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Author: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  March 3, 2009

Topic category:  Other/General

Shouldn't have looked.

I did something last week that I’d promised myself I wouldn’t do. Then I went ahead and did it. I looked at my retirement account.

That put me right off of my now standard breakfast of oatmeal and prunes - which was about the only good thing that came from looking.

It’s a bit scary to see the mess we’re now in and realize that a lot of very smart individuals in a lot of very high places just plain allowed this to happen.

All while the rest of us were trying to play by the rules.

I have to admit that the idea of finger pointing, arm-waving, and going purple in the face has some appeal, but would accomplish pretty much nothing. Too, the folks responsible for this mess are still in office, still in many board rooms, and still way too cozy with each other to start down the road (and it would be a long one) of tossing people into jail.

My guess is that what they whisper to each other when they meet is something along the lines of: “If I go, you go too.”

So I don’t hold out much hope of justice putting in an appearance any time soon.

Though it should.

Before I continue, let me state that I’m not an economist. Get me two questions into any discussion on what needs to be done and you’d find that I don’t really know.

Still, to get us back to anything approaching a sound economy, I don’t think we can go too far down any one road.

Go one way and you end up in a place where far too many people are sitting on their butts looking to the government for guidance in everything and waiting for the few productive individuals still out there to somehow make their lot better.

That won’t work because those productive individuals will eventually say “to hell with this,” quit, and begin finding ways to be properly compensated for what they do - and you can bet it won’t be according to any grand plan the government has in place.

Go too far the other way and and you end up with a few mega-companies controlled by the mega-rich who want even more no matter who gets crushed in the process.

This is why I hope that the president will sit down with people from all sides and have some honest (yep, I’m still a dreamer) arguments on the best way to fix this mess.

I’d also hope that he might remember that capitalism (with controls that are actually used) works better than any other system extant if your goal is to raise the standard of living in any society.

Minor aside: See East Germany vs. West Germany, North Korea vs. South Korea, Western Europe vs the USSR, etc.

My faith that honest discussions might actually happen, however, wasn’t reenforced the other night by the sight of Nancy Pelosi springing up and down during the president’s address to congress like some demented jack-in-the-box toy from a Stephen King novel.

I also admit that I cringe every time I see the members on the other side of our political system entering any discussion with the word “NO!” boldly tattooed onto their foreheads.

They all might do well to remember that most of us out here aren’t hardwired into one particular ideology. Our opinions don’t always fall into conveniently labeled categories. And because most of us are too darned busy working, raising families, paying bills, and dealing with the daily problems of life, we’ve trusted them to mind the store.

Unfortunately, we didn’t keep a good enough eye on any of them and they basically turned our economy into the financial equivalent of “Animal House” minus the funny ending.

Somewhere out there’s a workable plan work wherein individual effort and risk is rewarded and profit isn’t a dirty word. A plan wherein safety nets are in place for those who come up against problems and require help to get back on their feet. A plan where regulators regulate, enforcers enforce, and politicians stop trying to engineer a society from which many of them are completely detached.

The thing is, we’d better find that plan soon.

Because, if history is any guide, this idea of printing “Monopoly money” to pay for everything doesn’t have a really good ending.

Larry Simoneaux

Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.

Copyright © 2009 by Larry Simoneaux
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