No Way to Run a Depression

When I heard on “Black Friday”—the current name for the big shopping event on the Friday after Thanksgiving—that a Wal-Mart employee had been trampled to death by a crazed mob hoping to be one of the lucky few to get $500 off on a flat screen high definition TV, I thought: This is no way to run a depression.

Later that same day, on the opposite end of America two men got into an argument that was apparently sparked by two women fighting over a sale item and that led to a gunfight in which both men died.

From Long Island, New York, to Palm Desert, California, the holiday season has officially begun. It came with the sounds of trampling herds stepping over a Wal-Mart sales associate in New York. While in California, two crazy guys were pointing guns at one another in the doll section of Aisle 12 at the local Toys ‘R’ Us.

Now the depression I heard about from my grandparents had people standing in breadlines, riding boxcars across America in the seemingly endless, and increasingly hopeless search for a steady job; and gave rise to expressions like, “Brother can you spare a dime.”

No one knows where the relentless march of history will lead as this economic crises goes beyond the final months of the Bush years and into the early months (hopefully not years) of the Obama administration, but if these are truly desperate times they just don’t look like anything we have ever seen before.

These shoppers at Wal-Mart were so anxious for the big after Thanksgiving Day sale to begin, that they crashed through the front doors minutes before the official opening of the store at 5 AM.  Early word is that retail sales grew by 3 percent over the last Black Friday.

Hardly sounding like the consumers of an economy on the brink of disaster.

Granted, steep discounts do not make for a profitable year for the nation’s retailers. But if this is the end of days, shouldn’t the crowds be rushing the soup kitchens rather than the discounted soup tureens on sale for four hours only in Macy’s Cellars?

Brother, can you spare some bisque?

Martin Brown

Editor,  Money Channel –

Read Martin’s feature today: “You and Your Money: When Economists Get It Wrong