No easy fixes
Each day, it seems we wake up to a more confusing world with contradictions and surprises causing bumps in the road. 2016 looks to be no exception. Why?
2016 started off in a perverse way, even disregarding the real estate billionaire with venomous, bloated rhetoric and the Cuban-Canadian debate society alum likely to take Republican primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire.
As if that weren't enough, the entire nation was spellbound by a $1.5 billion lottery, red meat for our media. At the same time, a downturn in worldwide capital markets caused the loss of more than $2 trillion (that is, more than two thousand billions), with impacts on personal retirement accounts, IRAs, and 401ks. By comparison, the media treated that event almost as a matter of course.
The market downturn was caused in part by fears of poor performance in the Chinese economy. Most western nations are dependent on China as a trade partner and as a source of cheap goods. China owns about $1.25 trillion of US debt,. Let's hope China doesn't call it in too soon.
The downturn was also due to our paying less for fuel than we have in years (oil is now $30/barrel). The ironic twist? The oil companies that racked up billions in profits and federal government subsidies during the past 15 years are laying off thousands of people and closing down various operations because they're not getting their usual sky-high prices. That is also affecting businesses that depend on big oil, from supply chain right down to restaurants and coffee shops in the oil patch.
Another ironic twist? Downtown businesses have been losing out for years to the big box stores like Wal-Mart. But last week, Wal-Mart announced the closing of 270 stores worldwide because of the impact of online sales on its own brick-and-mortar inventory. That will affect about 16,000 workers and a dozen Wal-Mart supercenters.
In the midst of this, we know that we need to repopulate Southern Vermont. We need to bring well paid jobs, talented people, and solid growth businesses to Bennington and Southern Vermont in general. Yet established businesses from "outside" see barriers to entry in our taxes, the reputation and cost of education, transportation issues, and a shrinking population that lacks diversity.
We live in a very challenging, "pushmi-pullu" world. There are no easy fixes.