by: Mike Lucas

It has been all but impossible to retreat from the towering economic news lately, whether it originates from local, national or international sources.

One second Wall Street is flying high, despite its occupied status, on news of a European plan to provide debt relief to beleaguered Greece. The next, a hitch in the plan reveals itself and the global markets come crashing down.

It occurred again Tuesday and - yet again - we had the displeasure of watching optimism disintegrate on news Greece would send its gifted bail-out package to a referendum vote.

It doesn't seem too many people are talking about it, but perhaps the problem originates in the skittish, cowardly psyche of investors - they act like sheep and have no loyalty to any particular idea or purpose. It's all about flipping a dollar, Euro or yen, and that's a shaky foundation to build an economy on.

As we've seen over the past few months, the investor retreat is typically short-lived. A grain of positive news invariably appears, and all will seem sunny on Wall Street once again.

And know what? Other than reading about it in the newspaper and online, it will have little real effect on most of our lives.

Sure, it affects confidence. Corrodes it, in fact. Like acid.

But life, as we've seen these past few years, goes on, with all of its trials and triumphs, in all of its beauty and decay.

Domestically, the United States seems to be holding its own, despite cries of our impending doom.

Consumer spending is up and inflation-adjusted Gross Domestic Product climbed 2.5 percent in 2011, shrugging off analysts' concerns about a double-dip recession.

Though a Tuesday ISM Manufacturing report showed a slip on that front - from a level of 51.6 in September to 50.8 - the figure still represents growth, just not at an encouraging pace.

Construction continues to be an albatross, but the Commerce Department on Tuesday reported builders spent .2 percent more on materials in September than they had in August. With spending only at $787.2 billion, it's still a far cry from the $1.5 trillion analysts say is needed to signify a healthy construction market, but it's not going backward.

Perhaps we should be thankful, upbeat even, and cultivate the fact we are slowly growing economically, and not receding, into a national movement.

Locally, the news is mixed.

The public sector is taking a beating due to projected and real declines in tax revenue, a disappearing federal timber subsidy, plummeting property valuation, state pass-through dollar drop-offs, etcetera. The public scenario continues to look grim as government jobs continue to retreat from the labor market, adding competition for private-sector jobs.

Unemployment is considerably better than it was a year ago, however. We were at 9.9 percent in September - still whoppingly too high - compared to 11.3 for the same time the prior year.

The point - and there has to be a point, right? - is that after four years of blanching at the slightest hint of trouble and the occasional nail-biting night wondering what horrors are happening to our 401Ks, we - or at least most of us - are all in it, together.

And there is deep, meaningful comfort in that thought, considering both the victories and tragedies. If only we can peel ourselves away from the economy long enough to recognize it.

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