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Seniors: prosperity will return, in time


Views on the Economy


January 14, 2009
The economy is the worst it's been in a generation, and while fixed-income senior citizens have been among those hardest hit, as prices of everyday necessities have increased, at least some are the most optimistic that things will get better.

At a recent gathering of the English Senior Citizens, several members likened the current economic woes to those in the 1970s when gas prices soared and even during World War II when the cost of sugar increased — and never came down — causing other food product prices to increase.

Perhaps it's because they've lived through rough economic times before, but no one blamed the government for the current situation.

"I really don't blame the government, the president. I really wonder if it didn't start with the gasoline (cost increase)," Edith Key said.

Betty Gunn suggested the mortgage crisis caused the economy as a whole to nosedive. Asked if the banks that offered the unsustainable mortgages or the couples who borrowed more than they knew they could repay were to blame, she said her heart wants to answer one way but her head answers another.

"I would like to say it's the bankers, but, if you stop and think about it, it's the couple because they took more than they (needed)," she said.

Key noted how most of the houses having been built in the past several years have been large, pointing to excess.

"The garages are bigger than the house," she said.

Becky Walton said she and others on fixed incomes are managing to get by, even though the cost of staples has risen, thanks to common sense.

"We're doing without or living with what we can," she said. "That's all we can do."

The group noted that that is apparently what several people, even those not on fixed incomes, are doing, pointing to the lack of automobile sales. They noted it's a good time to be a mechanic as people instead are choosing to have their older vehicles repaired, when in more prosperous times, they would have replaced them.

Key pointed out that while all items at the grocery store haven't increased in price, many that have stayed the same price have reduced quantities, which, in essence, has increased their per unit cost.

While the economy may not be worse than in other down times, like the 1970s, the difference this time, Sharon Riddle noted, is the drop in the investment markets, with so many people having their retirements tied to them, will cause "a lot larger long-range effect on people."

Key added that people who live in rural areas now have a lot more bills, such as water and sewer and home insurance, than they did during the Great Depression.

"I don't know of anybody, if they had any money, they haven't lost some," she said, whether their money was invested in a 401K retirement plan or not. "It makes me sick."

Walton added several of her family members' 401K plans have lost value, and others said they have family and friends who have lost their jobs.

The seniors also questioned President-elect Barack Obama's approximately $1-trillion economic stimulus package. Although they remember President Franklin D. Roosevelt's similar WPA programs and how they got Americans working again, they questioned where the money would come from, saying the country can't afford to borrow more money and taxes can't be raised to pay for the package without negatively affecting people.

"Where's he getting the money?" Gunn asked.

The economy, she said, isn't just a U.S. problem and, therefore, is going to take some time and more than just Obama's planned stimulus package to fix.

"I really don't think one man can really change anything," Gunn said.

However, she said, the economy will improve in time.

"We always bounce back," she said.

(Chris Adams may be reached at 738-4552 or cadams@clarionnews.net.)

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