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If you view these as the worst of times, think again

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POSTED December 19, 2008 9:40 p.m.
This has been a good year for most of us.
Think about it.
How often can many of us say we’ve had a better year than General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, AIG, Washington Mutual, and about half of the Fortune 500 companies?
Yes, there are wars around the globe including in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This is nothing, however, like Christmas of 1941 when the fear was real that war wouldn’t be on a foreign land but on our shores.
It’s not fun if you’re out of work or if one of your friends, neighbors or relatives is in that situation. But even with unemployment at 9 percent it is a far cry from 27 percent. It certainly isn’t like the Great Depression. There was no unemployment insurance back then.
Some folks you know may be losing their homes. It isn’t, however, like in the days of the Dust Bowl where families were wiped out completely and were forced to literally live in their vehicles while scouring the Central Valley looking for jobs picking fruit at a nickel a lug.
Manteca schools are facing some scary economic times. But no matter what happens, even with campus closures going to school will still be light years better than a century ago in Manteca when one of the first schools was a converted chicken coop.
Yes, its flu season and that’s not good. But then again thanks to modern medicine it won’t be as bad as 1918-19 when a fourth of the United States got sick during one of the most severe influenza epidemics ever recorded with the country’s deaths at the rate of 202 a day at the epidemic’s peak.
Maybe you can’t afford the latest trendy toy for your kid, but that doesn’t make it a miserable Christmas. A little over a century ago it was considered a great Christmas if you were a kid and got candy and fresh fruit.
Collapsing housing prices aren’t good for those who had a lot of equity, but then again you don’t have to worry about rising rents either. And given the fact it wasn’t too many generations ago that home ownership was the abnormality it isn’t as bleak as you think.
Remember just three years ago while everyone was bemoaning the fact someone who worked in Manteca couldn’t make enough money to buy a home in Manteca? Guess what. That’s not the case any longer.
Sewer and water rates are going up again. Not good news, right? The cost — though— is reflected to a large degree in requirements that will make both systems even safer when it comes to public health. It sure beats the heck out of outhouses and well water that was the norm just 90 years ago in Manteca.
The no burn rules for fireplaces and other smog rules are a pain and can be expensive but have you noticed the air this year? You probably haven’t because there are fewer days than ever before the time American civilization came to the Central Valley that the sky is filled with thick pollution.
Food prices are going up but even so we’re still spending smaller portion of our disposable income at the grocery store than we were 20 years ago. Of course, it can end up a lot higher that 20 years ago if you stock up on convenience foods but isn’t it nice that it is your call and not dictated by available supply?
Are times really as harsh as they’re made out to be if year-to-year holiday sales are expected to increase between 2 and 3 percent especially when that is way below the rate of inflation?
Attitude is everything.
Yes, we have challenges, but when you look at everything on the table we’re pretty fortunate as a country.
You can’t live high on the hog as consumers and not expect to eventually pick up the bill. Fifty years ago people were thrilled with a two or three bedroom house and one bathroom with less than 1,000 square feet of living space. Now we’re acting like it’s the end of the world because people can’t afford a 3,000 square foot home with every latest architectural touch and electronic gadget in the world.
When it comes to true essentials — basic shelter, basic food and, basic clothing — the overwhelming majority of us can afford the bill. It doesn’t become a costly proposition until our “wants” start taking a higher priority than our “needs”.
For the most part, the vast majority of us are indeed well off even with the craziness in the economy.
At the same time, instead of whining about the California Legislature, Congress, Wall Street, Bush, and eventually Obama (given that it is human nature to expect instant gratification and quick results it’s just a matter of time), we should be looking at ourselves and see how we helped dig the hole that we are now in.
But as holes go, it’s a much better one to be in than ones previous generations of Americans found themselves or many around the globe find themselves today.
All in all, it isn’t a bad time to be a Mantecan, a Californian or an American.
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