Saying farewell to the ‘Awful Aughts’

Marketplace Staff Dec 22, 2009

Saying farewell to the ‘Awful Aughts’

Marketplace Staff Dec 22, 2009


Steve Chiotakis: Well the first decade of the 21st century is just about toast. It started with record highs on Wall Street — about as many people working in this country as possible, interest rates low, home ownership high, even federal budget surpluses. It ends far humbler than that. Fortune Magazine’s Allan Sloan is with us this morning with a look back. Hi Allan.

Allan Sloan: Hi, Steve.

Chiotakis: Well, what do we call this decade?

Sloan: Well, my boss calls it the “decade from hell,” but I have a much more elegant name. I call it the “Awful Aughts.”

Chiotakis: The Awful Aughts. The Zero-Zeroes.

Sloan: Exactly so.

Chiotakis: Economically, how do we characterize this decade?

Sloan: Well, I believe the technical term would be “retched.” We started out with a boom, we’ve had two market collapses and very large unemployment. But other than that, everything has been great.

Chiotakis: What do you think was the most profound event of the decade that affected the nation economically?

Sloan: Well I think there were actually two of them. The first one was 9/11, which in addition to all the things we know about, unleashed in Washington complete irresponsibility when it came to cutting taxes and fiscal stuff. And the second thing was the end of the tech bubble, which was, you know, very early in this decade. And that got the Federal Reserve to cut interest, short-term interest rates to almsot nothing, which in many ways helped beget the housing bubble, which as you know near the end of the decade popped, and has caused a whole lot of the mess we have.

Chiotakis: You sould pessimistic, right? Because the Awful Aughts will be followed by, what’s the next decade? The Terrible Teens?

Sloan: Or what I think may happen, which might be the Terrific Teens.

Chiotakis: Really? Explain that.

Sloan: Well, 10 years ago, there was what I thought of as mindless optimism. And when you start from a high level and you think everything is going to be great, you’re invariably disappointed. But if you start out at sort of a low ebb, which is what we have, and you don’t have many expectations, you’re generally surprised on the up side. And I suspect that if you and I are both doing this in 10 years, we might come to call this the Terrific Teens, and then we can go out drinking and celebrate.

Chiotakis: Why don’t we regroup in about 10 years and see if that comes to fruition, how about that?

Sloan: That sounds like a plan.

Chiotakis: Happy New Year, Allan Sloan.

Sloan: And to you, Steve Chiotakis.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.