—How the U.S. can pull out of this funk!
We need hope. The media tries to convince us that the U.S. has returned to normal. Apparently the U.S. is doing a great job of recovery.
But when I talk to people, that’s not the message that I’m hearing. As their struggle seems endless, they are losing hope. They are getting mixed messages and we have to do something about it.
Even in the media, there are a LOT of mixed messages. Here are few headlines:
Example No. 1:
On May 1: CSNBC. “Housing, home loan market to be better: Wells Fargo CEO”
Two weeks later:
May 15: CSNBC. “The housing market is way down.”
Example No. 2:
May 11: CSNBC. “Rise in higher-paying jobs lighting US economy.
Job growth last month shifted to higher-paying positions in a sign of a broadening labor market recovery.”
Four days later:
May 15: Bloomberg Business: “Wall Street Just Got More Pessimistic About the U.S. Economy.”
Example No. 3:
May 8: CNN. “Good news: U.S. economy adds 223,000 jobs. America can breathe a sigh of relief. …Strong recovery in the month of April. [5.4% unemployment.] The lowest rate in seven years.”
Three days later:
May 11: CNN. Working, but still poor. Like millions of other Americans, Rodgers is working, but still poor. A combination of meager pay and insufficient hours leaves these folks unable to get by…
Several weeks ago I was saddened to hear a friend and colleague from the U.K. talk about changes he has observed about “Americans”. His comment went something like this:
“When I last visited the U.S. (before the Great Recession), the people there were vibrant and confident. They were astute and had a sense of anticipation. There was nothing they couldn’t achieve!
“But today, it seems quite different. They seem to have lost their appetite for success. They seem depressed and even uninterested in finding new solutions.”
Is the U.S. in a funk?
Many Americans are working at low-wage jobs and dipping into their retirement to get by. Their lives and families have not returned to “normal” and will not do so in the foreseeable future. Even though they are working full time (often in multiple part-time jobs), they are also trying to continue their job search to better care for their families.
Those who return to a “career job,” making close to (or at least 80%) of their former salary, have to juggle a myriad of mixed emotions. This especially applies to those who have beat the odds after long-term unemployment and return to work. They are exhausted from their search, their nerves are raw, and they are wary that they could again be unemployed at a moment’s notice.
As an international contract manager returned to work, she said, “I would rather be dead than unemployed again.” This individual, in her late 50s, did hard labor on a farm, 12 hours a day in the sun, to make her mortgage payments.
Has the U.S. lost it’s nerve?
Have we lost the courage to take risks?
With so many mixed messages, it can feel like we are in free-fall. Many people, as they return to work, are less willing to take business risks. CEOs and executives are under intense scrutiny to “make the profit numbers.”
The pressure makes the environment intense as employees, scrambling to meet short-term growth demands, struggle to ward off burn out. Risk taking doesn’t seem to be an option.
It can seem dismal everywhere we look.
The availability of news-in-the-moment raises our awareness of racial tension, cultural challenges, health risks, religious animosity, corporate greed and political dishonesty and distrust.
Before the U.S. can truly recover..
We must take back our identity as a nation of enterprising, determined, ingenious, problem-solving individuals. We are a nation that embraces challenge!
When President Kennedy said, “our leadership in science and industry, our hope for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation.”
…and we did! This is still who we are.
Creating a new spirit of collaboration and success:
This Spirit of America is still here. There is nothing we can’t do! It takes a razor sharp focus to consider possibilities and create new options. It takes determination to face the challenges that lie before us. We cannot, and we must not deny that we can overcome these challenges. We must not submit to defeat or consider it as an option.
The simple solution for the U.S.
The process has not changed. I must start with myself and embrace the determination to succeed. I am in charge of my attitude. I am in charge of my future. My job is to become a bridge and a repairer. My job is bring light and hope to the people I meet each day. It can be done. First, I must change myself. Then I must bring hope and help to others with every means at my disposal.
Proof that the U.S. can succeed:
Perhaps the ultimate mixed message in the news lately is that economists are disappointed that Americans are paying down their debt!
As gas prices fell, economists assumed that Americans would spend the savings from the lower prices. According to the Wall Street Journal expert, Manisha Thakor, this discretionary cash flow was supposed to be “stimulatory” for the economy.
So the expectation was that the lower gas prices would bring in cash and Americans would immediately go out and spend it. But they didn’t!
This article by CNN (April 2015) indicates that Americans are not spending their extra cash on retail sales or other extravagancies such as eating out. This was “extra disappointing” because experts forecasted that “consumer spending would gain steam in 2015. But so far, just about every number has fallen short.”
Amazing! This article by USA Today indicates that to the dismay of the “experts” Americans did something that was apparently unimaginable! We paid down debt!
“While gas prices have remained low for several months, consumers haven’t been spending the savings at the pump. Instead, they have been bolstering their savings accounts and paying down debt.”
According to Money, we are doing the same with our tax refunds. We are paying down our debt.
Why is this so remarkable to the experts? After years of hearing that our national debt has caused Congress to repeatedly raise the debt ceiling, and as Americans have traversed some of the most difficult economic hardships, and after we hear over and over again that the U.S. debt is getting out of control—these experts are surprised that U.S. citizens are paying down their debt. They must not think much of us.
I’m proud that Americans are paying down our debts. I gives me hope that we can take back our confidence. I believe we can join together to again be a nation with an insatiable appetite for success with integrity.
It starts with me and it also starts with you, dear reader. What are you willing to do? Will you choose to be determined? Will you choose not to give up? Will you encourage others—even when you feel defeated? Will you help build bridges? Will you sacrifice when and where it is needed? Will you stand for justice and be intolerant of racial and religious discrimination? Will you stand with me?
I hope so. I’m counting on you.
If you are from outside the U.S., you are included. You have a part because this is a global problem. I’m counting on you too.
If we don’t manage our personal debt and live our lives based on integrity, then we will never raise up leaders who will do the same.