Signs of life

Yes indeed.

I caught the MJS’s little article today on park space and fire stations. How lovely to know they still consider the odd, all be it rather old, story from Brookfield.

The Senate is not filibuster proof. Yesterday’s run off election in Georgia protects America for now. Will Americans rally to do the same?

The flip side, of course, is that Republicans still will not hold the right to blame absolutely everything on the Democrats. Never fear, Obama is near. I’m sure there will be enough finger pointing to last us at least 4 and probably 8 years.

A comment, probably spam, popped up last night asking what I think about the potential outcome for the current economic crisis.

I have a bit of a split response to this question. First, it’s darn easy to ask “what economic crisis?” There’s plenty manufactured in the press, but I’ve yet to see even one instance in my circle of acquaintances where there’s any impact measured. Granted, there’s the chance that I don’t know everything, but I haven’t seen it yet.

The couple that wanted a loan for a second home in Arizona got the loan. The couple that was car shopping got a heck of a deal. No signs of cutting back on the Christmas lists anywhere. Travel is picking up for a few of them as airfare comes down. One group is even planning a trip to South Africa right now. I know I’m protected, but I’m not that protected. I’m sure I would have heard of something by now to document locally the doom and gloom we’re supposed to be experiencing.

On the other hand, I have this inkling of fear that we may be in for it. Remember the bear market chart from a week ago? There is one example, about a generation ago, where the markets tumbled 90%. The very fact that many are saying “that could never happen again” is exactly why it could happen again. Once a generation forgets, the error is bound to be repeated. There is no one left to tell us how it happened then.

For goodness sakes BO’s proclaiming a public works initiative! Keep in mind, economists are starting to explain the Great Depression lasted so long because of government initiatives. Will our new government be clever enough to avoid a repeat in history?

Comments

  1. Tinkerbell says:

    “all be it rather old”…? ALBEIT rather old…!
    http://www.dictionary.com (Now please do not pick on my typos in return… the point is: we may all read more thoroughly than we write.)

    When you ask “what economic crisis” and cite anecdotal evidence to the contrary, please remember the stats recently reported… local home sales are slow… there is an increase of vacant homes in Brookfield… the declining tax base has been reported in the news… a few months ago, there were articles in the local paper stating that as more people are unable to care for their pets and are relinquishing them to local shelters, there are many pets available for adoption… a record number of people began receiving unemployment compensation. While some social circles of family and friends have not been impacted by current economic downturn, statistically many have. They occupy our church pews and check out next to us at the grocery store. They are not a myth. You may want to say a prayer for the improvement of their situation, acknowledging, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

  2. Well I’ll be, Tinks, I learned something today. Albeit not really of great importance, I am certain I will not make that mistake again.

    Local home sales are slow, but it’s only been our consuming economy that taught us we were supposed to sell our homes at any minute for improved prices. Brookfield’s tax base has not declined. Foreclosure rates were just announced to have dropped 23% in the Milwaukee area.

    I’m not advocating denial, but rather a more realistic approach to measuring what I am told should be despair.

  3. The Lorax says:

    You’re not feeling it because you’re well-off. Even a fool could see that.

  4. So you’ll dig at me rather than properly articulate an argument? I admitted I’m protected. I’d suggest you could offer an example, but it probably wouldn’t be believable since you’re rather anonymous.

    I didn’t write my piece to be hateful. I am very willing to admit it if I missed, but I’m going to need more than generic evidence of what could be, or that put forward by the media.

  5. J. Strupp says:

    Despair is not a word I would use to describe the current economic environment either, but you might want to start looking past your front door.

    Not everyone is planning trips to South Africa and buying second homes right now.

  6. J. Strupp says:

    BTW I agree with you 100% on FDR,

    There is no question that the policies of FDR caused a depression within a depression that only improved when the Nazi’s invaded Poland.

    Had WWII never happened, FDR’s New Deal would have been regarded as one of the worst government policy disasters in American history.

    My 2 cents.

  7. I’m gonna try this again – then what are they doing differently? By choice or necessity? Who? Where?

  8. The Lorax says:

    Well, I guess it isn’t nice to make a dig. I know people in my “circle” are feeling it. I am.

    Empathy often escapes you, i am not pointing to anything specific but you usually only think within your circle or ‘bubble’.

  9. “Feeling it?” Are there no specifics out there?

  10. Lost my job, lost money in the stock market, incredible healthcare costs for my family, and food costing more.

    The only saving grace seems to be that gas is less than half of what it was only a very few short months ago.

  11. I thought about this yesterday after the initial posting and must comment.

    First, those of us who read this blog and live in Brookfield are blessed, and we are all–to an extent–isolated.

    As for the realities of the economy touching on people in Brookfield, who are blessed, I offer the following observations.

    (1) A Marquette Engineering educated friend from Brookfield indicated yesterday that he is taking vacation next week. When I responded that was great and he was lucky, he indicated that it was due to a one week Waukesha County company-wide unpaid shut down due to lack of work.

    (2) Two different Brookfield retirees who are well off and rely upon state pensions are very concerned. Those pensions will be adjusted dramatically downward next year because of the downward spiral of the stock market.

    (3) A neighbor who owns his own business in the City of Waukesha is not giving any holiday bonuses to his employees this year—a first in company history.

    (4) A Brookfield lawyer working at a large law firm relays stories of large law firms in other cities letting associates go. The lawyer is concerned all wages will be froze at the Milwaukee law firm in question.

    (5) Our family is cutting back on holiday gifts. Some of the gifts we have purchased were obtained at deep preholiday discounts from high end retailers. These discounts are consistant with the media’s reporting of retailers offering discounts very early this year due to the economy.

    (6) I am active in a local non-profit. Individual contributions are significantly down from last year. Corporate donations are also down, with corporations uniformly indicating that due to the economy, their budget for coporate giving is substantially reduced. The non-profit’s revenue is down 35% from where it was last year.

    (7) Finally, a high school friend who is really blessed applied for a loan to buy a home in Florida…for a home which is in foreclosure and the value of which had dipped more than 50% in the last three years.

    Those are the concrete examples which I can provide. I am out and about in this community each day, and I feel blessed. The economy is in trouble, and it’s touching many of those I interact with on the streets of Brookfield. Those in this community are protected, but the impact of what is going on in the economy is all around each of us.

  12. Thanks, RWC, that’s the kind of specific I was looking for when I started.

    I hope you’ll understand I’m not being critical when I offer this alternate view.

    1) Is close to what I was looking for with this discussion. Growing up in a household where that kind of thing happened once or twice a year, though, I guess it wouldn’t scare me. I know it feels bad when it happens, though.

    2) While there’s concern, it hasn’t happened yet for these two. And since you indicate they are well off, then a possible 1.3% decrease of the average $21,500 annually might not hurt that badly. Here’s the MJS article on the subject.

    3) Your neighbor isn’t giving bonuses. Is your neighbor still drawing the same salary from his business or did he have to cut back on his own income?

    4) I have heard of one law firm cutting a few loose, but I don’t know of anyone that has been let go.

    5) Our family cut back a few years ago and really enjoyed the different focus. This year, instead of focusing on just the kids, the extended family is putting a limit of $20 per gift and shopping for everyone for the first time in years. It’s been kind of fun. But like you, that was a choice we made, not a necessity.

    6) This is where I can really stand on a soap box. Corporate giving slacks in times like these because they can get away with it! Same goes for individual donations. And there are all kinds of not for profits. Some put artificial turf in at local high school football stadiums while others shelter the homeless. I’d need more info before I go off any louder.

    7) Good piece of action by your high school friend. He’s capitalizing (word chosen specifically) on a change in housing market conditions. I don’t think this qualifies as a hard times example.

    You are absolutely right. Most of us in the area are blessed and isolated. But back to my original point – are we isolated from this issue or is this issue not as bad as we’re being told?

  13. Tinkerbell says:

    Dear Lorax, please allow me to extend my condolences for the financial slump you’re experiencing. My prayers, and I’m sure the prayers of many readers are with you to lift you up and encourage you. It may seem of little comfort at the moment but many find that the lifestyle changes thrust upon them by a change in financial circumstances may actually turn out to be blessings… for now they may be blessings in disguise.

    Dear Cindy, when you ask “are we isolated from this issue or is this issue not as bad as we’re being told”, I feel compelled to point out that the issue has rested on your doorstoop in the form of Lorax, whom you chose to ignore and give no response of comfort to. Reminds me of a Bible story… poor Lazarus given not a crumb by the rich man.

    Your response to RWC’s seventh anecdote, “… a change in housing market conditions. I don’t think this qualifies as a hard times example.” overlooks that in every transaction there are two parties. The availability of this property at 50% its former value after foreclosure reveals two things: #1) that a family was unable to keep their home… definitely “hard times” for them. In overlooking this aspect, your response sounded a tad indifferent like Scrooge & Marley echoing from the pages of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. #2) that no one else purchased the property at 90% it’s former value, 75% it’s former value… etc… until it was at 50% it’s former value. Please be aware that such fluctuations in the housing market could happen in areas other than Florida. They could happen here. Locally the larger high-end homes are losing value for lack of buyers… resulting in an artificial overvaluation of more modest homes… resulting a somewhat more stagnant local market as buyers can often purchase new homes a short distance West for the same amount (or less) than they’d pay here for existing homes in the same price range.

    Dear RWC and Cindy, would you kindly stop using “blessed” as a code word or euphemism for wealthy? Please realize Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the apostles were all extremely blessed and none of them were wealthy. Rather they had immense depth and breadth of understanding in their souls which caused them to live markedly different lives than those around them. The Bible gives very specific instructions on how believers are to regard and handle their wealth. I do not recall those instructions being to consider themselves isolated, protected, nor blessed, but to remember all things belong to God and use all opportunities which come their way to build the kingdom of God.

    With regard to the kingdom and with a tip of the hat to Bob the Builder, “Can we build it?” Yes, we can!

  14. Thank you very much, Tinkerbell.

  15. I’m not buying what Mr. Lorax is selling, but you’re welcome to spend your emotional wealth there if that’s what you’d like, Tinkerbell. Should he/she choose to land on my doorstep, I’d likely give him/her a leftover turkey sandwich, which is exactly what I’m eating for lunch.

    Yes, there are two sides to the housing transaction, but I don’t think it’s correct to assume that in the example provided the original owner is living in poverty because of foreclosure.

    Now, excuse me while I step up on the soapbox, but why wouldn’t a person use the term blessed? If one believes riches – financial, spiritual and otherwise – are brought forth with the blessing of God, then why not use the term “blessed” when talking about that fortune? Am I so “blessed” that I should be offering a turkey sandwich to The Lorax, but not so much that I say I’m blessed? Why can’t I be financially sound and blessed as equally to someone who is not solvent?

    Every once in a while I have trouble understanding religion, and the argument as to whom is allowed to use the term “blessed” and why is now on that list.

  16. Tinkerbell says:

    Dear Cindy, A few kind words do not spend my emotional wealth. Rather I find it is like a fountain, drawing forth more kind thoughts, words, and deeds. Random acts of kindness and senseless works of beauty, perhaps?

    I think encouragement, not a turkey sandwich, was the gift for the occaision. BTW, if this turkey is from Thanksgiving, are you sure it is OK to eat? General rule is 3 days for leftovers, where I come from.

    Now, if the Suessical mustachioed Lorax was baiting you my dear, and had no need for the encouragement of kind words which you might have offered, then trust your kindness would come back to you severalfold.

    Most people experience foreclosure because they cannot continue paying for their homes at the scheduled rate of payments… therefore they forefit all the money they’ve invested thus far. While this may not place them below the poverty level, it would tend to indicate hard times for those individuals. (Perhaps you know this to be an exception, possibly a case of speculatively flipping homes?)

    I do understand that a degree of mercenary and self-seeking is the basis of our economic model, capitalism. But my grasp of the underlying idea was an intent to allow each person’s motivation to contribute to the whole, to the process of building an economy which provided enough jobs for all who wished to partake. Right now, the number of jobs in the economy is not large enough for all those who wish to partake and the trend is heading downward as more companies announce cutbacks. There is currently a level of competition which resonates with predation.

    Please do not misunderstand, all are welcome to use the word “blessed”. There is no “argument as to whom is allowed to use the term”, as you alluded.

    One’s proximity to wealth does not indicate a blessing in the sense that God’s favor is upon them or His presence is noticeable. It is, however an unmerited gift and may be thought of as a time of testing and distilling one’s own values as to how that tool may used. It is similar to time and talent, which may also be put to good or poor use.

    While I do believe our economy needs a makeover, I more strongly believe we need interior makeovers and to prosper spiritually first: cultivating lively sentiments of faith, hope, and charity. All the rest is just so much distraction and diversion.

  17. J. Strupp says:

    “First, it’s darn easy to ask “what economic crisis?” There’s plenty manufactured in the press, but I’ve yet to see even one instance in my circle of acquaintances where there’s any impact measured. Granted, there’s the chance that I don’t know everything, but I haven’t seen it yet. ”

    “any impact measured” Cindy? With all due respect, I think your blog entry is disingenuous which is why I chose not to go into specifics.

    I’m of the opinion that you think that this economic “crisis” is a big media fabrication and has been blown out of proportion.

  18. Yes, I think the media has to write about something, and since Obama has been elected, this is the something they chose.

    There is a problem, I won’t deny that. But the circles of impact don’t seem to be as large as implied.

    Now, why is everyone ignoring the other half of the same response – that this might be worse than usual. There was a whole “on the other hand” that no one must have bothered to read.

  19. Tinkerbell says:

    Dear Cindy, I understood from the responses that for some the gloom and doom were already here.

  20. J. Strupp says:

    The reason we are “ignoring the other half” is because that it’s not what you believe.

    You are attempting to use anecdotal evidence as a means to prove that the economic data is exaggerated. It’s apparent that you believe this recession is a typical one. That’s cool. I’ll comment here in a few months so we can compare notes.

    Since we are on the anecdotal kick right now, we might want to ask the half million people who lost their jobs in November and the 10% of people behind on their mortgage payments how their circle of acquaintances are doing.

    Their might be some overlap there.

  21. I have one more example to my earlier list of local doom and gloom. The neighbor girl from next door is over at our house for dinner. She came to our doorstep in tears about a half hour ago. Her father’s position with a large, publicly traded Milwaukee area company is elminated. Dad had a great job–Mom didn’t work, and the family lived well. The position was eliminated today without notice.

    And for clarification, my other neighbor with the business who is not offering bonuses to his employees for the first time in history is takng a real hit on his own income. His own compensation is bonus driven, and he indicated his own income will drop this year by just over 40%.

    Those examples, folks, are hard times hitting right at my doorstep.

  22. Tinkerbell says:

    Dear RWC,
    My heart aches for you, your neighbors, our whole society’s pain. The challenge for your neighbors, and all of us, is to still acknowledge we are blessed – God’s presence is in us and among us and striving to lead us – even in times of financial difficulty. This is a time of great transition.

    Are there other paths before some in our community to which God may be calling them? Do some live in the area which needs a school board representative to come forward and help guide our community in widsom and strength? Years of business experience and a sudden amount of free time may be indications that the path may be for them.

    Remember the trials of Job – even his friends turned from him – yet he stayed faithful to God, loving goodness and not letting bitterness overtake him.

    Also consider Philippians 4:11-13 & 2Timothy4:2-4.

    Here are more interesting thoughts, some of which may help with transitioning: http://www.robjhyndman.com/bible/financebooklet.html

    Blessings and Peace.