraged. "Working" is just one of dozens of ways to earn a living. There's also begging. Come on, if that scraggly, mean-looking drunk who's been sitting outside your (former) office building for the past two years can do it, how hard can it be? Or how about stealing? Stealing is a vocation that's highly entrepreneurial, offers flexible hours and has a rich, colorful history dating all the way back to some Greek whose name escapes me stealing some item I can't recall from some God that's slipped my mind. For those lacking the thief's temperament, there's drug dealing, kidnapping, usury, blackmail, fraud ... Well, the number of profitable choices is almost criminal. And don't forget this little fact: When unemployment is up, payrolls are down; when payrolls are down, tax revenue is down; and if tax revenue is down, police ranks are also down. Meaning whichever felonious field you choose, your chances of arrest actually decrease as the economy worsens. Before long, you'll kick yourself for not wandering from the straight and narrow years ago.

8. Define "essential services." If the current recession turns into a depression, you might consider disconnecting some utilities. For instance, go ahead and drop your phone service — after all, nobody's going to call a broke, jobless loser like you. By the same token, since you no longer need to shower for work, water is expendable. Just remember, unemployment is boring, ergo, your cable TV service should be the last to go. ©

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