Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?
These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.
Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...
...seems to be working so far
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
We Ain't Seen Nuthin' Yet
That is what these times will be known as. We have never had bad economic times, such as these, since the "Great Depression". Things are going to get much worse, way before they begin to get better.
Well, that's a cheery way to start the day.
I know, and I am sorry for sharing what is shoved down our throats every day on the news here on this space, but I can't ignore it any longer.
Layoffs are being made in all sectors, homes are falling into foreclosure not just from the screwy mortgage situation, but from everyday folks that no longer have the income to pay their mortgages. Things are beginning to shift.
Folks are filling up apartments, and the number of those that are available are getting tight.
Of course, Main Street is being hit hard, but so is My Street, and Your Road. The state is cutting back. Towns will get less state money, and services and personnel will be cut. Some officials have elected to forgo their annual raises. This is a good thing, but one or two people giving up a 5% raise will do little to stem the tide. If we are to maintain the same level of services during these dark times, then everyone on the town payroll has got to take a hit.
Giving up 8% of ones income sure beats the heck out of being laid off, and having no income, and certainly is much better than having the Fire Department go part time, the police cutting back on patrols, the Highway Department only able to go out in a storm to clear the roads once or twice, or our classroom size increasing.
During the Great Depression we know of the sacrifices that people made. Some of us may have heard the stories our grandparents, or their parents told. Recovery eventually came, but during those years prior to our coming out of that Depression, everyone made sacrifices. We need to do that today as well.
We hear that Americans are cutting back on spending, saving more, and buying less. Macy's announced layoffs yesterday. The President wants to give Americans money to spend in the market place to stimulate the economy.
Well, I am not an economist, far from it, but I do have some common sense. If you give $1000.00 to a person that is behind on their bills, rent, mortgage, car payment, where do you think that money will go? Sure as heck won't go to the perfume counter at Macy's, or to Best Buy for a 52 inch LCD TV. That money will have been spent weeks before it even arrives. The money will do nothing to stimulate the economy.
So, how do we weather the storm? Well, as individuals there is little we can do to offset what is happening on Wall Street, but we must be aware that none of us is immune, and take steps to change our behaviors so that if are directly affected by a layoff, or salary reduction, we can survive.
Cutting back on the extras, saving more of our income, refinancing our mortgages to a new lower rate, retraining in another field are just some of the ways to prepare, and volunteering more. In order to maintain the same level of services schools, hospitals, senior centers, and other town departments will make cuts. Maybe if enough of us fill those paid spaces with volunteer hours, the cuts won't be felt as much.
I am not immune. I work in health care, and health care is one of those "safe" industries the experts keep saying. Not entirely true. Cambridge Hospital is closing their Pediatric Unit, Tufts Medical Center has laid off, and other hospitals around the state doing the same. We need a back up plan. Like you, I pray that my services will continue to be needed, and I would be willing to accept a cut in my salary in order to maintain our mission. We've already had some layoffs.
Everyones situation is so different. Priorities vary from household to household. Only those that live inside of the houses on our streets know just what they need to do. If they don't know the specifics of how they can survive, then they must be aware that this economic crisis is going to affect everyone, and they need to make a plan now.
I guess the only thing I can actually do at this end is to wish us all good luck, and pray that the light at the end of tunnel is not the Acela.