“An Ill Economy Is Not Unlike A Sick Person: Unless You Know The Reason For The Illness, You Can’t Choose The Right Path Back To Health.” G. Ashley
OK, I realize that’s not very profound. But the point behind it is deeper than you might initially think.
There are times a person needs to be in recovery, and then there are times the same person may require rehab. It’s important to note the difference.
- A person requires recovery when he has been injured in some manner, usually from an external source (car accident, equipment failure) or an internal source he has little external control over (illness). With the right diagnosis, medications and treatment, the body will heal itself and the person will be able to continue his life, hopefully unimpeded.
- But when a person brings on his own destruction through substance abuse, he needs rehabilitation in order to learn the skills necessary to modify his lifestyle to one that is more conducive to personal health. Those who take rehab seriously stand the best chance of taking back control of their lives. Those who don’t almost assuredly lose their lives or exist as empty shells of what they might have been.
Our economy works in much the same way. We are still mired in a recession (some are now calling it a depression – I guess it all depends on whether or not the unemployed person is you), and politicians and news pundits talk about the economic recovery.
They can talk all they want, but economic recovery is not what is going to return the economy of the United States to a long-term healthy status. What the country needs is economic rehab. Consider:
- As individuals, we’ve lived on credit for far too long, racking up our own personal long-term debt just so we could enjoy luxuries, vacations we hadn’t saved for, cars we can’t afford, and homes we had no business buying based on our debt-to-income ratio.
- The government (initially introduced by the Carter administration, subsequently aided and abetted by Clinton) decided it was only fair that even lower income people should be able to bathe in the luxury of home ownership and so mandated it through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac programs. These programs, while perhaps well-intended, lent themselves to horrendous abuse which resulted in mortgages issued to people who couldn’t afford them and ultimately to the collapse of many financial institutions.
- It seems as if at some point along the way fiscal responsibility was factored out of the equation of our lives, either by ourselves or by pandering politicians who saw themselves as the great equalizers of our society.
Economic experts warned us for years, “This cannot continue indefinitely.” “Sooner or later,” we were told, “we will reach a point of critical mass. And when that happens, it won’t be a balloon bursting, but more like a dam.”
“Dam” if they weren’t right!
Where Do We Go From Here?
Full disclosure: I am not an economist. I didn’t major in accounting. Hell, I barely made it through Freshman Math in High School. But even I can tell you that taking the path President Bush used with TARP and that President Obama is taking with his gigantic stimulus package is not going to return us to prosperity. How could it? When you are in debt, only a fool believes you can spend your way out. And if President Obama doesn’t realize that the level of debt he is subjecting us to — with his stimulus package and his other schemes — is more destructive than helpful, he is only going to guarantee the eventual (and, most likely, final) collapse of our economy.
Now we can spend all day discussing whether that’s his intent or not, like some radio talk show hosts. Or we can do the hard work: do the research necessary to determine what needs to be done and then put the pressure on our elected officials to do these things or face defeat in their next election.
Notice that the responsibility is put back on us? In truth, folks, that responsibility has always been there. It’s always been our responsibility to monitor our elected officials to make sure they don’t succumb to their own powers and become so corruptibly focused on themselves and lobbyists.
Unfortunately, we have delegated our responsibility to our elected officials themselves (and they have taken full advantage of it – and us).
Will you heed the call?
The various tea parties have sounded the alarm. Some of our elected officials are now getting their perspective back in line: They had better regard us more than they fear President Obama. But will you continue to fight for what we demand from our elected officials? Lest you need to be reminded:
- For too long, “we the people” have allowed ourselves to be subjugated by special interest groups who have our elected officials in their hip pockets (or wallets).
- For too long, we have been complacent about politicians who have been able to create an economic moat around themselves by creating elaborate benefits and the ability to raise their own salaries as needed.
- For too long, we have allowed them to create their own health plans that far exceed anything they will attempt to pass down to us.
- For too long, we have enabled them to create pension systems that guarantee their salaries even after they have been voted out of office for having abused the privilege of representing us.
- It is time to keep sending them a reminder just who their employers actually are (Hint: it’s not other members of Congress; it’s not the President; it’s not the unions; it’s not your loyal cadre of lobbyinsts. It’s We the People. And you’d best not forget it!)
- The time for Government Reform is now in preparation of the 2010 mid-term elections. Without doubt, this will be the most critical mid-term election in our nation’s history (Are you listening, Republican Party?).
We must learn to do with less opulence, or at least to live in line with our incomes again. Living within our means is the first step to an economy in rehab. We have ample proof that living on credit brings down the house eventually. Because we are the junkies of this economy. We. The People. Congress. The President. And “We The People” are, ultimately, responsible for all in that list.
The alternative is to lose the America we grew up in, and have nothing left to pass on to our children and theirs. And while it may be easy to stomp our feet and blame Congress and the President, we will ultimately have only ourselves to blame if we choose not to take the necessary action now.
Heed the call!