Notice: Recession Billboards

There’s a billboard near by home that says, “Recession 101: Interesting fact about recessions…they end.”

What is this billboard trying to tell me? Why is this message worth someone spending a lot of money on?

I discovered that this billboard is part of a national campaign that has been going on since June, all apparently funded by an anonymous donor who “wanted people to realize the country has been undergone recessions before and made it through.” The “Recession 101″ lesson series includes other billboard versions:

  • Self worth is greater than net worth.
  • This will end long before those who caused it are paroled.
  • Stop obsessing about economy, you’re scaring the children
  • Bill Gates started Microsoft in a recession.

I’m very suspicious about the intent behind these messages.

If “they end”, does that mean I should just be carrying on as usual? By “as usual”, does that mean taking out loans I can’t afford and piling up debt in order to pretend that I’m winning? Who would pay for a billboard to help convince me that consumer debt is good for me?

And who am I supposed to be happy about them being in jail? Were people actually jailed over this recession, or is that just wishful thinking? If anyone was jailed, I’ll bet they were anomalies who were tried over very strange, obvious things, like Bernie Madoff. Everyone else – the politicians, the CEOs, the loan officers, the bank tellers, the guidance counselors who sell the dream of home ownership before you’ve even gotten a job – are all still at their jobs, doing their thing, same as usual.

Self worth is greater than net worth? Well, yes, I agree. However, I’m still suspicious of the implications here. Strengthening my self worth doesn’t help the economy, so I don’t think that’s what this billboard wants from me. Instead, I think it means, “Don’t worry about the economy. Just be happy.” Which is a really stupid thing to say to people who are losing their jobs and houses.

The messages inherent to the billboards in this campaign really disturb me, and these aren’t the only “spend money, ignore the economy” messages I’ve been noticing. Have you noticed any?