I don’t think I’m alone this year in thinking that it doesn’t feel at all like Christmas. Maybe it’s the constant bad news, but Christmas this year feels more like an unhelpful intermission in a crisis. On one hand, we can use the break. On the other, we need to focus on fixing the problem. There has never been a time when we needed our leaders more. But we know they are not working through the holidays.
The news from Thanksgiving to Christmas has been predominately negative. Today, on Christmas eve, Bloomberg has announced that the U.S. jobless claims are at their highest in 26 years. Last week it was announced that Chrysler was closing 30 plants for a month during the holiday. They will hopefully re-open on January 19th, but I’m betting those workers are not feeling overly confident tonight as they sit in their homes with their families.
But those workers may at least have a home, unlike the millions of people who have gone through foreclosure. 2008 set a new record in the amount of home foreclosures in the United States, and there doesn’t appear to be much hope to an end in the near future. This November saw the lowest home sales in 17 years, and that’s with all the incredible bargains in real estate and record low interest rates.
Las night I rented Fred Clause with my son. We laughed at the idea that Santa’s disgruntled brother became a repo man, and that he was doing to opposite work as his brother in December. But I thought there was an interesting message built deeper within. Fred Clause is repossessing a child 55” plasma television that she watches in her bedroom, while the elves later crank out baseball bats and hula hoops, 1 per child. We have gotten complacent, and even greedy in this country. Christmas greed even killed poor Jdimytai Damour.
I’m not saying that the people who lost their homes were living extravagantly, but there are plenty of people who have purchased more home than they could afford, and then went out and racked up a significant credit card debt furnishing it with the best items they could get, while leasing a couple brand new cars.
I decided to scale back in 2008. I moved to a house that cost nearly a third of my past house, partially because of the amazing deals available right now. I didn’t buy a new car this year, and I didn’t take any extravagant vacations in 2008 like I did in 2007. And I plan on lightening up on spending even more in 2009.
It’s not that I’m having the same problems as some of the people in the country, I have my job (and no one has been laid off at USWeb), and I have a home. But I do realize that I am part of the problem. My friends and family will be getting a little less for Christmas this year, but I will be giving what I can to strangers who need a little more help this holiday. I’m not religious, but I do believe that we are given these couple of days (Christmas and Thanksgiving) to look at the world with a little more empathy than the rest of the year. This is the time to give.
So hopefully without sounding too preachy, I would like to ask whoever may read this post to give a little extra to someone in need this year. The country is in pretty bad shape right now. And unless you’re a Wall street broker, or a private jet flying auto-exec, the government is not going to be bailing us out. We need to help each other.