I woke up late (on-call at Michael’s and they didn’t need me). Logging onto the L.A. Times as usual, fresh cup of coffee at the ready, I learned the President Obama had already been inaugurated. For some reason, I thought it would happen later on, evening East Coast time. Several people in my currently overpopulated household had thought the same thing.
So I read his address. It was tremendous. I even welled up with emotion reading the few closing paragraphs about George Washington’s message to the People in the Revolution’s darkest hour.
Later, I watched a video of the address on ABC.com. I was moved slightly more by the video, perhaps because of the delivery.
I was struck by the underlying message of the speech: We’re in for some tough times. And it won’t be just a blip.
Obama exhorted us to buckle down for the long haul, to be ready to fight for principles, fight with courage, sacrifice for our ideals. Because those things are all we’ll have to sustain us through the hard times ahead.
As if we couldn’t read the forecast anyway, President Obama laid it out for us pretty clearly. As bad as things are now, they’re going to get worse.
I understand that although currently my income hasn’t suffered excessively, and I can still make my mortgage, it’s probably only a matter of time before it gets really hard. If I’m lucky, ‘really hard’ will mean I still have both my jobs but the money is down. It could mean, however, that I lose one or both jobs.
We read daily about plunges in retail sales, wholesale revenues, exports, real estate values, financial market values. And for now, it’s just news. We sit in our homes watching our televisions, warm during these winter months (maybe too warm lately in California), content with food in the cupboard and refrigerator.
But President Obama is trying to prepare us for the next wave. As the economy continues to falter, fewer people will have jobs. Those with jobs will have less income. Those with something to spend will save it to protect themselves against tomorrow. All of which will lead to more of the same. Actually, it’s not just a wave. It’s a set of waves that will come breaking one after the other.
Perhaps the existing stimulus programs and the President’s forthcoming programs will arrest the trend. But surely we’re in for at least a couple of those waves before something positive takes hold.
Of course it’s mostly confidence. If the banks had confidence, they’d lend more money. If the people had confidence, they’d spend more money (and borrow more). If the businessmen had more confidence, they’d start new ventures, invest more money. And things would be rolling again in some semblance of normality.
Or maybe (just thinking out loud here) it’s all a conspiracy for our country to maintain its world dominance. The U.S. government owes a lot of money – probably too much. Which we have to pay back in dollars. If only we could just print up those dollars for free and pay everyone back . . . Well, you normally can’t do that because it leads to runaway inflation.
Yet we are doing it and inflation is virtually nil. How can this happen?
Remember the Golden Rule: He who has the Gold makes the Rules.
The U.S. is still the dominant nation. When the world economy falls into a tailspin, we all suffer, but the weak suffer the most. Imagine a forest fire that ends with only the largest, most hardy trees still standing. Yes, they are severely damaged, but they are the only ones left.
When this fire is over, it’s possible that we with the Gold will be the only ones left to make the Rules.
Don’t listen to me. I’ve always entertained conspiracy theories. Don’t even ask what my first thoughts were after 9/11.
At any rate, even with my crackpot half-hearted conspiracy theory, we’re still in for a difficult stretch – and it could be a long one.
Meantime, let’s all do our best. Let’s be productive and generous. Let’s help the people having a harder time than ourselves. As President Obama said, be willing to take a cut in pay so a friend can keep his job. With nothing but hope and virtue . . let’s meet the challenge.