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Maybe we should get busy on this economy thing

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My fellow media types are pretty much going out of their heads over developments in the economy these last few days.

I would be, too, except for the fact that I don't actually understand anything about it.

I watched Charlie Rose interview four different experts on the economy recently and I listened to every word but, even though the questions made sense, I had no idea what the answers meant.

Regular readers of this little part of the paper know, of course, that I've never pretended to be even remotely intelligent.

Being a college-educated guy with an office job and 61 years of living under my belt, I do know what the stock market is, but I have no idea why it goes up and down the way it does.

I know my 401(k), a good percentage of which is tangled up in the stock market, will continue to take a beating. (It's been leaking money for some time already, and I haven't understood that, either.)

I know the credit world is going through something resembling financial constipation and that all kinds of normal people, wanting money for normal things, ain't getting the loans they otherwise would have gotten.

I know the same lending lid is hurting the housing market and that houses that once were just difficult to sell are now totally impossible because nobody can get the money to make a deal.

I know there's been belt-tightening around my company, and I've been led to believe that all of us spoiled Americans are going to have to watch our pennies even closer. But, hey, pretty much everything I wear anymore is from either Value Village or Goodwill. In fact, the Goodwill regulars are starting to complain about how high the prices have gotten there in the last year.

I know enough about the grocery store to know that, even though food was high-priced this time last year, it's gone up even faster in recent months, evidently paralleling those obscene increases in gas prices.

For instance, have you priced a box of cereal lately? We should seriously consider switching our economy from its current (pretend) gold and silver standard to one based on cornflakes.

And I know that the retirement I didn't expect to happen for a few years anyway is now probably even further away.

Some of us are lucky enough not to have car payments, and we've only got a few years left on our mortgage which seemed ridiculous when we signed the paperwork 10 years ago - but simple survival, in this kind of economy, is enough to chew you up and spit you out.

And God help you if you get sick or hurt. Having been through cancer and a couple of bad home improvement projects in the last few years, I can testify that our health care system is perfectly fine if you have the same insurance that members of Congress enjoy - or if nothing's ever happened to you.

When I heard our country has the 37th best health care system in the world (even though we spend more on it than anyone in the known universe) a little light went on in my brain. Unfortunately, it wasn't bright enough to actually see anything so I immediately tripped over something in the dark and had to go to the doctor.

At least the overpriced things that usually dominate our conversations make a certain amount of sense because we really do understand that gas station owners and grocery store butchers aren't exactly getting rich.

But other people are. Or at least they were. Investment brokers, real estate sellers and oil company executives - they seemed to be doing OK, even when the economy was going south on the rest of us.

See, there's always a silver lining.

Meanwhile, if I start seeing oil tycoons or investment brokers at Value Village, I'll let you know.

Former editor of the Lake Oswego Review and former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections for Community Newspapers and contributes a regular column.