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Gary Horton: The recession is over; make something of it

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: July 28, 2009 9:06 p.m.
Updated: July 29, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Most know my landscaping business is closely tied to the housing industry.

After three years of relentless economic pounding, last Tuesday, I came into the office and gleefully walked the building, announcing to staff, “The recession is over, the recession is over!”

On occasion, I’m thought to be positive — maybe even motivating — but this apparent insanity drew looks of incredulity and smirks.

“You have been out in the sun too long,” most thought. We were after all, still in a month peppered with weeklong furloughs for the staff.

Yet here’s Gary, sing-songing “the recession is over.”

Well, it wasn’t just me “singing in the rain.” (Or, for Santa Clarita, “singing in the heat wave.”) The latest Newsweek cover declares,

“The Recession is Over — But Not for You. Yet.”

Index after index, plus a recovering stock market plus stabilized housing market plus OK corporate profits — all have conspired to proclaim the Great Recession, that greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression, has finally turned.

So there’s some cause for singing in the heat wave, even if you’re still suffering, as I and most folks, continue to suffer.

Given the choice, most will take a painfully slow recovery over one in free-fall most any day.

“But the economy stinks,” you say. It is challenging, yes. But I’ll take challenging over terror and hopeless.

Let’s turn back the time machine to the waning weeks of the Bush presidency.

Remember the Bear Stearns meltdown? Lehman? WaMu?

The bipartisan, Bush- and even ‘Buck’ McKeon-supported emergency $700 billion banking bailout?

Six months back it seemed the whole financial world was being sucked into a black hole as everything and anything of value skidded shockingly towards valueless.

Bank of America — $35 a share one day, $2.50 a few days later.

You got the picture in sharp focus when you opened your 401K statements.

Housing had already collapsed the prior year, but collapsing accelerated still. Stocks and mutual funds and endowments and 401Ks dropped by half.

Unemployment skyrocketed as firms cut payrolls fearing a lack of orders, cash and credit.

And lines formed at banks, as ordinary folks feared for their cash.

Those were fearful, traumatic days — real panic. We didn’t know if we were facing a Great Depression, part II.

I’d met with Congressman McKeon over lunch, and he turned ghost white describing the crash and why, even as a devout Republican, he had to cross his constituency and force his own trembling hand to vote for the bailout.

McKeon rightly believed that, failing action, the U.S. would go the way of Iceland.

At his inauguration, President Obama struck a somber and cautious tone: “American ingenuity can accomplish anything.”

But we were in dire straits and uncharted territory and knew recovery would take time and hard work.

“Don’t expect an overnight return to “normal,” is how he prudently set our expectations. But do have hope.

Now, six months later, source after source have declared the recession over, but with a hard yet hopeful go ahead.

America might forever be changed, and likely for the better, as our structural weaknesses have been rendered open for all to see. Now exposed, we can fix our problems.

Success will require we remake and transform our businesses and our nation.

From finance to health care, from domestic manufacturing to energy independence, America has serious work ahead.

We’ve got to get leaner and more efficient, from our family finances to our federal budget, from micro to macro.

But at least now we have a floor under our feet. At least we have firm ground, instead of free fall, upon which to build.

The happiest news is in housing.

Reversing three years of nonstop negatives, housing sales were up 11 percent this month, while prices also rose.

Uber Realtor Garo says, “The problem isn’t selling homes. We don’t have enough inventory to sell.” Locally, Lennar’s products sell at a brisk clip.

Two weekends ago, Lennar opened a new tract, selling five of seven units on the first day. And it raised prices and kept selling.

Surely, if you want to buy a home, 2009 is a golden year for buyers — time to buy.

So between housing and the stock market bouncing back above 9,000, there’s some cause for singing in the heat wave.

But in this recovery, success is found in innovation, debt reduction and efficiency.

Creative, leaner, meaner will win success in your own life and for our businesses and nation.

The recession is over.

Now with a new, surer footing, it’s time for us to go make something happen.

It’s time to reinvent yourself to meet the challenges of the new day.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.



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