The Wall Street headline reads: “Joyless holiday retail forecast.”
The story goes on to say that ShopperTrak forecasts that holiday retail sales will rise by just 3%, less than last year’s 4.1%. This essentially will mean retail will simply keep pace with inflation.
Joyless? Most folks in America would be ecstatic if that projection turns out to be true. The realistic alternative is for retail to take a dive given the weak economy and the drum beating from Obama and Republicans alike as they shift into campaign mode warning if we don’t vote for them the American economy will have a complete meltdown.
Not picking on the Wall Street Journal, but it is pretty representative of the doom and gloom tilt that is fed to Americans everyday including 24/7 on cable news channels. No one is saying sugar-coat the economic news but after awhile if we keep treating items that show we are simply treading water or improving just a bit as the sky is falling down then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Both Obama and John McCain in the 2008 election did a Herculean job of painting the economy on the verge of collapse. It impacted the thinking of a lot of people especially those I know in Manteca who were – and still are – pulling down six-figure household incomes. They weren’t on the verge of losing their jobs and were more than comfortable without payments. Yet they pulled back. Playing to people’s fears – especially the economy – might win votes and audience share but it sucks the life out of consumer confidence.
No one is going to argue that happy days are here again, far from it.
Manteca’s unemployment is at 14.1 percent. Not good. However, that leaves 85.9 percent working even if it is for less money than they would have received a few years back.
About 19 percent of Manteca’s housing stock has gone into foreclosure over the past four years. Not good. However, not only is the other 81 percent not in foreclosure but there are a lot of those homes now occupied by people who lost their homes due to not being able to pay the mortgage but who are now able to make rent payments.
The past few years haven’t been a picnic. At the same time it isn’t as bad for most of us as we think it is.
But by being flooded with Chicken Little news there is every indication that many who can spend will pull back. That in turn dims the job prospects for those out there looking for work. While one doesn’t want to throw around what money you have like a drunken sailor after a year at sea or run up debt going on binges to buy goods you can do without, living in fear doesn’t help much either.
A lot of it has to do with expectations. Everyone is trying to find “the best return.” Somehow if one simply goes for a return better than the inflation rate it is a colossal waste of capital. Instead of being happy with 7 percent increase in profits when quarterly reports come out, investors panic because it wasn’t 9 percent.
Real wealth building is – and always will be – long-term. For every person that made a killing off speculation there are thousands who don’t.
Look around. The firms and households that are the best positioned now didn’t do so by using strategies based on cut-throat acquisitions make fast bucks or to use housing appreciation to equity that doesn’t really exist until you sell to finance a better lifestyle. They employed a long-range philosophy and settled for modest gains instead of flash in the pan windfalls. Living within one’s means isn’t an affront to the American Dream or Yankee capitalism.
It is time those who are driven by big and quick gains whether it is in the corporate world or private finances lower their expectations a bit.
I don’t know about you but if my personal income/wealth increased by 3 percent this year I’d be thrilled.
I’m willing to bet most American businesses and individuals would feel the same way.