To the point week of 3-19-09

285

I’VE BEEN READING THE THOUGHTS of some economists this week, most of whom believe that national unemployment figures will continue to rise past the end of this year, even though they expect our country to be out of the recession by the end of 2009.

Some are even saying that unemployment levels will rise to over 10-percent by December; and here in Indiana, the rate is currently well over eight-percent.

As many people lose their jobs; and as many others see their hours cut back in an effort by their employer to save money, as a country we face many hard choices in the coming months.

It’s rather ironic that we cringe at unemployment rates that near double digits, when it wasn’t too long ago that this county saw unemployment rates that were well over 10-percent. As a community we all got used to high unemployment levels here, and as a community we all pitched in to help our neighbors when there was a time of need.

We may need to get ready to help out again.

This past Sunday afternoon I went with my church to volunteer to hand out food at the Quercus Grove Food Pantry. It’s something that we do on a rotating basis, and each time we go; we wait to hear how many families are going to be in line on that day.

When we started, I remember days where there would be 70 families. Then that number grew to above 90 – and continued to rise.

This past Sunday, we helped distribute food to 139 families.

We often say that things can’t get worse – but they just might.

We currently live in a society of excess. We have everything that we want – and most of the time we also have things that we wanted at some point, but no longer have any use for. People are maxed out on their credit cards; their houses are overflowing with stuff; their garages and storage buildings are filled with stuff we can no longer fit into our houses.

National statistics say that one out of every 10 homeowners in this country is at least one month behind on their mortgage. The average American household with more than one credit card has a credit card debt of $8,000. We owe more than $2 trillion in credit card debt, collectively.

MSN reports that 43-percent of Americans spend more than they make in a year.

And we sit and wonder why our country is in the financial shape that it’s in – it’s in the same shape as its citizens.

Every year at Christmas time my wife and I stand in the middle of a shopping center and try and figure out what to buy our daughters. We’re not alone, because I see all sorts of other people doing the same thing.

Everyone drives a new car; and even first-time homebuyers are moving into houses that put them financially in over their heads. No down payments. In some cases they don’t even need to pay toward their interest – they make interest only payments.

And while everything was going well in our financial markets, it all looked so easy.

But many aren’t laughing anymore.

The fallout from this financial crisis will adjust the way we live our lives for years to come; but it may also give our children and grandchildren a view of how America was and could be again. Our children need to know that there isn’t always the newest car and the biggest house; and that sometimes even though you want to eat out, your wallet tells you that you’re eating in.

Our financial community and our society will rebound from this, but in the mean time, we all need to be careful about what we do and what we buy. We shouldn’t take our jobs or our homes for granted; and we should always remember to be thankful for what we have.

*

I was amused in doing the “Reflections of the Past” column this week that it’s been 10 years since Lisa Fisher and I walked to Madison for the Regional. I think in retrospect it was a foolish thing to do; but it was a great day and I was 10 years younger and Lisa and I had some great conversations as we walked along the River Road.

Lisa would agree that the walk from Lamb to Madison was fairly easy; but the walk up Michigan Hill Road was a killer – but we made it to the gym in time for the starting lineups; and we have a great story to share with others and with each other in the years to come.

Someone once said that “The days drag by and the years fly by”, and I guess that’s true.