I woke up Thursday morning with an appetite for some good news — which has been a rare commodity these days. I turned on the coffee pot, as is my custom, and the dog and I walked up our long driveway to pick up the morning papers. I could hardly wait to spread them both out — our local tome as well as the big city offering — and find something to lift my spirits.
I was out of luck with the local paper. The teaser above the masthead told me that if I turned to page 4A I could read about storms slamming the Southeast. The headline above the fold informed me of funeral plans for a police officer -- a graduate of Heritage High School, where I teach -- killed in a car crash by a wrong-way driver. There was a picture of the seasonal ice rink getting ready to open, but that prospect didn't really get my motor running, if you know what I mean. There was another story about a shooting suspect being identified in a police lineup -- not exactly something that would make Charlie Weaver write home to mama -- and so forth and so on.
I could sum up most of the news in one word. Depressing. The day before there had been a big story about a huge shortfall in the county budget. Thank goodness we got all those framed portraits of the commissioners ordered before we ran out of money!
With a sigh I set the local paper aside and turned to the big city newspaper, hoping for more cheerful news. It was not to be. They featured a big story on the front page about the financial woes of the European Union and the effect a failing Euro would have on the American economy.
I'm telling you right now, Ralph -- the news ain't pretty. They quoted a guy named Rajeev who works at Georgia State as the director of their Economic Forecasting Center. I remember when people who worked at Georgia State were named Bubba. Old Rajeev is a gloomy Gus if there has ever been one.
It seems that the job market ain't likely to get better anytime soon. Folks need jobs. You don't have to be a rocket scientist -- or an economist -- to figure that one out. If you don't have a job you don't have money to buy stuff with. If nobody's buying anything, nobody's selling anything and if nobody is buying or selling we go into a downward spiral. There are way too many people without jobs and schools are turning more and more people out on the job market every semester. I got a couple of young'uns that I hope will be looking soon. The Georgia job market needs to grow, but it's not gonna happen -- not anytime soon.
Of course when folks looking for jobs are more plentiful than jobs themselves, people who have them are usually just happy to keep them, so salaries go down, down down in a burning ring of fire and frustration. That's the forecast for this year. I know my take-home pay has dropped steadily since we elected that education governor a few years back -- and I don't think we'll have an increase in teacher's salaries anytime soon -- or anybody else's either. See downward spiral comment above to understand the impact of lack of pay raises on the continued economic doldrums.
It's not just cash flow that's dropping either. Personal wealth continues to tank. The biggest financial asset most Americans own is equity in their homes. Home values have been dropping like proverbial rocks for a few years now and the prediction is that they won't rebound for about five more years. Really? Five years? Who can wait five years for their home to regain its lost value? Not I.
Of course any company who does business with Europe these days will continue to struggle as Europe struggles and as long as we keep restricting oil production in this country and remain at the mercy of foreign oil suppliers, we are going to keep paying out the nose for gasoline. That's not so bad though. The only people high gasoline prices affect are those who drive motor vehicles -- or buy products transported to stores in motor vehicles.
Big sigh. If it weren't for bad news, there'd be no news at all! I gave up searching for good news in the papers and turned on the television -- just in time to see Karen Minton tell me it was going to be cold as a well digger's bottom this weekend.
Sometimes it just doesn't pay to get out of bed. I started to climb back under the covers and try again the next morning, but realized that wouldn't solve anything. So I decided to do what we all do when the news gets bad. I decided to just keep on keeping on.
There's got to be some good news on the horizon, however. Besides, they say it's always darkest before the dawn. I can't wait to see the sunrise tomorrow.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.