Commentary

Uncertain Times: The Wrong Fix Could Be Worse Than the Fear

By Dan Celia | April 11, 2016 | 3:34pm EDT
(AP Photo)

Terrorism. The world’s eyes are focused on recent attacks. More people are facing elevated threats. We are all more and more concerned. And as Americans, we are worried about whether—or when—terrorism will again hit our country. The increased threat level is convincing more and more people that the philosophy of becoming weaker so we might be stronger and safer is not working very well. Fear and uncertainty abound.

All this is impacting the economy. Why? Yes, the markets don’t like uncertainty. The economy does not like uncertainty. Businesses already have to try to show a profit in an uncertain world of regulatory burdens and a moving target of taxes. Fear can only intensify their challenges.

This may not be fear about the economy or even about losing our jobs. It is fear that we could be the next target for the terrorists. However, when people are fearful, they tend to hold on tight. One of the things they cling to, unfortunately, is their money. It brings them a sense of security. Fear will keep them from putting money in the stock market. Fear will stop them from spending money on things like “wants.” They will limit their spending to “needs.” They will certainly not consider running up their debt; instead they will be more eager to pay off their debt. They will change their lifestyles—and those changes usually mean a more conservative way of living, which means a less expensive lifestyle.

Reduced consumer spending can hurt the economy. Even without the fear of terrorism, our economy has been fragile. For some time, we have not felt good about the economy, about our jobs and wages. Adding fear to the mix is having a far bigger impact than it would have in a healthy economy.

One thing that could help this situation is strength. I sit in amazement almost every day as I listen to irrational, un-presidential rhetoric from some of America’s candidates. The more fearful we become, the more attractive perceived strength (and I would argue that sometimes “strength” is not strength at all) becomes to people. We want to be protected. We want to know we have someone who will stand up for us. We are sick and tired of the weasels in Washington raising the white flag of surrender at every challenge.

We are a country looking for strength, but unfortunately, much of what we are seeing is “strength” without detail and “strength” without a plan. Strength without a plan is not strength at all. You cannot succeed in war without understanding the enemy or being able to recognize allies. No war has ever been won that way. I don’t suspect that a turnaround in America and the war we are facing today—whether it be economic or otherwise—will be fixed that way.

I believe the current president has awakened a sleeping giant—and for that I am grateful. But we need to have some rational thought as we wake up. We need to know the person leading us to change, to victory and to strength will not be the loudest person in the room. It will be the person in the room who surrounds himself with great minds, great talents and a great plan that has been forged with great thoughtfulness.

The fear we are facing is certainly impacting our economy—and that is not good. But what many perceive to be a fix for that fear could be far worse.

Dan Celia is President and CEO of Financial Issues Stewardship Ministries, Inc., and host of the national syndicated radio talk program “Financial Issues,” heard daily on more than 200 stations across the country. To learn more, visit www.financialissues.org.

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