There's a change, but it didn't come as a complete surprise considering how packed the Keys have been with cars and gasoline around $1.80 a gallon. The Citizen reports early indications of an excellent economic week between Christmas and New Year's. They talked with the owner of Louie's Backyard, a restaurant so expensive it will make your eyes water, and they said tons of Europeans and Asians showed up to spend their way into 2009. There is a downside to this of course, namely Highway One, which has become a giant parking lot, occasionally crawling towards the horizon at 30 miles per hour so my teeth are mere nubs from all the gnashing.
The Aqueduct has shut down one million dollars worth of jobs, by "attrition" that is by not filling empty spots rather than laying off. Managers know that laying people off is the kiss of death and no one wants to kick their neighbors out of the Keys. The bad news is that locals looking for secure jobs are now less likely to find them, in the traditionally secure government/public utility sectors which paid less than pouring booze but give benefits and year round work. And the hospital recently laid off 20 people as well.
There are noises starting in the paper to prepare us for the possibility that our hospital might fold in 2009. The paper says "rural" facilities just like Lower Keys Medical Center are having enormous difficulty getting the uninsured to pay their bills and, on perusing the public record the Citizen found a million dollars worth of home liens from delinquent bills. Naturally bridge loans and credit extensions aren't available as banks hoard their (taxpayer) cash to face roulette uncertainties created by derivatives that are as persistent as Guy Noir's unanswered problems.
I've heard rumors that the City may make some radical alterations to our traditional pension plans for new hires, like offering no more plan and giving people 401(k) fake pensions. Nevertheless a colleague of mine, 30 years old who prides herself on her intelligence and her four year degree, knows better, and is looking for more expensive digs, a commute distance outside the city, as she is tried of her current unsatisfactory rental. She said last night "I could swing $1300 a month with a few overtime shifts..." and I said (Mr Negative) what if, as I expect, overtime will dry up next fiscal year? Her answer stunned me " I don't pay attention to what's going on until it affects me personally." She is looking to rent a house of her own twelve miles from work. Her summer a/c bill to cool her cat, and her 25 mile a day gas habit and Florida's fiscal crisis are all out there, loud and clear but I bet dollars to doughnuts when her paycheck gets squeezed she will act totally surprised by the "sudden" turn of events. Sigh. I am working overtime like crazy, not to feed the meter but to set aside as much cash as I can while the going is good. I hope she is blithely right and I am confounded by fundamentals. If I am wrong I am going to blow my savings on a holy cow vacation when 2009 turns into a boom year.