Editor's Blog

So Is It or Isn't It?

July 22, 2008
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A recession, that is. And officially it isn’t, at least not until the folks at a place called the National Bureau of Economic Research say it is. The thing is, it doesn’t really matter.

It’s funny how quickly academia and reality diverge. You can’t open much beyond a Ranger Rick magazine – this month’s highlight: “Lady Bug Lore, five fun facts about everyone’s favorite ‘bug’” – without reading about the dire straits in which millions of people are finding themselves. But just in case you’ve been lucky enough to avoid the cloven calculators of the Four Economists of the Apocalypse, here’s a quick look at some of the merriment filling the financial pages:

Whatever it is called, it is a painful time for tens of millions of people. Indeed, this may turn out to be the most wrenching downturn since the two recessions in the early 1980s; almost surely worse than the recession that ended the technology bubble at the beginning of this decade; perhaps worse than the downturn of the early 1990s that followed the last dip in real estate prices. -- The New York Times

The financial crisis, high gas and food prices, and the weak dollar “are all combining to produce unrelenting downward pressure on economic activity,” said Ken Goldstein, labor economist with The Conference Board. “This is also why it wouldn’t take much to push the economy so it’s even weaker in the second half of 2008.” - The Kansas City Star

U.S. growth will slow in the second half of the year as unemployment rises and stock-market declines erode household wealth, according to an index of leading economic indicators. The Conference Board's measure, designed to predict the economy's performance over the next three to six months, fell 0.1 percent in June after a 0.2 percent drop in May. - Bloomberg News

Is this fun or what?

Here’s the thing. The well-coiffed talking heads can debate the “Is it or isn’t it” question ‘til the cows come home or, in their case, until their limos come to pick them up at the studio. But make no mistake: the squeeze is on. Just how tight a grip it has on your business depends on how well you’ve positioned yourself in your market. The well entrenched and heavily fortified will almost certainly ride out the storm; it’s the “house of straw” businesses that are in danger of being blown down.
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