Posted by: Tricia | Thursday, September 18, 2008

Oh no, here she goes…

I have so much to be thankful for. I happened upon a statistic today that was quite disturbing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the July 2008 unemployment rate in the state of Michigan was 8.5%. That’s 51st out of 51. The unemployment rate for Texas was 4.7%, which, shockingly, ranks 20th. I would’ve thought it would be much closer to the top. South Dakota has the top spot with a rate of 3.0%.

I also found a chart with historical highs and lows for each state. For the historically highest unemployment rate, Michigan once again takes the prize, with the shocking number of 16.9% back in November 1982. WOW. I’m glad I wasn’t around here then. I’ve heard stories that there used to be a sign on the interstate heading out of Flint that said something like, “Would the last one out please turn out the lights.”

I’ve also been keeping up with the rather contrary state of existence in my much-beloved and much-missed hometown of Midland, TX. According to the July 2008 Unemployment Rates for Metropolitan Areas, Midland ranks 11th in the nation with a rate of 3.1%, and Odessa is 20th with 3.7%. Ann Arbor, in comparison, is 272nd in the nation at 6.9%, which is higher than the national average of 6.1%.

Oh, how thankful I am for my job! Because of my own little microcosm of turmoil and upheaval, I was forced right out into the biggest economic turmoil and upheaval in the nation, with no degree and no recent job experience to speak of. But God took care of me. My job certainly isn’t glamorous, and I certainly don’t get paid very much, but it’s still a good deal more than min. wage. My house isn’t in foreclosure. My babies’ bellies are nice and full as they sleep in their warm little cozy beds. My debt, while more than I care for it to be, is not beyond hope, and is not substantially growing. My budget to keep my tank full of gas is nominal (relatively speaking), since I have all of a four-mile round-trip commute.

God takes care of us everyday.

Watching the news these last couple of days has definitely started the wheels turning in my head. These giant financial brokers on the brink of disaster is quite….umm….interesting. As is the decision of the fed to bail them out. Gah. How did this happen?

Before I delve into that, I’m going to tell you a story.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Once upon a time, a long, long, long, long…OK, it was March of 1973…a little baby girl was born. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and the apple of her parents’ eyes. She had no idea of the prosperity that blessed the region into which she was born known as the Permian Basin. Oil was spewing out the bland, dry, mesquite-covered land like fountains on the Las Vegas strip . And money was spewing out of banks and savings & loans. Her father was right in the middle. Life was good. Great. The bubble was growing.

And then one day, the bubble popped. The little girl was now about 10 or so. The fountains ran dry. Once-sparkly, busy, prosperous office buildings that defined the city’s skyline, were left to the elements. Even the legendary cornerstone of the local economy, The First National Bank of Midland, went belly-up. Her parents worked really hard to shelter her from any hardship that might be coming her way, but she still knew enough to understand that things were going to change when she overheard her father utter the word “bankruptcy” to her mother. Her father made a change in direction for his career, and as she entered into teenage-dom, she wasn’t able to have all the cool designer fashions as the other kids at school…Guess? and Z Cavaricci jeans, five Swatches each complete with SwatchGuards on her arm. She didn’t get a car for her 16th birthday and was forced to share her mother’s hopelessly un-cool 1978 Oldsmobile which was so monstrous, it barely fit in the garage. She didn’t know it at the time, but her mother’s plans for her be a Symphony Debutante were nixed.

While nothing was being handed to her on a silver platter, she was a happy girl. She was actively involved in her high school’s marching band, experiencing thrilling things such as traveling to our nation’s capital to march for our new President. She got to spend three years at The Greatest University in the nation, The University of Texas, until once again, these financial pressures brought it to an end.

Today, she is a well-rounded, responsible woman with children of her own, who has been blessed with a unique and useful perspective of feast vs. famine. She has gained much wisdom through these experiences. She has learned how not to live beyond her means. She has learned how to find happiness in other places than Stuff. And she is so thankful that while she is in the midst of another terrible and destructive economic recession, she has enough for the time being. And she is at peace.

The End.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back to the collapse of the country’s financial giants: Just how did it happen?

My theory: Sub-prime mortgages and other frivolous lending tactics. This country is driven to have Stuff, whether or not we can afford it. And when things are going good, the banks and financial brokers will dole out money to people, who at the time don’t have any adequate means to pay it back. They all just assume things will keep heading in the same direction, and it’ll just fall in their laps. Then when that doesn’t happen…

How in the world did this society get to a place where it became totally acceptable to borrow so much dang money? What ever happened to cash on the barrelhead? Yes, I have a mortgage. And no, I would not have this beautiful house without being able to borrow the money to purchase it. At the time I purchased this house with the IX, I was fully planning on living in it with him, and not having to pay for it on my own. It’s not a big fancy über-luxurious place. My neighbors are almost right on top of me. It’s covered in…ack…siding. And it pretty much looks just like every other house in the neighborhood. We probably could’ve been approved for one of the sub-prime mortgages for a much grander dwelling, but we didn’t even go down that road. We got a standard, 30-year fixed mortgage. We purchased what at the time, we could afford. And now it just so happens that I find myself facing a lot of hard work to keep it that way.

Anyway…we are a nation of borrowers. We don’t like the concept of delayed gratification. And look at where it has gotten us. AGAIN.

I want a deck on the back of my house sooooo bad. But I’m not going to borrow to get it. I haven’t bought a stitch of new clothing since I started going on job interviews. (And boy, do I need some new clothes. I dropped four sizes during my divorce and just about everything in my closet would either fall right off of me or swallow me up.) My boys don’t have tons of clothes, and what they do have, are hand-me-downs, came from a resale shop, Target, or Meijer. I can’t remember the last time I set foot in the mall.

I have no intention of becoming one of the casualties, and I’m thankful that my life experiences have led me to understand a little bit about how it happens. I’m not afraid to buckle down and do what it takes to maintain my ‘meager’ (by some standards) way of life, all the while thinking I could just about be the richest woman on the planet. Oh, I’ve got big plans for the future, don’t get me wrong. And no, I don’t know exactly how I’m going to bring them to fruition.

But let me put it this way…I know how I’m not going to do it.

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Responses

  1. Fantastic post!

    You’re totally right about extreme credit and living beyond one’s means being the culprit for the financial atmosphere in the U.S. Things are going to have to be different. Both the business world and individual consumers have got to get off the credit and dept junkie way of life, and the government too.

    And congress has got to stop taking campaign money from the financial industry as a bribe to keep their heads turned while the mortgage and investment companies bend the safety rules that regulate their industry.

    I’d sort of like a new vehicle to drive right now. My nieces and nephews are driving better cars than me. But nope, I like not having a payment for one, and I wouldn’t initiate a loan right now for even 1% interest.

    Again, great post. I really needed to read something from someone who thinks like me this morning. I’ve been feeling rather disgusted and depressed this morning.

  2. I remember those days in west texas. I didn’t live there.. some of my family did. I remember friends living in Michigan. It was aweful for them. I’m just glad texas has diversified and held strong.

  3. @ LC: I'm so glad I helped! I sure felt better after writing it. I'm glad you feel better after reading it.

    @ Eathan: Yeah, I've been reading about how over the last couple of years Midland/Odessa has really been working to diversify the economy this time around. Live & learn, huh? Thanks for stopping by! Hook 'em always…

  4. Interesting blog! I operate a Contract Loan Processing Agency and was surfing around for ideas to create blogs in Word Press for Mortgage Brokers in Texas wanting to develop a niche product such as assisting buyers wanting to purchase bank owned properties, which brought me to yours.

    While surfing I also working on creating pages back links and invite you to email with your blog address and I’ll be happy to post you link on my site which helps promote your blog as well.


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