Column - Biggest threat: Lack of trustFeelings of anxiety and uncertainty are running rampant among Americans, according to a survey published in the June issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.
By: Dennis Dalman, Alexandria Echo Press
Feelings of anxiety and uncertainty are running rampant among Americans, according to a survey published in the June issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.
The survey reveals that even though the national economy is on its way to recovery, 84 percent of Americans are worried about their financial situations. The survey, which has a margin error of 3 percentage points, involves questions put to 1,000 adults age 18 or older nationwide.
These gloomy results are not surprising, considering that the unemployment rate is still hovering abysmally near or above 10 percent, depending on where one lives.
Here are some other sad statistics from the survey:
One-third of respondents said they are “struggling” financially.
Twenty-nine percent described their financial situation as “stable,” while 24 percent said they were “worried” about it. But 43 percent said things had gotten worse during the last two years while only 18 percent said things had improved.
Seventy-five percent said “market volatility” has affected how they handle money, and 55 percent said they are less willing to take risks investing money. Sixty percent said their number-one goal is to maintain financial stability, compared with 23 percent whose goal is to increase their savings assets. That’s nearly opposite of survey attitudes taken two years ago.
Almost all of the survey responses verge on “bleak.” But, again, that’s not surprising. When one considers the disasters and near-disasters this country has been through in the past few years, it’s a wonder the survey results aren’t even worse.
First of all, there was the greedy crookery of Wall Street institutions, leading to a multi-billion bailout by taxpayers of “banks too big to fail.” Then, along came insult to injury when those institutions’ leaders and upper-echelon felons were “rewarded” for their incompetence and or criminal behavior with “bonuses.”
As the financial system threatened to crumble into rubble, millions of Americans lost a good portion (in some cases all) of their money because of reckless, greedy Wall Street gamblers.
In the meantime, other ominous trends and happenings gave us all a case of the heebie-jeebies:
More Americans, newly jobless and then long-term jobless, began to drop their health insurance.
More people, desperate for any work, took jobs far below their skill levels and earning expectations.
Jobs continued to be farmed out overseas.
The federal government, supposedly our “protector,” flunked the grade many times in recent years. It failed to predict or to prevent the financial melt-down due to its series of reckless deregulations of the banking industry. It failed to marshal adequate forces in the hideous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It failed yet again in its feeble response to the Gulf oil gusher. Yet another failure is complete lack of federal efforts to resolve illegal-immigration issues.
Wise pundits have often said that every recession is caused almost as much by “human psychology” as it is by financial failures. That seems to be true this time around as even people who now have jobs worry about losing them yet again. They are holding their money tight; not spending, scared to death of the yet uncertain future.
The biggest threat to this country, maybe worse in the long run than the threat of terrorism, is a deep-seated lack of trust in government and in the nation’s financial system. Many think the way to re-establish trust is to “throw all the rascals out.”
If it were only that easy.
The corruption problem is systemic. The only way to restore national trust is to sever the corrupt bonds linking money to votes. That’s a tall order, especially after the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that sabotaged campaign-finance reform. Now the flood gates are open even wider, allowing the hot-shot money boys to spend sky’s-the-limit to buy all the votes they want. Remember, folks, they’re “too big,” and so – goodness gracious – our Congressmen certainly cannot “fail” them.