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Published: Saturday, 5/26/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Local documentary explores recession

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

In this presidential election season, there's a lot of finger pointing about the cause of our current economic mess.

Wants and Needs, a new documentary co-production between WGTE-TV, Channel 30, and Mantis and Moon Moving Pictures and Sound, a Toledo film production company, makes a strong case that we, the general public, are as much to blame for the ongoing fiscal crisis as those in Washington or Wall Street.

Premiering at 4 p.m. Sunday on WGTE (PBS), Wants and Needs says economic booms and busts are cyclical patterns that can be traced as far back as hundreds of years ago in Holland.

More relevant to our times, the documentary explores the three biggest monetary crises in our nation's history, beginning with the first Great Depression (later renamed the Long Depression) that ran from 1873 through 1896, then in the 1930s with the Great Depression, and now our own Great Recession.

The cyclical nature of these feast-famine periods goes something like this: a generation only beginning to enjoy a mass of wealth and prosperity experiences a sudden and perilous financial free fall that causes widespread economic strife. Almost overnight, a wide group of social tiers is transformed from those who want to those who need. This sobering change in circumstance and outlook has a lifetime of repercussions, including how the Needs Generation in turn raises their families.

Not wanting their children to go without as they did, the Needs Generation focuses on the wants of their sons and daughters in addition to the Needs, and a generation of Wants is created. The spending and spoiling continues through three generational cycles -- in modern times, the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y -- until past fiscal lessons are lost or forgotten, the inflated bubble of prosperity pops again, and the cycle is repeated.

One of the bigger culprits in this cycle is the Needs Generation, who are unwilling to recollect and/or share their lifetime of strife and hardscrabble existence with the Wants Generations that follow.

This is an oversimplification of the documentary's methodical, almost textbook presentation of its message, but the point is made.

Wants and Needs is co-hosted by Gordon Ward and Cap Averill II. Averill spent six years making the documentary, which is not a political-minded film, rather, as Ward says, it's to examine "the effects that generations have on cyclical recessions or depressions."

Other than news channel sound bites of political and financial leaders, the film almost exclusively features local commentary, including Kevin Quinn, an economics professor at Bowling Green State University, Gary Leitzell, the independent mayor of Dayton, and Donna Counts, who, in 2006 at the age of 88, foresaw the economic collapse a year before it happened based, one surmises, on her experiences living through the Great Depression.

"We're going to be in a real fix one of these days," she says during her film interview. "I don't know if I feel sorry for the younger ones. In some ways I do and in some ways I don't. But someday there's going to be a rude awakening and it's going to be in my lifetime, and I firmly believe that."

Contact Kirk Baird at: kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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