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« Illustration Art in the Middle of Nowhere | Main | End of the Line »

September 16, 2009

Geriatric Road Warriors

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I'm still on the road. This evening, it's Cody, Wyoming where tomorrow we'll check out the big Western museum named in honor of Buffalo Bill Cody, founder of this town.

Yesterday at Mt. Rushmore the guide on our short walk to the base of the mountain made it clear that "buffalo" are not buffalo; the North American variety are bison. If true, then it surely must be Bison Bill Cody, Bison, New York and its Bison Bills football team. And the old bison nickel coin, ..., ad infinitum.

One thing I've been noticing during the trip is how many retirees seem to be on the road. This is related to the fact that families with school-age children wound up their summer travel by early this month, and savvy retirees wait until after that before hitting the road. At any rate, in the Black Hills - Yellowstone region there are scads of travelers, if the numbers of cars in motel parking lots are any indication. Here in Cody, several motels had their No Vacancy signs lit by the time we were driving back to our digs after dinner.

No doubt bookkeepers for the motels, filling stations, restaurants and tourist attractions see signs that the country is in a recession despite my casual observations above. Nevertheless, many (most?) retirees have predictable, steady incomes and might be feeling more free to travel than workers in iffy job situations.

I should also note that, despite what news media and even history books say, even in depressions the majority of the working age population is employed: trips get taken, clothing is purchased. Even big-ticket items such as cars and houses eventually find buyers. True, sales levels might have plunged, but life does not stop and the economy staggers ahead regardless.



posted by Donald at September 16, 2009


Chase Bank's login page for checking your account status features a rotating series of ads in which "real people" proclaim why banking with Chase is such a terrific thing. In one of these ads, touting the bank's overdraft protection, a man says in effect that in today's economy who can afford excessive bank fees. The problem is, the man pictured in the ad is clearly of retirement age, and therefore isn't likely to be affected very much by current economic conditions.

Posted by: Peter on September 17, 2009 2:37 PM

"I should also note that, despite what news media and even history books say, even in depressions the majority of the working age population is employed: trips get taken, clothing is purchased. Even big-ticket items such as cars and houses eventually find buyers."

Yes, but... this is not entirely true on the local level. In the extreme, you get ghost towns. In the less extreme, you get places like Detroit, which in the foreseeable future offers no hopeful increase in the employment rate and a piss-poor return on real estate. There are large portions of the Midwestern US where real estate is less than stagnant, and will remain so. This is not a call for government intervention, but a recognition that property values will ramin low for quite a while, and some people are stuck with property than they cannot sell - or bequeath - for what they paid for it.

Simply put, some parts of the country will not return to where they were economically. SoCal and Florida were overvalued, and the industrial Midwest is not the powerhouse that it once was. Other places, such as the Northwest, will bounce back. C'est la vie, but it sin't geogrsphically equitable.

Posted by: FG on September 19, 2009 1:52 PM

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