Posts Tagged 'personal responsibility'

Scared & Scarred: Might Be a Good Thing

Scanning the Business Section of my local paper today, I came across a syndicated column by financial writer, Gail MarksJarvis of the Chicago Tribune.  She had me at the first paragraph:

“After living through one of the most brutal recessions in U.S. history, many late teens and young adults could be scarred for life, adopting behaviors that could skew everything from their own careers to politics, corporate profits and the stock market.”

She goes on to say that this recession may have the same kind of effect on our young Americans today that the Great Depression had on the youth of the 1930’s, which resulted in them being conservative spenders and investors, and being loyal employees less likely to jump from job to job in exchange for the security of a steady job.

Perhaps a few scars are a good thing.  A little pain can bring about growth, or at least teach one some lessons in pain avoidance.

The youngsters of the 1930’s set the tone of the prosperity of the 1950’s.  The economy grew slowly, but steadily.  There were no huge bubbles, but also no big crashes.   People only bought what they could afford to buy.  Defaulting on a loan or credit card was rare, because credit was usually only extended to people likely to pay it back.  There was not the sense of entitlement in people that we see now; people took pride in earning what they owned.

Of course, since most things in life are cyclical, these thrifty parents raised a bunch of baby boomers that were used to having material comfort and security.  They grew to expect it.  They got themselves into debt, learned how to play the bankruptcy game, and expected the government or others to bail them out when they ran into hard times…even when they caused those hard times through their own recklessness.

I sometimes think I’m a reincarnated soul from the 1930’s.  I don’t share the cavalier attitude about money and things that a lot of people my age exhibit.  I’ve always felt better putting money in the bank than I did spending it.  We use credit cards for the convenience and perks, but always pay the balance in full each month to avoid finance charges.  (The exception was when we first got married and we paid what we could each month for the Montgomery Ward washer and dryer that kept us from having to go to a dreaded laundromat!).  We’ve only bought homes that would give us a mortgage payment we could comfortably pay with one income.  I look for sales and clip coupons, driving my kids nuts every time they go out to eat because I’ll make them wait while I dig up a coupon for them to use.  Bad things can still happen, but the fall will be much less spectacular.

Folks are finally learning that the peace of mind they have from living within their means is more valuable than all the trinkets they had while living from paycheck to paycheck.  A few scars may help avoid a lifetime of stress and pain.

Mulling Over The World’s Problems

“We always did feel the same, We just saw it from a different point of view…” – Bob Dylan from Tangled Up In Blue

I get so annoyed sometimes when people, often older people (like my mom), go on and on about how horrible the world is, and that things were never this bad before.  Like somehow, all of a sudden, human nature has mutated into some unrecognizably evil force.  Do these people forget their history lessons?  Eons of torture, human sacrifice, slavery, and subordination are part of human history.  It all still exists today, but this generation of humans didn’t invent it.

Then again, I look at things today and have to acknowledge that a lot of things really suck.  A lot of the problems in the United States today are due to the culture of irresponsibility.  Fathers (or mothers) don’t want to be burdened with child rearing, so they walk away.  People want instant gratification and rack up credit card bills they can’t ever afford to pay.  Criminals sometimes get away with their heinous crimes by blaming their sad upbringing; litigants often profit on their own carelessness by finding someone with deep pockets.  Meanwhile, the rest of us (and I hope we’re still the majority), are not rewarded for our devotion to our loved ones, our work ethic and self-control, or our honesty.  In fact, we’re left to foot the bill for the deadbeats.

For a while, I thought anyone left of center on the political spectrum was working toward the destruction of the American dream.  I still believe that the free market economy is the most efficient economy.  It rewards excellence, and allows those willing to work for their dream to reach it.  It lifts everyone up by encouraging production, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship rather than creating a disincentive for excellence by taking from the most productive citizens and rewarding those that would rather just have fun.

Many of the blogs I read and love are written by very intelligent people who also hate irresponsibility.  They care about our world and want what’s best for their kids.  Just like me.  But their politics are very different from mine.  I’ve come to realize that, except for the lunatic fringe on both sides of the spectrum, most of us are decent people.  Except for most politicians, we probably don’t have a hidden agenda.  We just want to live happy and productive lives.

Sometimes I hear people wondering what they can do to make things better.  From time to time, I’m probably going to offer my humble opinion on what we, as individuals, can do to counter this self-centered culture of irresponsibilty.  I see it as one of the biggest threats to life as we know it, and I need to speak out.   And I promise to do it in the most nonpartisan way.

Jesse Jackson’s Celebration of Victimhood

I am no big fan of Senator Barack Obama’s political ideology, being that of entitlement and socialism.  I think most Americans realize how the stifling of ideas and ambition leads to failing economies and substandard living conditions.  Look at the former Soviet Union and Cuba.

Perhaps someone whispered in the ear of Senator Obama and informed him that most middle-class working Americans still believe that personal responsibility and  hard work will be what keeps our country great, not inefficient expensive social programs, because he surprised the heck out of me when he gave a recent speech extolling the virtues of staying in school and of fathers being involved in their children’s lives.  This is good advice to all Americans, not just African Americans, although with estimates at around 70% of black children in single family homes, he may have been trying to send a message to them.  I firmly believe my sons stayed out of trouble and became the accomplished caring people they are because of the time and influence of two parents.  Well, they probably would still have been pretty awesome, but the fear of Big Daddy’s wrath and the ability of one of their parents to work part-time and therefore be very involved in their wonderful little lives certainly played a huge role in their development.  I think this is the point Obama was trying to get across.  Taking responsibility and leading your children out of poverty, toward college and away from gangs, will keep them out of jail and off welfare.  Successful African Americans like Bill Cosby, Walter Williams, and Thomas Sowell have been promoting these values for years.  The Reverend Jesse Jackson would rather perhaps put all the blame on everybody else, since he thought Obama should be railing about the problems black America has rather than what can be done to improve the situations.

Activists like Jackson and Al Sharpton are part of the problem.  They are not helping their fellow African Americans when they tell them all their problems are due to “white America.”  They are merely spewing hate and keeping themselves in the limelight.  Everyone, black and white, needs to enable themselves to earn their share of the American dream, not wait for someone else to throw them a handout.


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