OUR OPINION: Good and bad times

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

What a week the last week of February turned out to be.

Even those not concerned with the economy had Mardi Gras and a cold snap to perk things up.

But few could remain nonchalant about the economic news arriving Thursday.

The fallout from closure of Pilgrim's Pride plants in north Louisiana at Farmerville and El Dorado, Ark. will cost 2,100 people their jobs. And 294 independent chicken growers servicing those processing plants will also be severely affected.

General Motors posted the second worst quarterly loss in company history while spending $5.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008. The carmaker now carries $82 billion in debt.

The venerable daily newspaper Rocky Mountain News closed its doors Friday, unable to find a buyer to rescue it from financial doldrums. The paper lost $16 million last year. It died just two months before its 150th birthday.

National jobless claims climbed much higher than expected, from 631,000 last week to 667,000. More than 5.1 million people are in the unemployment lines across America.

In the banking industry, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said 252 commercial banks with $159 billion in total assets are on the “problem” bank list. About 25 percent of the nation's banks and savings and loans were unprofitable last year, suffering $26.2 billion in net losses.

Clearly the dour economy and uncertainty about where it will lead the nation will be around for a while. But, despite the cumulative economic gloom, encouraging news can still be found.

In Bastrop, the International Paper plant which closed indefinitely when the global market for its products evaporated last year, announced it will bring back 180 employees to the plant. About 550 employees were initially released, but the tentative plant start up can only be viewed as good news.

Bank deposits rose 3.5 percent last year, the FDIC said. That means people are saving more money, and viewing FDIC insured institutions as a safe place to their money.

President Obama announced Friday that combat by American soldiers in Iraq will cease by Aug. 31, 2010. Of the roughly 142,000 soldiers now in Iraq, only about 50,000 will remain after the withdrawal. Those will be pulled out by the end of 2011, honoring a deal between the Bush administration and the Iraqis.

Obama's quick addressing of the Iraq War issue that propelled him into national prominence and eventually led to his presidency will certainly affect economic issues.

Iraq has been a huge drain on America's economic resources and contributed to the rise in gas prices that led to changing consumer spending habits.

All the economic news last week comes on the heels of Obama's announcement of a planned $3.6 trillion stimulus package. He, and Congress, assuming lawmakers go along with $3.6 trillion deal, are betting it will bring the nation back economically.

No one expects the package to pass in its entirety, but the American public and companies struggling to stay afloat until the plan begins producing results should begin experiencing some of those results if they can hang on a little longer.

It will be the best news yet if they do.