Each day we hear of the latest turn in the economy, up, down, green shoots, it's not over yet! What to think, when the economists and politicians differ, even with themselves and even daily? The Big Picture? The financial and economic crisis that began last year was not and is not just another slowdown in the relentless path to prosperity, but a very real problem that built up over a period of years. To expect a turnaround in even six months is to expect the proverbial steamship to turn on a dime. It just will not happen.
Yet, we all live in the short-term, daily, and waiting is not something that we as Americans do well. So, where are we and what can we do? The collapse in private sector growth, triggered by the crash in the real estate market and the ensuing mortgage market, has left us with high and even still growing unemployment. Our experts daily brief us on the latest turn of the economy, has the bottom been reached? Are we on the road to recovery yet? Bottom line? We are still at the bottom or near and the upturn is still ahead of us. But, the worst is over. The deterioration in the economy has slowed. Unfortunately, employment typically lags in economic turnarounds, so the upturn will be visible first in economic growth, in investment, and only with a lag in employment.
The U. S. government recognized the magnitude of the crisis and stepped up to the plate. As the private sector demand collapsed, the U.S. government moved ahead and provided the stimulus that has prevented a further deterioration in our economic growth. We are not looking at the Great Depression of the 1930s, precisely because lessons were learned, and the U.S. and other countries have recognized the problem and coordinated. Has it been a perfect policy response? No, for perfection is not something we can look for and find in economics, but we are in a much better place than we would have been without the actions of our government.
So what does this mean for Brainerd and the lakes district? Whether the crisis is financial, economic, or psychological, the best response is to return to one's core values, to where one's heart is. While there are always exceptions, we have a better chance of doing well, of living well, and of returning to our former prosperity through building on our core values, that is what makes our community the place where we want to live, where we are comfortable, where we feel most ourselves, at the start of the day, and as the sun sets.
It is time to rediscover ourselves and our own capabilities that we have tended to overlook in the dazzle of growth far away. Our society has fed on novelty, on fads, and yes, innovation, but guess what? All novelty is not good. All innovation does not benefit us all. The relentless spewing forth of novelty has too often caused us to overlook our hearts, and our core values. These should remain at our core, and now is the time to think again, to look again, to discover anew our own community and its strengths.
We all have ideas about what this means for us, what is of true value for us in our community. Sure, these differ, but be sure, they also overlap and they can build a vibrant and resourceful community. We all know about the community efforts, whether for the young, the elderly, or all of those in-between. One effort which I am familiar with is the Brainerd History Group, but there are others. Now is our turn to rediscover and rebuild our own community! So there is, after all, something for us all to do during this difficult period.
ANDREW T. HOOK, who owns a cabin in the Crosby area, is professor of economics and business at the newly formed American University of Afghanistan. He has 30 years of experience in banking, finance and economic development throughout the world and has worked for the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
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