The Economy And Me
Been feeling a little down-in-the-mouth lately because of the condition of the economy? Yeah, me, too. It seems that everywhere you turn the news is bleak.
LOTS OF NEWS
For example, I read many newspapers, both in print and online, every day. Sometimes it feels like I'm "water boarding" myself. Among those I read is the venerable Wall Street Journal - the best-written of all those I read regularly. I've been a subscriber for three decades and like it a lot better since it trimmed it's size and began to use actual, honest-to-goodness photographs instead of etchings.
NO REFUGE FOUND IN "THE JOURNAL"
However, The Journal is not a place to seek refuge from disappointing news about the economy. Here are just a few of the headlines that greeted me in Friday's edition:
"Intel's Net Plunges as Demand Dries Up"
"Clock Ticks for Circuit City Sale"
"MeadWestvaco to Ax 2,000 Jobs"
"European New-Car Sales Hit 15-Year Low"
"Toyota Reduces Production"
"Sanyo Sees Profit Fade; Factories, Jobs Pared"
"ASML Reports Loss As Chip Prices Drop"
"Intel's Profit Tumbles 90%"
"Charter Communications Fails To Make Payments"
"Minneapolis Star Seeks Chapter 11"
"Saks Will Cut Jobs, Outlays"
So, I looked forward to the Weekend Edition on Saturday for some glimmer of hope - some good news to perk me up. Instead, I found these headlines awaiting me:
"Retailer Circuit City To Liquidate" (See Above)
"Finance Shares Take Pounding"
"U.K. Banks Hammered Amid Talks"
"Venture Funding Falls 30%"
"Citi Logs $8.3 Billion Loss, Outlines Split"
"Clear Channel To Cut U.S. Work Force By 7%"
Pfizer Plans To Lay Off Up To 2,400 In Sales"
THE OTHER SHOE(S)
Is it any wonder that I begin every day by reading the Comics pages in our local newspapers? Yikes! Today reading the economic news is kind of like waiting for the proverbial "other shoe" to drop while standing beside a caterpillar. The bad news just keeps on coming, and coming and coming.
ONLY "TUNNEL" AHEAD
I keep looking for some sign that the end is in sight, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. So far most of the pundits tell us that what's at the end of the tunnel is more tunnel - with no light in sight.
"THE SAVIOR" CAN'T FIX IT FAST ENOUGH
Now I know there are a few of you true believers out there who are convinced that, come Wednesday - the day after his coronation, er, inauguration - our new President, Barack Obama, is going to fix everything. You think he will stop the double war we're fighting and solve our economic crisis by the end of the week. Pardon me if I'm just a little skeptical. I didn't vote for him because I think he lacks sufficient experience for this job and I don't like many of his choices for his cabinet and other leadership roles - they're mostly Clinton-era re-treads - but I do wish him and his team well. ANYONE elected President this time around would have his hands full, but I think it's going to be especially difficult for our rookie president - and tough on us, as a result.
POLARIZED SACRAMENTO SINKS US, TOO
In the meantime, the Keystone Kops in Sacramento seemed determined to run our state right into bankruptcy and drag our cities and educational organizations down with it. We should recall the whole bunch and start over - how could we do worse?
BLEAK LOCAL NEWS
Here in our little neck of the world every business with which I've had even the most casual contact over the past couple months is on the decline. Favorite restaurants are seeing patronage drop by 50% or more in some cases. Other retail establishments are liquidating or hanging on by a thread. Our local newspaper of record, the Daily Pilot, continues to battle to stay afloat while being burdened by the bankruptcy filing of it's grandparent, The Tribune Company. Our Harbor Boulevard Of Cars looks very much like a dry river bed instead of the rushing torrent of sales tax dollars we've grown to know over the past several decades. It would be no surprise to see even more dealerships shutter their showrooms forever.
TREPIDATION OVER MUNICIPAL FINANCES
It is with great trepidation that I await the mid-year budget review that's coming up within the next couple weeks. I fear the implosion of the housing market - sales prices on local homes are at 2003 levels according to one recent report - and the decline in sales tax dollars because folks are holding onto whatever discretionary funds they have in anticipation that this economic downturn is actually gaining momentum - has created a true municipal fiscal crisis. Without those sources of revenue our city is going to face some extremely difficult times ahead. I worry that our current City Council is ill-prepared to make the right decisions. For example, they've demonstrated poor fiscal judgment recently by perpetuating the RRIP program, which has cost our city a couple million dollars over the past three years at a time when that money was sorely needed.
WILL LEADERS TAKE THE "EASY WAY"?
I fear that our current elected leaders might take the easy way out (for them) and simply instruct the City Manager to make across the board staff reductions at some draconian level instead of permitting him and his staff to present more reasonable, professionally determined recommendations for cost savings. We'll see.. Now, get away from me, darn caterpillar!