Financial fall-out

Thursday, October 2, 2008

There's no doubt the topic on everyone's mind these days is the economy and the proposed $700 billion bailout plan. It's hard not to obsess over the problems facing Wall Street and worry about the potential fall-out that could hit Main Street. On Monday, when the stock market took a record lurch downward in response to news that the bailout plan had failed to pass in Congress, my husband, Mike, received a call from our youngest son, Ryan, who's off at college. Ryan was calling to ask his dad if the United States was entering another Great Depression. What a thought and what a very real possibility if our government doesn't do something to change the current climate of unregulated corporate greed and quick profits at the expense of average Americans.

I'm not writing this to tell you I support the bailout plan. I definitely did not support the plan initially as set forth by our President and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. I was pleased to see our Congressmen put the brakes on a hasty fix that was basically asking the U.S. taxpayers to hand over $700 billion without any oversight or strings attached. Although we still aren't totally sold on the bailout package, we were glad to read that the new plan calls for oversight by an independent agency, help for the average homeowner and a cap on CEO's salaries. I think one of the main causes of the American public's outrage was the idea that the same CEOs who got the country in this mess in the first place could walk away with millions of taxpayers' dollars in the wake of the bailout.

I choose to be optimistic about America's future. It's obvious we need a change, and come January, we'll get it. Our new president will inherit a lot of baggage, including a huge deficit, an ongoing war and the question of what strategy to take to decrease our reliance on foreign oil. A new president won't be able to fix these problems quickly or on his own, but a new face in the White House might restore some of America's confidence and at least move us toward a bipartisan approach to politics, which would be most refreshing and productive.

I also believe this recent financial crisis can serve as a wake-up call to the American people, especially those of my generation. We graduated from high school and college believing we deserved big cars, big homes and big paychecks. Many of us didn't want to pay our dues, save up money and wait for these material marks of success to come our way. Instead we wanted the promise of the American dream "right now" and many of our generation were willing to go into deep debt to obtain it. It's time for Americans to take a good hard look at our values. The American dream is still obtainable but not if we continue to allow greed and unchecked capitalism to drive our economy. It truly is time for a change and that change might just involve a societal switch that emphasizes saving rather than spending and living within our means rather than relying on credit to support a materialistic lifestyle. These are words that hit home with me also, and I know this latest financial crisis is forcing Mike and I to look at ways we can trim our household budget and live a little more frugally.

On one final note, I want to say that I am sick to death of partisan politics. Both of our presidential candidates claim they are leaders who will be able to cross the aisle and work with the opposing party - let's hope they are men of their word. This latest crisis proves that there is plenty of blame to spread around and this is not the time for partisan fingerpointing. It's time to come together as one nation for the good of all Americans.