Dreaming of a Better 2009January 1, 2009
Well, 2009 is here. For a thousand reasons I couldn’t wait to see 2008 end, and I’m sure many of you feel the same .
So what’s in store for 2009? I was thinking about that the other night as I drifted off to sleep. I dreamt I was in Hell, locked in a room full of journalists. As I attempted to mingle, I spotted George Will holding court and speaking loudly, reading from his recent column.
“Sales the day after Thanksgiving (in 2008) were 3 percent higher than last year,” I recall him saying. “Over the weekend, 172 million people, shopping in stores and online, spent an average of $372.57, a 7.2 percent increase over a year ago. Is this evidence that the recent deleveraging of indebted households has breathed fresh life into personal consumption, which normally is 70 percent of economic activity? Is it evidence of underestimated strength of an economy in which more than 93 percent of those who want to work are employed, and more than 93 percent of mortgages are being paid on time? Is it evidence that Washington’s jaw-dropping interventions with hundreds of billions of dollars are having their intended psychotherapeutic effects? How much is it evidence of the decline of the price of a gallon of regular gasoline from $4.10 in July to $1.81 today? Over a year, every 1 cent decline is a $1.5 billion saving to consumers.”
Good news? Is it possible? I wondered as I wandered over to the bar. Of course, this being Hell, the bar was out of everything. I opened the newspaper on the counter and couldn’t believe the headline: Arena Football League to Postpone 2009 Season. More good news! I shared it with the guy who bellied up to the bar next to me. He introduced himself as Kirk Shinkle of U.S. News and World Report.
“The U.S. recession will be one of the deepest—if not the deepest—in the postwar period,” he told me, quoting from his recent column listing the top 10 predictions for the global economy. “The current downturn is well on its to becoming the longest in the past six decades. Based on the December IHS Global Insight baseline forecast for the U.S. economy, it will be the fourth deepest in the postwar period (the 1957 recession was the deepest, followed by the contractions of 1973-75 and 1981-82). Nevertheless, given the very negative tone of the incoming data, the recession could well be the worst in the postwar period. At the same time, the large back-to-back declines in real GDP predicted for the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 (down 5.0 and 3.8 percent, respectively) are the worst since the 1982 recession, and may easily be the worst in more than six decades. Overall, we expect the U.S. economy to shrink at least 1.8 percent in 2009.”
Yikes. I was stunned. Is the economy as bad as all that? What can we do to persevere? Just then, a bright flash, followed by me sitting alone in a sun-splashed meadow. The weather was warm, and a light breeze rustled the tall grass. I thought about how nice life can be—health, happiness, friends, family. I thought about the circumstances that make us the lucky inhabitants of a great land. I thought about hope and perseverance—the seeds of success. I thought of the opportunities afforded us and how difficult times do not last forever.
I wondered where I was. A newspaper blew by, and I caught a glimpse of the headline: Arena Football League to Postpone 2009 Season. Yep. I was in Heaven.
Best wishes for a happy, healthy and successful 2009!
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