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It’s not a lack of confidence – it’s an epidemic of common sense

Submitted by on Wednesday, 12 November 2008 No Comment

We’ve soothed Wall Street’s jangly nerves in recent weeks, and The New York Times says banks are letting loose of some of the bailout cash.

Next up: A “crisis” in consumer confidence that could send the teetering economy into a tailspin if those stupid Americans give in to fear and worry and stop spending.

“It’s a scary time,” a 29-year-old Atlanta nursing student told the Times. “Worry can make the economy worse. If people worry too much, they won’t spend as much money. We’re seeing that happen, I think, already.”

I beg to differ. Worry is not making the economy worse. A number of factors that have piled up over the years have made the economy worse. Worry is the rational reaction to the situation.

This is not an imaginary problem that a sprinkling of credit-card pixie dust will solve. This is a real crisis for many families. It’s coming to a head now in part because the mortgage meltdown has cut people’s capacity to say “charge it” — long-term, that’s a good thing. Other factors come into play, too.

Let’s not forget 14-year high unemployment in an economy that’s been shedding livable-wage work for years. First manufacturing fell. Then telemarketing. Now, white-collar occupations. I saw a free-lance writing position this week that paid a half-cent a word. “Don’t be discouraged if there are a lot of applicants,” the advertisement warned.

The result: An economy built on the service sector — it’s hard to outsource waitressing overseas — and retail, plus the premise that Americans would continue to spend indefinitely.

Except the pixie dust has run out. Reaction to that is not worry, folks. It’s legitimate concern and common sense.

We as a nation have been given tragically bad advice from the top. After 9-11, we were told it was patriotic to shop, to go on vacations, to continue massive overspending that wound up being as big a threat to national security as any terrorist.

So folks went out and got drunk on credit cards shots and home-equity loan chasers.

I’ll admit I was tipsy, too. I grope for the Tylenol and hair of the dog today in the midst of an “I’ll never drink again” hangover. The spins return with every useless toy I trip over, every never-worn article of guy clothing I cart off to the Salvation Army. Every unused kitchen gadget I shuffle from kitchen drawer to kitchen drawer.

How stupid I was.

Fear and worry aren’t driving my recovery, so stop fretting about my confidence. It’s just fine. And rooted in reality for the first time in years.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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