Our Nation's Economy
In Times Like These
By Deborah Nayrocker
We have seen how quickly the financial crisis of last year has turned into an economic crisis in 2009. It will likely be here for a while longer.
A Vicious Cycle
We are seeing an economic vicious cycle. Sales fall. Industrial production slows in the U.S. and around the world. Businesses aren’t able to obtain loans to meet payrolls. Employees are laid off or they’re working fewer hours. It’s harder for families to make house payments, with some facing foreclosures. Some families are struggling to make ends meet. The economic crisis continues to grow, like a snowball that grows as it rolls down the hill.
As we examine the situation, some consumers could have been spared what they are going through now. In the last few years, we saw people behaving badly. We saw financially unsustainable behavior. Lured by initial low interest rates, some got mortgages that shouldn’t have been buying homes.
Lenders made loans that they shouldn’t have. Government institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac made loans to people who couldn’t pay them. Some businesses took huge financial bets and lost. People who made foolish decisions got caught and are driving this serious financial situation.
The 3 R’s of Moral Virtues
Daniel Henninger, of The Wall Street Journal said that, as a nation, we have let our moral virtues go by the wayside. In a recent interview discussing the economic situation, he said our culture has become more secularized. “We have 3 R’s that are moral virtues,” Henninger said. “They are responsibility, restraint, and remorse, or listening to your conscience.”1 When these moral virtues are lacking, society is not at its best.
Living for years by a philosophy of “enjoy now, pay later,” millions of Americans got caught up in a mountain of debt. They are carrying almost a trillion dollars of high-interest credit card debt. People took out home equity loans to keep up the lifestyles they were accustomed to. They quickly learned that their home is not a bank—it is simply a place to live. Many consumers spent and lived like there was no tomorrow. They had unsustainable lifestyles. Businesses were highly leveraged. Millions of Americans bought things on credit.
The House of Cards
“Our whole economy was built on credit,”2 says Walter Zimmerman, economic advisor and consultant with I-CAP. Recently interviewed, he sees signs of harder times yet to come. He says there are three factors that mark a depression. We are seeing these factors come together now. Zimmerman explains:
Credit is debt…. The house of cards started to unravel. Debt is being called in. People can’t deleverage fast enough now. The credit bubble has burst…. This collapse in credit is a once in a generation event, not seen since the 1930s…. There are three things that mark a depression: 1) collapse in equity prices, or the stock market, 2) collapse in real estate, and 3) collapse in commodity prices.3
Zimmerman advises people to prepare for harder times by doing two things: Pay down debt and replenish savings.
Economist Martin Weiss, Money and Markets, also predicts that this recession could become a depression, possibly worse than the 1930s. He lists the recent shocks around the nation:
- Economy collapsing beyond government’s control
- Consumer spending cratering
- Pink-slip plague
- GM in its death throes
- Obama’s $1.75 trillion deficit in 2009. Washington’s red ink for 2009 is FORTY- FIVE times larger than GM’s last year….Uncle Sam will be financially challenged to save his own financial neck before anyone else’s.4
Weiss predicts that “we are now in the midst of an historic economic collapse and bear market with no end in sight.”5
Radio legend Paul Harvey had it right when he said: In times like these it is always helpful to remember that there have always been times like these.6 And in times like these, we can be assured that God is still in control.
Prepare Like We Did for Y2K
It’s been ten years since families and businesses sat down and made clear strategies for the uncertainty of Y2K. Remember that? Looking back, it was a smart thing to do. Because of this planning and foresight, businesses were better prepared to handle the aftershocks of September 11, 2001.
What can we do now? We can prepare as best as we can for the months and years ahead.
There’s no doubt that families are feeling the pinch of today’s economy. As families, we need to talk openly about what’s happening and what may happen. How does it directly affect us? This economic situation should bring us together, not drive us apart.
Instead of secretly worrying about what may happen, husbands and wives should get together and talk. And we should make plans, if we haven’t done so already.
We can survive the hard times more easily if we have 1) a budget, or spending plan, and 2) a savings plan. We can look at our options and decide on positive solutions. We can be better prepared for what comes our way.
1 Daniel Henninger, Deputy Editor, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page, WSJ.com Video Interview, 11/20/08.
2 Walter Zimmerman, Guest on Glenn Beck Radio Show, 2/26/09.
4Martin D. Weiss, Ph.D., Money and Markets, 3-01-09.
6 Paul Harvey, LiveWire Teen Forums & College Forums – Dictionary.
Deborah Nayrocker writes on personal money management topics, showing others how to take control of their financial future. Deborah is the award-winning author of The Art of Debt-Free Living: Living Large on Less Than You Earn and Living a Balanced Financial Life, a popular Bible study focusing on money management.
She writes the column “My Money” for More To Life (www.mtlmagazine.com) and has a Q&A finance column on www.Crosswalk.com. Her Web site is www.ArtofDebt-FreeLiving.com.
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