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Have yourself a merry little Christmas (11/30/2008)
By John Edstrom

To read the national news these days, is to experience the horrors of living during the Second Coming of the Great Depression. And there is plenty of bona fide bad news besides the usual end-of-the-world economic crash the liberal media whoop up before a presidential election when the incumbent is a Republican. The stock market has lost – what? – a third of its value? Unemployment is burgeoning, the U.S. auto industry is tottering, and the freeze in the credit markets has not yet thawed, despite massive infusions of capital by the federal government. Retail spending is way down and the Grinch has stolen Christmas again.

But you’ve all heard that over and over again already. Much of this economic downturn, as always, is the result of a drop-off in consumer spending caused by a lack of consumer confidence. And much of this is no more than the result of media harping on a loss of same.

Let us take a clear-eyed look at conditions locally, granted the problems ticked off above. Friday morning at 5 am, lines at local retailers, not just Wal-Mart, stretched for blocks. When all is said and done this holiday season, local retail will not be off by much for those who don’t roll up their sidewalks. And that is because, with one notable exception, Winona has not seen massive layoffs.

Our housing market has not collapsed, although prices are certainly down from record highs, which were not realistic anyhow. Our local banks have plenty of money to lend for home, auto, or whatever purchases. That is because, in the first place, they never got involved in the orgy of bad mortgage lending which landed us in the current recession. Those in the Winona market with steady incomes, particularly the farmers who are reaping a bumper crop, will find plenty of credit available to purchase what they need or want. There has not been a better time in recent memory, for those who can afford it, to buy a new home or car. The auto manufacturers, especially, are practically giving cars away.

Nationally, it appears that we may have touched bottom, although unemployment will grow even as the economy turns around. The stock market last week experienced the first four-day advance since last spring and initial reports on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving when retailers traditionally start to make money) are better than expected. And the U.S. auto industry is going to muddle through, government bailout or no.

And finally, what about the astonishing wild card dealt the consumer just lately, about which there is a deafening silence in the big media, so intent on laying us all out for burial? Compared to this summer, everyone in this country who drives a vehicle with a 20 gallon gas tank will leave the gas station with a rebate, if you will, of about $50 – each visit. No one ever dreamt this would happen, and it will have an enormous impact on consumer spending if people will come out from under their beds.

So go ahead and have yourself a merry little Christmas. And please patronize our advertisers!



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