I'm getting tired of hearing that the solution to our economic problem is for all of us to get out there and start shopping.
I don't have anything against shopping, you understand. I've...shopped. Granted, most of that shopping has been in tool stores and lumberyards, but I do have at least three pairs of shoes, so it's not that I don't know about consumer spending. It's just that recently what I'm hearing from the people who are experts in this sort of thing is that our country's prosperity has been based on consumers building up credit card debt to buy stuff they don't need.
I don't really know how that happened. It's a given that we've always had a few greedy people here -- you can go to any city in America and find a neighborhood full of huge, elaborate old mansions, built by folks with no sense of proportion or moderation. But now you can also find suburbs full of new houses, thousands of them, big enough for a family of 12, sporting lawns sizable enough to graze a herd of elephants. Somehow, wretched excess and debt has switched from being considered shameful to socially acceptable.
The whole mess gets even goofier when you realize that a lot of what we were going into debt for was made and imported from other countries. I may be dumb (many people wouldnâ€™t even try to qualify that), but I just don't understand how borrowing money from China so we can buy flat screen TVs made in China is a good idea. I think we should stop. Let the folks in India and Brazil buy stuff from the Chinese for a while.
The thing is, a lot of people have jobs in malls selling those kinds of goods. So, if everyone suddenly turns into responsible consumers who pay cash and maybe even opening savings accounts, what would the mall workers do to earn a living?
Well, they could get jobs doing something real.
The last I heard, we have a 1.6 trillion dollar backlog of work that needs to be done. I didn't just make that up, by the way. It comes from the American Society of Civil Engineers -- the folks who actually know. Bridges to be built, schools to be fixed, all sorts of important jobs that will provide employment and make this a better country to live in.
You want some examples?
- Every day six billion gallons of clean water is dumped into sewer systems due to leaking pipes.
- One percent of streams and rivers are fully safe for swimming.
- Americans spend 3.5 billion hours stuck in traffic every year.
- We could spend 200 billion dollars by simply repairing our schools.
The list goes on and on. Now, I realize that going from selling sunglasses in a mall to being a welder or pipefitter will be an adjustment, but life is like that. It's always been important to be flexible and agile.
You know, when I was a kid my parents always told me to take care of my belongings. This is such a terrific country, but we need to take better care of it. The fact that doing so will help the economy and provide millions of solid jobs is a bonus.