Jack Simpson - Economy the No. 1 topic on people's minds

Wherever people gather these days, we hear remarks like these: "Nothing seems cheap today." "Everything keeps going up." "My dollar isn't worth as much." "Times are tight, workers are squeezed." "Gasoline is going through the roof."

There's no doubt about it! The economy is topic No. 1, replacing the war in Iraq. People believe inflation is here and recession is near.

A lady who had to go to a local emergency room for treatment is still in shock over her bill. When added to her costs for basics, she said, "I don't know how I will make it."

Prices for cereals, meat, eggs, fruit and dairy products are stretching the family dollar. Wise mothers with children know how to scrimp. They save money by cutting cents-off coupons, taking fewer vacations, eating at home more, carpooling and cutting out the luxury items.

Moms have been talking to friends and neighbors and there is little doubt that confidence in the economy has dropped considerably. Each of us hopes for the best. We want to be optimistic, believing recession really is not here yet. Maybe not, but signs say it is knocking on our doors.

Some signs point the course. The president's approval rating is now about 28 percent, and part of his problem is failure to address economic issues. His war in Iraq is unpopular, but now he faces criticism over his stewardship of the economy.

Remember that old saying - as General Motors goes, so goes America? Well, some of our biggest corporations, General Motors included, are having financial problems. General Electric's earnings are down as a result of the slump in the economy. People are losing jobs, or their jobs are outsourced. There are more home foreclosures, fuel costs are zooming. Frontier Airlines has fallen into bankruptcy. Flights and services are cut by other carriers. Banks have made too many questionable loans and are now requiring higher standards for borrowers. Bankers are dealing with above average charge-offs and repossessions. Developers cannot repay all their loans and houses are staying on the market longer. The value of the dollar slides. Perhaps one in five subprime loans is in foreclosure.

People are pessimistic and gloom is in the air. In our history, we have seen this before. Things may not be as bad as they look, even though some have said "our country is in bad shape."

Perhaps it is time to reflect and emphasize that there is still a lot right about our country. We are a free, diverse, strong people. We have proved it before, and we can prove it again if we do not adopt and retain a self-defeating attitude. We can overcome and meet our challenges just as our grandparents before us did years ago.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.