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Taking Personal Responsibility for Breaking the Recession

Aunt Toby was not always the Philosopher Queen on the kitchen counter; once upon a year quite a few years ago, she was the marketing and sales rep for a family-owned employment agency. I covered three counties and was in and out of every commercial office, manufacturing plant, and machine shop. On the one hand, it was an amazing education in what made our metropolitan area economically tick – who supplied whom, who depended on whom, where people were going and so on and so forth. Your dear Auntie had many adventures during that period, including being pushed through a door by an malicious office manager(and almost falling down two flights of stairs), watching two months worth of cold calling go rapidly down the tubes as my boss’s brother monopolized the sales presentation, creeping up a rickety staircase of a dark back room of a warehouse to speak to a director of human resources (that meeting did NOT end well).

The best part of the job, though, was when we were able to place people into jobs. Most of what we did in those days was what was coyly referred to in the jargon of the agency business as ‘temp to perm’ (of course now, it’s more than likely ‘perma-temp’), so I knew that when I asked someone about their business and what was the one person I could find for them that would help them grow, that if I was able to find that person, I was doing a definite ‘good deed’ – I was getting that person a job.

A paycheck. A way to buy groceries and get health benefits for themselves and their family, pay the bills, pay their rent or mortgage. A way for someone to maybe even get a promotion and a raise in pay.

Despite the pay (which was actually not the greatest), I loved that job. I saw it as a homely combination of ‘good deed’ and ‘local economic development’. No matter how frustrating the cold calls or unanswered phone messages were, I always felt that what I was doing was good. At the end of the day, there were people who were genuinely better off for what I was doing.

Right now, there are a tremendous number of people in this country who are NOT better off than they were a year ago. For some of them, their bad times started several years ago and their jobs got offshored someplace or downsized out of existence. And they’ve had to take whatever they can get and it’s probably less than what they made before. And to pay the bills and the mortgage and the orthodonture, they’ve taken on huge levels of debt and whatever job they could find. And for a lot of them, an increasing number have lost their homes and are wandering the countryside, like high tech (and sometimes low tech) Tom Jodes.

And I know there are people out there who feel that it’s ‘all their own faults’ or ‘if they’d kept up they’d still have a job’ or ‘if they’d been smart…” or ‘if they’d worked harder’ or …and so on. And I can tell you, because I come from a place where our local economy was run on the fly-wheel of a huge high tech wonder..which decided one day that they no longer wanted to be in the business that they ran in our little place (and thereby causing over 20,000 people to lose their jobs), that for many many people in this country, they did work very hard, and were very educated and smart, and they did keep up with training, and they did the best they could for their families and their community.
And it didn’t make any difference because it was decisions made thousands of miles away by people who did not care about the families and the community – that is what caused them to lose their jobs.

And for many people at the top of the heap out there, that is an appropriate thing – free market competition, movement of capital and assets to the lowest cost areas and so on and so forth. But for the millions of people who are either now out of work or who have not been able to get a job in their fields for the last 5 years, it is not an appropriate thing.

It is bitter and it is demeaning and it sucks the very life out of the soul of people and of a community and out of the country.

And right now, we have an administration which really is struggling to do something right. It might not be what all of us admire or believe in or accept or agree with. But they really are trying to do the most good for the most people, because that is what is required now. But the economy is not responding, at least at the community and personal levels, the way people need. Because..people need jobs. There are millions of people out of work already..and this spring, there are millions more young people who are graduating from colleges and graduate schools..and they don’t have jobs either.

And maybe Aunt Toby’s readers do a lot of charity work already, and for that I thank you sincerely. But at the moment, charity is not just what we need. What we have the greatest need for right now are industrial and commercial patriots.

The greatest, most patriotic thing anyone who owns or manages a business can do right now is not to lay off workforce – ask your employees to find ways to save money, work smarter, to keep everyone working and paid. Additionally, if you can find a place in your operation, an even greater good would be to find one person who can help you grow and hire that person. Even if it is a young person with little experience but a lot of energy. Even if you are a plumber and all the young person could do would be to crouch next to you and learn. To give one additional person a job, teach them a skill, give them the opportunity to help you grow and be more productive and competitive – that would help your business..would help the economy…would help the country.

And all you bankers who got the bail outs – it’s time for you to step up and start lending to business. We all know that you are hoarding the money that the tax payers gave to you. Many of you are using it to buy up other distressed banks. The country needs you to be patriotic too – help business grow – give them credit.

A lot of talk out there about patriotism revolves around the phrase ‘love of country’ – we need to love the people in the country, too. And for that, we need to help business grow, so that they can hire people HERE so that payrolls flow out into the community and help other businesses in the communities. That is when people at the local level will honestly their very bones..that the recession is over.
(photos courtesy of diP and Joan Thewlis)

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