At home with the Johnsons


Hi, Tom here in Iceland. Today we’ll be broadcasting from Rekjavik and the home of the Johnson family.

What’s it like to like to live in what is in effect a bankrupt country ?

In this family, Dad has lost his job. Mum is struggling to find work. Their 3 kids all want to move to Florida.

Some say 70,000 Icelanders could soon be unemployed (40 per cent of the workforce). Imagine 100 million people unemployed in America – that’s the scale of this crisis.

The new government are working with the IMF to rebuild the economy. The collapse of the country’s banks  (your comments here)  had huge knock-on affects for people, businesses and charities across Europe and recently there’ve been protests on the streets of the capital. 


Do you think Iceland should be bailed out? And what would you ask our WHYS hosts today ?

44 Responses to “At home with the Johnsons”

  1. February 2, 2009 at 00:53

    I hope that the WHYS team will do an very important service for the people of Iceland during your coverage….

    I hope that the team enjoys the visit at Jonhson’s family home….

    Do you think Iceland should be bailed out? Yes, Iceland should be given the bailed out resources to help them out, but there should be restrictions on the funding given to them….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  2. February 2, 2009 at 01:30

    To the Johnsons family:
    I hope and prayed that eventually that you will find work…..And, that Iceland will comeback from the economic downturn..

    ~Dennis Junior~

  3. February 2, 2009 at 01:57

    I am thinking two things: Now is the best time to take a vacation in Iceland, because it is so cheap, and now is a good time for single men to find Icelandic brides.

  4. 4 Moses Magoola
    February 2, 2009 at 13:16

    Definately yes Iceland needs to be bailed out but this does not take a way the fact that the economic melti-down was perpetrated by self-centered individuals as they took advantage of the holes in existent regulatory measures. Iceland warrants a quick fix and this should be a lesson for all governments to tighten their control on the private sector especially here in Africa where things are set to fall out of hand as the global economic crisis looms.

    Moses Magoola



  5. 5 Steve in Boston
    February 2, 2009 at 14:14

    Is “bailout” the new pancea for all the world’s problems? Every time I turn around someone else is asking for a “bailout.” How about people start solving their own problems instead of running around with their hands out? This is turning into a world of beggars, and it’s making some of us angry.

  6. 6 Ramesh
    February 2, 2009 at 14:27

    I am just wondering whether it makes any economic sense to have such small countries.

  7. February 2, 2009 at 14:51

    So if the country is “bankrupt” does somebody else own the land, make the laws, and control the military? I know that if I were to go bankrupt, the bank would own my house, take my vehicles, and my sense of freedom would be severely infringed upon.

    How much does a country in default cost these days?

  8. 8 Gregory
    February 2, 2009 at 15:11

    HELL NO on the bail out anyway NOT FROM THE UNITED STATES. We have our on problems but soon we will be like Iceland with Obama in the White House and all the bail out that he wants. Obama will bankrupt country and the world will follow. If the United States was like Iceland NO one would bail us out.

  9. 9 Anthony from Cleveland Ohio
    February 2, 2009 at 15:39

    My heart goes out to the people of Iceland, but I don’t think a “bail out ” is good for anyone. I was against the bail out here in the states. It will do more harm than good in the long run.
    It has been said for a long time, that the best road to recovery is often the longest and painful.

  10. 10 Anthony
    February 2, 2009 at 15:40

    Excuse me for being ignorant, but what does Iceland have to offer another country if they were to help out? I mean, we (the U.S.) seem to like to “help” when there is something that we can gain from it. All I know is that it’s very cold, and Bjork is from there.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  11. 11 Steve
    February 2, 2009 at 15:48

    @ dwight

    Iceland has no standing military, imagine if they had one, how much more bankrupt they would be having to make military expenditures?

  12. 12 Roy, Washington DC
    February 2, 2009 at 16:03

    Bailed out with what?

  13. 13 gary
    February 2, 2009 at 16:14

    Firstly, Iceland and many other folks around the globe have been adversely affected by the greed of irresponsibly-deregulated, US financial market professionals. Secondly, Mr. Obama cannot bankrupt the country; idiots from the previous administrations have already accomplished this task.
    Lastly, I would wish to see far more monies spent upon forensic accountancy than on bail-outs. If the responsible people are not severely sanctioned, they will be drawn to free money as flies to carrion, and this fiasco will be quickly repeated.

  14. February 2, 2009 at 16:18

    A bail out is unlikely to help Iceland emerge from its current ergonomic crisis as its bank system is bankrupt and the current international financial crisis will just add up to its economic difficulties.

    Iceland’s economy depended heavily on the fishing industry, which still provides almost 40% of export earnings and employs 8% of the work force. The economy is vulnerable to declining fish stocks and drops in world prices for its main material exports: fish and fish products, aluminium, and ferrosilicon.

    Here is my question :

    In view of the current world recession coupled with the bankruptcy of Iceland’s bank system and the bleak future of the fishing industry, how does the newly named Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir envisage a way out for Iceland for it to remain to remain the fourth most productive country in the world by nominal gross domestic product per capita (54,858 USD), and the fifth most productive by GDP at purchasing power parity (40,112 USD)?

  15. 15 Vijay
    February 2, 2009 at 16:20

    The Icelandic sitauation is a microcosm of the spend ,now pay later culture ,spending on lifesyle rather than investment,the bubble has burst and now they have to compete or die,whatever the solution Icelanders will lose a degree of sovereignty,the party is over, welcome to reality.

    They could consider EU entry or becoming a protectorate of another country.

    If Iceland join the EU ,fish and chips will be cheaper because all the industrial trawler fleets will mine Icelandic waters.

  16. 16 Venessa
    February 2, 2009 at 17:49

    @ Steve in Boston ~ Bravo!

    It does seem like more people are standing around with their hands out rather than actually finding solutions to the problems they created for themselves.

  17. 17 Vijay
    February 2, 2009 at 17:53

    What did the johsons’ parents and grandparents do?How did they live?

    Would the johnsons consider living a simpler life in Iceland(doing a job that is less than their capabilties ie.the work foreigners do at the moment in iceland) or leave the country ?

  18. 18 Vijay
    February 2, 2009 at 17:58

    How is Iceland different to other Nordic countries ?

    Maybe icelanders could be guinea pigs for pharmaceutical companies ,because I understand they are the most genetically similar population.

  19. February 2, 2009 at 17:59

    I would like to know the thoughts of the family on what they think of other countries that have influenced the current problems in Iceland. What about the much blamed US sub prime? or the UK’s freezing of assets? Do they blame others for Icelands problems, or are they home grown issues, or a bit of both

  20. 20 Bert
    February 2, 2009 at 18:06

    Bailout? No. On the other hand, there are only a few hundred thousand inhabitants in Iceland. The US could import them all and hardly cause a blip to our population.

    A global economy implies globally mobile workforce. The two go hand in hand.

    Or Iceland could come up with a clever way to export their ample supply of geo-thermal energy?

  21. 21 Don Lawson
    February 2, 2009 at 18:14

    Florida is a wonderful place – I know I live there. However, unemployment is very high and people have the same problems you do in Iceland. Except that we have hurricanes here.

  22. 22 Steve
    February 2, 2009 at 18:16

    Yes, I was going to bring up the thing about Florida. I hear it doesn’t have the best economy, otherwise everyone would live there, if you take away the hurricans. The state really is a deathtrap for a major storm because it’s a peninsula that is not very wide. The storms there can be devestating. But boy, would I love to be in Florida myself right now.

  23. February 2, 2009 at 18:21

    US here. Bailed out? No. Helped out? Yes. Workfare – not welfare. People lose their self-esteem when welfare is done. People gain a sense of pride when workfare is used. Take a lesson from the early Greeks, Romans, and modern US. Welfare doesn’t work. Nor does giving money to the rich – that just makes them richer and they don’t want to help anyone else. Do the basics instead. There will always be a need for food, clothing, carpenters, plumbers, etc…. Let the big companies collapse – they are a part of the problem. Support the small companies and things will improve. As I’ve said many times before: It isn’t efficency that employs people – it is the inherent inefficencies that employ people. The more governments support efficency and allow companies to merge – the fewer people you will have out there working. After all – there can be only one president, vp, accounting group, etc… within a single company. Break up the mega-corporations and they are forced to hire more people to do the work. Or – create a bunch of small companies so each of them have to have someone to work for them.

  24. 24 Tom D Ford
    February 2, 2009 at 18:22

    Let’s remind ourselves that all of these problems can be traced right back to 1999 when American Conservative Republicans passed a law to prevent any Regulation or Oversight of the then newly created financial monsters called derivatives that have morphed into this Re-Depression.

    I think there is a case to be made for defining Financial Crimes Against Humanity, and the world ought to set up a Nuremberg style trials to bring to justice all of the American Conservative Republicans who made these problems happen.

  25. 25 Melissa
    February 2, 2009 at 18:23

    I think people around the world need to realize escaping to America is not the answer, as our economy is the worst it’s been since the Great Depression, and already legalized citizens cannot find jobs and are losing their houses. Leaving one problem to go to another one is not the answer. People need to stay where they are and help get their economy get back on track, not run away to another country to be a burden there when there are already so many people struggling.

  26. 26 Neville Stiles
    February 2, 2009 at 18:25

    The economic recession is disastrous and disheartening for any nation. However, I cannot help feeling that we are emerging from a dream into a nightmare, in which all the benefits we have had in developed countries should now come into play in the form of positive, constructive, and united efforts, nationally and internationally.

    One has to say that suffering in developed countries, even with the crisis, is nothing compared to the sustained historical suffering undergone over decades or centuries by many countries in the world.

    For the future we must come out of this crisis having really learnt some lessons of fundamental importance regarding greed, society, people and business.

  27. 27 Saut
    February 2, 2009 at 18:26

    Why don’t Iceland sell their country and then become new citizens of the “buyer” country?

  28. 28 Allison
    February 2, 2009 at 18:33

    Every country is feeling the effects of the crisis nowhere is different, we are now feeling it in jamaica.

  29. 29 Vijay
    February 2, 2009 at 18:35

    How much does a family house or apartment cost at the moment ?

    In Finland during the economic downturn food and alcohol became cheaper ,is the cost of living still high ?

  30. 30 Kurt Debrouwer
    February 2, 2009 at 18:37

    Although I feel very sad for the families who lost their job and the economical downturn in general in Iceland, I cannot understand how people could be so irresponsible and naive creating a financial bubble economy. It is as if people had lost common sense, blinded as they were by easy money making… The consequences we have to deal with now are really devastating. Who will be held accountable for all this?

  31. 31 Dinka Aliap Chawul in Kampala
    February 2, 2009 at 18:38

    I don`t have any problems with financial crisis, money or unemployment unless my cattles and substances farming are affected but not ethier.

  32. 32 john in georgia usa
    February 2, 2009 at 18:39

    I advise the family to choose another state fla is horrible for people who don’t have a job already. We still welcome all to america but there are better opportunities in other states. I work at a bank in the us and I wait every day for the pink slip. As a result, I am actively searching for jobs and fla isn’t a good market. With that said I wish all the world good luck in these hard times.

  33. 33 Charlie in USA
    February 2, 2009 at 18:39

    What would you have done different if you had the a priori knowledge to protect yourself? Buy gold? Stock up on commodities? There is a good chance that other countries might fall into the same trap and what could people in these countries do, to protect themselves?

  34. 34 Renee
    February 2, 2009 at 18:40

    My mother just returned from a 10 day visit to Fort Meyers, Florida. Since her last visit in 1997, property values have more than halved, many restaurants and businesses have closed, and the normally large winter tourist population was greatly reduced. Obviously, this means that unemployment is high there. In light of these facts and that the United States does not have national health insurance nor as extensive of a social safety net as Iceland, I advise the Johnson’s to carefully weigh their choice to move to the United States.

    Cleveland, Ohio

  35. 35 Wonderer
    February 2, 2009 at 18:41

    I believe that the criminals responsible for these “crashes” should be HELD so. Justice needs to happen. They need to be tried in Iceland as well as the US.

  36. 36 Ingvar from Iceland
    February 2, 2009 at 18:46

    Before the economic downturn we had 40% taxes. With a 2000$ salary with 1000$ rent there is not much left. Now we are expected to pay the little we had left each month to foreign blackmailers. It wouldn’t surprise me if half the country left.

  37. 37 Steve
    February 2, 2009 at 18:49

    Shorting stocks is no more risky than any other investing. Either a stock goes up, or down, in value. when you short a stock, you hope the value of the stock goes down. That’s kind of an ethical question whether people should be making money off of the decline in value of stock, but that’s what shorting is all about. It’s not a risk thing, but it’s an ethical question of making money off of other people’s misfortune.

  38. 38 Tom D Ford
    February 2, 2009 at 19:03

    This was not caused by Icelanders and they should not blame themselves, they are the victims of American Conservative people who in 1999 made possible financial transactions that have reverberated through the entire worlds economy and brought it to a thundering crash-stop.

    We are in a Republican Conservative caused, World Re-Depression!

    As a beginning first step, everyone in the world ought to vote out any remaining Conservatives and let them know how angry you are at what they have done.

  39. 39 Susan Philippson
    February 2, 2009 at 19:24

    As a western Icelander I have always wanted to visit Iceland. Many of my family members have gone but had found it very expensive. Now that our Canadian dollars goes further, the Icelandic government should be working on a Travel Iceland plan and advertise to us the western Icelander. Get us over there, offer us citizenship because of our parents and grandparent being born there. Peddle your universities to our kids. You need outside money, give the western Icelander a reason to visit and spend cash. Get your sweaters over to Canada market the handicrafts, Iceland has so much to be proud of get out there and sell yourself.

  40. 40 Roberto
    February 3, 2009 at 01:16

    RE”” This was not caused by Icelanders and they should not blame themselves, they are the victims of American Conservative people who in 1999 made possible financial transactions that have reverberated through the entire worlds economy “”

    ——————– My dearest Tommy, such nonsense to regurgitate in public, oh dear..

    Certainly the Reps deserve fair share of blame for the credit default swap bill, but history will show that your weak sister, Billy Slick signed the bill into law.

    Step away from the koolaide and take responsibility for your mistakes that led to global catastrophes. Icelanders deserve the truth.

  41. 41 David Ancel (Oregon)
    February 3, 2009 at 04:33

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could trade citizenships. Florida, ick. I understand and felt terrible when that little girl and her mom wanted to just go someplace warm. Its bad to be poor AND cold. But I think if I could move to Iceland I would consider it. Maybe just a fantasy, but geothermal power, warm bathes, scenery, progressive values, sincere, thoughtful people. Sounds good to certain Americans. You’ll recover. We are all victims of the same shameful greed and avarice. In that there is solidarity. And in solidarity we can go forward.

  42. 42 David Ancel (Oregon)
    February 3, 2009 at 04:40

    ps. Does it strike anyone as ironic that Florida (whose governor was Jeb Bush and whose sec. state Ms Harris was Bush FL campaign director in the 2000 election)can in many ways be seen as the genesis of the entire worldwide economic crisis? Thanks again Florida! Phallus of North America.

  43. 43 JB
    February 3, 2009 at 22:40

    I’m an American who’s lived in Iceland since 2004. Listening to this show yesterday inspired me to write a piece on my blog about the genesis of Iceland’s economic woes. There are some lessons in there for America, too.


    I am tired of hearing that the country is “bankrupt”. Iceland entered this crisis with almost 0 government debt, and will now have to take on lots of government debt to bail out the private sector. By the standards now being applied to this hapless population, the United States, up to its eyeballs in public and private debt, went bankrupt long ago, as did many Western countries.

  44. 44 Emile Barre
    February 7, 2009 at 12:45

    Its good to hear from Iceland about what is happening there at the ‘grassroots’ level. I look forward to more broadcasts concerning other European countries and other countries and continents we do not hear enough from.

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