Amid the irritable jolts and jitters of our current economy, a few words from my sage mother appear to ring true: “You sure chose a good time to work at Marketplace, Dash.”
As a senior English & Creative Writing major, I admit I never got around to taking an economics course during my time at Colby. Instead, I spent my time reading novels and writing short stories, discovering that the world was full of stories waiting to be told. More importantly, though, I found out they were waiting to be heard.
So when I started interning with the business and economics show, Marketplace, I had to develop a working knowledge of our country’s economic landscape. I read up on the jaw-dropping mechanics of the financial crisis in 2008; learned about major Wall Street players and large corporate banks; introduced myself to the controversial and puzzling world of financial regulation; educated myself about the curious habits of financial instruments; and saw the staggering amount of inequality and financial stress affecting average Americans.
And, at this point, I was just catching up... Marketplace was living in the shadow of the 2008 economic meltdown, and while another one seemed to be brewing. A whole whirlwind of economic troubles presented themselves this summer, and it’s been an interesting experience to watch the news unfold with the journalists there to decode it all for you.
First, debates on budget accounting and taxes held our nation’s debt ceiling captive until a bipartisan deal was struck, and it seemed that things would rebound—at least in the short term. Over the next few days things seemed fine until Wall Street nosedived unexpectedly, baffling spectators and economists alike as the numbers fell towards their worst since the recession. To boot, S&P’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating has had the very fabric of the financial world fraying from within. As stocks tumbled further, people both inside and outside the American financial system appear shaken by the future to come.
Never before had I paid enough attention to the world of economics, or knew how this mysterious thing called “the market” could affect people with no direct connection to Wall Street.
For me, it’s kind of like that final scene from the film Fight Club where Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter hold hands and watch the buildings collapse in front of them. Right now, everything feels like it’s falling apart.
OK, this scene wasn’t just some metaphor for our postmodern condition… Did I mention that those buildings are the offices of credit card buildings? If you watch the film you’ll know that they’re a part of a grand scheme known as “Project Mayhem”—the idea being, that with everyone’s credit obligations erased, the financial world as we know it would literally collapse because everyone would be given a blank slate.
While it may seem like the financial world is, in fact, collapsing from economic smoke and mirrors, there is one key difference between Fight Club and real life. Instead of everyone being freed from their creditors, we’re constantly reminded of our inability to fulfill these obligations.
Mayhem ensues when people realize our economy is reliant on the faith of people. But why?
If interning at Marketplace has taught me anything, it’s that the closer you get to something the larger the distortions become. Sometimes that means faith in the system, and sometimes that means having faith in the idea that the system can be changed. If you get knocked down: grab some soap, clean your scuffs, and get ready to fight for your life.
This reminds me of a Wall Street proverb in one of the offices at Marketplace:
“If you’re going to panic, panic early!”
— The Market
Good luck with that.