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Fri, Apr 24th, 2009
Posted in Commentary



Every time we turn on the TV, we witness another floodgate of jobs lost and reports of real estate dropping in value.

The latest blow, locally, came with the announcement of TRW Automotive laying off another round of their workforce in Winona -- with those jobs going to Mexico.

I'll save my thoughts about that whole subject for another day.

With so many jobs lost, almost on a daily basis, what's it going to take for our country to recover? Heck, what's it going to take for our global economy to recover?

As we dive deeper into this blatant recession, reports have indicated likewise with the rest of the planet. I believe this is a fantastic indicator that we are still in the driver's seat as a global superpower.

We influence the economy of a nation and the globe like the simple analogy of a ripple effect in a pond.

So, as the job losses climb and real estate values dip, how do we get out this mess?

It's not going to be the government that saves us. It will be ourselves.

Personal enterprise and initiative is going to blossom out of necessity during these challenging times. People will need a source of income and they will come up with ideas of how they can make ends meet.

I was speaking with Preston Liquor, LLC business owner Chad Wangen about some plastic can toppers that somebody invented, of which Chad was retailing at his front counter.

He and I both commented about how we wished we would have invented that very simple but effective device. Well, we didn't. But, congratulations to the person who did.

Many of you may remember our April 13 story about Charlie Myhre, the gopher trapper. He is another example of an entrepreneur, which is what our nation was founded on. Charlie has created a business for himself, and his specialization has helped farmers in Fillmore County solve a problem. That's fantastic!

Our government, on the other hand, while better than most in the world, is not infallible -- which may be an understatement for some of you reading this.

To me, it's a slow moving, bureaucratic beast that tenders real money like the banker in a game of Monopoly.

When there's a problem, I don't care if it's a Democrat or a Republican, they tend to throw money at it.

I know they feel an obligation to the voters to do something, but does it really help?

Case in point: What happens when you give Freddie Mac $45 billion in government-funded financial aid?

They still finish with a $23.9 billion dollar loss in the fourth quarter of 2008.

But, don't worry. This is all Monopoly money.

It's equivalent to having a VISA card with no credit limit, right?. Don't you have to pay it back at some point?

Again, I must reiterate, I think the greatest influence on our nation will come from individuals; not our government.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a Libertarian. I don't believe we should run around the countryside like the Michigan Militia, declaring Marshall Law.

In general, though, I think way too much weight has been put on the influence of the President of the United States on our personal financial situations.

I'm not saying they don't feel any pressure to respond to our needs. What I am saying is that our three branches of government collectively have an influence, but I question how much.

If anything, what happens at our local level, township, city, county and state, impacts our personal situation much more significantly.

How often does our federal payroll tax schedule change -- as it relates to 15%, 25%, 28% and 31% taxation? The percentages stay the same every year, but the dollar amounts assigned to those percentages for individuals and married couples change according to adjusted gross income.

Okay, now let's take a look at our local government influences.

The state can raise sales tax on goods sold. Maybe they'll raise the price of license tabs for vehicles.

The county can raise property taxes based on assessed values.

The city can influence those property taxes based on infrastructure improvements, as may be the case for the Rushford City Council infrastructure improvements totaling $10.3 million. Somebody has to pay for that.

Please don't misconstrue the direction I'm taking these references.

Our local governments, while some may disagree, operate much more efficiently than our massive U.S. government.

Maybe the school seeks a bond referendum which also add to your annual property tax bill.

And, all of this brings me back to my point.

Our forefathers, our grandparents and our great-grandparents went through the Great Depression.

As bad as we may have it now, I tend believe it won't ever get as bad as the Great Depression. I don't know why, but my optimism leads me to believe otherwise.

But, the one thing we can learn from our ancestors who weathered the storms of the 1920's and 1930's, is self-discipline.

While many may blame the government for our problems, others may turn to a failed banking system.

And then, others may point fingers at the American automotive industry for not producing vehicles that people want -- and allowing foreign auto manufacturers to creeped into the market to stake a flag in our backyard.

Some may say that CEO's make way to much money -- and I agree with that opinion.

Some may point to their company making poor decisions that led to the demise and eventual layoffs.

It's always easier to blame somebody else.

No, I'm not saying we are to blame - entirely.

But, we can never control what decisions somebody else makes -- the government, CEO's, the banks and the American automotive industry.

What we can control is our spending.

Look at what's happened to our nation.

We've been living high on the hog for a long time.

Big, expensive houses and luxurious vehicles have become the norm.

The government didn't hold a gun to our heads and make those decisions for us.

It was our human nature. A sense of avarice struck many of us.

People over-extended themselves.

It may have not seemed like it at the time.

But, when the cash is flowing like a faucet of tap water, there's no problem.

When that faucet is turned off, we feel the drought.

We're still feeling it and may feel it for a while.

The only way to get passed this situation is to take control. We all need to exercise self-discipline like our grandparents and great-grandparents did.

"Take nothing for granted."

"Turn off the lights when you leave a room."

"Never take more food than you think you can eat, otherwise you're wasting it."

"Don't spend it unless you have it."

These phrases ring true in my head, because I heard them as a kid.

I'll add a few new ones to that, of which I believe my grandparents and great-grandparents would endorse.

"Don't put Happy Meals on your credit card."

"Don't eat fast-food every day, because packing a lunch is cheaper -- and healthier."

"You don't need all the latest technology on the face of the planet. Wait until the prices come down."

The way I see it, our forefathers invented the "Going Green" concept with their thrifty ways, and it took us this long to put a name to it.

We just need to get back to the basics, as far as I'm concerned.

Speaking in terms of generations, the Xers, Yers and NEXTers have had it good for a long time. They haven't been forced to operate with the kind of self-discipline that past generations have grown to appreciate.

And, by the way, I'm an Xer, in case you are wondering.

So, this has been a learning experience for me, as well.

Big houses, big vehicles and fancy meals should be at the bottom of our list.

Don't count on the government to take care of you. They can't afford to pay attention -- which tends to cost us money.

I believe our self-preservation will be determined by our self-discipline at this point in the game. Take control of your destiny and create your own stimulus package.

Besides, complaining about the government or other things you can't control will really get you nowhere fast -- unless you want to join the ranks of a lobbyist.

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