Who would have thought that Greece's fiscal and financial woes could imperil all of Europe?
For the past few months, we'd been reading and watching a stream of news stories suggesting that the American economy was shaking off its stupor and about to proudly right itself. Then fresh fears surfaced, mysteriously tied to Greece and the European Union.
I'll let you decide. How happy are you about the American economy?
Sure, the brokers and big shots on Wall Street are back in the saddle. They're benefiting by a stock market that ignores the reality of things to come. The rest of us have been seeing the headlines of recent times and again realizing that what looks like a rainbow can quickly become another storm.
As long as the United States government -- be it in the hands of Republicans or Democrats -- keeps glibly spending money, we will remain pointed down a similar dead-end road as the one that has Europe in crisis.
Consider some of the past week's topics in the news: "U.S. May Be Headed for Deflation"; "New Jobless Claims Increase"; "Markets Plunge Over EU Economy." The list goes on.
Manufacturing, productivity, you name it -- virtually all segments of our economy are at a standstill. Yes, new car sales are up, just as stock prices were, but that's because no one bought cars last year. And corporate profits are higher now, but higher than what? The dismal ones during the 2008-2009 meltdown.
People outside of Wall Street and Washington, D.C., are still hurting. Bigger government, massive spending and bailouts have had a negligible impact on mainstream America. Consumers may now be saying they're a bit more confident than a year ago, but that's like the coach of last year's winless team saying he expects to notch at least one victory this time around. Confidence compared to what?
Contrary to what many would like to believe, Americans blame both the traditional Democratic and Republican parties for this mess.
Yes, the strength of the tea party movement, which I first wrote about over a year ago, has proved significant. Just look at Rand Paul's GOP Senate nomination in Kentucky as evidence.
But in a contested open congressional seat this past week in Pennsylvania that went by a slim margin for John McCain in 2008, the Democrat roundly defeated the Republican. Admittedly, the Democrat had special advantages. There were more registered Democratic voters than Republicans in the district, and the winner had a connection to the deceased congressman he will replace. But a win is a win.
What all this tells me is that while most Americans are feeling the pain, and are becoming increasingly upset with their elected leaders, the GOP, as I have predicted, has no coherent campaign theme this year. And time is growing short. The Republicans don't seem to realize that too many people still remember that the GOP had the White House not long ago -- and also control of Congress just prior to that.
Here's an idea for the Republicans: Put together a comprehensive package of legislation to assist small businesses. Not just tax credits. Most businesses can't use those because they are either too small or because the businesses are losing money and so have no use for the credits.
Instead, propose genuine help. Force banks to make loans based on a company's history. If a business has survived more than five years in this market, who cares what its balance sheet looks like? It can't be any worse than the bottom lines of the mega-giants we all bailed out in late 2008.
Reward those who start or maintain small businesses. Allow them personal tax-rate reductions in exchange for keeping their doors open and employees on the payroll. After all, if these companies are losing money, their owners can only keep their own compensation coming by either laying off workers or at least cutting their salaries.
One more idea: Propose legislation requiring that every employer provide a monthly notice to each employee letting them know exactly how much, through tax withholding, they paid the government out of their wages for that month of work.
One, recognizing that small businesses provide most American jobs. Two, informing the public how much money they lose each month in taxes. Had the Republicans done those two things when they had the White House and the majority in Congress, the runaway spending we're now seeing would never have gotten so out of hand.
These suggestions are simple. Not simple-minded, but simple. There's a big difference. Sometimes simple works because it equates to common sense.
As for this so-called recovery? It's all Greek to me.