Now that the debt ceiling charade is over (for now) and the politicians have smugly retreated to their lavish homes and offices, the average American is faced with the stark reality. How are we going to get back to work to rebuild the wealth that was lost over the past few years?
Let’s clear the air first. No matter what Washington promises about creating jobs, it can’t deliver. That would be like Dorothy and her friends expecting the Wizard of Oz to grant them some brains, heart and courage along with a ticket back to Kansas. It just won’t happen. Look at what has happened in America thus far. Despite the massive, debt-fueled bailout of the big banks and automakers, banks haven’t started lending again and employment remains anemic. While the Wizard of Fed might tell you that incurring massive additional debt will lead to economic growth, Main Street is not so naive. The average consumer and business owner has refused to take on additional debt. Consumers are paying down credit cards and declining new offers. Businesses are exchanging debt for equity at a growing pace. This deleveraging process is likely to continue for some time, and the American consumer is not likely to be the work horse of the international economy in the future.
The Tea Party purists also seem to mellow once they’ve gotten to Washington and supped at King George’s table. Instead of charging up the hill with “bayonets” pointed, as Rep. Allen West brashly promised, they’ve given way to the soft middle. Many of them, including West, refused to hold ground on entitlement reform as part of the debt ceiling debate, especially once they caught sight of a few million senior citizens staring down their muskets. The diluting impact of electoral politics on ethical principle never seems to fail us – especially when we need it least. While taxation without representation may be unconstitutional (as the original Boston Tea Party asserted), representation brings its’ own set of responsibilities. And, aside from offering obdurate opposition to the President’s policies, these newly elected members have done little to address the core issues of spending and job creation beyond the narrow confines of taxes.
At the base of this seeming legislative dysfunction is the deep ambivalence of the American people. We haven’t decided what our priorities really are as a country, and that’s holding us back from real progress. Our continued indecision about the way forward threatens to throw us into another maelstrom of volatility and decline.
The question remains, what can the average American do to get back on his or her feet? The first thing is to decide to find a need and fill it. There are countless opportunities for the working man or woman to gain employment. The Internet has provided a ready and accessible marketplace for goods and services that is unprecedented in the history of man. You no longer need a traditional job to be employed. Just start a small web page or blog, and get on any of a number of websites in which people trade and barter services. Offer to help, and do so at a good price. Keep in mind that whatever you are going to do, you must do it well. You must always strive to deliver more in service than you get in pay. Over time, your reputation will spread (another boon of the internet), and people will begin to come to you in throngs. They cannot help it. The same increase in wealth that you want for yourself is a natural instinct in all people, and they will be attracted by those who can give it to them.
Secondly, get rid of the notion of scarcity. Ignore the polls, the daily chatter, the noise about the economy and so forth. In every city in this country, people are buying and selling goods and services. The economy is working. God has created an abundance of wealth, so much so that man cannot begin to quantify and use it. Tap into this resource by directing your intention and focus to the abundance around you. You don’t need to go searching for some special thing to do. Do what needs to be done in your home, family and neighborhood. As the great leader Booker T. Washington once said to the ragged and starving ex-slaves who roamed the American countryside after the civil war, “cast down your buckets where you are.”
Third, take the time you are away from full employment to focus on your values and virtues. Rekindle that sense of humility and compassion that you may have lost over the years. Go out and get some exercise. Read, and retool your mind, body and spirit for the road ahead. Above all, revive your spiritual practices and strengthen your gratitude and faith. As the late businessman and motivational speaker Jim Rohn often said, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” After all, even in the worst of times, we are blessed to live in a country where food, clothing and shelter are available to almost everyone. Take this blessing and consider it. Be grateful and strengthen your faith. As the Bible says, “Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." You are never so destitute that you cannot possess an abundance of gratitude. Having gratitude and faith brings us into closer contact with God, the source and provider of all things.
Lastly do not waste time criticizing things the way they are. Although I do spend a fair amount of time in the media highlighting the follies of politics, I do not hold politicians and big business as the source of my wealth and blessings. The more spend time you spend criticizing and complaining, the less time you will spend directing your mind towards the purpose of gaining wealth for yourself and your family. Do what you can, where you can, and let God do the rest.