Perhaps we're naively optimistic, but we can't help but chuckle over the doomsayers who have been stockpiling canned goods, storing bars of gold in their basement safes, and keeping rifles by their front doors. Is this economic recession really going to progress so dramatically that we reach a state of anarchy that includes food rationing and a barter system? It seems that could only happen if we ran out of the ink the government uses to print new money.
But lately, the signs of a coming economic apocalypse have become too numerous to ignore. Are the most pessimistic among us prophetic while the rest of us are blissfully ignorant? Take a look at the signs and decide for yourself who will have the last laugh.
- Brothy Times
In its latest financial report, the Swiss consumer goods giant Nestle said it hopes to weather this economic turmoil with growing sales from products like bouillon. After all, you can add just about anything in your cupboard to a pot of bouillon and call it stew for your hungry family. No meat? No worries. Toss in some potatoes and cabbage and you've got a meal, complete with a protein element.
- Half-Price Hamptons
Is it possible that this recession is bringing an East Hampton summer house within financial reach of more than just the wealthiest Manhattanites? One can dream. In what is surely feeling apocalyptic to Hamptons homeowners, some prospective renters have reportedly started offering as little as half of what landlords are asking for summer rent. If you don't have a job, what better place to spend your time this summer?
- Grande Downscale
Starbucks has launched an instant coffee product. Need we say more?
- Real Housewife Reality
The current season of Bravo's Real Housewives of New York City was blasted for its apparent detachment from the slumping economy. But if Page Six is to be believed, the cold, hard reality has finally caught up to one well-to-do wife. Bethenny Frankel was spotted using a coupon for 25 percent off for a biweekly blow-out at her hair salon. This, on top of the fact that the service was already discounted. The horror!
- Armed and Dangerous
People are evidently overwhelmed by the urge to protect themselves right now-from what, exactly, we're not sure. Sales of firearms jumped nearly 30 percent in January compared to the same month last year. Stores in Florida, which has experienced some of the most severe retractions in housing prices, are running out of bullets. A recession where you can get gas but you can't get bullets. Go figure.
- Big Fear
Say what you will about them, but the Mormons know how to take care of each other. They feed their poor and stockpile food and supplies for themselves in case of disaster. When the activity at the church's 109 storage warehouses around the country reaches a frenzied state, economists take note. And guess what? The Mormon Index is rising.
- Food Bank of America
Food banks are no longer just for the homeless and hungry. They're now for middle-class folks like child-care workers, nurse's aides, real estate agents, and secretaries.
- Fashion Disaster
The Italian fashion industry falls somewhere in between automakers and porn producers in the growing list of international bailout beggars. Industry representatives recently told Italian lawmakers that a cut in demand for their designer products has caused it severe pain. Seems the designers were miffed they weren't considered as part of a stimulus package while Italian automakers and household appliance manufacturers were.
- Porky Piggy Banks
Sales of "money boxes" at a U.K. department store have soared 150 percent in the past year as the British economy faces its worst setback since World War II. The store sells novelty boxes, with those labeled "Handbag fund," "Shoe fund," and "Shopping fund" in most demand.
- Jobs Wanted
In a scene that looked more like an American Idol tryout than an employment opportunity, more than 1,000 applicants lined up recently to apply for 35 firefighter jobs in Miami. Many people camped out overnight to secure a spot among the 750 applications the city agreed to accept. The Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties are projected to lose nearly 85,000 jobs by the end of this year.
- Life in the Stacks
If this isn't a sign of the economic apocalypse, we're not sure what is: libraries are packed with people! Circulation of books and DVDs have risen by 23 percent in Washington-area libraries, according to the Washington Post. More budget-conscious families are opting for the free rentals over Barnes & Noble and Netflix. And higher unemployment means more people vying for time on the library's computers. It's the cheaper version of the coffee shop.
- Calling All Lumber Thieves
We've heard a lot in the past year about thieves stealing copper wire from homes and construction sites as the commodity's price soared. But this news sent our apocalyptic meter of doom off the charts: A thief in Maine has been stealing telephone poles for the wood. A local telecommunications firm said that 35 poles have been cut and stolen around central Maine since last fall. The wood isn't suitable for burning but it could be used as building material. Tough times indeed.
- Goldbugs Rule
We all saw the Cash4Gold commercial with Ed McMahon during the Super Bowl, but most of us saw it more as a sign of the tough advertising market than anything else. But when the price of an ounce of gold hit the $1,000 mark last week, it became all too clear that nervous investors are flocking to the shiny yellow metal as a safe haven. Most analysts predict the price will continue to rise, which suggests that gold is still a welcome place to park cash when everything else is in the toilet.