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.Powered by Sidelines