The following story is about me, but I am finding that it typifies Americans, where our economy is, and why it's there.
A couple of years ago, I had a business fail. My wife blames the economy. I blame me.
I spent way too much time blogging, web surfing, and enjoying the fruits of my labor than actually performing that labor. Eventually, it caught up with me.
After I lost my last major client, I continued on as if nothing had happened. I still had my University job, we had some money saved, and we were in the middle of several rounds of IVF. No need to rock the boat over a little thing like a 40% loss of income.
Gradually our financial situation worsened, but I hid all of that from my wife. The IVF bills started coming in, and I made more mistakes trying to hide our delicate position while continuing our former lifestyle. Eventually the short-term savings dried up, and debt started to mount. Still, I couldn't tell her.
One day, she took a call from a creditor that forced, or perhaps allowed, me to come clean. It was hard to admit that I had been lying to her, to myself, to everyone. It was harder to realize the fundamental disrespect I had shown her, especially when the initial turnaround of our financial condition revealed how much better, stronger, and more disciplined a person she is than I am, at least in financial matters.
I dropped off the blogs, starting in earnest to job hunt. No more being picky; I would take whatever I could.
To show her that I was serious, and to provide a lesson for Socrates Jr, I switched my daily exercise routine to riding out on my bicycle to collect aluminum cans to recycle. It was only $10/day, but that was $10 in the right direction, and most of all, it was discipline for me.
Soon I found a job delivering pizza. Those of you who met me at the RS Gathering know how much I like to meet people, and that's almost all of what you do delivering pizza. I really enjoy it. I've learned how to make pizza, and lately have begun inching into store management (though it actually doesn't pay as well as delivery).
One of the best things about the job is that it brings me into contact with a broad and diverse cross-section of people. Restaurants have a high staff turnover rate, and that refreshes the pool of people from whom I can glean information.
The gas price spike last summer scared the living daylights out of people. It made them realize how much they depend on their vehicles, and how impractical that v-8 king cab with automatic everything really is. Most of all, it taught them that they needed to save for a rainy day, and not to rely on credit cards for their financial cushion.
I'm not just projecting my own lessons onto others. Virtually everyone is talking about how to save money. They don't want to keep up with the Joneses any more, at least not in terms of cars and houses. They are downsizing, putting off vacations, and getting out of debt. Thankfully they're still buying pizza.
And they see what Washington and their State government are doing: just the opposite. The Federal government has taken on so much debt so quickly that it boggles. As the polls indicate, people are against that. The reason they're against it is because it makes no sense to them. Recessions are a time to draw back, regroup, retool, and reorganize for a new set of conditions.
People are doing that. Government should be doing it, too.