The Real Stimulus Package
April 27, 2009

Among the many perks that come with not owning a television, there is one that reigns supreme over them all: the complete and total absence of CNN in my home. Even back when television was my opiate, I shunned most major news stations because it's always been clear to me mainstream media is in the business of sensationalism and selling bad news. If you're halfway conscious and living in any major metropolitan city, you don't need Ted Turner to tell you that the world has gone to hell in a hand basket; you see it out your window. I'll take sobbing owners of a newly remodeled home and Ty Pennington yelling "Move that bus!" any day over the doom and gloom perpetuated by your average five o'clock news report. What may have once been a reputable entity reporting important facts to American families, has now become the soothsayer to many of us. We wake up first thing in the morning, turn on the news (or log online to our news feeder) and as it plays on our emotions of fear and angst, we allow it to prophesy to us about our day and our future.

Perhaps the most easily visible example of our sensationalist media is the current reports of the state of our country's economy. "Hunker down folks," we're told, "Things are gonna get worse." While in no way do I wish to trivialize the effects of this "economic downturn" on those who've felt it most prevalently, I sometimes think we all could benefit from a moderate amount of perspective in the matter. Are we in a recession? Sure, according to the textbook definition of the word, I'll give us that. The value of the American dollar is pretty darn crappy these days thanks to decades and decades of irresponsible government, but let's not go there. What I can't get behind is all this likening of our current economic condition to "The Next Great Depression." Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Based on most reports, the national unemployment average in America is 8.5%. Some states may be experiencing something higher or lower, but let's use the average as the basis of the discussion. At an unemployment rate of 8.5%--and assuming there is a margin of error as these statistics are generally obtained by unemployment offices, and based on those citizens who actually report unemployment--that means approximately 91.5% of Americans are gainfully employed.

Let's just marinate on that reality for a moment.

We live in a country where the majority of citizens receive a paycheck for the work they do. Those who for whatever reason can't obtain employment or have chosen not to have the other option of starting their own business (and I use the term "business" very loosely, but not as loose as the marijuana leaves changing hands by people who call their drug dealing a "business"). When it comes to taxes, we happen to live in a country that actually rewards people for owning their own business and doing it legally. I'm no economic strategist but even on bad day, I'd have to say the aforementioned predicament sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Considering the unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is currently hovering around 94%, I think we should all take a moment and say the pledge of allegiance or thank God, hug your neighbor or something because folks, that's good news. It's been argued that the unemployment rate during the Great Depression was around 25-28%. Rest assured, whatever type of horrible economy we think we are enduring is in fact not the misery we've been sold. As cliche as it sounds, it could be a lot worse.

Much of what's taken place at the hands of our government in recent months just makes me sick to my stomach. How an entire body of legislators and members of the executive branch of government (who by the way were voted in by us, work for us, and are accountable to us) decided it was a good idea to bail out failing companies with tax payer (and invisible) dollars is beyond me. Forget the fact that it's unconstitutional, it's not even logical. Thank God I'm a Christian because there are times (and they are few) when I think we could do ourselves good as a nation by showing up at night on the doorsteps of some of our governmental leaders homes with shot guns, pitchforks and torches in hand. We wouldn't load the shotguns with real bullets or anything. We'd just point our barrels square between the eyes of Joe Congressman and scare 'em a bit. Let them know that these here Americans aren't about to sit idly by as they bury this country into so much a debt our children's children's children won't be able to pay it off. Then we'd bid them farewell with the kind words, "God Bless You."

I'm not that violent. Really I'm not.

Any discerning businessperson who's been around the block knows that one of the key (and necessary) outcomes of any economic downturn is that it would weed out the weak performers with a sub-par product. That would be you, General Motors. Chrysler? You too. I may lack the full understanding of all the factors and potential spiraling effects that lead to a bailout decision, but I can assuredly say this: No company responsible for manufacturing the PT Cruiser and the Dodge Neon should receive any type of governmental bailing out. Ever. Were such powers bestowed upon me, the conversation would go something like this:

Me: "Failing company number 652 you may step forward. What is the name of your organization?"

Them: "We are the Chrysler Corporation."

Me: "Ah I see. And you wish for governmental assistance, I presume?"

Them: "Yes ma'am, that is correct."

Me: "Are you that company that manufactures the PT Cruiser? That hearse-looking contraption that has absolutely no get up or power, horrible interior usability design and is offered by every major rental car company as a torture method to harried business travelers?"

Them: "Yes ma'am, that's our vehicle, but we wouldn't quite describe it that way."

Me: "I would. Do not pass go and go straight to jail. DENIED. Next!"

America became the nation she is today because our economy rewarded those who innovated, not those who continued to fail. I recognize the auto industry is a complex one and many automakers have suffered in part because of the government's sanctions as well as the pressure from unions and a whole host of other people I think could use a visit from my make-believe-no-bullet-having-shotgun-toting crusaders. But I believe what we've seen take place with automakers and banks in this country is merely a shadow of many of the attitudes held by Americans. We somehow feel the government is responsible for our personal well-being.

(One minor caveat to my aforementioned statement is that I still jokingly maintain that if the government wants to get in the business of blowing $700 billion, they should forgive every American of their educational loans. See if that doesn't stimulate the economy. Those with five figure and beyond school loan debt, can I get an amen? Poor medical school graduates. They never stood a chance did they?)

I think we ought to be very discerning about who we allow to frame our reality. I don't caution against wisdom and good common sense, but I think many Americans are taking unnecessary measures and being overly fearful based not on their own circumstances, but based on what's being projected in the media. Sure there are terrible predicaments out there with people losing their homes and jobs and livelihood. There has been great greed and wickedness revealed in higher ranks of those at the helm of major financial institutions. It's nothing new. As is expected, some of those in places of authority have even resorted to taking their own lives. It's all a tragic mess and I don't presume to have the answers to how it all gets cleaned up.

I do think that Americans at large have an unhealthy attachment to "stuff." The thought of losing "stuff" sends some people into a downward spiral. We very much worship at the altar of influence and things we own. We do so to the point that we'd rather maintain the facade of success than actually put in the work necessary to achieve the success we so desperately emulate. Sometimes the result is that people live beyond their means. I came across a proverb earlier this month that struck me:

"Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food."
I like this version too:
"Better is he who is lightly esteemed but works for his own support than he who assumes honor for himself and lacks bread."
What interests me is that despite all that's taken place, there are people who are prospering in famine. Regular, every day people aren't depending on the government to bail them out, but rather recognizing the dream and the opportunity we all have because we live in America. Some of the largest fortunes in history were made or found root during the Great Depression. Believe it or not, there were and are people who managed to become prosperous honestly and with integrity. A bevy of new millionaires always rise up out of hard economic times. It's amazing to me that those who are prepared have found great blessing in the same season others are calling the worst we've seen in our lifetime.

It's all a matter of perspective, I suppose. While it's not the best time to sell home, it certainly is a prime opportunity to buy. Oh what I wouldn't give to be a first time homebuyer right now. When I ignore the news, I look around me and I see a host of people out there trying to make something happen for their families. I see "Now Hiring" and "Help Wanted" signs everywhere. I see folks who once had blossoming corporate careers living lives that now necessitate some creativity and a certain amount of risk. Sometimes living situations change and suddenly families become closer. New businesses emerge or some ingenious invention, website, application, service, or company sprouts up from someone who just needed a little pressure to innovate. Despite what Suze Orman and the rest of her cronies prophesy, I happen to think this is a great time be living.

As for the recession, I've chosen not to participate. You?

Posted by Ambra at April 27, 2009 2:05 AM in Current Events ,Economy
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Amen x1000.

Hey Ambra!

Great read, glad to see you're back.

I agree that the MSM is full of bad news; economy, environment, patriotism, but I am finding that all of the dire predictions are usually a way to sell me something new. Great and insightful post. I follow you on twitter, so to see another side of you was nice.

I have a shotgun, do you have a pitchfork?

In his book "The Millionaire Mind", Thomas Stanley informs us that the number one trait of multi-millionaires is....Integrity.

So yes, you are right that people with integrity can become VERY successful.
Kinda blows the whole "you stole it, exploited people and got rich, blah blah blah" that whining liberals pretend is fact, doesn't it?

i had forgotten how much i truly appreciated your insight, wit, and elegant writing when you were on extended hiatus - amen girl, keep it up!

Thanks Ambra. Great thoughts.

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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