Glimmers of Hope

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

2/22/2009 12:01:00 AM - Jackie Gingrich Cushman

According to Gallup Poll Daily tracking, even after the passage of the $787 billion stimulus plan, “more than three-quarters of Americans [are] saying the economy is getting worse.”  Many politicians were hoping that the passage of the stimulus would boost consumer confidence.  Their lack of optimism proves that consumers are savvier than the politicians who passed the stimulus.

On the heels of the $787 billion stimulus plan, President Obama announced a $275 billion plan to address the housing crisis. All of this is on top of last fall’s TARP program, which was designed to purchase or insure $700 billion of “troubled assets.” 

In a move from billions to trillions, this week’s New York Times article “U.S. Tries a Trillion-Dollar Key for Locked Lending,” notes that “The Obama administration hopes to jump-start this crucial machinery by effectively subsidizing the profits of big private investment firms in the bond markets. The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve plan to spend as much as $1 trillion to provide low-cost loans and guarantees to hedge funds and private equity firms that buy securities backed by consumer and business loans.”

If you are like me, you have to count the zeros to make sure that you are counting the billions correctly, and trillions may require moving to an exponential notation system. Well before arriving at the trillion mark, I had run out of fingers. New Math is one thing, but this boggles the mind.

This week when asking people about their particular businesses, I got the same response: business is down.  It varied by big amounts – some said it was down by a quarter, others down by a third, still others down by a half. Many are already restructuring their businesses, moving to cheaper locations, reducing headcount – others are staying put and simply hoping that the upturn will happen fast enough to save them.  

I knew that the week was tough when Wednesday’s tornadoes in the Atlanta area provided a welcome respite from the distressing financial news.  At least with the tornado damage there will be no grandstanding about who allowed the tornadoes to occur. Instead, those affected by the tornadoes are focusing on recovering from the damage.     

But all is not depressing. My glimmers of hope this week came from two sources: the salon where I get my hair done and my children. 

Business has been slow at the salon, which traditionally has been able to weather recessions fairly well.  People typically continue to visit salons, buy new lipstick and nail polish to pick up their moods, even when the economy gets tough.

But one of the employees told me that, this time, some customers are waiting longer between visits and others have stopped coming altogether.

But there was a glimmer of hope amid her gloom: a customer is opening a new business across the street from the salon.  She has signed the lease and is moving in.  Her next goal is to acquire a business license.  She was upbeat and positive about her new venture, looking forward to meeting customers’ needs.  Her hope gave me hope.

As for my children, my 9-year-old daughter Maggie asked, on the way back from visiting her great-grandmother, “how can I earn money?”  Yes, we are working on a plan. 

My 7-year-old son Robert lost a front tooth this week.  It had been a bit wiggly for weeks. On Wednesday morning, he began working on it in earnest, and was able to turn it entirely around while it was still attached.  After finally pulling it out right before bedtime, he tucked it under his pillow for the tooth fairy.

The next morning, he awoke thrilled to find that the tooth fairy had traded his tooth for a sparkly gold-colored dollar coin. In fact, the receipt of the dollar led him to count all the money he has saved – all $72.12.  After announcing his net worth, Robert asked how he could add to it. 

The good news is that there are people who want to learn to earn money.  Our challenge is to help create a world where everyone thinks this way.