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Survival

There's more bad recession news tonight.

By 2.16.09

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"First thing you do is unload all the guns in the house."

Uncle Pundit is discoursing on how to survive the recession.

Why, Uncle? What's that got to do with it?

"'Cause you don't know how depressed you're gonna get. Remember, I lived through the '30's. Some guys I knew didn't. It got to be tough as a night landing on a carrier."

But they say it'll all be over soon. All we gotta do is spend about a trillion dollars. They already voted it.

"Voted it, or printed it? They just gonna find it on Mars or some other planet? No, someday, somebody's gotta pay it back. Somebody like you or your kids."

Well, they say unemployment is about 7 percent, going on 8.

"That is a percentage figure. All kinds of ways of figuring them numbers. Know what it was in the late '30's, going into the war? About 17 percent, little more."

What's the war got to do with it? Which war?

"Little tussle we called World War Two. Bad as it was, it saved our hides, economy-wise. Trouble is, there's nobody egging on another war like that. Next one, if it comes, will be so quick you won't know it happened. But listen. After the guns, what you want to do is find some good music…the old stuff, with lyrics, words, that make sense. Turn off the TV and listen. Find some better stuff, sonatas, classics. Sit back. Listen, and let it calm you."

No TV?

"Nope. That's part of what got us into this mess. Dozens of channels, each one trying to outdo the rest with There's more bad news tonight... As if the ratings depend on whose got the worst news about the economy."

Who does?

"Hard to say. That NBC outfit that does market news, CNBC, had a good documentary about what did us in. Documentary told of a pizza delivery guy selling mortgages on the side makin' 22 grand a month.The Wall Street guys would slice these worthless mortgages up into chunks and sell 'em around the world. Guys would violate every law up to and including the second law of thermodynamics."

"You don't need to know. One word you gotta know-- greed. Greed that extends to the out-of-work guy who lies on the mortgage application that he's makin' a hundred grand a year. But when the house price collapses like a cheap suitcase and the mortgage interest goes up anyway, he is stuck. Thousands are stuck. And who's gonna bail 'em out?"

I give.

"You are. Your tax dollar. 'Cause Uncle Sam has declared everybody has a god-given right to own a house, no matter who lied to provide it, who cut up the worthless mortgages, and who bought the pieces."

Is that why this Senator Gregg doesn't want to be Commerce chieftain?

"Nobody knows. His explanation sounds like Treasury Geithner explaining his plans for a pullout. Put 'em together, I say, and send 'em out on the road like Hope and Crosby."

Who and who?

"That's right. I forget you are a youngster. They were funny guys, and one could sing. Hope and Crosby were a little relief during the big depression. Another relief was the Chicago World's Fair where one night they shot Dillinger."

Shot who?

"A bad guy who robbed banks."

But the way you talk about them, banks sort of deserve it.

"Yeah. But now they're robbed by the guys who run 'em. Turn on the music. Let's listen to some good stuff and then -- know what? We'll go over and meet those new folks who moved in a week ago."

Really?

"Yep. 'Cause that's another thing, like the music, that got us through the last one. Neighborliness. Giving a damn about the guy next door."

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About the Author

Reid Collins is a former CBS and CNN news correspondent.