I’m depressed, but it could be worse. I could have money in the stock market. The way things are going, though, I might not have any money at all, except for a little rent.

I’m not sure that real estate, the stock market and the American mood was this bad even in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, when the prime rate hit 21 percent. Everybody was buying bullets and a year’s supply of freeze dried food that would fit under the bed.

But unlike today, at least they were buying houses -- or trying to buy houses. Qualifying for a mortgage was a bit more problematical when payments were based on an interest rate over 14 percent above today’s rates. Payments on a $100,000 mortgage over 30 years at 18 percent were over $1,500 monthly, back then.

Compare that to today’s rates, you’ll find the payment difference is over $1,000 monthly and over $12,000 annually. When interest finally dropped to a “low” 10 percent, those Realtors still in the game were dancing in the streets. The rest of them had already left. Went out and got a “real” job – meaning a regular paycheck.

A big difference between then and now is that in the eighties, inflation – at almost 15 percent – was kicking up the price of everything, especially homes. If you didn’t buy today, that $100,000 house was likely to cost you a happy $12,000 to $15,000 more by the end of the year, especially if the seller had a seven percent mortgage that was assumable.

Inflation got so bad that either President Richard Nixon or President Jimmy Carter imposed price controls, which infuriated small businessmen and medicine, legal and accounting professionals, for instance, who were forbidden to raise prices, even with double digit inflation shrinking the dollar’s buying power.

I can’t remember which president imposed it, but Carter had replaced Gerald Ford in the office and was available as a target while the price controls were still in effect, so the public invited him to retire after just one term.

He’s still making a nuisance of himself in some ways, however. I liked his brother Billy better. And his mother, who famously said that had she known how her children would turn out, she’d have remained a virgin. I met the future president once, since Plains and my hometown of Dawson aren’t but maybe 20 miles apart., but it was long before he was even governor of Georgia.

It was also long before the screaming internet, long before the advent of hundreds of TV channels, both of which were still to come in the early ‘80’s, when Ronald Reagan inherited Jimmy Carter’s mess in 1981.

Acting like I was working, I was actually sneaking around the internet and stumbled across a couple of articles comparing the current economic situation to what was happening in 1981.

Comparing Reagan and Obama during their respective financial messes, one author described them as one president calming the masses during his presidency’s financial crisis and another, along with most of Congress, running around in frantic circles in this financial crisis saying, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling”.

If you’re not familiar with the ‘net, a good bit of it is filled with articles posted on-line, often by highly qualified people, that everyone can then comment on. Or try to shoot down, which often happens. Unlike arguing with newspapers through “letters to the editor”, which must be signed and are limited in length, these commentators can remain anonymous and can ramble on forever.

I really do hope some of those people don’t vote, their thinking – or lack thereof – scares me.

Anybody with a dollar more than some internet commentators have is obviously an evil capitalist, cutting down sacred forests, pushing over cows, scaring babies, putting up billboards, driving fancy cars over old folks, being selfish, cooking endangered species for supper …. All those sorts of things.

Back in the 80’s, newspapers were still strong and cable TV didn’t have 2,000 channels. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Florida Times-Union, which kept a two-man bureau in Valdosta, don’t even deliver here anymore.

You had to make an effort to sit down with the paper at breakfast or grab the TV remote at suppertime and catch up on the news. Now? It’s like Dick Tracy time; news comes in all day on this tiny screen people carry around with them all day. I still get the local newspaper. I’ve talked to people who don’t and then I look at all the local knowledge in the newspaper and I’m amazed at what these folks are missing in the town they live in.

If you remember Dick Tracy, you also remember NBC newscasters Chet Hunter and David Brinkley, neither of which treated routine news stories like the beginning of World War III. Today, there’s so much competition, I guess, that newscasters have to act as if every story is a world-class event. Something like the country’s newscasters current economic situation qualifies.

But how bad is it, really? How does it compare to 1981, for instance, which was a major – and nasty – economic event, made even worse by my involuntary position in it. Well, I’m glad you asked that question, since I just happen to have the answer.

I don’t know how to type these comparisons between 1981 and 2009 or 2010 so that they’re easy to read, but make the effort, you may be surprised at the comparison. Listening to newscasters, you’d think there’s never been anything this disastrous since The Great Depression, but this falls far short of that. It even falls short of the 1981 financial problem. The first figures to follow on topics from inflation to interest rates will be from 1981, the second from either 2009 or early 2010.

Prime Rate: 20.5 vs 3.25 -- Inflation: 14.8 vs. 2.6 – Unemployment: 10.8 vs 9.7 – 30-year mortgage rate: 18.5 vs 4.25 -- gas prices, using 2008 dollars: $3.45 then vs $3.09 now. All of 1981’s bad news is worse than today’s.

Of course, if you’re one of those laid off, this is small comfort and I apologize for joking about it, but do you know the difference between a recession and a depression? Recession is when you don’t have a job. Depression is when I don’t.

Mike Hill has been in the real estate business in Valdosta since 1976 and was told growing up that discussing religion and politics with people is a bad idea – but he’ll readily admit that his political leanings might be described as a “Vicious Fiscal Conservative”.