Tue, Aug

Secret to Solving Economic Crisis: Sweat Equity

ALPERN AT LARGE  - By and large, when a crisis arises the response divides us into two groups of people:  those who whine about how we can’t fix the problem and how we’re all going DOWN, and those who fight to overcome the crisis and lift us all UP.

With the changing and shrinking economic/budgetary picture our city, state, nation and world is facing, it’s safe to say we’re in crisis—and a crisis that has been brewing long before George W. Bush was in the White House.  It’s also safe to say the crisis mushroomed in scope while Bush was in office and that his successor has not been successful to date in addressing this crisis…and that waiting for the White House to rescue us is probably a losing endeavor.

It’s amazing that so many of the doomsayers lived during a national paradigm of “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself” and “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” and have taken to resorting to a new paradigm of “the rich have done us wrong, and we need to get their money and save us all.”

Well, that may be true for some of the Wall Street creeps who are just as guilty of Bernie Madoff but who got bailed out, not imprisoned, by the federal government because they destroyed smaller, middle class investors instead of the high-profile, richer investors that Madoff had the temerity to defraud.  But while it may be true that “the rich” (whoever they are) need to pay more in taxes it’s also true that there aren’t enough of them to rescue us all, and we all need to pay down our public debt.

Which means that everyone, of all economic classes, needs to ask that person in the mirror whether being rescued or taking charge of their life will bring about the success that was and still is the American Dream (which is to be able to pursue success and happiness unfettered by outside influences).  The post-World War II Western European Dream has its benefits, but today’s reality of waiting for “someone else” to take care of you has its pitfalls as well.

Sweat Equity Point #1:  The Republican political leadership in Washington made and makes a great deal of how “ObamaCare” will horribly defund Medicare, but it’s no secret that the private and/or public sector will have to find a way to lower Medicare costs to sustainability. (Link)

Furthermore, a recent poll showed that  Republican voters are as focused on directing Medicare costs to the truly-needy as they are focused on reducing costs overall. (Link)

In other words, flowery political speech won’t get the job done in our new information age.  Some folks are truly ill and helpless, and they need support…while the rest of us should just not retire until we can supplement our governmental “pension” of Social Security/Medicare with our own, self-earned funds.

Sweat Equity Point #2:  The Democratic political leadership in Sacramento made and makes a great deal of how the Republican minority is still holding up the tax increases it believes would balance the state budget, but rather than acceding to those Republican demands of public sector pension reform and structural budget reform, they tried to do an end run around the GOP (and, apparently the voters) and passed another Schwarzeneggar-era fantasy budget.

And then Governor Brown and State Controller Chiang did their own end-run around the Democratic Legislature by vetoing the smoke-and-mirrors budget and denying California lawmakers their pay, as per the will of the voters.  There’s no shortage of California voters of all political leanings who want the hard truth and honest, gut-checking leadership from Sacramento, so it's doubtful that Brown and Chiang will be vilified as much as will be the Legislature for this turn of events.

In other words…again…flowery political speech won’t get the job done in our new information age.  Some state programs are vital but will have to be carried out with less funding…and other state programs (and state public unions) must be confronted and vigorously, meaningfully reformed.

So will we change the talking points from “we need our comfort!” to “we need to confront and fix our problems?”

Will we change the operating environment of union/worker leadership from neverending confrontation to that of ombudsmen who demand shared benefits of profitability while demanding that workers assist management in achieving profitability?

Will we change the operating environment of business leadership from neverending confrontation to that of a job-creating, innovation-oriented leadership who motivates workers to do more and get more as a reward?

With the understanding that a GED degree is the rough equivalent of 8th grade proficiency, will we start focusing high school students on job skills—and money-making independence—as early as the 9th grade?

With the understanding that delayed retirement has proven financial and health benefits for most, will we encourage financial independence over early retirement for those healthy enough to work longer than age 65?

Will we promote a society that recognizes that sweat equity, with each of us having some skin in the game as a contributor who is independent of the hard work of others, empowers us all?

And finally, will we stop dismissing true sustainability and financial independence as crazy talk?

After all, we’ve got nothing to fear but fear itself…right?

(Ken Alpern is a former Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently co-chairs its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee.  He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected]    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) 

Tags: Social Security, Medicare, Wall Street, Bernie Madoff, George W. Bush, doomsayers, White House, Republican, Democrat

Vol 9 Issue 50
Pub: June 24, 2011