Thursday, December 4, 2008

Back to the Economy

This morning I had to turn off my radio and drive to work in seething silence. It's gotten so I can't stand to turn on even NPR or read the news, because all I hear are people trying desperately to perpetuate the system we have that isn't working. This Christmas season has been full of the same stories about unique luxury gifts, and I'm tired of hearing experts say we should wait out the bad times because the good old days of yore will be back again in, oh, 9-18 months. I don't hear people changing their thinking, or assessing how they live and committing to living simpler. It feels like everyone is looking for the policy or the bailout or the plan that will get us back to the good old days. Here's what I heard on Morning Edition, talking about a stimulous or bailout package that might include refinancing packages to get interest rates on mortgages down to 4.5%:

[Christopher Mayer, a Columbia Business School economist and dean] says 25 million to 30 million Americans could save hundreds of dollars a month by refinancing at those low rates, and they might decide to spend that extra money on big-ticket items.
"If you're a household thinking, 'I've got my 5-year-old car; when am I going to replace it?' And suddenly your mortgage payments drop by $450 a month — that's the payments on a new car," Mayer says. "The effect of that on improving consumer spending would be enormous."


Oh yes, if only we could refinance at an even lower rate, so we could replace our 5-year-old cars with new cars. That would get everything humm[er]ing again. I'll get a new car out of it, the auto makers can keep doing what they're doing, and everything will be fine. This makes me think Americans aren't going to change. They're going to suffer through the crisis, wait it out, and look to the time when they can start buying again. They're going to wait for the government to make them an offer they can't refuse, make the banks offer them even lower mortgage rates, so they can go out and spend it on things they don't need, not their house.

I am all for real assistance to people who are and will be struggling to make ends meet. But I want to hear widespread focusing on how things are different, we are in a transition as an economy. I think it's kind of like having a depressed patient (it is a depression, right? GD2?). You can give the patient drugs (money) or you can give the patient therapy (counseling to change behaviors and break destructive patterns), or a combination of both. I hear a lot about the drugs, but not much therapy. The drugs should be for the most dire of situations, and for the rest, let's break the behaviors and have a little talk.

I've been having a really hard time thinking about Christmas. I got something for Steve, and we have a plan for his daughters. But I don't want to buy anything. I just don't want to participate at all. I want to make cookies and listen to Christmas music, but I'll probably end up getting gift cards for my family members because I just can't bear to go wade through the merchandise and pick out something I hope they'll like. I'll hopefully snap out of it long enough for one good shopping trip... we'll see.

It's the thinking that's been bothering me most, not the fear that everyone's going to lose their jobs, retirement, etc. Loss we can work with. False promises, continuing down this path of unending consumerism-- I have nothing to say to that.

On the repeat of Jon Stewart's show with Arianna Huffington tonight she was saying blogs are "first drafts," your thoughts-- so go ahead and vent. Follow your passions! So here it is, a good old fashioned rant.

1 comment:

Eric and Constance said...

I agree--those Lexus commercials where someone surprises a loved one with a $40,000+ car are ridiculous. I talk to the TV every time one of those spots come on. In real life, I think we are all searching for that "new normal" and I see a number of people scaling back and finding comfort in thrift and less buying. On the lighter side, have a read at one of my other favorite blogs: http://www.lookydaddy.com/weblog/2008/12/recycling-christmas.html
That should help a little. If you're not totally convinced, start reading the comments.