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Home Equity: A Reader Responds to Consumer Confidence and Prayer

I've spent more time thinking about consumer confidence and prayer, the subject of my blog on May 26. What could the pollsters be tapping into that would reflect such an enormous jump in confidence?

Is it that the stock market has risen 30 percent or so from its low of 6600 in February? Is it that once you've pulled yourself back from the edge of the cliff, nothing else seems so dire? Is it that we're now hearing solid optimism from our political leaders? Or is it the collective sense that we're no longer in economic free fall?

My husband, Sam, suggested that if you and your spouse are both out of work, have had to cut everything out of your life, and had nothing going on for a few weeks or months, but are now getting job interviews (even if it doesn't lead to anything), you would naturally feel more optimistic, because at least you're interviewing.

I don't believe for a moment that things are getting that much better on Main Street. I'm hearing real pain and suffering on the end of the line during my Sunday radio show on WSB and in countless emails I receive each day from visitors.

Is it as another one of my commentators to that column said, we're "faking it until we make it?"

Perhaps. I received this email from @Kyle this morning:

Interesting posts. You may have just uncovered a disconnect that has been there all along between what the news media reports and the "shared reality" of the masses. It is tough to believe in a measured group psychology that exudes confidence, or lacks it.

Any truly positive news from here on out will be focused in smaller niches and local markets. These news items will be accurate, but they will not signal anything greater than niche and local good news. The Web truly fragments the notion of a shared group psychology and I think the sooner people let the mass media go (in terms of telling us if people are happy or not) the sooner things can improve in niche markets and in select locations.

There is a developer in Utah that is getting some solid interest in a new home project south of Salt Lake City, but its success will have nothing to do with national group psychology: people want to live in that neighborhood and the State of Utah started a program where grants were given for new construction buys. Same thing with gated communities in "luxury niches." When people with enough money want to buy a second home, they will. It is an emotional purchase. The way we view trends needs to change as the traditional news media changes. One size does not fit all, even if that size is good.

Not every market saw huge gains during the bubble either. I think America has a huge "big media" hangover, and the "hair of the dog" is not going to be much help this time in making us feel better.

Thankfully, folks like you offer steady and focused reporting that can uncover some of the better situations and give people an alternative to group fear. Maybe it will breed consumer advocacy that will force the government to take actions to reduce the power of banks and credit card companies. They loaned the money, they took the risks as they worked toward pleasing Wall Street. I am not so sure that healthy big banks are the answer to our troubles, they were central to the cause of our troubles.