One of the things you learn early-on in journalism is to be very wary of using superlatives or definitives such as “the only,” “the first,” or “the most.”
But as we reach the end of this year, I am going to break that rule because 2008 has turned out to be the most momentous year that I can remember experiencing in my lifetime.
It is almost impossible to believe–looking back to the beginning of the year–that we can have arrived at where we are now in the course of some 365 days, give or take a few. So much has changed, so much has collapsed. The underpinnings of our financial system must have been far more precarious than even the most dedicated pessimist was willing to allow.
We now know for certain, however, that the recession that is taking such a hard toll at present actually started in December of 2007. In our guts I think a lot of us knew that, feeling the spreading uneasiness that was oozing out like a huge uncontainable oil spill. Even a few months ago, I thought we were heading for a depression, never mind a recession.
Most people “knew” what was going on. The only entity that did not, apparently, was the government. Or maybe it did, but just wouldn’t admit it. Why does either option not surprise me?
Who would have thought that AIG, once the very symbol of insurance might (and symbol, many would say, of corporate arrogance) would have been brought so low in so short a time?
Who could have predicted a scenario a year ago where not one–not one!–investment bank was left on Wall Street to come up with ever more exotic ideas for making money and creating something out of nothing?