As parishioners suffer job loss and cutbacks, and our parish and campus ministry endowments shrink, thus facing less funding for the coming year, I look around and I ask myself: what’s different about my city? Students are still lugging backpacks to class and back. Restaurants are still cooking food and feeding people. Grocery stores still have stocked shelves. There are waits at doctors’ and dentists’ offices, banks, insurance storefronts, sporting events, movies, and fast food drive-throughs. A huge box building is getting thrown up on the west side of town. What’s the problem? Life is normal at first glance around here.
A friend of mine shared that her investments dropped about 60%–below average for a stock market that dropped no more than 40% since last September and has now swung into recovery mode now that fed dollars are forthcoming. It’s hard not to think this is all some big worldwide scam, and perhaps the penguin’s truth is uncomfortably close to reality. Is my friend just burdened with worse investments than the wealthiest among us–just unlucky it turned out that way? I used to fret slightly that with a growing child I never socked away money for the future. But I’m starting to feel some relief I limited my bad financial decisions to buying multiple houses. Instead of circling the drain with Republicans, at least some of the family income was poured into an occasional vacation and night out at the concert hall or ballpark.
I scratched out time to get my federal taxes done last week, and today, I have two state returns to complete. I’ve already seen the shock of the depression to my economic system. Our rental manager’s promised $200 plumbing estimate bloomed into twice that, but they still cared enough to send this cheery e-mail the other week:
It’s been another eventful month here at Turn-Key Properties. Business has been busy busy busy!! We also thank you for being patient with us …Just a quick update on your property. This has been a great month. No major maintenance problems and things are running smooth. It’s been a pretty good month!!
If I just adopt this positive attitude and consider $400 plumber bills below the threshhold of “major maintenance” maybe I too can vacillate between “great” and “pretty good.”
Getting back to the local scene, what’s different about Ames, Iowa than eight months ago? The only loss, possibly, is the phantom of out-of-town benefactors. We didn’t lose a whole swath of property by a body of water like some cities. We didn’t have radioactive Eurotrash dumped in the next county. We didn’t lose a key shipment of some vital material like milk or meat or lumber. Is this depression only about some vague feel-good about lending money? We have to pay for stuff like that–I know I’m doing my part shipping half my income off for two mortgage holders in Florida and Washington DC. Fifty percent isn’t enough, I know–because I’m still getting credit card offers too good to be true. My current card masters recently tried to convince me that my permanent 1.99% rate is inferior to my new platinum status which baselines at around 9.99. But it’s … well … Platinum! That has to be worth something, right?
More and more, I’m convinced that global economies are just scams. If my mortgages and those of my neighbor were pouring in to our local banks, that would save a good bit of money from draining off to heaven-knows-where. Too bad we can’t do business like that again, cutting out the sharks at the top of the food chain and saving the middle wo/man and the small fry at the base of the operation. Sure beats the conferral of platinum status.