Observing The Economic Crisis First Hand

From everything I see in the media, it looks grim, like we’re deep into a Great Recession. There are bread lines of sorts forming at food banks, and charities send 18-wheelers to small towns whose sole employers have closed shop.  At the same time, states like Georgia have all but ended assistance to the poor (Georgia TANF recipients fell nearly 90 percent between January 2002 and November 2007, even as unemployment climbed 30 percent). The private health care system seems to be about over, as hospital closures force more Americans into the few public hospitals and federally-backed community health centers around, and the uninsured balloon to 86.7 million.  Meanwhile, the government is pushing a bank bailout plan that probably won’t work.

But what have you observed first hand? Is it bad where you are? How do you think the economic crisis will effect you? How do you think it will effect people with disabilities?  Will we be the first thrown under the bus, as was proposed in California?

Here’s what I’ve observed first-hand. In New York, one of the pillars of our economy is the financial sector, and it has collapsed.  The crisis has forced the state to cut services. A lot of people are upset about the state and city budget cuts; a protest at city hall 25,000-people-strong definitely made my girlfriend’s travel more interesting. At the hospital I currently live in, they are clamping down on expenses to ride out the cuts.  For fiscal year 08-09 there is a hiring freeze (which means when my favorite person on staff moved to Canada, they can’t replace her), they made it harder to get overtime, supply orders have been scaled back, the employee uniform stipend was cut to nearly nothing, and their customary free Thanksgiving turkeys were canceled (the latter two don’t bother me, as they never would’ve existed in Alabama anyway).  My doctor thinks that the South Campus ultimately won’t survive.  And the doctors and nurses are buzzing about the startling hospital closures in Queens and wondering who’s next.

Granted, I’ve not seen outside the hospital walls (and I’m eager to check out the city and report back) but so far, what I’ve seen first hand hasn’t been that bad.   Not compared to the effect of the devastating cuts that I saw first-hand in Alabama in the late ’90s and early ’00s, that actually caused deaths (when the economy was booming and services should have been increasing).   Is it bad where you are?

As odd as this sounds, I think there are possible upsides to global economic collapse.

The Upsides

With Wall Street cratering, many in the finance and related industries have left the city for higher ground, leading to an unprecedented situation: for once in Manhattan, apartment vacancies are up and rents are down.

Shopping habits have definitely shifted, the era of wanton excess being cool (that should’ve never happened) is finally behind us, and more businesses, desperate for customers, have stopped treating us like crap.  Nothing is devoid of upsides.

What have you witnessed first hand?