Since October 2008, news outlets have inundated the country with reports detailing how poorly our economy is performing, forecasting dismal economic results in coming quarters, and calling for desperate measures to address our dire circumstances. The federal government has responded, pumping trillions of borrowed dollars into the economy. Yet, reports continue to focus on bad news.
Fear not, genuine help is on the way.
Election Day, 2010 is less than 19 months away. Already, political strategists and fundraisers are hard at work planning mid-term election campaigns. The entire House of Representatives will be up for re-election. A third of the Senate, too. And therein we shall find the relief we desperately need.
No, we won’t throw our elected officials out of office, though that might be an interesting remedy. Instead, the economic stimulus we need most will come in the form of a change in the story.
For the past 8 months, politicians have used bad news to bolster their claims for more spending and to defend the accretion of greater power to the federal government. Under the cover of pending financial doom, politicians have borrowed more, spent more, and claimed more power than at any other time in our nation’s history. That strategy has a short life. Its effectiveness lasts only as long as the momentum from the previous election. As the new election cycle gears up, the story will change.
With mid-term elections approaching, candidates for re-election will begin to tout the effectiveness of their efforts. The White House will lead a chorus of praise for the recent stimulus initiatives. Every shred of positive news, every hint of profitability, every glimmer of good news will be highlighted, polished and made to glow with the fires of hope and prosperity. Sectors of the economy that have remained sound but ignored will be trotted out as evidence of the effectiveness of government stimulative efforts and a harbinger of coming economic prosperity. All of which will be attributed to the work and wisdom of our elected officials. When you hear the rhetorical shift, don't despair. That new and positive message will be our salvation.
America’s economy is a confidence game. Trust is the key. We have no fixed standard for determining economic value. No fixed benchmarks for determining the value of our currency. The true wealth of our economy rests not on gold or silver but on our mutual trust for each other.
You give paper currency to the pizza store in exchange for something to eat. The paper isn’t worth the cost of one pepperoni slice, yet the store takes it in exchange for enough food to feed a family of four. The store takes that piece of paper only because the owner knows the pizza dough supplier will accept that same piece of paper as payment for the store’s supply account. Over the past twelve months our confidence in each other has taken a big hit. A constant mantra of bad news has settled doubt and gloom on us like a heavy, thick cloud. But take heart. The fog is about to lift.
As the politicians switch from a message of fear and failure to one of better-days-ahead, newscasters will follow suit. With a prosperity chant ringing in our ears, the fog of despair will lift. Our confidence will return. Not confidence in the politicians, but confidence in each other. And the economy will rebound.