From the Publisher


Arnold G. York

Keeping it all in perspective

I just finished reading today’s Los Angeles Times, and after taking a moment to digest it all, I was about ready to go out and cut my wrists. There was scarcely a single item of news that was anything other than bleak, and I walked away with the feeling that the world, on just about every front-internationally, nationally and locally-was on a fast downhill slide. I thought perhaps it was time to start thinking about a little quiet cabin in the woods to ride out the storm, which doesn’t seem to have an end in sight.

It’s not easy to keep a perspective when everything seems to be going to hell on an express train. I literally had to force myself to sit down and start thinking back to other down periods and how we came out of them and ultimately survived. One of the things about age is that you’ve been through enough cycles to know that, ultimately, they are just that, cycles, and they do end.

Some cycles, such as the Iraq war, we created, and if we have the ability to make them, we also have the ability to break them.

The war in Iraq is not going to end anytime soon, and despite all the optimistic talk, the Iraqis are never going to fix their situation until we get out. I’m not sure we can ever fix our situation until we stop spending $12 billion a month on this war, and that’s only what our government says it costs. Some estimates are that we’re going to end up spending three trillion dollars on the war, which I think is three thousand billion dollars and means about $500 billion a year is being spent on the war. Worse yet, we did it all on credit, meaning borrowed money, and although I will admit that economics baffle me, I’m guessing that all those dollars borrowed for the war have a great deal to do with our current financial problems and the weakness of the dollar.

To get out of this downhill slide, number one, we have got to get out of Iraq, and the sooner the better.

Part of what we need to do is sort of Zen out on the world. There never was a time in the history of mankind when there weren’t wars, governments being overthrown, economic crises, plague and all of the other things to which humanity is exposed. For those involved in such crises, it’s sometimes fatal, but the rest of the world is, in the main, spectators. The problem is, with modern communications-the Internet, blogs, cable TV with talking, or really, screaming heads, and talk radio-you begin to get the feeling that it’s all right here on your doorstep, and the world would be lucky to survive until Friday. However, it just isn’t so.

Number two: There are always ups and downs, and nothing lasts forever. So Chicken Little in the sky really isn’t falling and you’re better off turning off the talk radio before you make yourself totally nuts. Locally, we’re all seeing credit drying up, home prices teetering, and, for many of us, our most important asset, our home, under siege. We’ve all been there before, for many of us several times. For the next year on real estate is going to retrench, incomes and housing prices will realign, and, in time, prices will climb again. As long as you’re not in over your head in debt or forced to sell, you’ll probably do fine. Even if you have to sell and perhaps get less than you hoped for, you’re also going to able to buy cheaper, or you’ll rent for a while until you see which way it’s all going.

Number three: It may take a year or two more but it always comes back, so don’t panic.

Lastly, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. We’re not at the bottom yet, and, unfortunately, our national government seems to be frozen into inaction. But fortunately, come next January, we’re going to have a new leader. Whether that leader is Clinton, Obama or McCain, it’s going to be an improvement. We’ll have a new mandate to change things and maybe, just maybe, we’ll begin to see an energy policy that includes alternative sources of energy, conservation and vehicles that use less fuel. Without an energy policy, we are doomed to oil at $108 per barrel, which in time will suck all the money out of this country and transfer it to the oil-producing countries.

I don’t mean to sound Pollyannaish, but we’re in for a tough year or two. However, we are still the richest country in the world, with vast natural resources, an educated population and domestic stability, and there aren’t many countries that can say that.

So the final, number four: Suck it in; Americans are tough. We’ve been through this before and we’ll get through this again.