“I love the US…but it does seem to be going in a bad direction,” said a friend in Miami.
“You look around here and everything looks good. The grass and trees are all manicured. People are prosperous. But you go inland and it’s a different story. A lot of people in Florida don’t have two dimes. That’s why you see so many old people working. They’re taking tickets at the amusement parks. They’re working the cruise ships. They’re parking cars. They don’t have any money. They have to work to make ends meet.
“And the real estate market here is a disaster. People tell you it’s bottoming out. I don’t see it. What I see are few transactions…the market is very soft. People keep thinking they’re going to buy at the bottom. They buy…and then the bottom sinks some more.
“This is a consumer society down here. People live in suburbs…almost the whole state is suburb. They go to work. They come home. They go out to eat. They go out to shop.
“At any hour of the day, you’ll see work vans in about half the driveways. Someone’s cutting a lawn or fixing a cable TV. Nobody does these things for himself. That’s the way people live down here. They call someone. It’s money in and money out…all the time. Nobody’s got any savings…or any time. It’s go…go…go…You go to work. Then you go shopping.
“And it can’t stop. If it just slows down a little, the state goes into a slump. Everybody is checking his cellphone or iPhone or email all the time. He can’t stop either. It’s go, go, go…
“Nobody can take the time to think or even to wonder. That’s why a real depression now would be much worse than the Great Depression of the ’30s. Nobody can sit still. They can’t wait for it to pass. They can’t stop to breathe…or think…or wait for all the problems to clear up. They can’t relax and wait for an uneconomic upturn. They have to work.
“They’ve got to have money coming in…and money going out.
“You know, I’ve been reading your Markets and Money for years. And the one lesson I take from it is that you have to have some savings…so you’re not forced to run on the treadmill all the time. You need some money and some time. Otherwise, you’re never going to figure out what is going on. And you’re not going to have a clue of how to make any money. You just go from day to day…from job to job…from one shop to the next mall…from bill to bill…
“Scientists have done some studies on how the brain works. They found that most of what we do is reactive… Like someone throws a ball at you…you reach out and catch it. Quick response.
“But there are some things where the brain needs time. Some kinds of deep thought require, well, reflection. And nobody has time for reflection when they are on the computer or the iPhone…or rushing to get something done…
“And nobody can stop to think when they are having trouble paying their bills. That’s why you need savings. That’s why you need to have a garden, too. Nobody’s got a garden down here in South Florida. We have to go to the supermarket to buy our food.
“Of course, that’s part of the problem. If you have to work to prepare your food, you get better food…and you don’t get fat. But now you have to work to not get fat. Otherwise, food is just another distraction…like the iPhone or the Internet. You eat because it’s easier than thinking. It saves you from having to figure things out.
“You work. You drive. You shop. You check email. You call people. You eat. Money in. Money out. There’s no stopping it. No hesitating. No time to think. No time just to let things be.”
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