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March 2001
Not Necessarily Survivor of the Fittest
By John Paul Galles
     Although by definition only one person can “survive” and the contestants are unduly harassed courtesy of the show’s producers pandering to a wanton audience share, it is somewhat awkward and disconcerting to witness the individuals behaving badly and building “alliances” to select victims for elimination. No matter how artificial, we identify with the constraints forced upon them and the wonder how we might behave in similar circumstances.
     While our economy does not dictate solo survival, our survival is nevertheless dependent to some extent on the actions of others and on external artificial stimuli.
     We watch business decision-makers nationwide and in our own community with similar trepidation as they are forced to merge or be acquired or even to shut down plants and lay off thousands of workers, in an effort to “survive.”  Our reaction is substantial if we are among the businesses being closed or the individuals being “laid-off,” victims of our “economy.”  And our economic survival is further agitated by Alan Greenspan and other regulators who encourage economic responses that sometimes boost the economy and sometimes slow the economy.
     Having enjoyed the longest period of sustained economic growth as well as substantial growth of stocks and mutual funds until last year, we had been spoiled by low unemployment without significant inflation. Now, after the rapid decline of the stock market and six interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve bringing interest rates to their highest level in nine years, the economy has slowed and layoffs are increasingly widespread. Clearly it was not sustained growth and low unemployment that caused this economic slowdown, but the fear of “irrational exuberance” held by prominent regulators and the restraints they enacted to combat this.
     The recent reductions in interest rates by the Federal Reserve are intended to rekindle economic growth by stimulating home sales and home refinancing at lower rates.  Hopefully, we can expect that consumer attitudes will improve like the spirits of contestants on “Survivor” when they are rewarded with matches or food or blankets. When we feel more comfortable and less frightened or concerned about the basics, we spend more freely or are less likely to stop spending in fear of our future.
     Perhaps of somewhat lesser importance, certainly as an immediate stimulus, is President Bush’s proposed tax cut. As long as we temper our “irrational exuberance” for tax cuts with adequate repayment of our national debt and responsible funding of social security, the stride of the economy should be strengthened for the long term.
    In the Charlotte region, we are fortunate to have a healthy economic base and mix of business that has served this area well in previous economic slowdowns or downturns. And unlike “Survivor,” we are not voting anyone off this island. We live together and seek an economy where all participate and contribute and benefit from its growth and success.
     We are encouraged by recent efforts to stimulate a quick recovery of the economy and more prosperous times for all businesses. Greater Charlotte Biz will do all we can to support local business growth and promote your business activity. We want to be a community of survivors together, not survivors without others!
John Paul Galles is the publisher of Greater Charlotte Biz.
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