Are the daily threats coming from our president, Congress, and the national media wearing you out? The parsing of words, gnashing of teeth, and talk of impending financial doom are relentless.
Are you sick of hearing it's not a "bail out,", but a "rescue"? We shouldn't be worried about Wall Street, but protecting those on Main Street. And my personal favorite, "if we don't get this bill passed, we are looking at a deep, dark recession in which the American people will feel a tremendous amount of pain."
If the concern that has been expressed to me over the past two weeks is any indicator of the national mood, then we are an anxious, worried, and distraught nation. People want to know is their money safe, how is this bail out package of Wall Street going to effect me, and where do we as a country go from here?
In hopes of getting some clarity and objective analysis regarding our economy, I asked Dr. Ron Shiffler, dean of the Colleges of Business Administration and Information Technology at Georgia Southern, to give his opinion on the state of our economy and what if any are the bright spots. His comments were made prior to the passing of the bail out legislation this past Friday.
"We really are not on the edge of a depression a la 1929, even it the bailout bill doesn't pass," Shiffler said. "My reasoning has to do with demographics and the distribution of ages of Americans. In the 1920s and 1930's, we (the U.S.) were a younger nation with little wealth concentrated in the upper age brackets. So, "bad times" affected those aged 15 to 50 in a much bigger way, and most Americans were in that age group."
"Today, we have more of a concentration of ages from 40 to 70 and those of us in that age group, by and large, have s-o-m-e wealth that we could live on, if needed. In other words, times would be bad, but we older Americans can weather it easier than if we were younger and had no money."
Hopefully Shiffler is right and long "bread" lines are not in our future. So, how did we get in this mess?
"Wall Street comes up with crazy, exotic financial instruments that they sell to one another and to the hedge funds of very rich people," Shiffler said. "In this case, the mortgage backed securities began to have trouble, and these exotic instruments that housed them are not worth the dollar that you bought them for and things began to spiral downward. Greed was clearly a factor."
Where do we go from here?
"For the United States to cycle back into the position of prominence, we have to be the leader in information technology," he said. "We have gone from being the leader in the production of very tangible goods to more sophisticated goods to now intangible goods - information. That is the future, and we need to be the world leader in it."
Any bright spots?
"I'll tell you who I think are the "heroes" in all this -- the community banks like Sea Island, Farmers and Merchants, etc.," he said. "For the most part, they stick to their knitting and don't take stupid risks. Sure, they are having some problems with loans, but they don't have a portfolio of investments in worthless instruments like CDOs (collateralized debt obligations), etc. And, for the first time in many weeks or months, our congress is actually working together, instead of acting in a purely partisan manner. "
Shiffler's words were calming and reasoned, and I hope that you are able to take some solace from them as I have. I know that Wall Street and Washington, D.C., don't care about Statesboro, but our local bankers do, and I am sincerely grateful for that.
Until next week, I bid you au revoir.
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