So long

April 30, 2010Jon Brooks 3 Comments »

This is our last day here at EconomyBeat, where we focused on user-generated content related to the economic downturn and other aspects of the nation’s financial life.

What is not ending, however, are the effects of The Great Recession — which we tried to capture by going directly to the source. The country may, as macroeconomic statistics indicate, be experiencing an economic recovery, but just when the bulk of people will feel “recovered,” that is an open question.

I believe it is the psychic effects that will linger longest. As I join the ranks of the unemployed, whom I so assiduously chronicled these last nine months, I have to admit I do not feel mentally prepared. (Even though, unlike millions of others who have found themselves looking for work, I always knew just when this job would end.) Because while dipping into the multitude of blogs that expressed the anxiety of having been laid off or in debt or without work for so long was a little depressing, I also experienced, I must confess, an element of subconscious relief that at least it wasn’t me.

Now, like all those unemployed bloggers out there, I too must cope with the emotional questions that accompany uncertainty about the future. Did we save enough money? How much is pre-school for our toddler going to cost? What about health insurance?

Certainly, these are circumstances that are not as desperate as those experienced by many who have been hammered by the globe-rattling events of the last few years. But that never helps the feelings. It’s been a rough decade since the end of what is often called The American Century: September 11, two stock market crashes, Afghanistan, Iraq, Katrina, a global financial meltdown, and a vicious recession, all occurring amidst a polarized political process that at best seems to be treading water and at worst feels totally incapable of dealing with the severity of mounting systemic failure. Both as a relatively new father and as a citizen, I rarely have a moment these days when that gnawing worry isn’t just below the surface. What next? I think. What next?

Sometimes it helps to remember that recent American generations have had to deal with worse — world wars, Vietnam, a genuine economic depression, and the omnipresent threat of nuclear annihilation.

And sometimes it doesn’t.

I am optimistic about one thing, at least: the power of the Internet to connect people who are in otherwise extremely isolating circumstances. As I have learned on this job, whether it’s through personal blogs, Flickr photos, YouTube videos, Facebook posts, or Twitter feeds, it’s never been easier — or more rewarding — to communicate with those you’ve never met and find out what they’re thinking, feeling, and just… how they are.

In the long run, this can only be a good thing.

Thanks PRX and thanks CPB for the opportunity to work on a highly satisfying and extremely interesting project.

Good luck everyone. See ya on the Web!

-Jon Brooks

Top-post countdown No. 1: Geography of a recession

April 30, 2010Jon Brooks Comments Off

On our last day, here’s our top post of all time (or the last nine months, which amounts to the same thing). This post had legs like Betty Grable, probably because it so clearly illustrated just how badly the employment situation was deteriorating last year.

    1. Geography of a recession (Nov 30, 2009)

    This is an animated map of unemployment rates by county, from January 2007 to the present. As the map turns from lighter (more employed) to darker (less), you get a sense of the economy’s deterioration. Click on the map and hit play to see it do its thing.


The complete top-post list, in reverse order:

Friday photo gallery: Best of the best

April 30, 2010Jon Brooks Comments Off

Our last day, our last photo gallery. Here are our favorites, culled from the entire lot…

lookherenewcareer subprimehorses dilapidatedtoyota
abandonedchurch moneyjoker notionsteeshirt
collect700billion notionsgreenspan cashclunkerslot

<a href="origamistartrek nyposthead foodbankline
costofgas gasstation londonlotto

More photos here

EconomyBeat Podcast #16: Remembering

April 30, 2010roman Comments Off

providence_image_mediumAs we wrap up here at the EconomyBeat Podcast, I thought we could take a long view and look back the the last great depression, the one in the 20th century. Over the next five minutes or so, feel free to reflect and do a little comparing and contrasting for yourself.  Fewer than 1 in every 50 Americans is old enough to remember the Great Depression. This short audio collage produced by PRX’s own Emily Corwin, features three residents of Providence House, an assisted living home in Brighton, MA, who recall for us that difficult decade. Features Sigmund Ettleman, Yvonne Levelly, and Kay McGilbrey.

Check out this story on PRX, and then, write a review.

A pariah speaks

April 29, 2010Jon Brooks Comments Off

From Reddit’s IAmA section:

I am a Bill Collector, ask me anything.



I’ve had my share of ER bills and more than a few of them have gone unpaid. When the collection agency starts calling, I tried to politely explain that I just couldn’t pay because I didn’t have any money. I have lost my temper on a few occasions, particularly when a debt collector suggested I take out a loan to pay my unpaid medical bills. So my question is this: how much influence do you have over an individual’s credit rating? At what point does the uncollected bill start to effect my credit rating? If I start ranting and raving at you, do you just press a button that says I defaulted or didn’t pay or something like that?


Every time i contact a person i make a note of it on my system. Everytime you tell me something that is worthwhile i note it. If you say you are expecting a tax return or getting an inheritance or mention an available balance. .. Sometimes my company does the credit reporting and sometimes the company does the credit reporting. Every client is different; some request credit reporting at 30 days some request at 110 days and some don’t credit report at all.

Continue Reading

Global financial collapse timeline

April 29, 2010Jon Brooks Comments Off

From the Real-World Economics Review Blog, a timeline of warnings and events going back to 1995 and leading up to the financial crisis of the last few years. Some early warnings from various economists:

Sept, 2001

“the new housing boom is another rapidly inflating asset bubble financed by the same loose money practices that fuelled the stock market bubble.”

Aug, 2002

“While the short-term effects of a housing bubble appear very beneficial—just as was the case with the stock bubble and the dollar bubble—the long-term effects from its eventual deflation can be extremely harmful, both to the economy as a whole, and to tens of millions of families that will see much of their equity disappear unexpectedly. The economy will lose an important source of demand as housing construction plummets and the wealth effect goes into reverse. This will slow an economy already reeling from the effects of the collapse of the stock bubble of 1999, … Unfortunately, most of the nation’s political and economic leadership remained oblivious to the dangers of the stock market and dollar bubbles until they began to deflate. This failure created the basis for the economic uncertainty the country currently faces … [which] will be aggravated further by the deflation of the housing bubble. This process will prove even more painful if the housing bubble is allowed to expand still further before collapsing.”


“I am very pessimistic. We are heading into something in the world which is worse than what we experienced in 1982. It will be the worst recession since the Second World War.”

“The reckless financial policies of leading western powers in the last two decades make it likely that the next seismic debt crisis will be in America, not Argentina. It can be avoided . . . only by serious efforts to bring regulation and balance to the international economy.”

“There will be a collapse in the credit system in the rich world, led by the United States.”

Top-post countdown No. 2: Health care reform explained on back of a napkin

April 29, 2010Jon Brooks Comments Off

Original post:

After reading countless articles and opinion pieces on the health care debate, and watching dozens of talking heads slug it out over individual mandates, insurance co-ops, and the public option, we remained thoroughly confused. So we decided the only thing left to do was to turn to the explanatory device of the napkin. This was worked up by leading visual thinker Dan Roam and Dr. C. Anthony Jones.

Click on the forward arrow to advance the slides, or choose Autoplay from the menu.

Previous top-post entries:

Top-post countdown No. 3: “Who the hell is John-Boy?”

April 29, 2010Jon Brooks Comments Off

    3. “Who the hell is John-Boy?” – blog post arguing that the American corporation, dominated by baby-boomer management, is out of touch with the youth culture that drives much of Americans’ spending (Mar 15, 2010)

Original post:

On Grant McCracken’s blog, which “sits at the intersection of anthropology and economics,” this post argues that the American corporation is out of touch with much of the country’s population.

The John-Boy Problem (Boomer managers out of touch)

Let’s say we are a luxury car company. We’re doing a year-end review of marketing. We’re looking at everything, including person who supplies the “voice over” for our ads.

The room is filled with around 25 people. This room is mostly Boomers with 8 Gen Xers and 4 Gen Yers (aka Millennials).

“I say we stay with John-Boy,” says the most powerful person in the room. There is a pause as other Boomers nod their heads sagely. Richard Thomas has been the voice of the brand for many years.

But Generations X and Y are thinking, “Who the hell is John-Boy?” They don’t say anything. Then the penny drops. “Oh, they must mean that guy Richard Thomas.”

johnboyTheir confusion is forgivable. Richard Thomas starred in a TV series called The Waltons, a show that ended in 1981. That’s almost thirty years ago. The oldest Generation Xer was 20 in 1981, the youngest was born that year. No member of Generation Y was watching TV in 1981. For Generation Z, Richard Thomas might as well be a Martian.

For half the room, Richard Thomas is just “some guy.” Actually, he’s just “some guy” for half the country. Certainly, it’s true that Boomers buy most of the luxury cars in this country, but this will not last. And in the meantime, we have 3 generations listening to a voice that means nothing to them.

And this is just odd. As these markets mature towards the age and income, the corporation insists in addressing them in a voice they do not recognize.

I believe this problem plays out in the corporate world several times a day. Boomers make choice that work for their culture, for the world they know. And the other half of the room (and the market) is left to wonder, “Who is the hell is John-Boy?”

The John-Boy problem is bigger than it seems. The American corporation is not just bad at youth culture, it’s out of touch with a good deal of the American world. It doesn’t have any real feeling for the ethnic variety of America, the alternative and indie movements, the constant ebb and flow of lifestyle, the churn in the sports world. What is happening in the world of music, film, sports (post arena), art, and social media? For that matter, what is happening in the kitchens of the American heartland? Even this is changing. Even this is mysterious.

The corporation needs to know. It’s not enough to bring in the cool hunters and trend consultants. These people have no vested interests. Frankly, they disdain the corporation for being clueless. No, the corporation need its own internal brain trust, stock of knowledge, and enduring mastery of American culture. Anything else is just guessing. And guessing is something the corporation is not allowed to do.

The inverse of this is that it took me months to figure out that Lady Gaga wasn’t some aristocratic infant with a great press agent…

Previous top-post entries:

Top-post countdown No. 4: Funny unemployment photos

April 29, 2010Jon Brooks Comments Off
unemploymentalpensacola unemploymentalmich unemploymentalblogger
unemploymentalcgi unemploymentalclone

Previous top-post entries:

EconomyBeat Podcast #15: Welfare Migration

April 28, 2010roman 2 Comments »

Paris_serious_mediumParis Porter moved from the South Side of Chicago to St. Paul, Minnesota when he was 6. His family was part of a migration to the Twin Cities in the 1990s when the economy was creating more jobs than it had workers to fill them. Was Minnesota a welfare magnet in the 1990s or a jobs magnet for people who wanted to build better lives? This is just one of many questions that Porter explores in this fantastic piece from Minnesota Public Radio’s Youth Radio series. One of the (many) great moments in this piece is when Porter revisits some of the media coverage of the “welfare magnet” controversy that was stirred up around the time his family moved. Check it out.

Check out this story on PRX and then, write a review.