Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On the Record

“So we’ve all got a stake in helping our small businesses succeed. And because small businesses create two out of every three new jobs in this country, our economic recovery depends on it.”

– President Barack Obama, during a small business roundtable event in Seattle on Tuesday.

Paul Leonard--Paul Leonard can be reached at

Reporter’s Notebook

Don’t think twice, it’s all right

I remember the 80s.

The long days spent playing kickball behind my school, listening to mid-80s rock anthem “We Built This City” over and over again on a “D” battery-powered boom box. The evenings spent watching Ronald Reagan talking about the Iran-Contra affair, his face covered with layers of rose-tinted makeup. And throughout, Bobby McFerrin’s ubiquitous hit single, conveying a simple message that perfectly summarized the ethos of an age defined by unapologetic greed, rampant consumerism and questionable fashion choices: ‘Don’t worry, be happy.’

Fast forward 25 years and it seems none of us are particularly happy and plenty of us are worried.

There’s no doubt that today’s business climate is one of the least optimistic in memory. Many business owners, even those experiencing a slight improvement in revenue and sales, are weary of hiring and increasing their orders because of an economy many feel can still implode at any time.

Potential homeowners, despite the lure of rock-bottom mortgage rates and government incentives, are afraid to embark on what may be the biggest purchase in their lives, either because of job insecurity or due to the knowledge that what once was thought of as a risk-free investment has proven otherwise.

Trust in our government, always precarious in American public life, has been shattered by countless scandals, profligate spending and political balkanization.

The sense of security in our financial system has bled away along with our 401Ks and disappeared along with the credit lines extended by local institutions like Bank of Clark County and Bay Bank.

It seems as if our age is a mirror reflection of the bubblegum, carefree sentiment that defined the era which saw American ingenuity triumph over communism, economic stagnation and inflation. Today, far from victorious, we are mired in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, burdened by a sputtering economic recovery and spooked by the prospect of – you guessed it – deflation.

But just as the “Don’t worry” sentiment of the 80s era seems distant, saccharine and slightly-ridiculous, so too will our overly-pessimistic, “Sky is falling” age seem foreign to those looking back 25 years from now.

With this in mind, in an attempt to find a more relevant statement from the annals of American pop culture, I settled not on any 1980s one-hit wonder, but on Bob Dylan, who sang in his own uniquely turbulent time:

“Don’t think twice, it’s all right.”

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