Friday, June 19, 2009

Losing wealth that didn't exist

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger just offered a take on California's all-time recorded record of 11.5 percent unemployment rate via a released statement, saying in part:

When the world loses one-third of its wealth in 18 months, it is to be expected that historic levels of job losses will follow.

One problem with this statement and others like it: That "lost wealth" was largely illusory to begin with.

The boom times that preceded our current situation (recession, depression, screwed city -- does it matter what we call it?) were fueled in good amount by accounting sleight of hand, and most of the wealth was generated in terms of stock prices and unsustainable real estate gains. It was all on paper or in some accountant's head.

In hindsight, it was a house of cards, one that was going to fall sooner or later.

It ended up hurting most the Average Joe reaching a bit too high for the American Dream House or the Average Jane who lost her job when the financial world unraveled through no fault of her own or the Small Business that suddenly finds itself with not enough customers to pay both the bills and its employees.

But don't say that this wealth was lost. In a certain sense, it never existed to begin with.

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