how bad will it get.

in an attempt to become a more informed citizen, and to ward off general apathy, i attended an on-campus panel the other evening entitled, "what's happening to our economy?" the three panelists, one australian woman, a white man, and an asian woman tried their best to explain what the hell is going on. as someone with only a college education to back himself up, i was only able to follow the most basic explanations. the australian gave us a brief timeline, starting with the tech bubble burst in 2000. she said that when the tech bubble burst, the federal reserve was able to cut interest rates, and that this then led to people taking out loans and more loans. this obviously springboarded into the subprime mortgage crisis, and here we are today, with every breaking news story about how the dow has dropped another 700 points.

two of the lawyers i work with got to talking about this economic crisis and the ungodly cost of education today. they said things to each other like, "are there even jobs out there anymore?" and "i can't imagine what it would be like to have to take student loans out today!" i would've found all this amusing, had the two work-study students not been sitting on either side of me, both obviously within earshot. it was the equivalent of walking into any classroom and shouting, "you're all wasting your goddamn time! study all you want! you'll never get a job! you'll always be in debt! why try?"

so, the other night i was sitting there in the auditorium with most of s.u.'s undergrads and law students and business students. most of them were really well-dressed, some even in suits, and of course, drinking coffee from those white paper cups. the panelists' conversation took a dark turn when the moderator asked, "have we seen the worst of this? how bad will it get?" taking the "standard economist approach," none of them were willing to say because they honestly didn't know. an eerie, uncomfortable silence hung over us.

i looked around me and found it absurd that people could dress so nicely, drink their $4 espressos, and have a little chat about economic hardship. not once did anyone ever bring up the most basic question, "what gives us the right to a strong economy?" why are we entitled to this discussion, when other countries have dealt with oppression, disease, and poverty for so long? what does this say about our systems of information and education that only three people in a room full of professionals and post-grad students are qualified to talk about the economy?

i received an email at noon saying there was free pizza in the staff lounge. i told the work-study girl about it, and her immediate response was: "let's go!" i like that people around here have no shame in getting free food. when we got to the other end of the hall, though, it wasn't ready yet. the receptionist looked annoyed when i asked her about it. "i don't know when it'll be here," she said. the w.s.g. and i waited for it to come. this involved us awkwardly standing next to the receptionist's desk. she asked me for the second time how i liked my job. "i like the people i work with," i said. i thought about it a while, knowing she wanted to know how i really felt. "i mean, it's not my life's ambition, but i like our mission." she nodded.

we got to talking about americorps. "you didn't get paid, right? you got like a stipend and then some money afterward?" "yeah," i said. "it's like really small, right? like $2,000 or something?" "$4,000. after taxes, it's about $4,000." "that's still not very much." "no," i said, "it isn't. that's the number they came up with in '92..." "and it hasn't changed since then," she said. "yeah, pretty much." "in '92, that might've been a lot of money, but not now," she said. "yeah, not now," i said, "and not for private school."

money, money, money. is that all anyone can talk about these days? oh, and the election. let's not forget the election.

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