Bad News About the Economy – Always a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Unless you live in a cave, you’re being bombarded daily by doom and gloom regarding the current condition of the economy. accounting Everyone is talking about recession, unemployment, foreclosures, high gasoline and grocery prices, stock market and real estate disasters, store closures, and on and on.

News flash! We’re only making it worse by giving it so much attention–because bad news about the economy is always a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Let’s take a look at how this works. As an example, Starbucks used to open one new store, somewhere in the world, every day. (I even read somewhere it was three or four a day.) Earlier this year, they actually closed 100 stores. Why do stores close? Usually it’s because they don’t get enough business. So we can logically conclude that people aren’t going out for coffee as much as they used to. vpxco

Okay, so coffee (that someone else makes for you) is considered a luxury, and it’s one of the first things to go when you start “watching your spending.” So if we stop buying fancy coffee drinks, and fancy-coffee-drink stores begin to close, what happens? The stores’ employees are now unemployed. In the case of a franchise operation (which Starbucks isn’t), a family may lose its sole means of support. They in turn stop spending money, perhaps receive unemployment compensation, perhaps even see their homes go into foreclosure. optoki Like a house of cards, the entire economy begins to collapse.

Why do “they” like to bombard us with so much bad news anyway? For the purposes of this article, let’s define “they” and “them” as the media themselves, plus the people who supply news to the media. There are several reasons why “they” would rather give us bad news than good. Here are two big ones:

1. Bad news gets attention. It sells newspapers and increases listenership and viewership. Television is the biggest attention hog, because pictures are more compelling than printed words or spoken words, and moving pictures are even more so than still pictures. But let’s be honest. newsheater Are we more likely to buy a newspaper with a headline saying “Plane Crash Kills Hundreds,” or one that says “Airline Sets New Record for Safe Landings”?

2. Bad news makes us feel hopeless. And when we feel hopeless, it opens the door for someone to offer us hope, which in turns gives power over us to the one who offers that hope. For the sake of nonpartisanship, I won’t go into details or examples here–but pretty much everyone can probably come up with something from recent sound bites that fits this pattern.

Largely, it boils down to two things: money and power.

So, returning to our Starbucks example: let’s say I’m in the habit of going to Starbucks three times a week. Then let’s say I start worrying because of all the “bad economy” news and start watching my spending. At ten or fifteen bucks a week, if I quit going to Starbucks, I can “save” $42-63 dollars a month, or $520-780 per year. That sounds like a lot of money if I happen to become jobless and still need to buy gasoline and groceries.

But looking at the big picture, and thinking of others besides myself–like the Starbucks employees (not to mention stockholders) whose livelihoods I’ve just endangered–it is really a bad idea. It won’t help much, however, if I’m the only one who continues to support Starbucks (and all the other “luxury” businesses); everyone needs to do his or her part.

In closing, I read a heartbreaking story of a woman who, desperate for cash, sold a teapot that had belonged to her grandmother. The teapot had great sentimental value, as her grandmother had raised her, and it symbolized her grandmother’s love and care for her.

The really sad part is that this woman sold her priceless memento for six dollars. That’ll buy her a loaf of bread and a carton of milk, perhaps–enough to keep her from starving for another few days. But I wonder if the guilt and grief she’ll likely suffer (I would!) will completely outweigh any monetary gain. My heart goes out to this woman, and if knew who she was–and who now has the teapot–I would happily buy it back for her. It’s not her fault; it’s all part of the pervasive doom and gloom that we can thank “them” for.

We don’t want to be ignorant of current events, of course. But when too much information leads to a collective feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, it’s time to tell “them” to just…be quiet. And failing that, we can just stop listening. I recommend it.

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