“You know, with the economy as it is…”
And so begins a conversation about anything ranging from Northwestern’s tuition spike to the price of a Lisa’s smoothie. Talk of the recession has cropped up everywhere, from pop culture cameos in The Office and Gossip Girl to real life encounters with the weakening job market. Next thing you know, “Depression Hoes and Recession Bros” will even become a raging party theme. “The economy” has become something to namedrop, a phrase that can be thrown into any conversation to increase its gravity or your financial prowess.
It comes as a huge surprise, then, that in the single most severe financial plunge since the Great Depression we, myself included, are more familiar with Facebook’s layout changes than with the principal events that truly affect our lives. It might not seem to matter to us just yet, but there will come a time when our own ignorance is going to bite us in the ass.
Let me break it down for you. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock — scratch that, more like a boulder or Patrick’s stone in Bikini Bottom — you are well aware that most of the world’s greatest global economies are facing a recession, including those of the U.S., United Kingdom and Japan among other fellow GDP giants. In July of 2007, the U.S. subprime mortgage system, a system in which loans were granted to those with poor credit histories, collapsed as more and more of these investors defaulted on their mortgages, leaving banks to file for bankruptcy. And when these subprime mortgages caved, so did ordinary businesses when they couldn’t get loans. By September 2008, stock markets worldwide were crashing, leaving more banks and investment leaders in the dust.
Cue the U.S. recession. Widely defined as a decline over a broad range of economic factors, spending and investments among them, the recession has, as expected, had its fair share of influence over the job market. In the time of a recession, unemployment rises considerably as businesses cut staff to shave costs. This is why you may have not been able to find an internship in the big city and be forced to spend another sweltering summer organizing Post-it notes at Office Depot.
I pride myself on watching the news and on having CNN.com as the homepage on my MacBook. Yet, as informed as I convince myself I may be, the reason why I find it necessary to appear knowledgeable is just so I can fit in with other knowledgeable students. We are all faced with a level of academic insecurity, mine being that I sometimes like to read fmylife.com instead of the Financial Times.
While some of us own up to our apathy and lack of current awareness, a great many Wildcats feel more comfortable simply nodding along in a conversation about “the economy” to appear as educated and sophisticated as the next guy. “Even Cosmo is printing stories on how to cut costs,” said McCormick junior Crystal Wai. “It’s difficult to get away from it.”
In an effort to make their future lives easier, college students should learn to actually care instead of simply pretending to do so. While this recession hasn’t affected the way many college students live their day to day lives, in terms of the hours spent in the library or binging on fro-yo in Norris, it hits close to home for millions of people in hundreds of countries across the globe. And as important as it is for us to look informed about the economy, it is even more important to understand the crisis that has a real likelihood of affecting our lives in the future.
It’ll happen sooner then we think. Evanston favorites like Café Ambrosia recently closed — the impacts of the recession can already be felt. When it comes time for graduation, when you’re set free into the wonderful world of power suits and briefcases, you’re going to need a job to pay for your bachelor(ette) pad and Williams-Sonoma cookbooks. Just wait — when you come back from summer break and realize your neighbor across the hall has transferred to a state school after her father lost his job, you realize the real life problems with “the economy” extend beyond the imminent doom of the Michael Scott Paper Company.
So the next time you check textsfromlastnight, just make sure to open another internet tab on CNN or the New York Times and read up about subprime mortgages. Textsfromlastnight might make you laugh out loud multiple times today, but they won’t help you when you can’t find a job tomorrow.