It’s the Economy

It’s the Economy


Ken Melvin

Ask any group of people who have successfully started a small business and to a person, they will tell you that there had been at least once when it could have gone either way. Eight out of ten fail in those perilous first two years. No doubt some of the 80% made fatal mistakes, but how many of them did everything right and still failed? Some of the 20% made what could have been fatal mistakes yet came out smelling like a rose. One struggles for five years to get a business going while another one makes $200,000 their first, the other’s fifth, year.

In America today, the outstanding student loan debt is more than $1.6 Trillion; some $200 Billion of which is in arrears. Maybe the student loan was taken out for a career change after losing their job due to globalization, automation, the 2008 crash, … or for a college degree to better their prospects of getting a better paying job, or for Law School and the prospect of a $300k/yr. salary, or for Medical School, … Turns out that after graduation there weren’t enough jobs, or positions; at least enough of any that paid enough.

Maybe they took out a student loan in order to become a research chemist. They make it to grad school only to find out that most chemical research is now being farmed out to Uzbekistan for $40,000/yr.

Graduated college a couple years back, now works as a barista and Uber driver until the job market opens up. Shares in SF.

Turns out that one’s chances for success depend on what year it was that one graduated from college. In a year when the job market is good, the chances of achieving success are quite good. Graduate in a year when there are few jobs and your career may never take off.


The family business closed after 50 years because it lost its market. The third generation, opened by grandparents in 1940. If the family business had to do with: serving or supplying the industrials with tool and die, precision grinding, machining, sheet metal, steel fabrication, foundry, ship repair, …; or selling building supplies, hardware, groceries, shoes, clothing, … to consumers; or if it was a restaurant that catered to working-class families — too bad.

A young family of four, husband and wife lost their jobs due to the financial crisis of 2008, a few months later lost their home because they couldn’t make the mortgage payments, wound up filing for bankruptcy, …. All proved to be too much for their marriage; they got divorced. Two years later, both had found jobs that paid less. By the end of 2019, both had kind of gotten back on their feet.

Graduated High School in 2010. Low paying job, can’t afford the rent increase, gets evicted. Couch surfs while looking for a place. Can’t find anything they can afford. Becomes homeless, then loses the low paying job.

A lot of homelessness is caused by rent increases.

They were just barely squeaking by, then lost their job, then their house/apartment; then became homeless.

Or, it’s the weather.

In the 2012 PBS documentary ‘The Dust Bowl’, the Oklahoma farmer pondered aloud if there was something he had done wrong, something he should have done but didn’t; as if somehow it was a failure on his part. The farmer had worked hard, did the right things, and played by the rules. Maybe his family, along with many another family from Oklahoma who had also failed, could find work picking peaches in California.

Oh, all those other folks in this list also worked hard, and did the right thing, and played by the rules.

Meanwhile: those who invested in offshore manufacturing did well, and those who caused the 2008 financial crisis suffered little, if at all. And, let it be, as has been, noted, the very rich have done quite well during this Corona Virus pandemic.