Story by David Abbott,
Senior Associate Editor
I recently had occasion to browse through some of Hatton-Brown’s archives of Timber Processing’s illustrious past, material from long before my time. My research took me back 20 years exactly, to the 1991 bound volume, containing every issue of TP from that year. I turned 13 that September and started junior high, and, I just realized, that was when I met Miranda St. Cin. After two decades, she’s still one of my closest friends—in fact she just texted me a few minutes ago.
Well of course there were no text messages in 1991, nor were there a lot of the other things that are now part of our daily lives (like my mortgage payments and my receding hairline). There were, however, a lot of great editorials in this publication. I read an open letter to Rush Limbaugh, thanking him for his defense of the west coast timber industry, and an obituary for American Sanity (cause of death: spotted owl judgment). Then I came upon an article in the April issue, on page 8 for those who still have their copy, by our own venerated and esteemed Editor-in-Chief, Rich Donnell, entitled “State Of Affairs.” In the article, Rich described how much 1991, in his word, “stank.” Take a look at a few select excerpts:
“The so-called experts seem to revise their projections downward every other week…21 sawmills closed…33 curtailed operations…housing starts…dropped 13.3% to 1.19 million…researchers coldly announced that the pool of first-time home buyers, 25-34 years old, would shrink during the decade…consumer confidence (declined) as a result of government debt, banking crises and war.”
Hmm…was he writing about 1991 or 2011?
Granted, things are probably much worse now, in some ways at least. It’s hard to say how much housing starts have dropped…and from what, given the level of overbuilding that occurred during the housing bubble and unsustainable real estate speculation that artificially inflated home prices to ridiculous levels, during the period when everyone seemed to forget the junior high basics of market economics. Why does everyone say the economy crashed in 2008? I saw it much earlier than that…at least 2005. In an article published in 2008, the New York Times said that housing starts had fallen 63% since 2003. More recent studies indicate that in April of this year housing starts had dropped another 10.6% to an annual rate of just over 500,000, or well under half the 1991 levels. And I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that everything from housing starts to unemployment ends up being worse every quarter than the “experts” expected. Regardless, the point is, as much as things have changed in the last 20 years, it’s remarkable how much things are the same. And you know what happened after 1991? Things got better. Let’s hope history repeats itself. The more things change, the more they stay the same…