“Wyoming folks have it better than most”

This was the headline for last week’s Green River Star editorial by Kathy Gilbert and from what’s been going on around the U.S. and the rest of the world, I tend to agree.

Gilbert was writing in response, of course, to the national recession and everything it entails: increased unemployment, reduced drilling for natural gas and oil (Wyoming’s major economic export), and the general sense of doom and gloom. But, Gilbert argues, she and many Wyomingites have had the “privilege of living with a boom-bust economy” for many years, making this less of a shock, perhaps:

“This isn’t new to those of us living in the middle of Wyoming’s huge natural gas reserves. Those of us born here have seen this boom and bust all our lives. It’s something we can count on, almost as surely as the sun rises. But the other thing we can count on is that we will survive. It might be a little harder this time … but we will get through this bust just as we have in the past. There will be some belt-tightening in most households. Some of us may have to forego a planned vacation, but overall, we’ll be fine.”

She also notes that “people in other places are talking about how they are now taking lunch to work instead of eating out. They say their familes used to eat out once or twice a week, but they’re cutting back by not doing that now.” I, for one, have taken lunch to work or school 99% of my life and I rarely go out for food more than once every couple of weeks, not only for financial reasons but because, as many magazines report, it is very hard to keep track of nutritional information and portion sizes at restaurants. Could it be that an interesting by-product of this recession might be a decrease in American obesity and type-II diabetes?

A few lines later Gilbert also writes that “one woman spoke about buying clothing at thrift stores” – something she hadn’t done before. Again, something I’ve been doing for years, especially at fun consignment stores in Vancouver’s rich neighbourhoods (a guarantee for good deals on chichi clothes). As a full-time student for six years living on my own, I learned to find sales, clip coupons, and enjoy used book stores. The hunt is half the fun!

While there are certainly those who have watched their pennies, worked hard and still lost their jobs and homes, it appears from media accounts (and the rumour mill) that many people lived the “Fat Cat” lifestyle during the boom times of this decade. Their overspending, undersaving, and general “I want it now but don’t want to pay for it until later” mentality has led to a large number of foreclosures and reposessions.
It may very well be that students used to scrimping, delayed gratification, and peanut butter and jam sandwiches have it better than most!

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