Time to Start Cataloguing the Recession’s Positive Effects
Why does the recession keep getting such negative press?
Except for the 15.4 million Americans unemployed – up from 7.5 million two years ago – and the 7.1 million properties foreclosed since January 2008, the recession has done a ton of positive stuff.
The recession is good for the environment. It must be because the state Air Resources Board said so at a seven-hour hearing on diesel emissions standards on December 9. The board acknowledged what builders and others in the construction industry have been trying to impress upon them for over one year – a stagnant housing market means a sharp reduction in noxious fumes being belched into the atmosphere by cement mixers, heavy trucks and earth-moving equipment.
One of the board’s justifications for relaxing some of the implementation dates for its regulations is that, as a direct result of the recession, air quality has improved. Where are the headlines trumpeting that achievement?
The recession’s air quality benefits extend beyond the housing industry. The recession has contributed significantly to the closure of several major retailers, among them Mervyns and Linens ‘n’ Things, as well as numerous smaller businesses.
What right-thinking Californian would drive their car, with the attendant tailpipe-spewed pollution to go stare at vacant commercial space unless they were interested in taking over the lease, a process that could be handled quite nicely on the Internet?
Empty, darkened retail space also reduces energy consumption and costs.
The recession has also been a boon for natural resources. If houses aren’t being built, the land gets to stay dirt and grass, which, in turn, nurtures a vast, interconnected ecosystem of flora and fauna.
Reduced household income has retarded restaurant attendance, curtailing the slaughter of blameless animals.
And, in an air quality-habitat conservation two-fer, the recession has reduced demand for a whole range of products whose creation comes at the expense of the environment.
If fewer houses are being built, there’s less need for wood framing. Fewer trees get cut down and continue to proudly stand, sequestering carbon dioxide.
Similarly, a need for fewer nails reduces the atmosphere-unfriendly emissions caused by creating them. And, on the climate change front, the fewer homes are built the fewer concrete pads are needed. Cement makers create some of the largest amounts of carbon dioxide emissions.
Lest it be thought the recession’s benefits are restricted to the environment, consider its economic impact.
Caltrans reports that it now has seven or eight bids for each highway construction or rehabilitation project it advertises. This higher level of competition has led to lower bids. The agency reported in July that it was receiving bids averaging 33 percent less than their cost estimates.
It seems logical to infer that other state contracts — say for paper, produce or parking space – would also be subject to similar cost-savings upon re-bidding.
And given the economy’s effect on the commercial real estate market, the state – and other public entities who lease private office space – find themselves holding the whip-hand when time to renew the leases.
Nor do these public sector benefits include the major reductions in costly bureaucracy due to the recession’s impact on tax revenue.
Private sector employers are also benefiting from the recession. Those few who are expanding and hiring new employees enjoy an embarrassment of riches.
A posting for an entry-level executive assistant, office manager or clerk can easily generate 200 or more resumes, usually in the first 24 hours.
Within that expansive universe of talent, employers have a far better chance of finding an eager, over-qualified individual willing to work at lower cost.
So when the naysayers prattle about the recession’s horrors, they are simply looking through the wrong end of the telescope.
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