Responsible Citizen Penalty

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed this phenomenon that seems to be sweeping across the US. People who bought houses they couldn’t afford get bailed out of their mortgages. People who have lost their jobs and can’t find work get help with their mortgage and, soon, get access to subsidized health insurance. Businesses (primarily banks, investment institutions and car manufacturers) get bailed out because they didn’t modify their plan for the reality of the economy and they got greedy. Guess who’s left footing the bill? How about those who try to live as responsible citizens. You know the ones…you’re probably one of them. Responsible citizens are people who have jobs, pay their bills and didn’t over-extend themselves on their mortgage. They pay their taxes, taking appropriate deductions but not weaseling out of paying their fair share. How are these responsible citizens rewarded? They get to foot the bill for the folks who’ve been bailed out. How’s that for a “reward?” I see a new line being added to future tax forms…the “Responsible Citizen Penalty.” You doing OK? Great! We’ll take some of what you’ve got to give to those who screwed up their lives by making poor decisions, thank you very much.

Before someone goes off, I understand we’re living in a difficult economic time. Lots of people have lost their jobs and with the economic climate the way it is it takes longer to find a new job. What I’m questioning is why the popular opinion in this country seems to be that our government should bail us out if things go wrong? What happened to families stepping up to help a fellow family member who is in need? Where is the church when it’s members are struggling? There are numerous non-profit organizations already set up to assist those who can’t make ends meet. Personally, I don’t want the US government owning car companies or telling other businesses how to conduct themselves. I also don’t want to foot the bill for people who made bad financial decisions just so they could live their distorted version of the “American dream.”

There seems to be a trend toward not having to accept the consequences for decisions we make. Did you buy too big a house with a shady adjustable rate loan and suddenly can’t afford the payment? Bad decision…the penalty might be you lose the house and your credit gets screwed up for the next 7-10 years. Go rent someplace that you can afford and get your finances back in order and try again later. Did you lose your job? I’m terribly sorry. Perhaps you should consider accepting a lower paying position that will help you put food on the table and pay your bills until something better comes along. Yes, you might have to sell your Lexus and maybe even downsize your house. I’m pretty sure there will be more available when you find that new, higher paying position later. Did you run a company or institution and get too comfortable with the “status quo” and end up blindsided by the economic downturn? Perhaps if you had paid more attention to what was happening and weren’t so busy trying to pad your own bank account you would have been able to change your strategy and not put your business in the toilet. It may have been healthier for our overall economy if some of these people/businesses/institutions did go into Chapter 11 or even have to shut down. That may have opened the door for a new entrepreneur to step up and bring a better product to market with a more innovative, efficient and modern business plan.

There’s a natural cycle to everything, whether it’s life or business. Sometimes downsizing, whether personally or professionally, can help refocus us on what is truly important in life. For the responsible citizens to be penalized for living within their means is a crime in and of itself. It’s time for families to be family. For the church to be the Church. For people to take responsibility for their actions and accept the consequences of bad decisions. Will it be painful? Absolutely. No one ever said life would be easy.  The sense of entitlement that has become so pervasive in this country is alarming. Let’s start living our lives sensibly and within the means provided to us by our income. That means setting aside some of our income every month to build up a savings so that there’s something there to fall back on when the unexpected does happen. Let’s be there for our family when they need help. Be a good neighbor to your neighbors and be available to do what you can to assist when someone is struggling. Let’s keep the government out of it so they don’t end up controlling every aspect of our lives. Take a look at their track record for decision making…they can’t balance their own budget and work within their means so why should we expect they’ll run our personal finances any better? If we stop being so “me” centric and realize that their are no such things as entitlements this great country of ours just might be able to pull itself out of the financial funk it’s gotten itself into and become something to be proud of again.

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