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Why Economic Recovery Will Be a Long Row to Hoe

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The Beltway Boys… don’t ya just love ‘em? The flurry of unread bills laden with pork, the installation of unvetted and unregulated czars, the atmosphere of entitlement where companies are “too big” to fail, the belief that spending money you don’t have will somehow magically turn things around – it’s a money and power grab of majestic proportions.

Too bad it won’t work.

I believe that barring any major international or national incidents, the US economy will someday recover with or without (or despite) intervention from the government. I may be misguided, but I have to believe that the American people are hard-wired to succeed and will not be content to allow a socialist state morph from the initial premise of “Land of the Free” and “Home of the Brave.” However, it’s hard not to discount that Bermuda Triangle-esque cloud over the junction of southern Maryland and northern Virginia. Add into the mix the alarming lack of common sense and a complete ignorance of fiscal responsibility in Washington and the result is the prime reason why any economic recovery will be a long time in the making.

Let’s face it. Our government is made up of individuals, fallible human beings although most are attorneys (do attorneys have hearts much less souls? Just kidding to my attorney friends.), who while brain smart in the ways of politics and bureaucracy have had little or no practical experience in running a business. Business people know that in order to stay in business they must be personable, accommodating. They have to deliver the goods in a timely manner and with a smile, or the customer will go elsewhere.

Therein lies the chasm between people who maintain a solid bottom line as a livelihood and those who are in the position of raising taxes when they find themselves overextended. Unlike changing grocers or gas stations when unhappy with the service, we’re stuck with our elected representatives for four to six years.

Even then it’s a matter of choosing “the lesser of two evils” (“He’s not Bush!”) or sticking with a familiar name that’s been on the ballot for decades. One need only look to Michigan where we have continually elected Levins, Dingell and Conyers over and over and over. Elected officials of that ilk are the comfort food of the masses, delivering the same warm fuzzies year after year. The electorate are numb to anything else and brainwashed into thinking that longevity is a good thing.

Today I was reminded of the political disconnect from real life when I opened my email. I’m on the Jeffrey Gitomer email list, and once a week I get a pep talk from the guru of all salespersons, Jeffrey Gitomer. Even if you’re not in business or don’t do sales for a living visit his web site and read his books. The man has a strategy for everyday living that can enhance your life, whether you’re employed, a student or stay-at-home mom.

In this week’s column, Jeffrey addresses what he’s personally doing about the economy. He might be smart, but he's hurting too. His ideas aren’t rocket science, and in fact we’ve been instinctively doing much the same. Cutting cost is at the cornerstone of buffering any decline on Main Street. If you don’t have money, don’t spend. If you have a little, spend wisely. Look for deals; everyone else is in the same boat you are. The end result of our own self-imposed austerity campaign is that even though our business is way down, we’re still in the black.

I couldn’t help but wonder if our President and our Congress were to apply some of these sensible measures to legislation life in America would be a whole lot better.

Some of Gitomer’s ideas include:

• Eliminating salary. I’m a firm proponent of our elected officials and bureaucrats foregoing a salary until the country shows a rosier pallor. Most of them are already independently wealthy by other means. The rest of the country is already making due with less. If you can’t walk the walk, don’t talk the talk. (Me? I haven't taken a raise in years.)

• Cut every unnecessary expense. You think?

It’s nice that our president can take his wife on date nights to Broadway and beyond, but I know from experience (my husband and I celebrate our date nights on Friday) that one can get the same effect by spending little or no money. Perhaps Mr. Obama should consider a presidentially prepared dinner for Michelle to be served al fresco in the Rose Garden? I would personally be bowled over by the romance of that gesture.

Our other elected officials don’t need to jet off as well. Hasn’t anyone heard it’s a recession? Do we have to pay for spouses? For spa settings? For Wagyu beef? It’s amazing that conferences are held in the dead of winter at such locales as Hawaii and Arizona. No offense, but those places don’t need a boost in tourism. Real economic help could be gained by booking a conference in Detroit or Buffalo. With the advent of the internet and the whiz of modern communications, getting information and hashing out details in the flesh is an unnecessary exercise and expense.

• Based on numbers and predictions, cut staff. Precisely. If you have a sagging income, you need less staff. I’m also a big proponent of doing the job you were elected for. While it’s nice to have a cushion of sycophants around for moral support, we elected YOU, not your posse of political contributors to do the job. Doing the job means research and reading. Yes! Even reading deadly boring legislation. I do it on occasion, and I'm not in Congress. It’s part of the job description.

• Study and continue to study money numbers. Here our Congress should take remedial lessons on economics. They should pull long study sessions with thick text books and with a legion of math tutors if necessary. It’s obvious that no one in DC has a background in money, and those that do are adept at refraining from paying their taxes.

My 19-year-old, who is as far from a paragon of thrift as one can get, recently experienced an “ah-ha” moment after watching a program on late night TV about the Great Depression and the new, Greater Depression we are currently experiencing. Her take: “We’re don’t have any money and we’re printing it to cover our expenses. That's so wrong.” Duh. If a formerly debit card wielding teenager who believed if In N Out took the card to pay for a 4 x 4 there must still be money left (there wasnt') can figure it out, you’d think some of the members of Congress would catch the same drift.

• Become closer to the process. Gitomer believes there is no shortcut to success. You start at the bottom and work your way up. (Another “duh.”) Perhaps our government should try to balance a checkbook before tackling the rest of the country. Perhaps our officials should actually write ONE TRILLION out in long-hand and divide it by the number of their constituents.

• Talk to the folks. That’s right, get down to the nitty-gritty with the folks at home. Supposedly, they’re the ones who elected you. I know it’s enticing to listen to those special interest groups with the money, but do you want fiscal success for everyone or just yourself? Instead of canning press conferences and manufacturing town hall meetings, go out and have a real conversation with a real person who is not tethered to Washington DC and skip that lunch with those lobbyists.

• LIMIT the news. Gitomer is hugely aware of the negativity of the media, and I’m a convert. He gives himself five minutes and nothing more. (Most days I just want to know the weather and nothing else, although I might stretch it beyond five minutes if the story is interesting.) This might be difficult for some in government to do. Not only are our bureaucrats making news, they also fashion the news to suit the situation. They are the news, and they have the rest of “journalism” in their back pocket. Instead of concentrating on the media, our elected officials should concentrate on the problems. It’s the only way to find a solution.

Perhaps Jeffrey Gitomer can be commissioned to teach a class in DC before the economy gets worse and the recovery becomes a spot farther in the distance. He’d have his hands full with that crowd.

It’s highly unlikely but one can hope.

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About Joanne Huspek

I write. I read. I garden. I cook. I eat. And I love to talk about all of the above.
  • You actually expect your government to represent you, Joanne? You must have grown up in the Midwestern United States. The rest of the world knows better and has no such expectations.

  • Thanks, Ruvy. What can I say? I’m an idealistic dreamer…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Joanne – IMO, as long as nothing really bad happens, I suspect the economy will recover quite nicely. The unemployment rate won’t improve until next year at the earliest – which is always, always the case for at least a year or two after the end of a recession – but it is improving even now.

    Relax, have a bit of faith. Life’s getting better – it should, now that the adults are in charge.

  • The economic recovery wouldn’t be such a long row to hoe if those in the financial world and Congress weren’t such hoes to begin with.

    Our economic crisis was greed driven, pure and simple. Those who were the most greedy tapped into those who have the least to give. Capitalism wasn’t meant to propagate greed, it is meant to foster economic independence for all the classes. Greed, monetary gluttony, is the root of our society’s problems. And that is something we need to focus upon.

  • Glen and Silas… I see no end of the economic train wreck yet. Although our state’s unemployment is “officially” at 15.5% this month, most people place the real figure in the 20% area.

    That’s a lot of people to get back to work in order to make things “normal.”

  • Bliffle

    This train wreck has been developing for 30 years, partly due to our reluctance to change capital ownership and income distribution models. We have an monopolistic capital system and an old income system based on premises that are no longer valid, like single-earner households, industrial producers selling into unlimited markets, ever-increasing productivity, disorganized citizenry, etc.

    We can’t compete in future world markets because we are too unhealthy (at the same time as health costs increase 6% a year), and too poor to finance new businesses (capital is more and more centrally controlled), etc.,

    We should have started to reduce the work-week years ago, but instead we made the Adverse Selection and increased work weeks! We can’t sell increased output to world markets. So all we can do is cut de facto wages. More work, less pay.

    Just as capital ownership becomes more concentrated in the ruing class, so the wage jobs become concentrated in the diminishing middle-class, and more people slide into the lower class.

    Gee, sounds like a classic recipe for violent revolution. Good thing I’m old and will be dead by then.

    So I can just sit and laugh at what fools these mortals be.

  • Baronius

    Joanne, I’m usually a fan, but the salaries of elected officials and their staff are trivial compared to the salaries and expenses of government. Congress could hire a million minimum-wage staffers to read legislation for about 2% of the cost of the stimulus package.

  • It’s remarkably easy to write second-rate populist drivel. Especially if you don’t bother to inform yourself [since you avoid watching that distorted news stuff the media dishes out].

    Of course, there’s no distortion on this and other opinion-driven political sites, where anyone and everyone can say and claim whatever they please, right?

    And since the author of this piece and many [most? all?] the commenters on here get most [all?] of their information from other loudmouth know-nothings on other blog sites, the eloquence of their opinions reflects that of their sources.

    Politicians and government officials and the news media richly deserve deep scrutiny and pungent criticism, but it should be based on something substantial. And I’m sorry to let you down, but that may require some watching and some listening…and some reading.

    If you stand on the sidelines and give a Thumbs-Down and a “You stink!” to all politicians and all media, en masse, a lot of people will agree with you, sure. But have you really said anything?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Um, Joanne – you’re blaming Obama for Michigan’s unemployment? After the Republicans were the ones who wanted to deny the bailouts for GM and Chrysler?

    The Republicans wanted to allow GM and Chrysler to both go completely bankrupt – how would THAT have affected Michigan’s unemployment, hm?

    Ah, but I forget! Everything’s OBAMA’a fault! If something bad is happening, it must be because of him!

    BTW – are you a birther too?

  • LOL… If you read my comment on the birther article, you know how I feel about that, but NO, it doesn’t consume me.

    As for government salaries, yes, when you look at the “salary” (base wage) of a congressman or president, it’s not so much. But then add in the perks, free franking privileges, free transportation, free haircuts, free underground shuttle (I know I am missing much) THEN add in all the payments from lobbyists, book deals and under the table stuff and it’s no wonder the people “elected to serve” are serving themselves.

    I’m an equal opportunity cynic. The Republicans AND the Democrats had their hands in the pie. I was sure of it when I saw McCain’s reaction to the initial bailout. But Glenn, I’m not going to be one to say it’s Obama’s fault like others said it was Bush’s fault. We have too many foxes in the hen house to dispense blame to one person alone.

  • Glenn, if GM and Chrysler had been allowed to go bankrupt they would have been sold off and some of the factories would have been reopened and many jobs would have been saved.

    As things stand now many jobs have still been lost, and more will continue to be lost, and the huge cost will transfer the harm to other industries which were not failing, but will now be crushed in order to bail out businesses which were uncompetitive.

    Obama promised job creation from the stimulus. Where is any growth outside of the massive growth of government? Where are new jobs outside of makework and bureaucratic jobs?


  • Baronius

    Glenn, the article isn’t about Obama. Once, in passing, it mentions his trip to Broadway.

  • The Republicans wanted to allow GM and Chrysler to both go completely bankrupt – how would THAT have affected Michigan’s unemployment, hm?

    Perhaps we should have let them go down completely. The auto companies (especially executives) and auto workers’ union (especially Union officials) have been monetary whores for far too long. This marriage between corporate management and union management has been a complete failure. The UAW was used as a political voting block for too long and that sector of the special interest environment has been as greedy as Bernie Madoff at an initial public offering. It’s time for change –REAL change.

    That means special interests get taxed into oblivion and the common small business owner gets encouraged to take the next leap of faith in achieving the American dream. When “disgraced” Senator Larery Craig can leave politics and open a “special interest” office concerning environmental technology in Washington and Boise, I see a problem. So what that Larry Craig was disgraced? He made so many high power connections that he can go off into private life and suck off the nipple of government. Does anyone see a real problem here? Is anyone as pissed off as I? No change can be made until we shake Washington up. That’s common sense.

  • doug

    You guys should have let the auto companies fail. They still might after all the money put into it and then you’ll be even further behind

  • Yes we should have let the auto companies fail but that would have cost many a Democrat their seat in Congress not to mention that Obama is beholden to the unions. Funny how things have a way of backfiring.

    Here in Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick, the Laborer’s Messiah is now the Union Pariah. Isn’t it amazing how quickly union people turn when they don’t get their way and are asked to make the same sacrifices as the rest of us poor slobs?

    And, here in Massachusetts, sales tax rates climb to 6.25% tomorrow. That means the working and unemployed poor are going to pay a hefty price for inept government and its’ sweetheart deals. It’s time for another Boston Tea Party or better yet a general strike.