Paul Greenberg

Every day's paper brings more Harbingers of Doom. And there are more to come. That's the message from Congress, the White House, various pundits and the ever-talking heads on television. Budget cuts at work, economies at home, the signs are everywhere. We seem to have entered the Age of Eeyore.

You can hear the gloom in the bluesy lyrics of R and B and country music, perhaps the best barometer of what Americans are feeling. (Since this recession I'm losing my baby,/ because the times are getting so hard.... --B. B. King.)

You can see the gloom in your last quarter's 401(k), read it in the news pages ("Tumbling stocks end a bleak week"), and absorb the intellectualized version of it in The New Yorker. That style-setting magazine just conducted a full-range survey of professional pessimists. Take your pick: doomers, peakists, goldbugs, dystopians in general....

All 57 varieties of the downcast are reveling in the bad news. After predicting The Great Unraveling for years, maybe decades, their hour has come. Everything's down but the price of gold, which is always the surest sign that folks are running for the exits.

Soon the hottest, latest investment advice will be to buy mattresses -- to stick your money under. We're no longer being warned that The End Is Near but that it's here.

This new, young, vibrant president of the United States keeps talking like a pallbearer. He uses terms like Catastrophic and Unprecedented. As if we're supposed to be scared into prosperity, or at least into passing another bailout for Detroit. He tells us we're facing economic conditions unknown since the Great Depression, or maybe the Beginning of Time: "We begin this year and this administration in the midst of an unprecedented crisis that calls for unprecedented action."

Unprecedented? In history? That's all history is: precedents. We may choose to rely on the wrong ones, but after all homo economicus has been through, precedents we've got. Take your pick: The stock market crash of '87, aka Black Monday. The Reagan Recession of '81-82. The Roosevelt Recession of 1937. The Panics of '07 or 1893 or even 1873. Or the long-running bust that followed in Andy Jackson's wake in 1837. Or the New Madrid of economic shocks in 1819. ... Pick your collapse.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.