What It Felt Like 8 Years Ago in the Chicago Suburbs. ‘The Economic Death of a Community is Hushed.’​

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My old friend Bob wrote the following in 2009. And before you read it, remember that Dodd-Frank was brought in after the 2008-09 financial crisis with the aim of avoiding another financial meltdown.

Never a Mecca of excitement to begin with, my town—let’s just call it Sleepyville—was mostly composed of neat, modest middle-class homes and a series of national franchises on a main drag connecting two major very long, very wide Interstate highway on/off ramps, about six miles apart.

A lot of very fast traffic racing between those two Interstates passed my store daily—thousands of cars, too—but year, by year, by year, less and less of those cars bothered to stop at the dozens of small owner operated shops that lined the north and south sides of that east-west connecting road that was the commercial heart of Sleepyville.

There was little crime there, but virtually no night life at all. People who slept there went elsewhere for entertainment. But, as the bad times silently crept into each local home, eerily like the fabled Old Testament’s Angel of Death soaring over ancient Egypt and killing all their first born, more and more people stopped going anywhere.

The economic death of a community is hushed. A person opening a letter telling them they are no longer employed. A sixty-five year-old couple reading a statement from their investment company informing them, in bloodless black type, that the value of their thirty years of carefully invested saving’s value has collapsed, and instead of having $100,000 to see them through their twilight years, they have now, perhaps, $25,000.

Retirements delayed. College tuitions no longer able to be paid. Travel plans shelved. No more eating out in restaurants, buying new clothes, buying cars, buying even gas, or going to see a new movie. These ordinary people become stalled in living their lives, their homes fragile refuges from the terrifying intensity of the unstoppable financial storm. The people huddled within them clutch their few pennies in their fists; hunker down in their living rooms and bedrooms, listening to the ever growing number of casualties tossed from their homes, losing their insurance bewildered as their fates are trampled by sophisticated and far-away moneymen they never met, who indifferently sold out their futures.

Like being robbed by the wind.

Big stores closed. Then little ones. Community mainstays shuttered their doors and all the circulating money simply…stopped…circulating…at…all.

The noose relentlessly tightened.

Let’s call him Mr. Dad, a senior executive of his large American company, receives a call and learns that his manufacturing division has closed. Or moved offshore. Or has been sold. And regrettably, he is now deemed valueless, or as they say now, like robots communicating, he is redundant. He is an excess expense on someone, somewhere’s balance sheet. Our shareholders demand their 3% annual growth. Of course, you understand.

No gold watch. No retirement party. No more salary and worst of all, especially at his age, no more health insurance. Dad woodenly drops the phone onto its cradle. He stares into the abyss. He is sixty. He will never work again.

What will he say to his wife?

He can’t sell his house because no one can sell their house since the bloated real estate market balloon burst years ago. He can’t even get an equity loan since his mortgage is now more than his house is worth.

Before the millions of people affected can grasp the enormity of the economic contraction that’s choking this country, they have to quietly do the math. And somewhere on their yellow legal pads, they see that the short column of income and assets falls shockingly short of the long column of expenses. Then, a hand clenches a # 2 pencil and stops writing…pushing the sharp point ever harder onto the paper until the soft graphite crumbles, leaving the blunted pencil nestled in a pile of tiny wooden chips.

Writing stops. Income stopped. Possibilities stopped. Medicine stopped. Choices stopped and futures are frozen, all because evil men in some executive suite felt safe enough to deliberately make the wrong decision, because the result would be a fat bonus for them. One can only hope that those criminal executives are some of the stunned many swept up in the wreckage of a manipulated economic national disaster.

One hundred and twenty of Sleepyville’s old and new stores died. I was number one hundred and twenty-one. Although I was not a franchise, though my store was so unusual that there were only six others like it in America, that uniqueness couldn’t save me. Everyone is crushed equally under the massive juggernaut of the meat grinder recession, and my number finally came up.

Two dozen Sleepyville municipal village employees were laid off. The Chamber of Commerce office, now a bitter joke, closed. The streets remained empty of foot traffic all day, as did the parking lots.

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