Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Man the lifeboats!

So the debt ceiling has been raised. Somehow I expected it. Can anyone honestly claim raising the debt ceiling is a viable, long-term solution to America's fiscal crisis? Of course not. Yet they did it anyway.
Unsurprisingly, gold reached yet new levels, and the stock market took a huge dip.
Oh sure, there has been tough talk about making tough cuts in government spending, but it will never happen. Eliminating such things as the Department of Education, as beneficial as that might be in the long run, would be political suicide for any politician foolish enough to suggest it. And therein lays the problem: No politician will significantly cut government spending because he doesn't want to face the howls of protest from special-interest groups and thereby forfeit his chances of re-election.
"… When you ask a politician which [specific government program or agency] he would cut," notes Robert Ringer, "he unfailingly skirts the question. That's why the debt ceiling will continue to be raised – again and again and again (75 times since 1962!) – and the U.S. debt will continue to spin out of control until the only thing left of the U.S. economy is a (hopefully) thriving black market."
In the interest of kicking the American people while they're down, anyone who protests about our government's fiscal irresponsibility – in other words, most members and sympathizers of the tea party – are called terrorists (or Nazis or un-American). Yet who are the real terrorists here? The unholy alliance between the Democrats and the Republicans that has resulted in our economic crisis as well as our increasing police state has illustrated they're both flipsides of the same coin. "What do you call those who take people hostage, hold a gun to their head, demand ransom and don't care how many innocent people suffer because of their actions?" asks Bill Press. "If that's not a terrorist, I don't know what is."
"The long term outcomes … are all ugly," notes Jim Rawles of SurvivalBlog. "If the U.S. somehow manages to re-inflate and bail out some sectors, then we may see a few years of illusory 'recovery.' But at some point a big bust is inevitable. We could then see a devastating credit and currency collapse. That would result in a global depression that might last for several decades."
Yet the farce continues with no solution in sight.
So it's time to help ourselves. If you knew the Titanic was heading for that iceberg and a lifeboat was available for your family, wouldn't you take advantage of it?
Same with this situation. The titanic of the United States is heading toward an iceberg that will sink it. It's already beginning to grind on the ice. It's time to grab that lifeboat and be ready to jump when the ship begins to sink.
While our nation is imploding in slow motion, people still ignore the obvious and prefer to stay immersed in television dribble rather than grab a lifeboat and help themselves. So what kind of lifeboat am I talking about?
Recently I heard a rather scathing commentary by a radio financial adviser in which he lambasted those who are unemployed as being lazy. While I don't know if I'd go that far, he had some points worth highlighting.
"Employment" doesn't mean what it used to. There was a time when someone could graduate from college, find work with a particular company and stay for 50 years before leaving with a generous retirement package. No more. While there may be some folks still lucky enough to have this kind of stability, for many of us that carpet was unexpectedly yanked from underneath us beginning in 2008, leaving us reeling with the pain of unemployment and all its secondary problems: unpaid bills, lost homes, perhaps even marital strife. Unemployment benefits will only go so far, and many have argued that extending those benefits merely results in people unwilling to look for work.
What the financial adviser meant by his commentary was there is work available for anyone willing to do it – but perhaps not through traditional channels. The diligently unemployed send out hundreds of résumés and passively wait for a positive response. But they don't have to be passive. There is work out there for those with the initiative to unearth it.
Recently I returned from a week-long trip to a huge city (Portland, Ore.) and was struck by how many freelance self-employment opportunities existed: yard work, dog walking, maintenance, video work, etc. A motivated person could marshal all his skills, work ethic and enthusiasm and do quite well at a variety of different tasks. This is what I call the "many irons in the fire" method of earning money. The theory is if one "iron" disappears, you have many other irons to help bridge the financial gap.

I'm not necessarily suggesting you hang out a shingle and start a formal business with these skills. Rather, I'm suggesting you cater to the needs of your friends and neighbors who may lack the willingness or ability to do what you can do.
Bartering is another option. An elderly music teacher could barter lessons for yard work. A younger music teacher could barter lessons for child care.
This is the underground "black market," and it thrives when times are tough. These are examples of people helping themselves. Don't depend on an outside employer or (God forbid) the government to help you – do what you can to help yourself. And be mindful of those who cannot help themselves – the elderly, the infirm, etc. – and extend to them the hand of compassion and assistance.
But be careful. The government doesn't like it when you help yourself. As can be seen more and more frequently, vegetable growers, gardeners, entrepreneurs and small farmers are often fined or even attacked by government goons. Watch your back.
It's only when we rediscover the stubborn lifeboat of independence for which Americans have historically been known that we will be able to weather the iceberg of economic collapse looming in front of us.

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