When investment bankers Lehman Brothers filed the largest bankruptcy petition in U.S. history, the word finally reached Washington, D.C., that the economy was in big trouble. Many Americans have realized this for a very long time.
I consider it my good fortune to have always lived in working-class neighborhoods where most people really do live life one day at a time. Among my friends and acquaintances are very few individuals who get caught up in national trends. Most of us continue to follow in the footsteps of our parents, practicing the same simple habits and enjoying many of the same simple pleasures they enjoyed.
Some of the people on my block don't own computers, still pay their bills with money orders and use the layaway plan to purchase most of their goods. They frown at their children when they rent apartments because they consider that particular proposition as throwing money away.
The majority of my neighbors have never earned large salaries and have always lived on tight budgets. The American dream for them has been to live long enough to see their children prosper in ways they never did. Certainly, we know many who are affluent who don't live in our neighborhood. Some of them are good friends, and we recognize that they have different lifestyles. A few have inherited trust funds or family fortunes, and others have been fortunate enough to earn a lot of money.
These folks have all the material wealth they desire. The stock market matters to them in a meaningful way. No one I know is particularly impressed by the way they live. Our big interest is in the health and well-being of family and friends. Just making sure that everyone can sleep under a dry roof and have food on the table pretty much sums up our life goals. When someone in the neighborhood receives a golden parachute, it means that they were finally able to afford a bigger house.
As far as our country's economic system is concerned, I can't imagine what people thought that years of deregulation would ultimately lead to. If we should have learned anything from human history, it is that the world is genuinely a better place when people practice self-discipline and laws are in place to protect them from themselves and each other.
I can understand that some people like to believe that there needs to be very few laws. They want to believe that individuals can govern themselves without outside help.
Some are even misguided enough to try this theory out when bringing up their children. That, of course, is why so many juvenile detention centers are full to the brim. According to some economists, things are going to get worse in the financial markets before they get better. Like in the case of other addicts, some greedy business owners will have to hit a brick wall before they come to their senses.
Workers and retirees are concerned about their pension plans and 401Ks. Individuals are insisting that they don't know who they can trust. It is truly unfortunate that we have come to the point in America where money has become the determining factor in nearly every decision we have to make.
A lot of independent thinkers don't believe that things will change under new leadership because those elected will be wearing the same old party labels and doing business in the same old way. And so nothing will change until the majority of Americans decide that they want real change in the form of new political parties with rules in place to make them accountable and responsible.
We all know that somewhere out there in America are enterprising individuals who can bring great ideas and vigorous new policies and inject integrity into the political system. The problem is they need lots of money and willing associates to get them where they need to go. Hopefully, someone who has the know-how will take the initiative to begin the process of turning the country in a new direction before it's too late.
It's time for the die-hards to get a hint and take a backseat so that their children and grandchildren can get the opportunity to discover the country as a place where peace and harmony can abide. Let's forget about rock stars and look for people who are genuinely setting the kind of example we would like for young people to follow.
Obviously, we have the kind of government we deserve, so if we don't like it, we're the only ones who can change it. It is truly sad that so many are caught up in two-party politics that they are willing to swallow any lies that are told to them. If anyone doubts our level of literacy, he or she only has to listen to what passes for political debate these days.
I don't know that anyone can wake the citizens of the country up to the reality that we can't keep borrowing money from other countries and maintain our sovereignty. Does anyone believe that someone is going to be willing to bail us out when we slide down the drain?
This is real life, folks, not television. Please, get a clue.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.