Thursday, January 8, 2009

Welcome to "Hard Times"

A picture in the SN&R report shows the lunch line at Loaves & Fishes.
The sobering frontpage article in the Jan. 8 SN&R [Sacramento News & Review], titled "Hard Times," by Sasha Abramsky, may make everyone in our metropolis lose sleep.

Things are plenty bad, now. Construction in Elk Grove and Roseville on major projects has been suspended and is fenced off. Likely, the projects will never be finished. Many businesses have gone under. Malls have unleased floorspace, as do office buildings. Between Sacramento and Stockton is an area of foreclosed and abandoned homes that rates among the nation's worst.

But worse is sure to come. Writes Abramsky, the short term, the prognosis for Sacramento isn’t pretty: At the very least, a year from now unemployment and poverty will be worse than they currently are, and economic activity, at least that generated in the private sector, will be even more subdued.

In reality, far more jobs are being lost in residential and commercial construction, for example, than are being created at solar-panel factories and staffing new hospital wings—and that’s likely to continue to be the case for many years. “It’s great that we’re doing high-tech,” says [Bill] Camp[, executive secretary of the Sacramento Central Labor Council], “but do I think that’s going to be a solution to the evaporation of the retail industry? No. Forty-two percent of economic growth is in retail. When you’re losing all of these shopping malls and the retail trade business, that won’t be made up by whatever happens in the high-tech industry.”

The result will be, Jock O’Connell[, international trade and economics adviser at the University of California Center in Sacramento,] says glumly, rising homelessness and poverty, and growing social tensions. “Higher crime, more family dysfunction, less ability to deal with this issue because of a lack of revenue to pay for police and social services. So, a coarsening of society. Gun sales will go up. Drug usage will go up. All the normal pathologies will be accentuated.”
The twinkle of good news in the report is that once our years-long economic winter is past our area will benefit from restructuring. Inefficient companies and those with inferior goods or services will be winnowed out. Political muscle may shift from protecting the enormously rich toward favoring a more-egalitarian society.

And, maybe, we will all be more responsible with our personal credit and that of our nation.

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