Thursday, January 22, 2009

Now It’s REALLY Getting Serious!

Microsoft is cutting 5, 000 jobs - the first layoff in the company’s history. Intel is cutting 6,000 jobs and closing plants completely. Sony is eliminating 16,000 jobs and cutting corners in every way they can. That’s 27,000 more people without a way to pay their bills.

Now, we know things have been pretty serious, but when Microsoft becomes part of the fray -- I think, maybe, if we haven’t already, we should really start taking this economic crisis seriously. Of course, those aren’t the only negative signs today - we had the largest number of people filing for unemployment in 26 years - some 550,000+. Analysts are saying that there are going to be a lot more big companies who will default on their loan obligations - that adds more stress to the banking part of the crisis. The housing market continues to spiral downward. Ouch! I checked my measly little IRA today and found that since approximately one year ago to the week, the value has dropped by 40% and from less then a year and a half ago, it’s dropped by just less then 50%.

Is this impacting me? Of course! Is it impacting you? Well, if it’s not you must be living in a bubble.

So? Do we all run and hide, bury our heads in the sand (I have it on good authority that it’s difficult to breathe with your head buried like that)? Actually, Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft made an insightful comment. He said something to the effect that (and I paraphrase) “we’re not experiencing a ‘recession.’ What we’re experiencing is a ’resetting’ of our consumer economy.” In other words, our economy finally reached the breaking point, the point where the house of cards collapses and has to be reset. Another economist said that we have to have an economy based on Main Street and not Wall Street. Wall Street has created a country of phantom wealth, not real wealth - which is why it’s able to collapse so easily, there’s really no substance behind it.

Is this the end? Are we facing a financial Armageddon? I don’t think so. I think we may be facing reality. And exactly what is reality? Reality is what’s left when you take your designer clothes of and stand naked in front of the mirror. There aren’t as many “pretty people” in our society as we think there are - but you can hide all of reality with smoke and mirrors and money can buy a lot of that. Another way to look at reality is to look at a woman who uses lots and lots of make-up. She may appear very attractive, even beautiful, with all that expensive stuff on her face. But, when it comes off, there is reality. She could have zits, pock marks, freckles and whatever else. But, as a society, we all want to be “pretty people.” Heck, there are even men who wear make-up and, of course, toupees, not to forget body slimming under garments. But, here’s the fact, strip us all naked and we become pretty plain and pretty equal in most ways.

If you’re following my blog (and I currently have no idea if I’m writing to myself or how many people may be following my line of thinking) you probably know that by freeing yourself, in whatever way you can justify for yourself, from all the “stuff” that costs money and is just a lot of window dressing you'll likely be a lot happier and fulfilled. You can have more time to enjoy life, find work that may not pay as much as what you may think you’re worth, but bring you joy and fulfillment and live a happier lifestyle, while so many others are gnashing their teeth, wailing, ending up homeless - “not by choice” and certainly not happily homeless. Stuff costs money. Most stuff we don’t need - we just want it. And all too often we want it because someone else has it, we have to keep up with the Jones’s or we are just addicted to spending money.

So, I think there is something to what Steve Ballmer said about this being a “resetting” of the economy. I don’t think we’ve seen the bottom of this fall-out by a long stretch. But, I believe a lot of us are going to break out of our buying habits and find out what really makes us happy. Then we’ll begin living simpler, more fulfilling and happier lives of living and working free, rather then as slaves to McMansions, costly, gas guzzling SUV’s and other gas hog vehicles, expensive utility bills, cable TV, designer clothes and prepackaged, prepared foods or eating out too much. Sounds pretty boring doesn’t it. Don’t knock it unless you’ve tried it. Heck! We might even get to know our families, friends and neighbors better.


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