Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In The Tank

I think a lot of people are hurting nowadays.

I've been thinking about the economy lately. I've wondered whether the downturn has been a self-fulfilling prophecy, a correction of an unrealistically bloated housing market and ridiculously low interest rates, a comeuppance for those who have mired themselves in debt they never could afford or some combination of the above.

If I were to hazard a guess, I would say it's a blend of all those things.

The hair stylist I go to has been cutting hair for more than 20 years. She's built a fairly solid business, which she now operates out of her home. I walked in today for my $15 cut, and she tells me she's looking for a part-time job to supplement her income. She asked about delivering papers. She may wait tables. She already offers dog sitting and dog walking services. She's a single woman who lives pretty frugally as best as I can judge. Yet she's living month-to-month. And for now at least, she has little to retire on.

There are five homes within a block of our house that are for sale. At least two are owner-occupied. They haven't moved for months. There are dozens more around our picturesque town on the bay. I walk by these houses day after day, and the For Sale signs remain, as if they've become lawn adornments. Nobody can sell, because apparently nobody is able, or willing, to buy.

A police officer three houses down sold his Toyota Tundra for a Nissan Something because it was killing him to fill up the truck.

People are feeling it in ways big and small.

We are, too. We've turned down the thermostat, keeping it really cool at night and during the day. We watch TV under blankets. I'm writing this now wearing long underwear.

I know people who have bought into the apocalyptic news that the economy is like a rowboat that blows a new hole every other day. I know people who bought homes they realistically couldn't afford but pulled it off through sub-prime loans and the rosy belief that their home's value would continue to rise at the pace that it had been. I know people who are overloaded in debt, owing thousands of dollars in credit card bills and able to pay only the interest.

It matters less how people got themselves in their respective predicaments than how or whether they can get themselves out.

I wonder whether the stimulus plan bandied about the president and the Congress will help much. Don't get me wrong: I'd welcome $1600. We'll either stash it away or use it to pay bills. I know economists want us to spend it on goods, but I guess if we pay bills with it, we're spending, too.

Still, it just doesn't seem like it'll do that much. It won't help my hairstylist much. It won't help our neighbors sell their homes. And I doubt the policeman will use it as a down payment on a new truck.

The tank needs more water than that. Is it up to the government to fill it?

1 comment:

Leeann said...

Happy post, need a happy post. Rainbows? Chubby baby legs kicking? Bueller? Bueller?