By now most of us have heard the litany of dismal and discouraging conditions associated with the Great Recession this country and indeed the world is experiencing. And of course with the economy on life support there is no end to the political debate over what can and should be done; liberals talk of stimulus and regulation; conservatives talk of socialism and tax cuts.
But as Americans suffer from anxiety and politicians offer either hope or calamity, there is scant attention paid to the benefits of the Great Recession; and yes there are benefits. Along with the spike in unemployment and foreclosures, the implosion of banks and credit, and the end of consumer confidence and credit card spending sprees, there are some positive developments going on in this country that are not only encouraging but also long overdue.
So here is a quick list, in no particular order, of the upsides of the Great Recession:
1. Military recruitment is on the rise. After years of recruiters not being able to meet their personnel targets, the numbers of men and women lining up at the door is making the military smile. All of this enlisting is not just about patriotism, but rather jobs, security and benefits. But so what, our exhausted military is being rejuvenated.
2. People are going back to school. Out of work and with no real job prospects, many Americans are getting that college or trade school degree that they put off when they were young. Retraining in some of the new areas of future job growth such as “green industries”, biotech, and health care are creating a workforce that in the coming years will be poised to keep us competitive.
3. Putting money into savings is making a comeback. Rather than max out the ol’ credit card, Americans are actually putting their hard earned savings in the bank. Savings rates are way up and many former conspicuous consumers are tunring into miserly Scrooges. Some might say savings is bad for an economy built on consumption, but putting money away for a rainy day is a welcome change from loading up on stuff.
4.The air is getting cleaner. New studies of power plant emissions and exhaust emissions from autos show that the economic decline is helping to slowly but surely clean up the environment. Don’t look for a victory against global warming, but the drop in emissions is a plus.
5. People are helping people. There is plenty of evidence out there that the goodness of Americans is more and more in evidence these days as those who have give to those who have little. The generous American spirit is alive and well in food pantries, homeless shelters, church clothing drives and the explosion of non-profits and informal networks dedicated to helping those less fortunate.
We have a choice now, complain about the economy, second guess the policy-makers and stare at the 401K statement or zero in on the way our society is changing for the good during these trying times. As for me I’ll look on the bright side.