Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Who's In Charge?

[FFP and I saw this dog in a parked car along W. Fourth on Saturday. His parents were probably at the Farmer's Market. When we first stopped to marvel at the 'dogs pretend to drive' aspect there was a dog in the shotgun seat. Neither dog barked at us when we stopped but that one got into the back seat as if it expected one of us to take shotgun. Driver didn't budge and kept his eyes mostly on the road. Some foreign girls stopped to laugh.]

I've been thinking lately about the economy, about what BHO (my friend Eugene has started calling him this although, really, it doesn't have much of a ring to it) can do, what I can do, what you can do.

I figure, really, that the causes (housing bubbles, Ponzi schemes, derviatives, speculation, bad loans, the rest of it) just have to take their course.

I was thinking about all this talk of the government restructuring loans. Now if we as taxpayers buy these loans or the banks holding them and want to do that, I guess it's OK. But it started me thinking about the mortgages that I own, made on my own real property. What if the government unilaterally decided to retroactively change those agreements? I'm not saying anyone is suggesting that. Still, it gives you pause. What if a bank was solvent and the government decided to change loans it had made retroactively. That would be bad. I'm just saying.

Anyway, with all the flap over the stimulus plan I wonder what difference it will really make. I'm thinking Barack will have more influence as president over deployment of troops and the holding of terrorist suspects than the economy. Really and truly, world economies are very influenced by billions of consumers. This is especially true in the U.S. I know, I know. Jobs=spending. Hope=spending. Tax relief=spending. But I wonder.

So, what am I doing in the current economic crisis?

  • I'm trying to shop in independent shops I want to help stay afloat.
  • But thinking hard about every spending decision.
  • And buying an expensive Lego for my great Nephew on Amazon because it is oh so easy. (Click the wish list, pick the toy, click the address of my niece, click my credit card, done.)
  • But at least I spent some money on something.
  • I'm trying to eat out at restaurants that I love and that are locally run.
  • And buy wine as gifts for friends at local wine purveyors. (Because really you are spending money and people are enjoying it, it's gone and then repeat.)
  • And buying gift certificates to restaurants as gifts, the same local ones.
  • Driving my eight-year-old car less and making trips count. (Sorry, no new car. Sorry, reduced demand for gas. Or is that good? I did do a pretty major repair on it. And really I always drove cars into the ground and paid cash for new ones even when I was making great money.)
  • Planning to buy things from Royal Blue Grocery's new location in my building rather than from bigger retailiers because a grocery store in your cool is that? They may open within the week.
  • Looking to buy a little storage cabinet for the second bathroom and still considering new digital cameras, a GPS and a netbook. I'm just saying: I might buy some stuff. I keep resisting, though.
  • I'm thinking of planning trips to New York and maybe France.
  • I'm staying in the uncounted unemployed. I have been 'retired' for six years. Which just means I quit my job to live on my investments. I'm too young for Social Security and I have no defined benefit pension. I don't count in the 7.6% and growing ranks of unemployed. I am not taking a job that someone else needs. (Note that Barack's wife left her job, too, and is probably in the uncounted unemployed. She had a good job, too. I'm just saying.)
  • I'm spending money on my credit cards but paying everything off every month.
  • I'm still giving to causes but taking a harder look at my budget for that. (See above about trips. Selfish, huh?)
It's all about a bunch of people doing their things, isn't it? One at a time. Until it becomes a trend. One guy getting a stupid upside down mortgage and onerous amounts of credit card debt is nothing. A bunch of you? That's something. (It's not me. It was never me!) When one company lays off people, too bad for those people. When every other article is about layoffs or furloughs? So goes the economy.

Let's hope the 'economic stimulus' can take a swipe at stalling or reversing these trends. Let's hope it isn't like that tax rebate last year. As my dad says, "I still have mine in the bank." Of course, soon he has to give much more than that to the tax man.

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