Monday, September 3, 2012

Whatever Happened to Stanley Johnson?

Perhaps you remember this commercial. In some ways it was one of the funniest commercials on the air. In other ways it was one of the most prescient. Stanley Johnson was living the 'American Dream' - on the surface. But he was actually trapped in a nightmare. 

This commercial was aired in the days that led to the Great Recession, around 2007. There are those who would have us forget these days. There are those who would have us believe that the Recession we have experienced was a minor cyclical adjustment that should have been weathered by simply letting market forces run their course. But the Stanley Johnsons of the world were the ones who lost their jobs, their houses, their cars and of course that country club membership. Some of the Stanley Johnsons are still unemployed and depending on their age, are not likely to find work that gives them the hope of returning to the quality of life they experienced before the Recession began. If you weren't quite as 'prosperous' as Stanley, you lost even more. 

By 2009, the Stanley Johnsons of America had a median net worth of $92,000. Stanley's black counterparts median net worth was less than $5000 ($4900) to be exact (some analysts figure it the discrepancy to be much greater). All told the Recession cost Americans nearly $8 trillion in wealth. No matter where you sit it was the economic devastation of our lifetime. No President has faced anything like it almost 90 years. It is so devastating, it's safe to say, that either Stanley Johnson, or some of his neighbors, have been served at CitySquare's food pantry or health clinic. 

How well this country has and is recovering must take this into account. The 'prosperity' so many of us were fooled into celebrating, was a prosperity where those who dealing in exotic loan schemes, credit default swaps, subprime mortgages were deluded into masking stagnant wages with easy credit. Those who were extolling the virtue of America's free market system prior to 2008, were creating millions of Stanley Johnsons. And there are those who are calling for the implementation of policies which will leave the Stanley Johnsons behind. 

It's easy to forget, because nobody wants to remember a nightmare. But nightmares tend to be unforgettable...

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