Editor’s Viewpoint: Economy keeps its balance when we do
When did we stop liking the way the American system works? The truth is, we’ve been uncomfortable with many of our systems — government, politics, media and education — for decades.
But as long as we were getting a few pieces of the pie — buying increasingly expensive homes and investing in a roaring stock market — we thought America was working fine enough. We had investments that were going to grow, and, better, we didn’t have to think too much about what we were doing. After all, we could rely on the people who were loaning us money or investing our retirement funds to work in our best interests. That’s why we could look to the future with confidence, living out the promise that by working hard and investing properly, our lot in life was secure.
By the end of 2008, we found out that we should have been paying more attention to the way the American system was working on our behalf, as millions of us lost jobs and homes, and the value of our nest eggs shrank, leaving our futures in doubt.
Fearful of the future and looking for anyone to blame but themselves, millions of Americans are turning to their favorite whipping boys: government and politicians. The media, especially television, focuses on the discontented and those they blame. Even the majority of Americans who don’t rely on anger to make their point would like a quicker recovery — all of us would.
However, like democracy itself, the American economy is a sloppy affair with countless moving parts — domestic and international — not to mention cheerleaders from both political teams on the sidelines demanding more or less regulations, legions of lobbyists spending millions of dollars to influence legislators and politicians, and scores of pundits working to convince us that the American system is rigged.
However, not all recessions or recoveries are the same, and the current recession has seen the deepest decline in gross domestic product since World War II. The recovery has been hurt by a lack of job growth in areas that usually recover faster— financial services, the service industry, and state and local governments — all of which have joined the struggling real estate and construction sectors.
Our emotions continue to sanction our economic highs and lows — from buying houses because someone will give us a loan to electing a politician because he feels our pain.
We have to balance our emotions with reason to help restore our economy and avoid future economic mood swings. In the long term, our economy will find and keep its balance when we find and keep ours.
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