Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Economy may lead to another 'Greatest Generation'

Don't look now, but yesterday I received my very first political vote. My friend Linda went to vote early. Not knowing any of the candidates for School Board, she wrote in my name. I feel victorious already. (How did she know that I've been entertaining political ambitions?) Anyway, this paragraph is the start of my official write-in campaign for school board. I won't be campaigning anywhere else, and I don't plan to win. But if you feel the need, you can write me in as a candiate for the School Board.

In other news, I read this morning that Senator Orrin Hatch has been in the U.S. Senate since 1976. That is way too long! Let's do something about that next time he comes up for re-election. If we as Americans are really serious about stopping politicas as usual, we ought to eject members of Congress who have made careers out of being politicians. I don't think that's what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they set up our government. A good motto to remember is, "Out with the old and in with the new!"

Switching gears now . . . Let's discuss the economy. I know, everyone's favorite subject of late. We're all getting sick to death of the doom and gloom of the market crash and the billion dollar bailout provided by the government. But here's the thing -- what was the outcome following the Great Depression? Only one of the most prosperous eras in U.S. history. Could that happen again? I'll lay out a plan that raises the possibility of just such a thing happening.

First of all, the marketing arm of the Live Within Your Means movement needs to kick their message into high gear. I consider myself a member of the Live Within Your Means movement, and there's nothing I love like a good marketing campaign! The challenge is how to get the American consumer on board and excited about good, sound fiscal managment.

I say, play to everyone's desire to be good parents. If we as American's bite the bullet and tighten our belts, we could very well be setting up our children to become another 'Greatest Generation,' akin to the men and women who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II.

Will it be easy? Is raising children ever easy? Is it easy to let actions speak louder than our words? No, but it is possible.

Start by listening to Big Band music. It's fun. It's peppy. It's what The Greatest Generation listened to. I've got some '40s era music playing as I write, and it never fails to fill me with positivity! Positivity! Just what America needs.

Of course it's going to take more than positivity to turn America around. It will take action. No more sitting on our big behinds and letting the media dictate what we think. Blog for goodness sake! Get real information out there.

For example, did you know that 24% of Americans carry no debt? I saw that statistic in my paper yesterday. The source was the Federal Reserve Board. The AP article quoted Greg McBride of as saying, "This entire credit crunch is a wakeup call to anybody who was attempting to borrow their way to prosperity."

There you have it. Borrowing is never the way to prosperity. We've got to give consumers new standards to look up to. It's time to re-read The Millionaire Next Door and rediscover what wealth is all about. Another good resourse for anyone trying to find ways to save money is The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. I own a copy, and she changed my attitude about saving money. Ms. Dacyczyn (prnounced 'decision') made saving money into something fun, a challenge to rise and conquer. You can borrow my copy, but spending the $16 and reading the book from cover to cover could change your life.

The organized labor unions would have you believe that the rich are getting richer because 'the man' is keeping the workers down. But the truth is that the rich are getting richer because they're out of debt. Americans have been trying to look prosperous by living a consumer credit lifestyle. Repeat after me, "borrowing is never the way to prosperity."

Look at those who came through the Great Depression. They avoided debt like the plague. And what eventually happened to the American economy? It was incredibly stable because people were purchasing what they could afford. Purchasing with cash.

You can't be a victim of the economy or anthing else if you take action and DO SOMETHING! The government isn't going to solve our problems. We ARE the government. It's our money they're spending. Currently our government encourages citizens to live on credit. That must change. Living on credit is no way to live. Not for citizens or for government.

As long as we're going through a market correction, let's get things correct. Households aren't the only ones who should be tightening their belts. Let's demand the same of our government. No more pork. Let's hold the government to the same standards that we have for ourselves. Imagine what the dollar would do against the other currencies of the world if the U.S. opperated without debt. We truly would be a world super-power.

To achieve a more stable economy, there are four little words that all American's need to learn, understand and repeat often. They are, "We can't afford that." It's good for kids to hear from their parents. It's good for couples to say to one another. It's good for congress members to say when discussing new and old spending.

In his book, The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw found that those who lived through the Great Depression and World War II could attribute their successful lives to the values of "duty, honor, economy, courage, service, love of family and country, and, above all, responsibility for oneself."

It's time to revisit those values. Time to live lives that will strengthen our families and our country.


Katie Stacey said...

Great post, if only more people would jump on board with that plan! Another good read for those trying to become 100% debt free is Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. It really changed the way I think about things.

Christie said...

Katie, thanks for the heads-up on the Ramsey book. I'll check it out. (Libraries are a great way to save money on reading materials!)

Science Teacher Mommy said...

I agree with much of what you said; and I have been thinking a lot about this greatest generation thing lately. Do we have it in us to survive truly difficult times? We may have to find out.

There are a couple of points on which we differ, however. (Of course. I love a good discussion.)

1--I taught some of those inner city kids for a while. They are who they are in large part because of their terrible start in life. Just as you are who you are in large part because of the love you had as a child, your idyllic growing up environment (there is no other word for CV) and the gospel. Take away each of those things and then replace them with the polar opposite--disdain, violence, grime, pollution, litter, and a counterfeit or absent religion. . . who would you be? The government has tried (agreed, mostly unsuccessfully) for generations to help such people, but if you come from that place you trust no one and nothing. Not even when it offers a way out. When you have been taught nothing of choice, accountability, responsiblity or confidence, how can you expect these people to suddenly have it all figured out as grown ups?

2--Pay as you go and living within your means IS conservative policy. Ironically, Obama is the only one who is talking about this. In town hall debate somebody asked about priorities, another about sacrifice. McCain talked about not needing priorities because EVERYTHING can be fixed at once! Oh! And we can cut nearly ALL your taxes too! He talked about his time as a prisoner of war. Obama talked about taking care of the biggest, most expensive problems first and working our way down. He talked about volunteerism, service to our communities, and changing our fundamental mindset that to spend money is the way we act patriotic. In her debate, Sarah Palin said that "where she was from; paying taxes was not patriotic." What? Her son is a soldier for crying out loud! How can she not want the very best for him? What about her son with Downs' Syndrome? Educational programs for special ed students are one of the single largest expenses incurred in school. Without heavy federal and state subsidies, he would never get to go to school. Fifty years ago he would have been instituionalized. Is she implying that to NOT pay your taxes IS patriotic? Every person is a lobbyist, for something. It isn't just that we want to not pay taxes, it is that we only want the programs we favor to make the cut. Only reasoned discussion and compromise can make sense of such a complicated problem.

Democrats are often accused of being "tax and spend" liberals. Yes, the federal government is too big, but I also think it is immoral to go to war and cut taxes at the same time. The people in Washington (yes, mostly who've been there too long) have driven our country into the ground (economically and militarily) while urging Americans to have their cake and eat it too. They have fought a war that will have to be paid for by the two, or even three, generations that follow them. What do they care? The two biggest deficits of the last century, save during the Second World War were during the Reagan years and the Bush years. It is impossible to cut taxes without cutting government.

3--It is true that rich people are rich in large part because they have figured out the debt thing: better to earn interest than to pay it. Having said as much, I think it is highly interesting to note that Warren Buffet has publicly spoken against the Bush tax cuts since the were invoked (about a dollar a day for you, several thousand dollars a day for him), saying that the rich DO have a greater obligation to pay into the system. Just as the always did until the 1980's or so. Tax rates during the Second World War were over 70% for the top tiered income bracket. In addition, Warren Buffet, arguably the smartest money man in the entire world, is the chief economic advisor the Obama campaign.

4--There are things government CAN do that we CANNOT do for ourselves. Military, infrastructure, trade, education, foreign relations . . . Some things need larger pools of money to assume greater shared risks. Government should be an independent watch dog for business (another good reason to have frequent changeover in Washington): corporations, even ones filled with moral people, nearly always act for the good of the corporation: read, making profits. There is nothing wrong with making money; even lots of money, but when it is made at the sacrifice of thousands of American jobs, the environmental health of our country and the sweat the working class who can't even take their kids to the doctor without it bankrupting them, well, that is wrong.

In his convention speech, Obama said something that resounded with me. He was giving a bit about how trickle down economics (make the rich really rich and the lower classes will feel the effects) was called "ownership society." He said that what it really means is that you are on your own. "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! You don't have bootstraps? Well, you're on your own." And as much as we like to pretend it isn't happening: there are a lot of people in this country without bootstraps. They need help. REAL help. The Book of Mormon talks about how every society that ignored the poor eventually crumbled. It talks about the most successful periods being those when all men were equal with their substance. I know that this is not our current government's job, and I know that it is not a gospel principle to get something for nothing, but I also know that the Lord sees no difference in the infinite worth of his children, regardless of their many worldly accomplishments and independence.

Government is absolutely NOT perfect. Even good government is filled with faults. But we must never forget that this system is still the best on earth. This society still enjoys the lowest tax rates of any nation on earth. Any nation with a prayer of succeeding in the long term must base their constitution on our own.

Government is collective, and every voice matters. But I think if we don't find ways to come together and compromise, we don't deserve the democracy our forefathers fought so tenaciously for.

I'm Science Teacher Mommy and I approved this message. :)

Science Teacher Mommy said...

PS. Libraries are publicly funded. A good way to save money, but they are paid for with taxes. Nemesis posted a horrible letter from the Herald Journal last year about somebody's public library rant--his taxes subsidizing something that so few people used. He considered a library to be a redistribution of wealth. Still, you and I know that libraries are a collective good, representing a society's committment to tearing down any barrier to learning.

Christie said...

STM, you and I have a lot in common. I didn't mention religion in this post, but I believe it can pick up a huge part of the 'no bootstrap' problem that our society faces.

I also think that education is another solution to breaking cycles of poverty/violence. And education is too often an underfunded government responsibility. Only when education and personal initiative combine can our society function as it should. Are those who find themselves in situations of crime/violence/poverty/ helpless? No. But they are at a disadvantage. The values of frugality, courage and responsiblity for self will see them farther than a life of government handouts. They need a hand up, not a hand out.

Also, you'll notice that neither Democrats or Republicans this election are talking about 'family values.' At the moment I'm disillusioned with both sides. Neither party represents my values.

Taxes are necessary. It's not patriotic NOT to pay them. To get out of our Federal deficit, we'll have to use a combination of reducing spending (cutting out waste especially!) and raising taxes. There's no way around it. The important thing is to do it -- get out of debt and not get into that trouble again. (And, yes, funding a war withouth cutting expenses other places played a big part of driving us deeper into a hole.)

Finally, government should do for us what we can't do for ourselves. Anytime government does unto others when others could be doing for themselves, it's really not help, it's enabling. (I learned this from a bishop who was questioning why I felt it was my responsibility to 'help' my friend out of a hole she'd dug.)

Until the Lord comes to rule and reign we're going to be dealing with an imperfect government, but that doesn't mean we give up. If anything I say we work harder! If at first you don't succeed . . . fry, fry a hen.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

When government does it, yes. I am not sure about your friend--it may have been. Sometimes when we help others we are really changing ourselves more than we ever have any hope of changing them. But at the end of the day, it is only ourselves we can change. See King Benjamin for better authority on this.

Sometimes FEELING helpless can make you as incapable as actually being helpless. My mother's entire family is so much in this boat--and they have the gospel! Or, at least, as much as they've allowed the gospel to penetrate their lives. Still, without my mom's (and sometimes the Church's) monthly enabling they would probably all be dead or homeless. Really. I've learned much about the importance of environment when I realize how genetically similar I am to them.

So what about all of my friends who have had babies on Medicare (there are at least five I can think of right of hand and seven kids). They call it "faith." Even as I work part time and pay my taxes. I call it irresponsible. Where does the Church step in to this situation when all those planned Medicare users get cut off? As maybe they should be. I had one friend who five babies before her husband ever made a dime. Med school. I liked her in many ways, but I have to say that I deeply resented that, as well as her shockingly cavalier attitude about the whole thing. I hadn't known her a month when I had all the details of her Medicare-paid obstetrical care, her immediate plans to have another baby (though her current baby was just over a year) and what a "pain" her monthly WIC appointments were, but how she just adored her son's awesome, free pre-school (Headstart). All the while I was agonizing over baby#2 because how were we going to make ends meet if I cut back my hours? Incidentally, if Jeff and I had made the decision for me to NEVER work, some years we would have barely been in under the WIC cut off, most years just barely over.

Okay, that came off a little bit bitter and seems to be in opposition to my other comments. I guess what I am saying is that there HAS to be a way to insure that government help is going to the people who ACTUALLY need it and not just people taking advantage. And I agree that the best government programs, the ones with the longest term success rate, are ones geared toward children and schools.

Before the war, some programs WERE cut: pell grants and student loan subsidies. Funding for schools except as it tied to the unwieldy and ridiculous No Child Left Behind law. The first law Bush vetoed in his administration? An expansion of the Child Health Insurance Act to include uninsured kids of parents at a higher income level. The same month that tens of billions was approved for Iraq, this 300 million dollar bill was called "wasteful." Uninsured adults? Problematic. Children unable to get shots in THIS country? Criminal. Again, I'm an Obama fan here: uninsured adults can CHOOSE insurance but they have to be able to pay into medicare at a low rate; uninsured children are automatically covered. It is expensive, for sure; but maybe the markets will finally find good solutions to medical care in this country in response.

The government wouldn't need to talk about family values (not really its job. Principles of honesty, fairness, inegrity would be helpful, but family values is not really government's job) if churches were doing a better job of getting and retaining converts. And why don't they retain? Too many don't preach the commandments. They are a big self-help seminar with the plate passed to fund the massive church-basketball stadium they are crowded into. Or they are political rallies for candidates so far to the right or left that everyon else is villified.

Good grief, I have to be done. I've posted on here twice today and I promised myself I wouldn't when I came back. Too much in my head and no one to talk to. Sorry!

Allie's Antics said...

Great comments. I enjoyed reading everything. Especially exciting- finding out that I am NOT the only Obama fan in UT! I am in complete agreement with the whole economy stuff. I loved Tom Brokaws book. He made me look at these ol' geezers a lot differently. They were a lot smarter than our generation. Hopefully we will get it together. Millionare Nextdoor is Blake's favorite book. We can learn so much about our future if we look at the past. I also totally agree that Hatch must go. He has been in way too long, and you are right about the founding fathers not anticipating life-long politicians. About healthcare and STM post. Healthcare is something I am very passionate about. I know someone that has just recently been diagnosed with colon cancer. He will die before Christmas if he does not get treatment. This man has worked for a company for thirty + years. He was terminated last year for a few months. Then, two months ago they rehired him. But not with benefits. His pension, everything lost. He used his whole paycheck to pay for the colonoscopy the week before. He has no money to pay for a hospital stay. No money for chemo, radiation, and surgery. He will not seek treatment because he cannot afford it. Why does this happen in America? This is the land of opportunity. Not rich get richer, poor get poorer. That same afternoon, I filled out a form allowing a lady to get lactose-free formula free for a year. Her child was "fussy" on the other stuff. Something is definitely not right with how America handles healthcare. I hope we can fix ourselves. I will definitely vote for you on the school board. I think you would be awesome. Oh wait, how do you feel about No Child Left Behind?

Flashlight Girl said...

My goodness. I don't know if I have enough political savvy to post here today! I enjoyed reading all of the comments and the original post, but honestly, I don't want either Obama or McCain in the White House. I truly think it won't matter who is there; we as a nation are overdue for a wake-up call.

It is interesting that STM brings up the King Benjamin insight. I think we as a nation, and perhaps even as church members in this nation, have been enjoying the high tide of the "Pride Cycle" and are on a fast and furious way down. For the past 5 years Utah has had the highest bankruptcy and foreclosure rates in the nation. I'm pretty sure that "living within your means" has been preached constantly for years, but the lure of wanting more of what the world has to offer was more important. Apparently, too few have followed the "seek ye first the kingdom of God" principle and sought to appear wealthy and prosperous. Oh, how great the fall of that "great and spacious building" and those who find themselves inside.

I agree with the push in the Obama campaign for more volunteerism and community service. I hope that your write in School Board campaign gives you a goal for the future if nothing else. The good women of the world need to stand up and lead out by showing the world what moral values (and actually living by them) can do for families, communities, and nations.

Blogging is a great way to communicate these ideas, but don't forget letters to the editor, going to community meetings (town council, school board, PTA, etc.)charitable organizations and other places that can benefit from the services of good, intelligent, reliable help. Studies have also indicated that the earlier children are exposed to service opportunities and volunteering (cookies to a neighbor, Secret Santa and the like) the more likely they are to volunteer and serve in the community as an adult. Keep that in mind, mothers.

Christie said...

STM and Alison, I love politically chatting with you! And it's okay to post long political posts STM. I really enjoy getting to find out what you're thinking. I like the detail both you and Alison give -- the real-life examples. They are truly heart-breaking. I'm really good at sitting at my computer and making sweeping generalizations to solve the world's problems. Reality isn't that easy to solve.

About No Child Left Behind (NCLB)and education in general ... I can see that NCLB has raised overall test scores. But the question is, at what cost? I've spoked with teachers who are frustrated by the government's mandate that they raise a student's performance when much of the time that just isn't possible. If education is pouring most of it's energies into raising the scores of underperforming students, what is happening to the performers? Are they getting the challenge and attention that they need? Is it good policy to educate all students through high school, or would it be better for everyone if we offered vocational education at an earlier stage than we currently do? Would fewer students drop out of high school if they were getting an education that matched their vocational goals? I know that we need more educators who love teaching, who have the ability to share their enthusiasm for learning, for knowledge, for truth and to let that enthusiasm light a fire in their students. As for how to do that, I don't have the answer.

Christie said...

Flashlight Girl, your comment wasn't posted when I responded to STM and Alison. And your comments were very on the mark. If we really are heading into the downside of the Pride/Properity cycle that is so aptly illustrated in the Book of Mormon, then we're in for a bumpy ride. Which may be just the thing to teach the rising generation what NOT to do. That's my hope.

STM said that it's not really the government's job to talk about 'family values.' But I disagree. Functioning families give stability and support to any government. It's in the government's best interests to promote those policies that will strengthen and support the family. And the President of the United States is the leader of the land. If He/She doesn't live and promote sound values, our society is in a world of hurt! We can and should expect more of our leaders.