Monday, September 26, 2011

How long will the American Economic Crisis last?

My apologies:  after this was posted I realized that a chunk had accidentally been deleted so the story was incomplete.  I am putting the missing piece in bold for a couple days so that those who received the original via subscription can easily spot it.  Here is the corrected version,:

Last winter I had a discussion regarding the Economic Crisis and how long we could expect it to last.  My friend is high level in the business world and was optimistic that large businesses were accumulating capital and soon would be in a position to begin spending on development, recovery, and expansion.  He estimated at that time that it would take only a few months more to see the beginnings of improvement.

I responded by pointing out that when I last checked that the number of households on food stamps was 20 million plus and that it would take substantially longer for any improvement to reach them and until it did there would be a continual drain on the system.

Since that time I have heard and seen similar conversations everywhere I turn.  This is such an important and talked about subject that the Gallup Poll does a daily summary  of the economic outlook and posts it on their website along with other statistics such as satisfaction with what the president is doing, unemployment rate, and consumer spending.  Some of these numbers are based on specific facts and some of them are based on perception and/or opinion.

What is interesting is that perception can have just as much impact as the facts.  We have often witnessed the stock market go up and down like a yo yo not because of any specific event but because somebody said something and everyone was encouraged and/or got scared. 

Come on...  is that really any good way to run a country's economy?  Does that even make any sense?  Especially when we, the American people have no control over someone else's optimism or their sour mood.  I have seen more strategic betting at the horse races where at least a person contemplating a bet may have studied the genetics, confirmation, jockey record, trainer, health, and record of the horse.  And, we know that there is no sure thing in a horse race and most people who consistently play the ponies end up broke despite the bragging they do about the days they may have won.

When the discussion of the American Economy comes up I think that often it is not what is going on in the national spectrum that really matters to those having the conversation.  Many times the real underlying questions are:

How is this going to affect ME?
How long will I have to hold on?
I'm scarred.  Is it going to get better?

These are the questions I wanted to address today because I think that is the one that people are most often REALLY asking.

As I pondered this post I remembered an experience that makes the point that I wanted to share.

Most people in the city take the fact that they can flush the toilet and everything will go away for granted.  It is very cool but we don't often think about it.  I lived for 20 years in a rural community and things were not that way.  Most of the homes did not have a community waste disposal service, they had private septics.  Some of our readers will know what I'm talking about but for those who don't I will give a brief explanation.  (yes, this is an interesting story so please bear with me).

A private septic system usually has a main holding tank where all the waste products go including water from the sinks, washing machine, and the toilets.  When the tank reaches certain levels the overflow goes into pipes referred to as a drain field.  These pipes have holes so that the excess liquid will be safely disbursed two to three feet under the ground.  Especially in a dry summer a person can spot where the drain field is because the grass is greener.  Someone from the city might comment on the nice grass and someone from the rural area will knowingly nod their heads and smile.

Part of the maintenance on a septic system is to have it pumped occasionally.  There are certain environmentally safe things that one can do to delay this but at some point it will need to be done and is often evidenced by the tub draining slowly or toilet failing to flush properly or the leeching of stuff onto the ground around the tank.  When a person buys a home in a rural area this is one of the first systems they ask for an inspection of to insure it is in working order.

Stick with me here...I know that some of you are blown away by now and mentally making weird noises to yourself.  I was raised in the suburbs so I know exactly what your mind is going through as mine did the same thing when it was first explained to me.

The day came when it was evident that the septic needed repairing in the home where I lived.  With dread the task was approached.  The septic pumper was called but before he could do his job the lid of the tank had to be uncovered.  It was located right under a mess.  Three big men and 5'3" me stood around all looking at the unpleasant task.  To lighten the mood I said something to the effect of "Okay, which of you is man enough to handle this?"  They all looked at one another sheepishly, looked down, avoided my eye, and nobody moved.  I looked around at each of them and my thought at that moment was "Oh, you have got to be kidding".  After continuing to wait a couple more moments I turned into my chloric side and told them all to stand back and get out of my way.  No, it probably was not my nicest tone of voice.

My anger fueled my shovel and I approached the task with zest.  My farm coat, boots, gloves, and shovel handle all were a mess but the job got done and I marched in to get cleaned up.  The septic was pumped and re-covered and the drain field was fixed.  We were back in business.

So is the American Economic crisis.  Many are standing around the mess waiting and watching and blaming to see who is going to get in and do the dirty work.  The ideas may sound good on t.v. but talk doesn't accomplish anything. Nothing will get better unless action follows.  This may mean becoming unpopular and making tough decisons but though elections may be a popularity contest strong leadership seldom is.

The crisis will end and things will get better when each of us "man up" and start digging no matter how unpleasant the task is.  We start with the things that effect our own families and our debts are the equivalent of the mucky mess of the septic.  We may get dirty, we may get grossed out, and we may get tired but it is the digging that is going to get the systems flowing and working properly again.

If you don't know where to start or have been working on things and don't know where to go next keep asking, keep learning, keep on keeping on. 

And, IF once we all, or at least the majority of us, get going in the right direction I would say 5 years.  That would be the first two for restructuring and clean-up, the next two in recovery, and the 5th year to begin building and investing again.  Of course it will vary by family.  It seems like an awful long time but we have a lot of work to do.   In the end we can be a stronger and better nation then we have been before.  The adults of this generation have the task, responsibility, and the opportunity to make a lasting and positive change.  We just need to get In The Trenches.


Practical Parsimony said...

Whew! I have about dug all I can. But, keeping my finances from drowning me is, I suppose, my part in all this. I grew a few vegetables, gathered a few eggs, cooked from scratch, help others in financial pain by giving things they need to them. It is so hard on me. In five years, I will be an old woman!

Carol Schultz said...

Yes, it is very hard work but your excellent previous guest post about your grandparents struggles reminds us of how much harder it could be and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. That post has been one of the all time top read stories on In The Trenches and is featured on the sidebar.

Congratulations on your eggs and vegetables! Is this the first time you have attempted them? My success was leaf lettuce. I grew so much I was giving it away by the bags.

And, at least you are not an old woman yet :) And, when you become one there will be additional wisdom and encouragement you can pass on to others. God bless.

Carol Schultz said...

Inspiring...that was the word I was looking for from the guest post by Practical Parsimony. Here is the link (or check the sidebar)