“Worst Economy Since the Great Depression!”

Roughly two years ago the idiot, John Kerry, was running for the Presidency. I particularly remember six words that he uttered during his campaign. Those words were not only blatantly false, they also vividly illustrated how skewed and ridiculous the comments of politicians can be during a campaign. The six words Kerry used to describe the state of the American economy are as follows: “Worst Economy Since the Great Depression!” In fact, our economy is the antithesis of the Great Depression. John Kerry couldn’t have had it more wrong.

About ten days before Christmas I attempted to purchase some paper goods and an electric pencil sharpener at the Ellston Avenue target store on the near north side of Chicago. The parking lot was jammed. I estimate that there were 300 non-handicapped parking slots, all of them occupied. Along with about 40 other drivers, I roamed up and down the isles looking for a parking space. This “seeking” of a space became very competitive. Some cars blocked the entrance to an entire isle so that they could capture the space of the next car leaving a parking spot in that isle. This prevented other cars from going down the isles, causing such a backup that it became almost impossible to enter or leave the parking lot. People were visibly frustrated as this “parking game” became serious business!

There were, of course, 25 open parking slots, all handicapped designated. It occurred to my twisted mind that all me and the other 39 other “roving” drivers were really doing was cruising around the parking lot waiting for cripples to show up! I decided this exercise was futile and pointed my vehicle toward the parking lot exit. However, both the entry and exit to the lot were gridlocked and I was forced to remain within the lot. Then, magically, a car pulled out right in front of me and I quickly drove into the empty void.

Once inside the store the gridlock continued with a mass of people, strollers, and shopping carts. Believe me, these folks weren’t just browsing, they were buying! Customers conversing in English, Spanish, Polish, and God knows how many other languages, were pulling merchandise off the shelves like we were in a plywood store before a hurricane! Every check-out lane was open and each of them had a long queue of customers. I don’t know what the “bottom line” for the Ellston Avenue Target store was that day, but I know one thing for sure; the folks at Target headquarters in downtown Minneapolis were grinning all the way to the bank!

Just to put things into perspective for Senator Kerry and those of his ilk, the unemployment rate in the United States of America between 1929 and 1933 hovered around 30 percent. Literally one of every three workers was unemployed. Keep in mind that few women were in the labor force so most of the unemployed were adult male breadwinners, the sole source of their family’s income. Today our unemployment rate is about 4 percent and many of the unemployed are transitioning between jobs. Furthermore, with many two-income households, the specter of an unemployed family member is not as daunting as it was in the 1930’s.

The depression was a time when people stood in bread lines and walked along the railroad tracks hoping to heat their homes by finding a lump of coal that had fallen from an open hopper car. Emaciated children inhabited the neighborhoods of cities and small towns alike. Farmers in the Midwest struggled through the dust bowl, which decimated American agriculture. The economic hardship was so severe that an entire generation of Americans had an aversion to spending for the rest of their adult lives.

While my recent Chicago “jammed up” shopping experience was exacerbated by an urban setting and the Christmas rush, I’ve noticed that even in places like LaCrosse, Wisconsin or Rochester, Minnesota, the mall parking lots are nearly full on a normal Saturday in April or September. American consumers are spending their money. Despite terrorism, rising gas prices and the gloomy predictions of naysayers, prosperity abounds within an incredibly resilient American economy.

For Kerry to suggest that there is any resemblance between a time when literate, intelligent, previously gainfully employed adult males sold apples on the sidewalks to our present day, when kids line up outside a Best Buy store for hours to be the first to purchase a Sony Play Station 3, is the height of absurdity. Perhaps the fact that Kerry made this comparison is in itself a sign of our prosperity. Things have been so good for so long that even a prominent US senator like Mr. Kerry has no realistic appreciation of how bad the real depression really was.

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