Is The U.S. In A Recession?

by Mark Brinker

While watching the evening news the past few weeks, there have been several stories about the “possibility” that the U.S. “might” be headed into a recession.

Might?

  • One of the top news stories today was from Associated Press writer, Jeannine Aversa, titled, “Economy Slows To Near Crawl”. Hmmm, that doesn’t sound good.
  • Earlier this week, another Associated Press writer, Alex Veiga, published an article titled, “U.S. Home Foreclosures Soar In January” stating that home foreclosures are up 57% as compared to the same time last year.
  • According to information just released by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, charge-offs at credit card banks in 2007 were $49.3 billion, up 62.5%, as compared to the 2006 charge-off total of $27.0 billion.
  • Yesterday oil hit an all-time high of $102 a barrel. On average, gas prices at the pump are up 33% as compared to this same time last year. Nationwide the current price for a gallon of gas is $3.15 compared to $2.37 last year.
  • A quick look at any financial news source shows the U.S. dollar at an all-time low compared to other currencies around the world.

Yet today President Bush told reporters at a news conference that “I don’t think we’re headed into a recession”.  

Huh?

You don’t need to have graduated from the Harvard Business School to know that we already are in a recession. Maybe certain business leaders or people in the government don’t want to “scare” the American public by actually uttering the word r-r-r-recession.

But come on, give us a little credit here. We all know what’s going on. Things are not going that well financially for a lot of Americans right now. All you have to do is take a look around.

And you know what? As much as I hate to say it, I think it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. You don’t just snap your fingers and halt a juggernaut overnight. It took years (perhaps a couple decades) for us to get to where we are right now, and I believe it’s going to take a few years or longer to get this thing turned around.

Sorry to sound like Mr. Doom-and-Gloom, but you can’t ignore the facts.

But in a strange way this cloud could have a silver lining. I actually think some good can come of these challenging financial times.

With all the financial pressure and uncertainty, we’re all eventually going to be forced to make some new choices that will require all of us to …

  • Take a good hard look at the erroneous beliefs that created our current situation and got us into this mess in the first place.
  • Slow down and smell the roses, and realize that we don’t need to live in a 7,000 square foot home to win the love and respect of our friends and family .
  • Consider that maybe our excessive consumption of goods and services is not a good thing in terms of stress on ourselves and our planet.

From a financial perspective, I believe each of us needs to reduce our debt burden and simultaneously consume less and less to break out of the cycle that traps us in financial servitude. As we do that, things will settle down, and we’ll start to experience freedom again by not having to work so many hours to support our prior spending habits … and we’ll probably conclude that we didn’t need half of the crap that we thought we needed anyway.

And maybe one day we’ll get back to the day where it’s socially acceptable to just sit on your back patio with your neighbors on a July evening and just listen to the baseball game … or play fetch with your dog … instead of checking your email 20 times a day from your iPhone.

No doubt it’ll take some courage to walk away from the illusion of excessive consumption, and consider the possibility that your quality of life will be just as good (or even better) without the burden of all the “stuff” you thought you needed.

OK, I think I’ll go take a nap now.   🙂

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