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  • 04.20.10

The Economy Won’t Recover Unless You Do it

The economy will never recover. Not the way it once was. It just can’t. This is neither bad nor good: it’s just different. And different is the hardest thing to swallow, because people hate change.  

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The economy will never recover. Not the way
it once was. It just can’t. This is neither bad nor good: it’s just
different. And different is the hardest thing to swallow, because people
hate change.

 

Since
large portions of my day are spent in front of a computer, I have the
luxury of listening to  talking heads debate the economy. It is the
nature of talking head programs to feature one person on the “pro” side
of every issue and one person on the “con.”  The pro people feel like
Obama has turned it around. They cite the rise in consumer spending, and
the fall in layoffs, the apparent stabilization of real estate prices
and a small upturn in housing starts. The con people point to an
unemployment rate of 9.7%, an inability of older people in the workforce
to retire, and rising commodity prices. Neither side of the equation is
in the trenches; they have jobs.  They’re paid to pontificate.

 

I see the people. I work across several segments of the
economy and I can see both good and bad. The good is where it always is:
in dreams and starts and innovations. The bad is in waiting for the
economy to turn around.

 

My local economy is awful, as municipalities cut services and
the state cuts education and health care, therefore losing us more
jobs. My perception of the national economy is that it is still very
bad, because housing is still in the doldrums, and when it’s in the
doldrums nationally, people can’t sell their homes and move to Phoenix,
which depends on growth to exist, or to California, where they still
can’t afford to live. People are stuck in place, in jobs they never
expected to have, like walking dogs or writing for Demand Media, or
unloading boxes.

 

So why
are consumers spending? The consumer drives the American economy, and
the consumer hasn’t come to terms yet with the loss of wealth that just
happened. The stock market has gone up, so people now feel they have
gotten “rich” again. They want to think they have. But they haven’t,
because they still don’t have good jobs, a living wage, safe
investments, or home equity. The consumer will get the bills and quit
spending again.

 

In my little corner, the entrepreneurial
community, no one is kickin’ ass and taking names, but people are
surviving and starting businesses all the time They have a vision to
keep them gong that consists of more than “benefits.” In a climate like
this, it’s much more satisfying to have a mission, like clean tech or
connecting the world, than to have making money as your goal. The “make
money” people, in real estate, are truly suffering. It’s not going to be
easy to make money in America for a long time.

 

Entrepreneurs
are more used to lean years than people with “good” jobs, and they tend
to roll more with the punches. Creative geeks don’t care much about
money anyway; they work for fun, freedom and the challenge of solving
big problems,  and just try to keep body and soul together. So in one of
my circles, people are poor, but still happy. In the other, real
estate, they are wiped out, not only financially, but emotionally. For
them, it was about mortgages in the last bubble: getting them, taking
them on, investing in them, selling them and securitizing them. It
wasn’t even really about real estate.

 

It wasn’t about anything
real.

About the author

Francine Hardaway, Ph.D is a serial entrepreneur and seasoned communications strategist. She co-founded Stealthmode Partners, an accelerator and advocate for entrepreneurs in technology and health care, in 1998.

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