How would you like a little good news for a change?
Now, as a practicing journalist for the past 40 years or so, I know all the arguments for why our profession has a duty to seek out the bad news, to highlight the unusual, to expose the warts. But, as a human being who has to go to bed at night and hope that the sun will rise the next morning, I am — no doubt like many of you — getting sick and tired of the doom and gloom of the current economic scene.
It’s not just right-wing dithering about the nattering nabobs of negativism — it’s also a fair question for economists: How much of the current recession is fueled by lack of consumer confidence caused by the incessant reporting of the recession? So a little good news:
Employment. As Princeton economist Paul Krugman reminds us, in a New York Times column explaining why Obama’s stimulus plan might be too small, not too big, unemployment is already at 8 percent and rising quicker than expected. Let’s assume the worst: 10 percent unemployment. That still leaves 90 percent of us working, and many of us are working in challenging environments we have not confronted before.
The good news translation: Never a dull day.
As the owner and operator of two small businesses supported by advertising revenue, always a leading edge indicator of any recession, I have been streamlining operations for the past two years. The good news translation: Getting a chance to do chores that I used to delegate. This week I was processing coupons for our annual business directory. I noted a change at the New Jersey Center for Biomaterial and Medical Devices — a staff increase from 15 to 50.
More good news: Not just employment, but R&D employment continues to be strong in our area. Who now will get to work on the stem cell initiatives unleashed by the Obama administration?
On page 32 of this issue Kathy Spring reports on a company that’s bringing 150 jobs to Ewing. The company specializes in software used for spell checking, grammar, and writing instruction. Combine that with what’s already going on at Educational Testing Service and you can see that all our eggs are not in the bio-tech basket.
Liquidity. The capital markets are locked up. Banks have turned into zombies, unable to perform basic functions, Businesses can’t meet their payrolls beyond some imminent date. You have heard all the bad news. But every business is not GM or Chrysler. In fact, at small businesses that make up much of the economic base in the greater Princeton business community, the first source of equity is sweat equity — the owner actually shows up and does what’s necessary to get the job done or move the business to the next level.
But sometimes hard cash is needed. In this same issue, on page 9, there’s an ad from the Bank of Princeton, noting that it has $50 million to lend to businesses. And Bank of Princeton is just one of several community banks that have opened in our area in recent (i.e. post-subprime) years. More good news.
Intellectual capital. Even in the face of good news, it doesn’t hurt to pay attention to the bad news. The other day I read one of the most succinct and straightforward descriptions of the current economic mess. It was in Rolling Stone, of all publications, and it was written by Paul Krugman — a Nobel Prize winner and all that, but also a guy who lives in our town and works across the street.
And that’s good news, too. From Krugman to Alan Krueger, another Princeton economist who just got picked to help out the beleaguered Treasury Department, to architect Michael Graves, the mentor of the two architects on the cover of this issue, this is a town rich in intellectual capital. That still counts, in any economy.
But enough of this good news: I am being ordered to give up some of my space for some paying advertisers. And how bad is that?