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Jewish World Review April 27, 2001 / 5 Iyar, 5761

Barry Rabin

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Consumer Reports

The next depression
could be great! -- THE U.S. economy may be headed for the toilet, and guess what? I think that’s just great! So why am I so happy about the possibility of a severe economic collapse? Because Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman tells me I should be.

Seligman, the noted University of Pennsylvania psychologist and author of such books as "Learned Optimism" and "The Optimistic Child," theorizes that people who view bad life events optimistically are happier and far less prone to depression than those who are bummed-out and pessimistic.

So rather than agonize about the prospect of a possible NASDAQ-plunge-induced severe economic recession, I have decided to put on my rose-colored glasses and tell you why an upcoming down economy could be just swell for you and me.

More time with family… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people lament the fact that extended families just don’t spend the kind of time together that they did in our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. And it’s no wonder, what with Americans spending longer hours at work and living far from parents, siblings and other relatives.

Not so when the economy goes belly-up! If things get really bad, you’ll be spending way more up-close-and-personal time with your relatives. That’s because they’ll be living with you, right after they lose their jobs and the bank forecloses on their homes. (Of course, it could be you who have to move in with them --- but we’re way too optimistic to mention that possibility!).

Soup lines could improve your diet… Medical researchers continue to point out the benefits of eating lots of vegetables and less red meat. And since soup kitchens tend to go heavy on the veggies when stocking that big pot --- with only the bones and skeletal remains of real meat in attendance --- you’ll probably end up eating a much healthier diet after your stocks have crashed and burned and you dot-com employer has dotted its last com and sent you on to bigger and better things. Plus, bread’s low in fat!

No more of those annoying stock market T.V. shows… If you’re like me (a frightening thought, but let’s be optimistic about it), you’re probably sick and tired of watching those 24-hour cable financial talk-a-thons. These shows (we won’t mention any by name, CNBC!) cater to the "investor" whose investment time frame is about 90 seconds. They often feature "analysts" touting stocks of companies which their own employers have made buckets of money taking public, meaning that they have about as much incentive to tell you that a given company’s stock is a dog and should be avoided like rat vomit as a naked man has to sleep on a bed of nails.

But when the NASDAQ finally makes it down around 35-and-a-half, and every day-trader-type in America has lost his shirt and jock strap in tech stocks (women tend not to get sucked into this stuff quite as often, fellas), you won’t WANT to tune in (or log on) to see how your stocks are doing! These shows will then disappear quickly, to be replaced by "Gomer Pyle" reruns and other high-quality family fare, which we’ll then be able to all enjoy together as we huddle by our single remaining TV set with the family (and I mean ALL of the family --- see above) snuggled in around us to conserve body heat. Now that’s togetherness!

Fewer scary, depressing movies and more work for tap-dancers… I’m not old enough to remember the last Great Depression, but I have seen the movies that came out of it. With most Americans either unemployed or just eking out a living with little purchasing power, America turned to happy, feel-good movies with lots of snappy music and great tap-dancing sequences. So if you’re tired of the kind of violent, downer movies that Hollywood too often makes these days ("Saving Private Ryan" and "American Beauty" come to mind immediately), a good, solid economic depression could be just the thing you need to cheer you up.

And for the many unemployed professional tap-dancers who have had trouble finding steady work since Lawrence Welk died, a new Great Depression could mean a huge career boost. So don’t give away those dancing shoes quite yet!

And finally, time to fill out all of those "product registration forms" and read those instruction manuals… I can’t tell you how stressful it’s been for me and my family these past few years as we (like most Americans) have been busy buying lots of those great high-tech consumer products faster than we can figure out how to use all of their nifty features. Plus, we’ve got an entire drawer full of those "IMPORTANT!" product registration forms which we haven’t had time to fill out and mail in due to our busy work schedules and the next shopping trip.

A good, strong, violent economic downturn would relieve us (and YOU!) of this kind of pressure. We’ll have lots of time to read the instructions and fill out those forms once we’ve lost our jobs and businesses. Plus, once you’re forced to start selling off your personal possessions, you won’t need to waste valuable time figuring out how to program that VCR in French (page 39) or how to make the video camera artfully fade little Muffy’s face into her birthday cake (page 292).

Feeling optimistic yet?

JWR contributor Barry Rabin is a lawyer and humor writer (REALLY!). Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, Barry Rabin