Local Commentary

Editorial: When Less Is More

The Falls Church News-Press makes no claim to the accuracy of its weekly online poll. There’s no way to establish any kind of scientific accuracy beyond the restriction that only one vote can come from any given IPO address (i.e. computer). We do it for fun.

That said, to the extent that anything of value can be gleaned from the results, the tallies on this week’s poll are eye-opening: for the most affluent region in the entire U.S., having half the responses coming from persons claiming to have had no vacation, at all, this summer is notable.

Without getting into the many possible explanations, it serves as a jumping off point toward the realities of the “new normal” economy, augmented in this region by the uncertainty of the “sequester” process and the nervousness that is rippling through our area as a result.

Right now, things seem OK around here. But looks can be deceiving. Housing values are rising, and while unemployment in the D.C. region rose from 4.5 to 5.5 percent mostly due to, experts think, the “sequester,” the area is hardly immune from national trends showing that 80 percent of the population in the U.S. these days is little more than a single paycheck from the street.

It makes sense that, around here, folks are holding on to their ability to enjoy the small pleasures – the nice restaurants and local attractions – by cutting back sharply on the big ticket items, like an exotic vacation. The swimming polls at condo properties near the News-Press are looking very heavily populated this summer.

Objectively, there is cause for real concern. The minute the word came out of a Federal Reserve Board meeting earlier this year that the Fed might – just, might – begin a “tapering” back of its monetary stimulus policy of making ridiculously cheap money available to the banks, the stock market when into an immediate tailspin and mortgage interest rates took off. It was a signal of how shaky things really still are.

Then there is the “sequester.” The body language coming from the right wing nut cases in the Congress is that they will be as obstructionist as ever when they come back from their August recess, and matters like approving a budget are before them. No, with them in that belligerent posture, there will be no easing up on the “sequester,” but in fact they will redouble it. When that happens, then it gets far more serious around here.

So the public is responding with new trends: The fads are for everything less rather than more. In particular, the growing demand is for smaller homes and smaller cars, or no cars, shorter commutes to work, home, instead of fancy restaurant, cooking, and nose bleed rather than box seats at concerts and sporting events.

Not just the free market, our governments need to get ahead of the curve on this.