We can have more control than we realize

Posted 1/13/09

This week, we launch a series about the economy. There is little hope of compiling a comprehensive picture of the economy as it stands today since …

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We can have more control than we realize


This week, we launch a series about the economy.

There is little hope of compiling a comprehensive picture of the economy as it stands today since the situation seems to change by the hour. It seems as though we’re still trying to get our heads around what exactly is being done with the recent $700 billion bailout package as our new president-elect and his administration hash out plans for an $800 billion economic recovery plan. It’s dizzying, frightening and just plain uncomfortable to think about.

Our goal with this series is to give you the tools to parse the noise surrounding our economic situation. I, as I guess is the case with many of you, am not a student of the economy. I do, however, understand fear. So when I expose myself to the frenzy of economic news coming at us these days, it seems as though the fear is what sticks with me but no deeper understanding of the economy as a whole. My hope is that by learning this, some of the fear will subside leaving my mind clearer to make good decisions.

Dr. Richard Wobbekind, chief economist at Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado in Boulder is quoted extensively in this week’s first installment of the series. He makes the crucial point that should be at the center of our thinking in this economic crisis — what’s real and what’s imagined. By his estimation, 30 percent of our economic turmoil is reality and 70 percent is perception.

That’s a tremendous revelation. Instead of feeling powerless, we need to remember how much power we actually have in terms of attitude, knowledge, wisdom and patience.

In a way, this time in our lives takes me back to the days following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The mourning period for the lives lost that day soon gave way to a paralyzing sense of fear. We didn’t understand what had happened to us, why it had happened, we were afraid of the future and we froze up for a while. People were building bomb shelters in their basements, stocking up on water, buying duct tape and gas generators just in case … well, just in case. I can remember our Littleton office being closed for part of a day because some fool splashed some kind of white powder on the back door of our office building and we weren’t too sure it wasn’t anthrax. It was a surreal time.

Living our lives and moving forward became a deliberate act. Before we could do anything, we needed to feel safe and we couldn’t do that unless we understood what was happening.

I became part of a group assembled by the South Metro Chamber of Commerce that put together something called Standing Tall. The goal of this group was to speak to as many people as we could about emergency preparedness in realistic terms. The idea was to make people understand how to be safe, to trust that they had taken reasonable steps to protect themselves and more importantly, to get on with living already. It was a sound idea and it helped some people.

I think that’s where we happen to be with the economy right now. We don’t understand it. We don’t know where the future will take us. We feel stuck.

I don’t think anyone is ready to tell us to pull ourselves up by our boot straps and head in a certain direction, but I do think we need to take a deep breath and learn how to make sense of our situation. Few things in life make you feel as good as getting the upper hand on a nagging fear or worry. If we can all do that, imagine where we can take our economy.

Jeremy Bangs is the managing editor of Colorado Community Newspapers. Look for and contribute to his blog, Jeremy’s Take, on this paper’s Web site.


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