Only history will tell the truth of this, but Summer 2008 feels like a watershed moment in U.S. economic history. This morning’s headlines blare the news, long-rumored, that a Belgian company is buying America’s largest brewery — Anheuser-Busch, maker of the iconic brand Budweiser, will now become part of Belgian InBev in a deal worth $52 Billion. That’s a lot of Bud going abroad.
Meanwhile, the federal government is preparing a massive bailout for the two largest mortgage guarantors in the country, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac whose stock values have plummeted as a result of the mortgage industry crisis. The crisis is of special concern to some of our Trinity students who work at these companies; reports this morning indicate that many Fannie and Freddie employees are stunned by the news late last week of the grave problems facing these firms.
At the same time, rumors of possible bank takeovers or outright failures run through the financial news, even as the price of oil and gasoline continues to rise.
What’s a consumer to do? Perhaps the Summer of 2008 is also a time of healthy reorganization of our personal priorities and sense of what’s important — to own, to consume, to acquire. Gas prices are forcing consumers to reconsider the size of their cars, and even to consider alternative modes of transportation. Bicycle sales are up. Even Starbucks is realizing that the binge on $4 lattes is over; tap water is back in fashion. Walking may even become a trend. Maybe we can all find some peace of mind in a simpler lifestyle, less dependent on stuff, more attentive to the health of our beautiful natural resources, which are also a vital part of our socio-economic system.
What else can we do? Pay attention. We’ll see many more twists and turns in this economic drama this year — the presidential election will heat up in late August with the conventions, and the election itself will surely have some kind of impact, for better or worse, on the gyrations of the markets and the fate of American businesses. Every citizen of voting age will have an opportunity to say something about this situation at the ballot box on November 4. We all owe it to our collective future to be as informed as possible about the causes of our current crisis, and to become familiar with the solutions offered by our future leaders.