While re-reading my old Superman comics, I came across this panel from Action Comics #670, published back in 1991, during the last recession. Here, Daily Planet Managing Editor Perry White expresses his outrage, disgusted by the owners' decision to freeze wages and lay off workers - including Jimmy Olsen. Even Lois Lane and Clark Kent, newly engaged, lost their staff positions and were forced to do freelance work for the paper.
Perry's outrage certainly captured the zeitgeist of the era. I was just out of university and struggled for years to find meaningful employment, and of course others were even worse off. I finally landed a job at a non-profit in the mid-90s and started selling some freelance articles and haven't really looked back since, though like most people I've suffered my own economic ups and downs. Now Albertans (among most others in the world) are facing tough choices in the wake of high unemployment, wage freezes, rollbacks, unfavourable contract negotiaions...the same old 90s story all over again. Perry White wasn't just speaking for reporters, but for people like the public sector workers of Alberta, the teachers and nurses who sacrificed so much during the Klein years. Many of them left, including some friends of mine, and Alberta is certainly feeling their absence - despite the current downturn, we're still dangerously short of health care professionals.
You don't balance the books by breaking the backs of your workers. Seems like common sense to me, but it seems we have few political leaders willing to take the long view.