How long, would you say, did it take for America to plunge itself into the economic shame spiral out of which we're trying so desperately to climb? A year? Two? More like 8 years or so, by my count.
So, why … WHY is it that everyone, from the local janitor all the way up to national politicians, seems to expect a solution in the mere blink of an eye?
What this country is dealing with right now is an economic calamity of epic proportions. It's not going to get fixed overnight. As much as I wish there was some magic fairy dust to throw at this situation (I can actually think of several things for which I'd use that at home), there simply is not.
Some will argue that the homebuyer tax credit was working to stimulate the economy. But was it? Really? I submit that it merely nudged buyers who were already considering a home purchase into buying sooner. Have you noticed that since the credits expired at the end of April, new housing starts have gone into free-fall?
Consumer confidence simply isn't there.
Very telling is the fact that, right now, there are 30-year fixed mortgages out there with sub-5% interest rates … and homes still aren't selling. Mortgage rates like that simply don't exist; they're the lowest that I've ever seen. But still, no one's biting.
The fact is that until home prices return to levels that are considered sane -- where they would be had the boom of the mid-2000s not happened -- many people feel that buying a home simply isn't a good investment right now. In fact, many experts have said that home values might -- MIGHT -- return to levels at which sellers could break even by as early as 2015, but in the so-called sand states -- that's California, Nevada, Arizona, and Florida -- a return to peak prices could be as far off as 2025. That's fifteen years, folks.
Fifteen. Years. A far cry from overnight, to be sure.
From my vantage point, this country (and much of the rest of the world) needs to take a major reality check. We need to stop focusing on quick fixes, because they simply don't work. Not in the long term, anyway. We need to get real about the way we issue credit, the way we, as consumers, use that credit. Frankly, it's something that we should think about when it comes to how we spend our money with other governments. But that's another topic for another day.
People need to stop looking for the quick fix. People need to stop thinking that every slightly positive bit of activity means that we're out of the woods. It doesn't.
There are flowers and sunshine on the horizon, but we're a long, long way from smelling them.