As True Today as 30 Years Ago
It is a crisis of confidence.
It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.
The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.
It’s amazing how some things have changed little in the span of a generation. And it’s also amazing how much different many things are now compared to then.
When President Carter spoke of spiraling gas prices, regular – real regular, not the then-oxymoronic regular unleaded – had crept over a dollar a gallon. I still remember not only the first time I saw a one appear on a gas station price board but also my mother’s reaction. You would have thought the world had ended.
Fast forward to today when it was with a wry smile I noticed that I’ll be filling up my tank tomorrow at around $2.97 a gallon – still exorbitant, but a far sight better than the $4.57 I spent in San Diego in late June on a return from Legoland.
On the flip side, I recently heard from a buyer who repeated what I’ve heard on and off for the last year and change – interest rates are too high. Really? Rates in the 6s sure look better than the rates in the teens that the nation was facing 30 years ago.
Much of what you see both on Wall Street and on the housing market is driven by fear. Fear of the future. Fear of the unknown. Fear that we’re going to make decisions that will prove costly down the line.
The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years.
Is it that much different these days?
Writers Block Strikes RE.net En Masse
Over the past couple of weeks, posts have been appearing discussing the writers’ block suffered by the author. Maybe it’s a matter of feeling like everything’s been said about the nuts and bolts of real estate. I know that was the root of mine. Or maybe it’s just a lack of motivation to try and write at a time when it’s so damned hard to be certain of anything.
2008 will mark my best year in this business in terms of gross commissions, and just a smidge lower in total sales volume than I recorded during the market’s rocket ride in 2005. Yet I often find myself … tired. Or, more to the point, worn down.
This isn’t a complaint – I chose this business, after all. But maintaining the necessarily cheery demeanor in the face of 700-point swings in the Dow is a bit difficult. I don’t have the luxury of screaming to mask my fear (and my errors) like Jim Cramer. And it doesn’t get any more personal as an exercise as when you’re doing this in your own car with clients inches away who are seeking validation of their decisions.
(Editor’s note: as I write this, the local high school is having its Homecoming game, which is the only time that fireworks are fired. My family just reacted like we were in London circa WWII as the explosions thundered above the house. Back to our tale.)
If I truly believed the decisions being made were bad ones, I wouldn’t be in real estate. Still, it’s hard not to be influenced by everything else going on in the nation and in the world.
We remember when the phrase “sound as a dollar” was an expression of absolute dependability, until ten years of inflation began to shrink our dollar and our savings. We believed that our nation’s resources were limitless until 1973 when we had to face a growing dependence on foreign oil.
These wounds are still very deep. They have never been healed.
Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people have turned to the Federal Government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our nation’s life. Washington, D.C., has become an island. The gap between our citizens and our government has never been so wide. The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual.
What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special interests.
You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.
Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift. You don’t like it, and neither do I. What can we do?
Searching for the Answer
It’s not difficult to feel somewhat alone even in the real estate blogging world. Most exude such a high level of confidence, you wonder if they feel any of the same doubts, whether they have the same concerns.
Whether they do really is irrelevant, of course, aside from the need for assurance. At the end of the day, we’re responsible for the course of our own career and for the clients we either do or do not help. Even as the stock and currency markets have gyrated, registrations through my Phoenix Real Estate search (thanks, Mariana, for the idea of the blatant plug) have remained steady.
Real estate remains in demand, not as an investment, but as a statement of stability. A place to call home. It’s in these registrations and these inquiries that I see the seeds of the recovery, the slow-smoldering embers of home buried in the ash. And that’s where I turn for the inspiration it seems so many of us need these days.
I do not promise you that this struggle for freedom will be easy. I do not promise a quick way out of our nation’s problems, when the truth is that the only way out is an all-out effort. What I do promise you is that I will lead our fight, and I will enforce fairness in our struggle, and I will ensure honesty. And above all, I will act.
If anyone had told me that I’d write a post centered around any speech from President Carter, I likely would have suggested they seek some psychiatric help. But given the belief that the past is prologue, it was more than a little stunning to discover the same themes with which this nation was concerned 30 years ago still haunt us to some degree today.
Can this second crisis of confidence be overcome? That, my friends, we’ll have to wait and see.