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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Governor's doublespeak leaves Sedona wondering

Christopher Fox Graham
Deciphering Sedona
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano visited Cottonwood on Jan. 15 to tell local leaders her plans for 2008.
She also came to say that the impending recession was not her call and that whether we’re in one or not is up to academics to determine.
Apparently, a recession is much like the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal — if you can’t see it, then it can’t see you.
No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, but the governor’s obvious omission does hold some weight, especially in financial markets where moods of investors can change the future, best illustrated by Robert Redford and Ben Kingsley in “Sneakers:”
Posit: People think a bank might be financially shaky.
Consequence: People start to withdraw their money.
Result: Pretty soon it is financially shaky.
Conclusion: You can make banks fail.
Of course, if the banks are already shaky, then the rationale for denial goes away. The governor, rather than looking like an alarmist, begins to look oblivious.
On Monday, Jan. 14, stock markets around the world crashed in their biggest drops since the economic fallout following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Markets from Mumbai and Hong Kong to London and Paris saw huge drops, some of which froze trading for hours to induce calm.
Imagine 10,000 high-stress, over-caffeinated stockbrokers trying to find something to do before the markets reopen while at the same time trying to find reasons not to kill themselves.
In the bars around the world’s stock markets, I bet pinball games recorded their highest usages ever.
In Japan, the Nikkei Index hasn’t fallen this fast since Ghidorah faced off with Godzilla.
Why did the world go nuts? With the U.S. economy roiling from the subprime housing fiasco, the Bush Administration announced details of a stimulus package Friday, Jan. 11.
Of course, economics looked at the package, then asked if the real package was hiding behind that one.
Call me shocked and awed.
The Bush Administration has been able to hold off widespread criticism of its domestic policies for the last six years due to a mediocre wartime economy, but as the housing crisis and credit crunch strikes hardest at the middle class, expect even die-hard right to turn on President George W. Bush.
Bush lasted longer in office than his father, but will be remembered the same way — as a bad economist.
Oddly enough, if the Bush Administration had stayed out of Iraq and restrained itself to snipe hunting Osama bin Laden in Waziristan, it would likely have enough of a surplus to afford a buyout of the worst mortgages and stave off the fall.
Hindsight is 20/20. That’s what the History Channel is for.
In the meantime, though, Arizona’s governor needs to face the state’s economic situation and offer us more than blase shrug of the shoulders.
If we wanted to ask an academic about the state’s economy, we would have elected one as governor. But we elected Napolitano and she needs to say it like it is.
Once people know they’re in a recession, spending habits change and the economy slowly begins to recover.
If they still think the economy is shiny, however, they buy Hummers and oceanfront property in southern Arizona figuring good times will refill their pocketbooks.
Locally, Sedona businesses are buckling down, while others are changing hands or closing up shop.
Houses that have been vacant and up for sale will likely stay that way a little while longer.
As a city, Sedona’s renewable resource is its landscape, so even in a recession, people will still come, artists will still create and the city’s finances won’t collapse.
So even if the governor won’t say it, pretend like we’re in a recession. Plan for worst, hope for the best.
In the end, what makes governor’s doublespeak ironic is that her ambiguous answer intended to keep us out of recession creates enough confusion and false security to push Arizona into one even faster.
Deciphering Sedona is published Wednesdays in the Sedona Red Rock News. To comment, e-mail to cgraham@larsonnewspapers.com.

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