Economic downturn no surprise to average Americans

Monday, September 22, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:15 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 11, 2009

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.

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Leroy Jenkems September 22, 2008 | 1:15 p.m.

So if you earn a lot, you are not working class. Go tell that to the doctor or lawyer or small business owner who put in 60 hours this week.

Is the Missourian plagiarizing the Maneater again? Coz that's what the quality of thought is in this column.

(Report Comment)
Jake Sherlock September 22, 2008 | 3:29 p.m.

Mr. "Jenkems,"

The Missourian's policy on comments states:

"All Columbia Missourian publications are committed to a policy of transparency and openness. In that spirit, your first and last name will be attached to each post you make. You may note that this is consistent with our policy on using anonymous sources in our news stories: An anonymous source may only be used in the rare cases and only with the approval of a top editor."

I enjoy reading your comments, but I also believe they'd carry more weight if you weren't posting under an alias.

So, why post under an alias?

(Report Comment)
Leroy Jenkems September 22, 2008 | 3:39 p.m.

Why not? This is a bulletin board, not an article. Are you fact-checking anyone's posts, like you do articles before they go to press?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr September 22, 2008 | 5:36 p.m.

For one this is not a bulletin board by far.Myself if they did not allow comments on the stories here but actually installed a forum software package like Invision Power Board or vBulletin that would be fine by me. They allow us to post our comments so the polite thing is to use your real name as well so every citizen knows who you are unless you have something to hide and in that case maybe you should not be posting to begin with. The editor did ask you nicely and we as guests should consent that right to our gracious host.

(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken September 22, 2008 | 6:51 p.m.

So is your name a fusion of Leroy Jenkins, of popular World Of Warcraft YouTube video fame, with the illegal drug, Jenkem (that is made from human feces)?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr September 22, 2008 | 8:26 p.m.

Amber Hanneken that name that person is using is an obvious "forum troll" name. Our good Editor in standing knows what he is doing and these types of things will be dealt with in the future as they pop up.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking September 22, 2008 | 8:35 p.m.

Actually, I think jenkem is legal (I mean, really, how do you outlaw it?). It's just not something most people would want to get high on...


(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken September 22, 2008 | 8:47 p.m.

I suppose you are right on further inspection. Yuck.

(Report Comment)
Jake Sherlock September 23, 2008 | 12:23 a.m.

Here's the thing (and forgive me for not explaining myself well the first time):

When we added a comment function to, we adopted a comment policy that you can find at:

In that policy, quoted above, we state why we require users to post to this Web site under their real name. My question for Mr. Jenkems is, Why don't you feel comfortable posting under your real name?

I know a lot of news Web sites allow users to post comments under avatars or even anonymously. Seeing how a certain number of us choose to keep our identities secret, I'm wondering if we made the right call.

So what say you, everyone? Should we go the way of such major media outlets as and and not require names?

(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken September 23, 2008 | 1:51 a.m.

It's a conundrum. Certainly, I feel that more people would be commenting if they could do it anonymously but what weight would their comments have?
Just look at the local Rants and Raves section of Craigslist if you want to see how ugly, hateful and unapologetic people can be about their own community when they don't have to show their face, so to speak.
At the same, many times people who have valid things to say won't say them for fear of ridicule by their peers or sometimes even getting in trouble but could say them under anonymity.
It's different when it comes to a community paper like the Missourian. We aren't a large city or national paper with millions of anonymous readers. What people say on here can effect the community.

Maybe a good middle ground would be to add a PHPBB forum board where people can have a username unattached to their identity in order to start and contribute to discussion freely. This seems to work well for the Tribune. And the comments on stories could remain real names only.

That's my two cents.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr September 23, 2008 | 3:49 a.m.

Yes as I posted before a addition of a Invision Power Board (which is what the Tribune uses)forum software would be nice but I also think along the lines of using your real name so it does carry the weight it should. By requiring the use of your real name you do not let every "wing nut" who may be looking just to ridicule and start trouble onto the site.
In the end it is up to the Editor in charge to decide what to do but I for one think on a local politically driven commentary board,forum,blog or whatever there is nothing wrong with being required to use your real name to help and to prove to your fellow citizens that you are willing to stand up and be heard about what is right.

(Report Comment)
Leroy Jenkems September 23, 2008 | 1:12 p.m.

"My question for Mr. Jenkems is, Why don't you feel comfortable posting under your real name?"

Because there are some real whackos out there. On another board John Schulz has people posting maps to his house. No thanks.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 23, 2008 | 1:40 p.m.

Leroy Jenkems September 23, 2008 | 1:09 p.m.
"My question for Mr. Jenkems is, Why don't you feel comfortable posting under your real name?"

Because there are some real whackos out there. On another board John Schulz has people posting maps to his house. No thanks.

--My reply: Then post only where you can comply with the rules. You ruin it for those of us who do.

(Report Comment)
Leroy Jenkems September 23, 2008 | 2:46 p.m.

No the whackos ruin it. They were the ones that ruined this site's original forum, which had to be shut down because of their racist comments and personal attacks. Maybe you want a site like KOMU's, where no one bothers to post.

(Report Comment)
Jake Sherlock September 23, 2008 | 3:21 p.m.

Thanks for your comments on this subject, everyone. It's helpful as we continue to develop the Missourian's site.

And to Leroy's comment about wanting a site where no one bothers to post -- ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! I love reading the comments, and I'm especially pleased that the redesign we rolled out a few months ago has helped spur more conversation on the site.

And I think Leroy has a good point about the "whackos" ruining it. Does fear of retaliation for expressing a viewpoint trump the transparency of standing behind your public comments with your real name? I don't have an answer for that yet ...

More thoughts?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr September 23, 2008 | 6:51 p.m.

It does not scare me nor bother me one bit to express my opinion on sites such as this and I do not fear any retaliation what so ever.

It is my opinion if you cannot stand by your point of view with your real name then you should not be posting in the first place as your point of view will mean absolutely nothing to me what so ever with out your creditability which is your real name to back it up.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 23, 2008 | 7:10 p.m.

While i understand "Leroy's" concern, a site which uses your own name ensures the integrity of the site. I suggest that other site's do the same and remove people who can't stay on topic/issue or make repititive personal attacks on one's opinion.
In keeping with the spirit of this thread, I'd like to refer to the article in question, which I generally agree with...
"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."

(Report Comment)

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