Roger L. Simon

The (coming?) Depression: "It Is So, If You Think So"

… or, in an alternative translation of Luigi Pirandello’s classic, “The (coming?) Depression: Right You Are, If You Think You Are.” I’ve often debated with myself which is the more amusing and effective translation of the Italian playwright, but, in whatever version, the play itself came immediately to mind when I read the results of the new Rasmussen poll reporting 53% of Americans see our country headed for a Depression similar to the 1930s.

The US public appears to be preparing itself for a Depression. The question is whether this will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Obama seems, largely inadvertently, to be encouraging this. I say “largely inadvertently” because I doubt a true Depression would be of great long term interest to him. The longer it lasts, the thinner the “Blame Bush” meme will be, especially now with the likes of David Gergen already threatening to jump ship. Obama, whose best point was seeming to be an inspirational leader, is showing himself weaker in that area than almost anyone expected.

What strikes me now more than ever is how deeply psychological all things economic are. Of course, we have all always known that, and of course there are substantive matters like a world’s worth of unpaid mortgages and weird paper that would turn Bernard Baruch into a pretzel, but still, investors have to have some measure of faith in the economy for business to continue in capitalist society. For the moment, that’s gone. It’s more like “Wrong You Are, If You Think You’re Right.”