Jan 272009
Authors: Ryan Nowell

Another week, another round of big American companies putting thousands of jobs on the chopping block.

The first few weeks of the new year saw Motorola, Alcoa, Hertz, Honda and Boeing trimming their workforce, and now MSNBC is reporting Sprint, Microsoft, Pfizer, Home Depot, General Motors and Caterpillar are cutting 45,000 more jobs.

Further, the 7.2 percent unemployment rate reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is compounded by what “60 Minutes” estimates is a 6 percent underemployment rate — those who have jobs but don’t get enough hours to pay rent, buy groceries, cover bills and the rest. Many more Americans are having trouble making ends meet than the unemployment statistics alone would have you believe.

Locally, Circuit City started their liquidation sale, marking their entire inventory down by 20 to 30 percent, making it a lot like shopping at Best Buy but with a sense of ominous finality.

Linens ‘n Things, likewise, went under, after a sharp downturn in consumer demand for things in the last fiscal quarter. With apostrophe-laden folksy contractions trading at an all-time low, it was really only a matter of time.

The Rocky Mountain News has been on sale for the last month, and the allure of owning a limping newspaper in a dying industry in a failing economy has yet to set many wallets aflame, meaning the possibility of a shut down looms ever closer.

Meanwhile, the Rocky reports that its alter-ego, the Denver Post, is in meetings with their parent company to somehow cut $20 million dollars out of the budget in an attempt to shore up freefalling profits — negotiations that at best will end in slashed wages, at worst, more lost jobs.

Even Hollywood is feeling the squeeze, as Disney recently announced it was pulling out of producing the third Narnia movie, robbing many consumers of another whimsically derivative romp through the land of computer-generated Christian subtext.

So why this highly abridged litany of our country’s already inescapable financial woes? Am I just being malicious? Seeding anxiety amongst young potential investors? Coaxing day-traders out of their high-rise windows? Goading the veins in Jim Cramer’s forehead to finally blow?

No, kind reader, I’m merely trying to illustrate the conditions in which a new crisis is emerging. With more job losses everyday, the problem is further compounded, and unless someone does something drastic soon, we’ll all be entering a very bleak tomorrow.

What is this new crisis? No, I wasn’t talking about the approaching recession or the whispers about a new Great Depression. The issue is that with so many jobs being lost, we run the risk of using up all of our corporate euphemisms, with some estimates stating that as early as next year the current crop of reality-cushioning double-speak will lose its potency.

We cannot let this happen. Euphemisms and the false confidence they endow are the only thing keeping this country’s economy afloat, and without them, people will have nowhere to turn when the grim facts of their existence need to be white-washed (other than commercials, paper ads, billboards, sitcoms, talk shows, romantic comedies, action movies, corporate radio stations, shopping, anti-depressants, grocery stores, restaurants, local news, holidays …).

Why, if we’d had corporate euphemisms back in the day, the Great Depression would’ve never happened. It would’ve been called the Great Wage-Excursion, in which uninstalled labor-facilitators reorganized their way across the country during a moderate transitional idling.

Without a buzz word to help smother the anxious sensation we should all probably be having about the state of things, we might actually start feeling something akin to reality, and once you start making choices based on that, well, it leads to difficult questions and existential dilemmas and a feeling of social responsibility, all of which contribute to a drop in consumer spending. Don’t be part of the problem.

So friends, we need to replenish our stock phrases before people start saying things they actually mean. Cognitive dissonance is our nation’s most important currency; let’s not allow intrusions by something as coarse as reality deplete our precious treasury. Do your part.

Remember, you can’t spell “Patriotic” without “Patronized.” Or parts of it, at least. The rest is surplus lingual run-off.

Ryan Nowell is a senior English major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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