Program Note: Tune in to the CNN Money Summit on Friday at 11 p.m ET to hear Ryan Mack and others weigh in on the economy.
President of Optimum Capital Management
Somewhere in Detroit, right now, there is a union worker sweating as he helps to produce cars for this country on the assembly line. He thought that his contract with the UAW was set in stone but, unfortunately, to his dismay it was renegotiated and he has just found out that his salary was cut in order to keep his job. As well, he is now overly concerned that his health care will be reduced when he retires and his retirement will not be fully funded. All around him he hears horror stories of those who retired without the promised full pension and he sees the numbers of workers around him decrease every month by the dreaded pink slip.
The market falters because of the failure of the banking system, and the government calls upon this worker for help. Bush, Paulson, Bernanke, and other members of the government explain to this worker that if the banks fail he will be negatively impacted. This same story is repeated by Obama, Geithner, Bernanke, and other government officials. This worker is a little reluctant at first but he eventually gets the bigger picture. He understands how the system works so he reaches into his pocket with his calloused hand and pulls out some of hard earned capital to give to the banks to support the system.
Soon after, on his way to work at 4:30 am, getting prepared to do a double shift, he picks up a cup-a-joe and a newspaper with a headline that grabs his attention. Headline: “AIG Gives $165 million in Bonuses!” He doesn’t really follow the news that closely but thinks to himself, “I wonder if they used my hard earned money to bail out AIG as well?”
When he gets to work, in the locker room, many of the co-workers are talking about the same story. They ask him, “Do you see that we bailed out THOSE GUYS only to help them get their million dollar bonuses!?”
Shocked at this injustice, the worker sits down to consume what he has heard. He begins to think of the numerous times the media called people “losers” who bought houses without proper information and how he has close friends who are in that exact situation- foreclosure. He thinks about how the president of his company was demonized for flying to Washington D.C. on a private plane and didn’t get any support…but those on Wall Street flew to Washington D.C. on the same private plane and were allowed to have $2 million carnivals, $1.5 million offices, $400 thousand weekend getaways, $50 million proposed planes, and millions of dollars to put their name on the side of a stadium. Their penalty for the most part was that they were given MORE of his money just to give out heavy bonuses!
He thinks about how he is fighting so hard just to keep his job and they are fighting to keep their bonuses. Feeling like the odds are stacked against him doubt enters his mind and he starts to question why does he get up so early if he is only going to get fired? He feels as if this country was designed for the rich to get richer, the middle class to shrink, and the working class to increase. “I was going to go back to school but what is the point?” He begins to leave work earlier, come in later, his production decreases, and his apathetic attitude worsens.
This worker isn’t by himself. Teachers, coal miners, waitresses, and many across America saw the AIG story and felt the same way. They reacted in a similar manner by decreasing production and losing hope of a brighter tomorrow promised to be fulfilled by the American dream if one works hard and believes. We see evidence of this by decreased production and record low consumer confidence.
In the grand scheme of things, the amount of AIG bonuses was very small compared to the amount of funds being thrown around to fix this economic crisis. However, the impact on the American people was quite large. Faith is one of the most important commodities to the American people. Is $787 billion enough to create enough jobs and restore this economy? No. However, the government was never meant to be the fix-all of our economic woes. The stimulus was only meant to “stimulate” the economy…provide the jump start that we need to get going in the right direction. The faith of the people is going to fill the void.
Faith is one half believing in a brighter future and the other half is acting on that belief. If the people lose hope of a brighter tomorrow they will not believe and consequently will lose their motivation to work as hard as they can for themselves, families, and community. In this economy it really is “all hands on deck”. We need EVERYONE to work as hard as they can to be as productive as possible. Without faith people will not go back to school or get re-trained to help solve this unemployment crisis. Without faith people will not purchase homes and stunt the decrease in home values to help fix this housing crisis. If we don’t have faith, we will see the level of apathy continue to rise while production continues to decrease causing this recession to lengthen.
It is time for all of us to do what American’s have done throughout this country’s brilliant history and answer to a higher calling. Just because something is legal does not make it right. I pray that one of the valuable lessons we have learned from this economic crisis is that we are all in this together, and all of our decisions should be made for the good of the commons, the people and NOT for the good of our pockets.
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