I don’t happen to think the economy is in such bad shape. I believe it’s largely a rich person’s crisis, which they, as good, wholesome, greed-driven Americans, are trying to spread around. And they will probably succeed. Money protects itself.
But if there is a crisis, we’re still just starting to walk down the path of it. There’s plenty of time to turn around before we get to real bad stuff like a crippled GDP and massive unemployment. We need to take this talk about “This is no time to think about the deficit, we’ve got to SPEND” and throw it out the window. This is not a repeat of the Great Depression. In that era, there was no cushion. The industrial revolution was recent. It still took a lot of manhours to bring the food from the fields to the table. Now, it takes almost none. Poor is relative. We are not going to starve.
Yes, the worst we are looking at now is a proportional drop in the wealth of the average US citizen. No more plasma TV’s. Absolute worst case, we might come out looking more like a continental European economy. That is a far cry from people waiting in food lines.
So, getting back to the deficit. In my opinion, we are at the very early stages of a potential financial problem of meaningful proportions. However, our policy makers are acting as if we are in the late stages of a problem of catastrophic proportions. They are saying, forget the Deficit, now is not the time to worry about math and interest rates, but to do what it takes to survive today; and maybe tomorrow, we can get our head up.
Wrong. This is emotionalism, combined with their desire to avoid the only true catastrophe from their point of view: loss of their own position. They are protecting themselves, rather than educating the public about the root problems.
In reality, we should view ourselves as a household that suddenly realizes it is spending more than it is saving. The response is not to declare bankruptcy. The response is to stick our wallets in our pockets, get out our calculators, and start managing our finances.
On a national level, a lot of that is out of our direct control. But there is one thing we everyday Americans can do to help, and that is…work harder at our jobs.
We are the economic engine of our country. Yes, us. Not some new policy by the President. Not a tax stimulus package. We, going to work everyday, are our country’s economic health.
Remember how people talk about a “trade imbalance”?
Does your company have a product that sells overseas? Help to sell more of it, and you are reducing the trade imbalance.
Does your company work in technology? Work hard to develop the new inventions at your company, so that America can sell them to the rest of the world or use them to make our businesses more competitive.
Does your company sell health insurance? Spend that extra hour finding lower rates, so you can sell policies to more Americans to make us the healthiest, longest-living, and hardest-working nation in the world.
The side benefit of this approach is, you don’t need anyone else to cooperate, for it to work. If everyone else in the country ignores the WORK HARDER policy, but you implement it, you will be in line for that promotion over your peers. You will get the big raise and the bonus. You will build a career and a professional reputation that will have people coming to you. You will increase your chances of economic survival dramatically, even if others should founder.
If you don’t have a job, get one. Take the first thing that brings some cash in, and shop your resume in the evening. Can’t work full time? Work part time. Can’t work? Volunteer. Go to school. All of this stuff matters. You keeping busy is healthier for you and the economy than you sitting around drinking beer.
Watch your finances. There’s no shortage of lessons from the financial events we’ve seen, but one is: when you skimp your mortgage payment to put a down payment on a boat, no one wins; not the boat builder whose payment schedule you’re going to miss; not the bank which is going to have to reclaim your home at a loss; and not you, when you get past your breaking point with debt.
So, is a politician going to say this? “Work hard at your jobs, Americans. Tighten your belts.” Probably not. They’ll frame the problem as something only they can solve, with ingenious new schemes for shuffling money around in space and time. And I speak of Republicans and Democrats both. The only difference is, which way do they shuffle.
It is, in some ways, a dangerous time we live in. The world is so complicated, it’s easy to for a relatively small number of people to throw the perceptions of an entire country in the wrong direction, so that we invade a nation that posed no threat to us…or sell off billions of dollars of our grandchildren’s wealth to fix a crisis that never existed.