From the Publisher

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Arnold G. York

Welcome to 2009

A new year has begun and everything seems to be hanging in midair, waiting for things to begin to happen. We are in the midst of an international crisis in the Mideast, a national economic crisis of an uncertain prognosis, a state budget shortfall crisis and, for most of us, a personal crisis about how we survive all this uncertainty both emotionally and financially.

None of these problems appear to have a simple answer. I must confess I’ve never felt less certain about the state of the world than I feel right now or about what can be done about it.

Karen and I decided that since there was so much happening about which we have absolutely no control, the only way to survive and feel good was to focus on what we can do and let the rest of the world take care of itself. We’re both old enough and have lived through enough cycles to know that there truly are cycles and try not to beat ourselves up about it. Part of that is acceptance of the reality of cycles.

To begin with, we’re all poorer than we were a year or two ago. Whether you were in the market, big or small, you’re still probably 25 percent to 40 percent poorer than you were, even if you never knew Mr. Madoff. You can brood about that or move on and look for new opportunities. Ford still looks cheap to me at current prices.

The same for your real estate. Your home and your real estate are still worth what they were two years ago, provided you don’t have to sell. If you have to sell it’s probably worth 30 percent to 35 percent less and there is almost nothing you can do about it. Be assured it will come back. The only question is, is it going to be this year, next year or beyond?

On a personal level, we’re redefining what we need, which is a very interesting exercise. We find ourselves not buying but actually the reverse, throwing things away. We call it uncluttering our lives. I must admit it makes us both feel good even though it doesn’t do much for the economy. We’ve also decided to spend more time with friends and family, and to not get so busy trying to catch up with the economy that we don’t have time for people. People are much more important than dollars. They never ask for a copy of your P & L at the mortuary.

Having said all this, it’s still very difficult to stay up emotionally in a down year. It’s not easy to work out a business budget for the coming year because you just don’t know what’s going to happen, so we’re doing what I suspect many of you are doing. We’ve actually got three budgets. The, “It’s probably not going to be a good year budget,” the “It’s worse than we expected budget” and lastly, the “Oh my god budget.” Hopefully, it won’t go to option three.

I think with a new president, perhaps some new optimism and a large jolt of money we can get this economy moving again. I’ve got to believe that when we look at it all again in January 2010 the economy will be improved and we will feel a great deal better about it.

Also by 2010 the Legislature may actually have a 2009 budget. It, of course, will not be in balance and probably will only be balanced again when the economy comes roaring back.

In 2010 the Middle East will look pretty much like it looks today, except perhaps there will be a cease fire and something of a disengagement. There probably will be fewer American troops in Iraq, the Israelis will still be in parts of Gaza and Hamas will still be firing rockets into Israel, but fewer. Every American president since Truman has tried to fix the situation and all have failed. It will only improve when the parties, and there are many parties, feel they gain more by peace than by war, and we’re not even remotely close to that yet.

So much for my annual skepticism. I wish you all a happy, healthy and, dare I say it, a more prosperous New Year.