Friday, January 30, 2009

Savoring This Moment in Our Main Street Economy

Even in terrible economic times, personal memories are still quite affordable. Let's have a few. 78

I enjoyed an unusual conversation about the economy this afternoon at the coffee shop. Although the man with whom I was speaking was a stranger to me, it was fairly clear that he and I shared roughly the same economic status income-wise.

His premise was that the economic troubles our country faces are primarily going to impact citizens at a substantially higher economic position than he or I presently have. His argument, in so many words, was that the nation’s economic troubles would not really ever reach us in a day-to-day reality changing way.

That interesting proposition caused me to add an additional thought to the model. That thought? How aware of “it’s ability to reach us at this level” would the average citizen -- in this case my acquaintance and myself --actually be? In our world our economic destinies certainly ascend and descend all the time. If the impact we were discussing were gradual enough, perhaps no one in our crowd would even notice.

Consequently, I decided that a sort of unofficial “landmark” might prove beneficial. Maybe all the visitors to the meanmesa blog spot might take just a moment to set a benchmark in their own memory about exactly how things really were in January, 2009.

Hence, indulge me to quickly answer a few questions which might reveal, later, the changes in our personal economies between now and then.

This is a personal poll. That means that there is no link, nothing to write and no e-mail or phone call to make. These are simply a few questions to be answered by oneself and, perhaps, tucked away in one’s memory for later.

1. Where did I go today? How did I get there? Why did I decide to go there? Did I really need to go there?

2. What’s in my refrigerator? How many cans of different things are on that shelf? How long could I go without visiting the grocery store if I absolutely had to eat what I already have? How much did I spend on groceries the last few times I went?

3. How old are the shoes I’m wearing? How long could I go without having to buy more shoes? Another winter coat? Socks? When was the last time I repaired some clothes with a needle and thread because they were worn out?

4. Do I know how to grow a vegetable garden? Would I ever do that for food rather than as a hobby? Do I know how to "home can" fresh grocery store bargains or extra good crops from the garden?

5. How much are my monthly bills (not including mortgages, but possibly my car...)? Have I thought about trying harder to keep the lights turned off when not in use, keeping the house heat off except for a few hours a day? Have I thought recently about whether or not my gas and electric bill was getting too high? Have I considered getting along with a cheaper cable package?

6. How many times have I eaten out in the last couple of months? Have I thought about a way to avoid that, work on a less expensive approach such as packing lunch?

7. Have I considered lowering my “sin” expenditures on cigarettes, liquor (yeah, add pot...) by being more conscious of my consumption?

8. Have I recently thought about moving to a different apartment so I wouldn’t be traveling so far to get to work or other frequent destinations? Have I reconsidered how much bicycle riding I could do to avoid car expenses?

9. Have I started shopping more aggressively to find lower prices on everything I buy? Have smaller savings justified extra effort to add another store to my usual list?

10. Do I have close friends I would try to help if they were hungry? Would they try to help me for the same reason?

Add your own questions if some occur to you that were missed in this list.

The media is constantly talking about trillions of dollars, arcane economic things such as the “M1” money supply and “securitized mortgage packages.” If our problem is solved while these are the most central and worrisome questions it holds for us, we should probably feel grateful. On the other hand, five years from now the questions on the list, posted here in 2009, might foster the very memories we will be using for comparison when we speak of the “good old days.”

OOPS. Maybe two years from now.

Believe it or not, the Wiki has a darn good overview of the economic crisis (without wasting much time on finger pointing). This web entry links to several others, if the first one doesn't get it done.

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