In the December issue of Money
magazine, it was reported that a CNN Money.com poll asked the question, “How do you think the economy will do in 2012?” An astounding 43% said it would slip back into recession. Another 29% said it would be stagnant. Only 22% said they saw growth enough to spur jobs, and a mere 6% indicated they thought the economy would bounce back strongly. In my world, those are pretty telling statistics! They suggest to me that people still don’t have much belief that we will prosper, at least for the next 12 months or more.
So, the obvious question becomes, “Why are people feeling this way? What is going on to make folks so pessimistic about the future?” Several pollsters continue to point toward uncertainty (a subject of one of my previous columns). People lack confidence that things will change or get better anytime soon, so they are holding back, playing it safe, being conservative. And who can blame them? They have seen friends, neighbors and even family members lose their jobs or homes, and wonder if they could be next.
Those who know me well know that I am definitely a “glass half full” kind of person. I have always had a strong belief that even when things were bad, hope is just around the corner and everything will cycle around and be just fine. But this time it's different. I, too, see the impact that poor policy decisions, greed, favoritism and lack of true leadership have had on people’s lives and our economy. Although I still maintain a high degree of optimism about our future, if I am being totally honest, I have never had so many doubts creep into my thinking as I have during the past two or three years.
Every day we are bombarded with unemployment statistics and the rising debt in our country and in many other countries around the globe. We are fighting wars in several areas of the world with other areas ready to erupt with just one wrong move. The foreclosure rates are staggering, and we are told that a housing recovery is two or three years down the road, and, even then, it will be slow or weak at best. All these factors weigh into the mood of consumers and make it difficult for them to move forward.
Having said all of that, I still believe that most people could deal with many of those issues and be more optimistic if those were the only factors impacting people’s thinking. However, the one huge variable that feeds lack of confidence perhaps more than any other is government.
People, rightly or wrongly, look to our elected politicians to provide them with leadership—leadership that provides reassurance that everything will be safe and sound, that we have the right policies, that we are making the right decisions and will persevere and come out stronger than we were before. Today, in my opinion, that simply does not exist.
Sure, there are always a few exceptions, but, overall, look at the poor ratings we give to politicians and government in general. While I don’t place high expectations that the reported number is an exact statistic, it still provides us with a sense of the “mood” or a “gauge” of how people are feeling about their elected leaders. Today, the ratings for both the President and Congress are deplorable at best. If I were to summarize it in my own terms—I'd say the approval numbers suck!
Therein is the biggest challenge we have when trying to be optimistic about the fate of our future. In our industry, we are indeed fortunate that agriculture is doing well, as you will see reported in other parts of the January issue of NAEDA Equipment Dealer. However, when we step back and take a more global view, we lack confidence that our elected leaders will do what is right for the country or the economy or the people. Instead, we sense a growing belief, with evidence to back it up, that our leaders are mostly interested in their own well-being.
Until we have leaders who are willing to put us—the people—first, we will continue to have a difficult time regaining the confidence we need to forge a strong future—a confidence that symbolizes our past and helped us build North America into the envy of the world. It is a sad day, in my opinion, when a communist-run country like China is kicking our butts economically. It is also a sad day when we continue to write checks that place our entire government and our way of life in grave danger. It is an even sadder day when we can’t trust our elected officials to control their own behavior and make sound decisions that will benefit versus harm our future.
I am hoping, beyond all hope, that every eligible voter will exercise his or her right to question our leaders and select the best ones available to represent us at all levels of government. Because, in my opinion, the one thing that is holding us back more than any other—is government. As I said in the beginning, “It’s the government, stupid”!