It’s no big secret that America is not feeling well these days. Like a stubborn patient that refused to take the prescribed medicine, we ignored the tell-tale signs for a long time. We’re paying the price now.
The difference is that the economic doldrums have hit much closer to home this time. Our area’s over-reliance on the housing industry is now suppressing our chance at a quick recovery like in previous downturns. This one, like an unwanted houseguest, is sticking around. So what can we do?
Well, the first step is making sound political choices in this election. I’m writing this well before November 4th, but most of you will read this column after you’ve pulled the lever, filled in the oval, or touched the voting screen. Let’s just hope that no one has to re-count what we cast this time.
And no matter what your selection, one thing is clear—the electorate wants change. Big time.
We want lower energy prices, good-paying jobs, and safe neighborhoods for our families. We want cost-effective government, ambitious schools, and affordable healthcare for all. In short, we only want what our Founding Fathers promised—to be able to pursue life, liberty, and happiness on our terms, not someone else’s.
Just somewhere along the way, our priorities got screwed up.
As a local magazine editor, I get to talk to a lot of people in our community. Let me share two stories with you.
A local school official recently told me about all the calls he was fielding about the recent budget cuts. Many of them involved transportation and his staff’s decision to reduce the number of bus stops to save on rising fuel costs, meaning that students now have to walk farther to get a ride. One parent called to complain about a large hornet’s nest near her son’s stop. She asked, “What are you going to do about it?” Another parent wanted to know what school officials were going to do when it rained. Sadly, I’m not making this up.
The other story involves a local family who recently got evicted from the home they were renting. For over a year, while they were arguing with the landlord over needed repairs, the couple made no rent payments, instead funneling the extra cash to pay down their credit card debt. When they—and their young children—were eventually tossed out on the street, the parents had only the $52 in the dad’s wallet with which to find a new place to stay that night.
So, while we look to our newly elected and recently re-elected officials, local and national, to help steer us out of this economic malaise, true change only happens within each of us.
Want proof? The next time you’re driving around, take a close look at what you see. Our counties are a vast place, with pockets of prosperity and neighborhoods in despair, businesses that are coping and those at the brink. Our elected officials aren’t powerful enough to confront all of that need.
But we are.
If you have a good job, thank your boss and do everything you can to save some cash for a rainy day. If you find a surplus in your checking account, make a donation to a worthy cause that will put your generosity to work in a positive way. If all you have is extra time, find a place that needs your skills. Our schools, hospitals, and churches will welcome you and make you feel like a million bucks.
Yes, real change starts much closer to home. Let’s make some happen today.