Matt Towery / December 18, 2008

A Glimpse At a Brighter Future for the Paranoid Nation

This week my new book went on sale on In the coming weeks, I’m told, it will be in bookstores and airports across the nation.

The book is called “Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of The 2008 Fight For The Presidency.” I know, the title sounds ominous. I outline a slant on things that I haven’t read or heard of anywhere else.

Unlike most columnists, I don’t spin a new book out every year. My last major one was 10 years ago. I mention “Paranoid Nation” here not just as a shameless plug – although if you want to order it, you won’t be disappointed – but to preface a different message altogether than the one I lay out in the book.

As part of that story, the book makes note of some of my newspaper columns in early 2006 that suggested the housing market was too hot, Americans were borrowing too much and the economy was headed toward a noisy crash.

In case you don’t believe I wrote all this, just go to one of the newspapers or online sites that archive my columns, and you will find it.

I didn’t see this thing coming because I am a genius or a 2008 version of Nostradamus. Rather, early alarm bells sounded with me because of the daily polling we do around the nation on mundane issues, including future purchasing patterns and consumer attitudes in various regions of America. I could see the meltdown first coming in the Sunbelt states, then moving to other places.

As I note in “Paranoid Nation,” it’s amazing that the subject of the housing market wasn’t even debated by the candidates for the president as late as November 2007. That’s when the Republicans took on one another in Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., the metro area that was then mired in the biggest housing slump in the nation.

So, OK, I think I saw this one coming. And while some others were talking about it, too, we were scarce among the nation’s pundits.

Now comes my humble Christmas gift to you. I believe that with a little pressure from all of us – voicing our opinions – and a little luck, our recovery from this frightening economic slide will be stronger and swifter than most of the experts are saying and writing. Heck, if even a blind hog can find an acorn once in a while, maybe I can stumble across the truth twice.

Consider first that the economic crisis has gotten bad enough that a spoiled nation is having to come to grips with reality. That includes everybody from bratty teenagers who came to believe that they could have every gadget sold in a store, all the way to adults who believed that their salaries should be based not on what their employers could afford, but on what the employees believed they needed.

That also goes for the automobile unions. Ultimately they will find that no matter what ineffectual short-term bailout President Bush awards them, their industry model of paying workers outrageous wages and benefits isn’t going to survive.

Then there are the banks. They begged for huge infusions of capital so they could stay afloat. But now they are hoarding cash, thereby making it harder and harder for anyone to get a loan. Well, guess what, financial institutions? Everyone is on to your game, and there is a bipartisan riot about to erupt if you golden ones don’t loosen your purse strings and start investing in America’s small businesses again.

Then there’s the Federal Reserve. It has made money so cheap that there is no excuse for mortgage rates not to come down and for institutions not to work with people to avoid massive foreclosures. Financial institutions will be forced to lend again, and at fair levels.

Most importantly, despite all the behind-the-scenes intrigue I describe in “Paranoid Nation,” and the revulsion I express for how the basic tenets of good, clean, conservative government have been destroyed, I still believe in the grit and determination of the American people. Some of the greatest companies in our nation’s history were founded during tough economic times like now.

I know people are suffering. And we are all in it together. Paranoid nation? Well, heck, yes – who wouldn’t be after this year? But light is at the end of the tunnel. You betcha. We may have shoes thrown at our president and inexplicably no one shows outrage over the insult to us. But we are still capable of being reinvigorated and moved to new action.

Just as I saw gloom three years ago, I now see a brighter future. That’s my Christmas wish for all of those who have loyally read my column through the years.


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