This Is Not Recovery: Reading the Economic Indicators of Place

For at least the past five years, most of the new commercial development I’ve seen with my own two eyes has been the frenzied building of shiny new banks and drug stores. This has everything to do with the credit bubble, aging populations, strengthened lobbies, and thickening anxieties. And of course, we ought to be anxious. But there’s something not quite right about this tandem proliferation, is there? Something not quite right about the idea that as banks continue to prosper, even in the worst economy most (if not all) of us have lived through, so too do pharmaceutical companies. The less money we have, the less health care we have, the more anxious we are because of these things and countless others, the more, it seems, we spend on medicine. This is anecdotal, yes, but someone ought to look into the relationships between Big Pharma and Big Money. There’s absolutely something there.

In the past few weeks I’ve seen a new business trend. “We Buy Gold” and “Cash For Gold” stores popping up where suburban notaries, sub shops, and dry cleaners used to be. The economic indicators of place tell me, friends, that this is not recovery. This is not a healthy middle class. But the banks bank on, and the drug stores keep building. Now a new class of opportunist arrives, producing nothing. I like Pawn Stars just as much as the next guy (I really do), but we’re quickly becoming a nation of emergency liquidators prime for the picking. This isn’t recovery, and it’s not justice, either.

Oh, justice. No, the spread of proxy pawn shops to the suburbs doesn’t feel like you in your purest Form, but there’s a poetic justice here, a kind of irony: the struggle the middle class is facing is no news to the poor, to our cities, to our always-disenfranchised. But now it’s here for everybody else. Everyone without big pensions, bailouts, or golden parachutes. Everyone with a mortgage, a car payment, tuition. Almost everyone I know.