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Individual resourcefulness will solve economic troubles

Monday, February 9, 2009 | 10:00 a.m. CST

It is truly astounding that after the whole world has witnessed such remarkable episodes of Wall Street greed that some people still have the guts to keep insisting that if left alone, the free market will right itself. These folks still refuse to believe that it was the activities of the free market that got us into this mess. Remember how all that toxic paper wound up in the bank vaults?

There have always been crooks running afoul of the law. Why any administration or Congress would assume that corporate officers would be honest and trustworthy and allow them to function without stringent regulations is beyond my power to understand. And not providing oversight for agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Food and Drug Administration is totally unacceptable.

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Nevertheless, the mess has been made and some economists figure it will take years for the economy to get straightened out. Have we learned anything from the experience? Maybe a few people have. Theoretically, the free market works fine as long as it stays an idea on paper. After human beings get involved, well, therein lies the problem.

It’s unsettling to realize that nobody seems to know how to rescue the economy from this crisis. After this big letdown, restoring consumer confidence is asking a lot. It’s very difficult for people to regain their confidence after their life savings disappear in the stock market. It’s hard to have confidence when you are out of work and there are no jobs available. Having the roof that covers your family’s head snatched from you doesn’t inspire confidence.

Most of the news is bad. According to a story reported by the Associated Press, Missouri’s unemployment fund will run dry in a week. The state is seeking to borrow 260 million from the federal government, which is already broke. It’s funny that just a few years go our leaders were claiming that we were the richest nation in the world.

Changing lifestyles will constitute a problem for some who are accustomed to living above their means. For most of the working class who just manage to get by, if they can hang on to some kind of work, they’ll probably do what they have always done, make do with what little they can.

In times such as these, I’m glad that I grew up in a family that was resourceful. When, as children, we ran out of books to read, we were told to read the dictionary and learn five words a week. Every week my mother made savory loaves to use as meat substitutes for several meals. We were taught to lay out patterns and sew, so we could make our own clothes. We learned how to use hammers, nails and saws from my grandfather who was a carpenter and bricklayer. I have always painted my own houses inside and out. My mother always taught us when we didn’t have a job, to volunteer somewhere where we could acquire an additional skill. Consequently, most of the times I have been out of work I have been able to use my skills to create my own jobs. I’m sure if we had possessed a lot of money, I would probably be dependent on other people to provide me with a way to earn a living. So, I guess there are advantages in having to learn the hard way.

I don’t suppose we can count on most of the rich to help people who are falling through the cracks. From the comments I hear about stimulus packages, those who earn good salaries would deprive everyone in need of crumbs of bread even if they are hungry or sick. Obviously, the citizens of our country have changed a lot since the Great Depression. All of us being in it together doesn’t mean what it once did.

I know it would certainly help people who have chosen to go back to school if they had an idea of what kind of jobs will be available in the future. Surely, everyone will not be able to find employment in the service industry that appears to be the only employers that will be able to survive. Too bad the capitalists couldn’t see this coming when they were sending jobs overseas. They may be able to manufacture on the cheap, but we won’t have the money to buy, so goods will just have to sit on shelves and rot.

In the meantime, I guess we’ll just have to keep printing money to keep the government propped up, until it’s not worth the paper its printed on. Hopefully, our creditors will go easier on us than the banks we bailed out.

Most of us, I imagine, will survive this crisis. We can only hope we will emerge wiser and stronger from the experience. It’s never too late to learn.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net.

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