Illustration by Rachel Edelstein
Illustration by Rachel Edelstein

We all saw this coming: the freefall after things come too easy. 


For so long, we have been a nation built on the “all-or-nothing” credo, with half of us hoping for the fortune that comes with being plucked from obscurity and thrust into fame and fortune, and the other half putting in the work ethic required, but simply spending more than we have. 

As the 1980s roared on, Wall Street suddenly became America’s game of choice, spending the bucks on whatever goes and passing the buck for who to blame. According to a recent TIME Magazine article, back then the average household saved 11 percent of its income in savings. By 2007, that number was less than 1 percent.

But we kept going, because the post-9/11 ideal was to support our country with what lined our wallets, to remind “the enemy” that life as we know it would carry on, and that we were not afraid. 

Turns out we should have been. But the enemies were a lot closer to home than we initially realized. 

It seems like such a simple idea: spend what you have. But we didn’t, and now finally, we are feeling the effects. Our economy has reached a low that has some analysts dubbing it “Depression 2.0,” a Black Tuesday that lasts year-round.

But maybe this is just what we need. Maybe we need to hit rock bottom before we can start fresh, which would essentially mean that our current fiscal deterioration — the one on everyone’s lips, everyone’s mind and everyone’s magazine covers — may be the best thing that’s happened to us in a long time. 

Welcome to the end of the wings, with both the right and the left losing any semblance of bargaining power as both fall into categories of equal parts aggressor and victim.

The Republican degenerates are the easy scapegoats for any post-2000 ennui. But in the weeks leading up to the dawn of the new millennium, mere days before Christmas of 1999, former President Bill Clinton, the man so often praised for his staunch economic leadership, negotiated the deregulation of the U.S. financial system. 

Turns out that Democrats can get things wrong too.

And all the while, Americans stocked up on water jugs and blankets, certain of a global catastrophe that would never come. But neither party is guiltier than the other as the whimper of economic collapse has seeped into cultural pertinence, turning even the most humble of American hands a guilty shade of blood-red. 

With American International Group (AIG) requesting more money, America has officially reached the pinnacle of its desolate ideology. The new millennial motto reads and reeks of “Guitar Hero” mentality: everyone wants to be a rock star but nobody wants to learn the chords. This is a world where the Parises and Nicoles are media messiahs who embody the new American doctrine that it’s possible to have it all by doing nothing.

If a film like “Slumdog Millionaire,” a present-day rags-to-riches fairy tale about a boy made into a millionaire overnight, sounds familiar, it’s because it has been a part of the American mentality for the past 80 years. 

But what has really caused this bubble to burst is our nation’s inability to think outside of extremes. We hysterically spend what we don’t have in hopes of one-upping one another. And at the first sign of fiscal concern, we pinch our pennies until our fingers are sore.

But the key is to decide what is deserving of whatever pennies we have left. Laying low, crossing our fingers and blaming the bankers isn’t going to bring us back to our usual routine. 

And even if through some miracle our laziest of aspirations do manage to bring about a financial rebound, business as usual is no longer the answer. Self-declared Republican icon Rush Limbaugh recently bellowed his concern over not just the deterioration of our current economy, but the possible political upheaval that could come from its radical rebuild, calling the emphasis on education and possible universal health care “the end of America as we know it.”

And it’s true: This is the end of America as we know it. But in its place will be an infrastructure founded on the three ideals that drove the 2008 election into history: hope, progress and change. 

For once, maybe Limbaugh’s got it right.