07/02/10 — Maybe it is simple: Bottom line -- if you aren't worried about your job, you spend more money

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Maybe it is simple: Bottom line -- if you aren't worried about your job, you spend more money

Perhaps this economic problem is a lot simpler than we thought.

Maybe it is not about stimulus and bell curves.

Maybe it is not about politician-speak and having too many problems to solve and too little time.

Maybe it is simply this -- people are not buying houses, cars and expanding their businesses because they already have less money in their pockets, and they are concerned that in the near future they will have even less.

Seems pretty simple, doesn't it?

Americans have learned some hard lessons over the last few years -- and tops on that list is that no one is guaranteed a job forever and that in uncertain economic times, companies facing shrinking bottom lines have to face a reality -- they have to employ the number of people they can afford.

And that means that good people, with good records who work hard can find themselves looking at an unexpected pink slip.

Americans have also learned that spending with reckless abandon does not prepare you for an emergency or the possibility that you might be facing a backlog of bills or be the victim of an industry that is not doing so well anymore.

They are thinking before they spend -- and sometimes keeping money in their pockets longer than they would normally. They are learning how to do without.

And for those who were caught up in the credit crisis, and who bought much more than they could afford, that means it is time to pay the piper and to deal with the realities of paying down instead of simply slapping down a credit card.

That means, in turn, that businesses are having to deal with the same reality. Fewer customers mean there is less of a need for employees and less capital money to spread around. That affects decision-making in the manufacturing industry as well. Need fewer goods? Then you also need fewer employees.

So what is the solution? If we knew that, we would have already proposed it. But there do seem to be a few lessons that could be learned from the realities listed above.

The way to get Americans to start buying houses, cars and durable goods again -- and to get this economy rolling and businesses willing to take a chance on increasing their payrolls -- is to give people the confidence they need to loosen their purse strings.

A good place to start is to give more people who work for a living more of their money back.

While it was a fine idea to ask Americans to sacrifice and to pay more taxes to help others, what would be even better is to let them keep more of their money and to give businesses the incentive to create jobs. We do not need more government programs or stimulus packages. We need jobs that will put people back to work and give more people the chance to take care of their families.

Use tax money more wisely while you are at it and create programs that give people a boost when they are down, but that do not trap them in a cycle of dependency that does them no good. We cannot afford that anymore.

Give people the cushion they need and the confidence that this nation's leaders understand that hard work should be rewarded. Show us that you are ready to make the tough decisions about Medicaid, welfare, freebies, illegal immigration and the hundreds of other programs that are not being monitored effectively and result in waste and fraud.

These steps will not fix all the problems, but they are a start. And right now, that is just what we need.

Published in Editorials on July 2, 2010 10:54 AM