Our Opinion: Shake post-holiday doldrums by looking ahead, not behind

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Editor’s Note: This editorial was published in The Wilson Daily Times on Dec. 26, 2008, and references bleak economic news during the Great Recession. While the nation’s financial outlook is not so bleak a decade later, high unemployment remains a reality in Wilson County. The editorial’s message of reflection, optimism and hope in the post-Christmas period still resonates with us today.

The presents have all been opened, the lights, while still twinkling, are not quite as bright, and the branches on the tree are starting to sag just a bit.

Welcome to the day after Christmas.

The day when we find ourselves back in reality.

If you have been closing yourself off from the world the last couple of days — and we salute those who were able to do it — the news has not been good.

In the last several days we have learned:

• The United States could be facing its biggest quarterly economic decline, as much as 6 percent, since 1982.

• In the face of this decline, the housing market is taking a beating on all fronts. The Commerce Department reported Tuesdaythat new home sales dropped 2.9 percent in November to an annual sales rate of 407,000 units, the slowest pace in nearly 18 years. The sameday, the National Association of Realtors said sales of previously owned homes fell by 8.6 percent to an annual rate of 4.49 million units.

• Additionally, the median sales price of an existing home plunged 13.2 percent in November to $181,300. That was the biggest year-over-year drop since 1968. The median, or midpoint, price for a new home sold in November also fell sharply, dropping 12.7 percent to $220,400.

• This downturn could last a long time. Most economists say this severe downturn, probably the worst since the Great Depression, could last well into 2009 before things start to turn around

“It will get a lot worse before it gets better,” Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, a Lexington, Massachusetts, forecasting firm, said in a story on the economy. “We are in the midst of the worst recession in the postwar period, even factoring in a massive stimulus program.”

That stimulus program being worked on by the incoming Obama administration will reportedly be an $850 billion package for spending on infrastructure such as roads and bridges, aid to states, modernizing schools and energy projects.

Vice President-elect Joe Biden told a meeting of Obama’s economic team that as the economy worsens, the need for a bold plan “grows every day.”

If all of this sounds too bleak to contemplate and makes you want to crawl back in bed and wake up when it is summer, please don’t.

At a time like this, it is worth heeding the holiday advice of Martin Williams, the medical director of the Longleaf Neuro-Medical Treatment Center, who wrote a column for the Daily Times about the holiday blues.

Martin wasn’t writing about the economy, just the stress of getting through this two-week period, but what he said made sense for the big picture as well.

“The end of the year is traditionally a time for looking back on accomplishments and failures,” he wrote. “This may lead to a feeling of disappointment, especially if you tend to focus on the negative. One strategy for coping with this is to focus on the future and leave the past behind.”

The economy has dealt many people in Wilson some tough blows. But individually, and collectively, we have to pick ourselves up and focus on what we are going to do to make tomorrow better.

That should be enough to get us up and moving.