I was thinking back on when Katrina released her wrath on the city of New Orleans and the South. I distinctly remember thinking, “What? The whole city of New Orleans is under water? How can that be? Bodies are piling up in the Super Dome? Where is the Government? How could this happen?” My reaction was utter disbelief and dismay. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the images I was seeing on television.
A few years later when Lehman went under and the credit markets froze up, I recall I was in China on a junket with the Thousand Oaks/Westlake Chamber of Commerce. As news filtered across the Chinese media and the U.S. stock market plummeted, I remember speaking with my fellow travelers and really feeling helpless because I was so far away, and again in complete disbelief thinking, was this “really happening?” I kept saying to myself, “What? … What the heck is going on?”
As I write this morning, I have the same feeling. I’m anxious, confused and again, in total disbelief. I should be dancing in the streets; I have 7 fantastic listings; my market share in my “farm” – the area I market to as the area expert – stands at nearly 50%, and a 2nd farm has two new listings, putting me firmly in the #2 position there. Yet, I am not dancing. I’m shaking my head, sleeping poorly because; I like so many in America, am rapidly running out of money. For the past month, month in a half, no one is racing out to buy real estate.
Since the bubble burst in housing, Realtors and mortgage brokers have been dropping like flies. Once mid-six figure+ earners were now losing their homes and changing their careers. For guys like me, I found myself in greater demand not just for buying and selling homes, but for advice and information. While my business wasn’t what it was – how could it be? when a 30% decline in sales price was equal to a 30% drop in commission income – it was still pretty darn good. We tightened our belt where we could; dipped into savings when we had to, but all in all, I remained in the top tier of Realtors in our community and my business, by and large, remained solid. However the Russian roulette that Congress played with the debt ceiling this summer, has created an environment and business climate that is in effect, frozen. Again, I can only shake my head in disbelief. What were they thinking?
As I worked out this morning to CNBC, I watched Howard Schultz, CEO or Starbucks, come on the air and publicly admonish the government for failure to act with the best interests of America in mind. Schultz said, “We have a confidence problem”, and he’s right. While Congress has played tug of war with itself, using the American people as their rope, we here in Everytown USA are snapping, one strand at a time. Those that have money won’t spend because of uncertainty, fear and doubt; and those that don’t are forced to borrow and those that can’t borrow anymore, well I’m not really sure what they’re doing. The uncertainty of it all has made business afraid to hire, even if it is doing alright, because it might not be in the future.
I was watching Mad Men season 2 on Netflix the other night. Burt Cooper, the founding member of the show’s fictional employer, the early 1960’s Ad firm Sterling Cooper, was listening to updates on the Cuban Missile Crisis. As concern rippled through the small group of ad men, the Cooper character says, “I remember the crash of ’29. People lost confidence in America then, and they were wrong.” This is how we feel right now. We have lost confidence in America and we’re wrong.
When leadership was needed 150 years ago Abraham Lincoln said this: that the “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”. That is the kind of leadership we need right now.
Ray Davies of the quintessential rock and roll band The Kinks once wrote, “Everybody’s got problems honey, I got mine.” This truth should serve as a reminder that we Americans are not all that different from one another. We need to get back to living our lives rather than living in fear and while government cannot solve all the Nation’s ills, we are allowed to expect more. It’s sort of like playing catch in the street, when you miss the ball and shout, “A little help please?” to a passerby, you expect that they will stop whatever they are doing and toss it back to you, ‘cause you would do the same.
So, to our government leaders I say, “a little help please?”, and to everyone else I say hang in there, for this too shall pass.