Although I am not in the least an Obama fan (I am being kind here), at least I was happy to see some sense of vision for the future in Obama’s State Of The Union address last evening. Some of Obama’s old fire was back, albeit misdirected once again.
I am sensing the same old disconnect again. Sure, Wall Street is doing well recently, and hopefully it’s not a bubble and the Americans who still have some money in the markets were able to recoup some of their losses from the market highs of the past. But make no mistake– Americans certainly arent feeling any richer. Their home have lost value. Their 401(k)’s are still down. Jobs are still a big problem, and contrary to what appears as the officially published unemployment rate, things arent as good as the press wants everyone to believe. There is once again a very serious disconnect between the bedfellows of Washington & Wall Street and the poor folks on main street.
I am not a census-taker. My last name isnt Gallop. But I do have eyes and ears, and I continually ask the question to many individuals, business owners, and just about everyone I come into contact with: “do you feel richer, poorer, or what?” “How do you feel now compared to four years ago?” “are you more or less hopeful about your future than you were last year? the year before?”.
The good news is that most Americans do believe that the worst of the financial hurricane is over. They are looking around at the devastation it has caused in their lives, and now its time for the clean up. Jobs are at the core of the American Psyche, and until employment improves, the sun may just be shining on the devastation in the wake of the storm.
Certainly, we have had a glimmer of hope in recent months. At least it is some improvement over the past couple of years for many. But let’s be cognizant of the enormous debt we face, the Obama’s insistence on spending this country into oblivion, and the fact that any instability right now– whether it be a bursting of the stock market bubble, a financial crisis looming in a foreign country, steep inflation in cost of living (which is already underway if you look at prices at the pump, groceries and clothing), a war that develops (North Korea, the Middle East), and we are right back in a fix. The only problem now is that people are just financially drained from trying to survive for the past two years.
Banks’ balance sheets, in my opinion, are still not reflecting a ton of debt that is either in default or at risk for default. Again, my opinion is not a scientific study, but what I see is some glimmer of hope amidst a real clean up mess. The responses I get suggest the following among the “main-streeters”:
“THINGS ARE BOOMING”: virtually nil
“I’M SURVIVING”: 45%
“MY SITUATION IS STILL DETERIORATING 35%
“I AM IN A CRISIS” 20%
The concern I have with the numbers above from my independent study is this: My offices is in a relatively upwardly mobile income area, and consists of many families, professionals, and business owners. I would classify the study population as mostly middle to upper middle class families. It exemplifies, and truly makes me wonder what results would occur if the study was taken involving all walks of life. Over half of the people interviewed were not making any forward progress, and just still trying to stem the flow of blood.
When you really peel this proverbial “onion”, there are still a lot of layers to it all. I sure hope we dont find a worm in the middle. What I do know is that people are still concerned about jobs. For those fortunate enough to have found jobs, there are many out there that are working for 1/2 to 2/3 of their former income. Two-earner households are still living on one paycheck.
It’s about the jobs, Mr. Obama. You discussed the “jobs” problem, but offered no clear direction in your speech. All the rosiness of the future you painted in your speech doesnt mean a hill of beans if people cant support their families. All the clean air in the world doesnt feed the people. Dont spend money on dumb stuff that no ordinary Americans care about. Lower taxes, give small business a real chance to recover, and just get out of our way. We are Americans, and we will survive.