A time to stay calm

Published 10:27 pm Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The financial crisis gripping our country, though the product of flawed policies on Wall Street and in Washington, inevitably will trickle down to Main Street, where innocent merchants and consumers surely will pay a price for the sins of the powerful.

To the businesses and consumers of Western Tidewater, we offer a couple of axioms that ring ever so true in times such as these:

■ Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it at first seems to be.

■ This too shall pass.

The financial markets are in crisis, and that is, of course, “bad.” But our country has seen “bad” before — from the Great Depression to the stock-market crash of 1987. Locally in recent years, we’ve weathered a devastating flood or two and the loss of an economic anchor, Union Camp Corp. Our community always has navigated the rough waters successfully.

In any crisis, it is important to focus first on what one can control. At the local level, that begins with emotion. Getting emotionally distraught about the troubles and overreacting will not help our community.

Local governments must also be wary of compounding the effects of a tough economy on businesses and consumers. For the city of Franklin, that means a long, careful look at the fiscal 2009 property tax rate, which the City Council will adopt this month now that property reassessments are complete.

At a minimum, council members must commit to a revenue-neutral tax rate — in other words, setting a lower rate to offset increases in assessed values. If city government is serious about jump-starting the local economy, it will reduce spending and adopt an even lower tax rate that gives beleaguered property owners, both residential and commercial, a break. For two council newcomers — Benny Burgess and Barry Cheatham — who ran on a platform of fiscal discipline, now is the time to turn campaign fodder into action.

At the national level, we hope and expect that Congress will produce a compromise bailout bill that will soothe the current extreme volatility of what has always been a highly speculative and somewhat volatile stock market. When the dust settles, the market will again find the intrinsic value that exists for each public company affected negatively by this downturn.

Because of this crisis, many equities are “on sale” and the sum of the stock value is nowhere near the true intrinsic value of the business. In this case, what went down on emotion must come up with the addition of reason and logic. Given the market’s volatility, that may come tomorrow morning, it may come with the passage of a new bailout bill or it may come a year from now. But it will come, and our economy will be strong once again.