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Upside, downside and the daily news

By Tom Fetters

It’s planting season, and the pages of The Daily Reporter over the past couple of days have been filled with the seeds of hope and seeds of despair.

Some examples:

— Item: Commerce Department reports construction spending rose 0.2 percent in March. Seed of hope: It’s the first increase in five months; maybe the industry is climbing out of the trough. Seed of despair: The improvement was fueled by public projects, likely the result of the government’s stimulus program; maybe government spending is the only reason for the increase and when the stimulus expires, the industry will return to the depths.

— Item: National Association of Realtors reports pending home sales rose 5.3 percent in March from a month earlier. Seed of hope: It’s the association’s highest index level since October and a boost to the housing market; maybe the market is finding its legs. Seed of despair: The increase likely is a result of buyers taking advantage of government tax credits that expired at the end of April; maybe sales are plummeting now that the tax credits are gone.

— Item: Mayor Dave Bing’s plan to battle blight in Detroit is moving forward. Seed of hope: The city with 33,000 vacant houses and 90,000 empty lots is finally receiving some sorely needed first aid; maybe it’s the start of a comeback. Seed of despair: Bing’s plan calls for only 10,000 vacant houses to be demolished by the time his four-year term ends; maybe the mayor’s efforts will be too little, too late given the enormity of the problems in Detroit.

— Item: BP’s chief executive says his company is responsible for the oil fouling areas in and along the Gulf of Mexico and for cleaning up the situation. Seed of hope: A company executive takes responsibility for a problem and gives assurances that his company will make the situation right; maybe taxpayers won’t be on the hook in the aftermath of the disaster. Seed of despair: Unknown amounts of oil continue to spill into the gulf; maybe petroleum prices will soar, coastal businesses will be devastated and the environment will sustain permanent damage.

As always, the seeds that sprout and take root will determine our growing season — and whether we’re tending a victory garden or hacking through a briar patch.

Tom Fetters, who recommends Miracle Grow, is a copy editor at The Daily Reporter.

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