No matter how you try to spin it, the economy is improving. The stimulus seems to have given the kick start to the economy to stop the devastating slide into a recession. Here are some of the signs:
- The 700,000 jobs that were being lost in January of 2009, compared to the 20,000 jobs that were cut in January of 2010.
- The Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is a key indicator of the strength of the US economy, was contracting in the first quarter of 2009 at almost 6%. This is compared to the expansion of almost 6% that we saw in the fourth quarter of 2009. This swing of almost 12% is the largest one year swing that we have seen in decades.
- At the onset of this recession in 2007 the Dow Jones hit levels lower than 6500 compared to levels of higher than 10,000 that we have seen in today's economy.
- Recent jobs data revealed manufacturing added 11,000 jobs which is the first increase in this sector since the onset of the recession in 2007.
I understand that we have a long way to go, and that we still face a national unemployment rate (when you factor in underemployment) of approximately 16.5%. However, as I walk the line of optimism, realism, and objectivity, there is no question of the success of the stimulus.
The bank bailout of the Bush administration (which was flawed because there were no strings attached, but still successful in shoring up the solvency of the banks), the stimulus of the Obama administration (which was flawed because of the weakened effect due to his quest for bipartisanship support but still successful in creating jobs), and especially the fiscal and monetary expansionary policies of Ben Bernanke (which was flawed due to the lack of transparency and bordering abuse of power but still successful in providing the necessary liquidity to avoid another Great Depression) were all policies that were obviously not without their flaws but nonetheless turned this economy around.
Now what do we do? We CANNOT continue to look to the government for solutions. While lawmakers' jobs continue, there has been little or no focus on what we as citizens of this country can contribute to move this country forward.
If you would permit me to provide an analogy of how we are supposed to view the stimulus. When I was young, my Grandfather taught me how to ride a bike. He took off the training wheels and told me that I was ready. That summer day I got on my bike, he got behind me, and he began to push. He ran along beside me going faster and faster until he finally gave me a big push and I was off riding by myself! At the point where he pushed me and I was by myself I had two choices. The first choice was to just sit there on the bike and expect the momentum to continue. The second choice was to start pedaling and steer the bike by myself. If I chose the former the momentum would have slowed, and I would probably have fallen off my bike. If I chose the latter, which I did, I would have been able to stay up long enough to allow me to ride by myself without assistance.
This is how the stimulus is supposed to work. The government, just like my Grandfather, had a job to get the economy going. Their method was to pass a stimulus package and provide capital to allow the capital system to continue to operate. The economy is now expanding; however, just like there was a time when my Grandfather had to let me go and allow me to pedal by myself, the government has done its job and should let go and allow us to pedal on our own.
If this plan is to work that means that the government has done its part, but we must do our part. Here are a few ways that we can do our part:
- Re-Training - The government has extended unemployment insurance and helped with providing coverage with benefits. For those who are unemployed this has bought time for you to go to non-profits, churches, politicians' offices, and local community organizations that provide low and no-cost job training for you to enter into a new career.
- Fiscal Responsibility - The government has passed legislation that has assisted us in understanding the hard to follow language and abusive practices of credit card companies. For the millions who use these cards it is up to us to use them in a responsible manner as there are still no limits on the high interest rates and excessive fees that you will have from certain actions such as overdraft. The CARD act legislation does not exempt anyone from using credit cards responsibly.
- Education - Tax credits have been increased to make college more affordable; however, now is the time for those who feel that they can benefit from additional education. Community colleges have record enrollments across the country because people understand that one can get additional education and degrees for inexpensive rates. To get a part-time job and attend a community college at night might seem like a schedule that is tough to bear but in these times sacrifice is necessary.
These are a just a few ideas of how the government is helping to sustain the economy, but it is up to us to take the necessary action to move this economy forward. This is not to make light of the economic situation that we are in for these times are not easy in the slightest. However, hard economic times does not negate the necessity for all of us to continue to do hard work. Being part of the underemployed or unemployed for months or years, does not negate the fact that you still have a responsibility to go on additional interviews, invest time in training, networking, and continue to do whatever it takes to get out of your current situation. Frustration can be expected, but lack of diligent effort cannot be tolerated if this country is to move forward.
There is a cleaning solution entitled 409 that you may see in the stores. It got its name because after 408 unsuccessful attempts to create a mixture that worked, they finally got it right on the 409th attempt. What if they would have given up on the 408th attempt? Thank God they didn't because now they have a very lucrative product that sells across this country.
We must have the same determination for ourselves. No matter how many job interviews you have been on, you must always remain determined that the NEXT interview will be successful. No matter how many training courses you enroll in, the NEXT one will help you get the job of your dreams. No matter how many people are in your network, the NEXT one that you talk to will connect you to the career of your dreams. It is this mentality that will cause our economy to turn around. Without this mindset and this determination not to give up the struggle to be successful, no amount of stimulus will ever be enough to pull us out of this tough economy. In this slow economy pushing the bike is the government's job, pedaling is yours!