Fuel oil is south of $4 a gallon. The average 30-year mortgage is well below 4 percent. New unemployment applications fell last week to their lowest level in more than three years.
But everybody's still feeling squeezed.
That's the thing about these lingering tough times. It isn't so much that any one day is unbearable. It's that after so many hard ones, everyone is desperate for some kind of relief. And no one can say when it might arrive.
Or from where.
Almost certainly not from Washington. Look how naggingly high the official unemployment rate remains, 8 percent and change. Look how hard it was for Congress to reach that two-month payroll tax deal. A two-month deal! You think those people will save us?
Almost certainly the relief won't come from Albany or local government. Nassau and Suffolk counties both have balance sheets that spell danger. Real-estate values across the region simply refuse to recover. The population is getting older. Manufacturing jobs show no signs of returning. The ambitious young keep moving out.
That fresh $101 million in state economic aid? Happy to have it, for sure. But the jolt the Long Island economy needs to flourish? It's still nowhere in sight.
In the end, relief will come as it always has, from the inside out. Growth will save us. Cutting won't. Smart Island will get even smarter. We will invest in ourselves. Ambitious Island will get more ambitious, Creative Island more creative. Someone will invent something here that produces thousands of new jobs. Someone will lure workers in this direction, not the other way.
The pall that has lasted so long will finally evaporate. Housing prices might even stabilize. Opportunity will reintroduce itself. And not a minute too soon.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Get busy now.
THE YEAR THAT WASN'T
- 1.Nassau County Solved Its Fiscal Mess
ASKED AND UNANSWERED: Enjoying winter yet? Yes, this is winter . . . Can you blame Shannan Gilbert's mom, begging the FBI to investigate her daughter's murder? Mari Gilbert isn't the only person who's judged the investigation "clownish" . . . Why did BP Solar cut-and-run from LIPA's BNL Solar project? Too much good PR from the deepwater oil spill in the Gulf? . . . How does retiring Long Beach Police Commissioner Tom Sofield feel, knowing Moody's cut the city's credit rating after it borrowed money in part to cover his $500,000 terminal-leave payout. . . . "Meet the NICE Bus": Is that a slogan or a punch-line setup? What's next? "Meet the Not-So-NICE Delays"?
THE NEWS IN SONG: Only the best Christmas song ever by the best Christmas singer ever: Aaron Neville, "Please Come Home for Christmas," tinyurl.com/merryaaroncq
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