I recently participated in a conference call with a research company. The topic was the global economic crisis. As an advertising/marketing firm, my company needs to be informed on what consumers are feeling so that we can better advise our clients on what to do and say during these difficult times.
To no one’s surprise, I heard that the crisis is becoming worse by the day. The one word to describe both the financial community and the consumer is "gloom." Unemployment is rising. Banks are failing. Home values have evaporated. It could be years before we get back to square one.
This is depressing enough. And not new news.
What I heard for the first time – what really frightened and depressed me – was the sentence, "We are seeing early signs of social unrest."
Angry shouts of "Treason!" at campaign rallies. Left-wing bloggers talking about government conspiracies. Right-wing pundits with smears about associations with terrorists. "Hit ’em harder!" "Run ’em out of town!"
As businessmen, the last thing we need is panic. As citizens, the most important thing we need is trust. Yes, our government and our financial institutions have let us down.
But much of it was our own damn fault. Now we’re going to have to pick up the pieces.
We can disagree about what needs to be done. But let it be a disagreement over ideas and suggestions and solutions. We need now to call into account any politician who appeals to the mob instead of to the mind. We need to dial out the demagogues for whom ranting means ratings.
On Nov. 5, this election will be over. But this crisis won’t. And the crisis might not be just about our financial institutions. It could be about us. As a culture. As a country. As a people.
Early signs of social unrest. I don’t care who you vote for. Just think about that.
Bob Welke is president of the Welke Group in Milwaukee.