Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How do we get un-stupid?

I guess it’s pretty apparent that our economy is a blasted disaster. All day, all night the media expound on what is wrong and why. Panels of pundits weigh in and try to out-yell each other in the process. The arguing makes me nuts. I have to turn the channel.

Funny, while so many can’t come up with answers, my mom – who just turned 90 – explained it all to me last week as we were grinding cranberries for our traditional sauce.

First, let me say briefly that Mom grew up in Springfield, IL. Her folks ran a truck stop out on old Highway 36 called the “Hi-D-Ho.” She worked there. She’s always worked hard and guarded every penny.

I do all the grocery shopping for her, which isn’t easy because she is so tight with her money.

“Hey, Mom, I am here in the bread aisle and that raisin bread you wanted costs $2.50 a loaf, still want it? No? Well, I know how bad you wanted it. … I think you should go ahead and …”

But no way she is ever going to pay $2.50 no matter how much she wants that bread.

“That’s what is wrong with the whole country,” she says. “Nobody can tell themselves ‘no’ anymore. It’s ‘what the heck, just get it.’ If you want a big house and you don’t have the money, what the heck, just get it. If you want a big expensive SUV with fancy wheels and it’s totally impractical, what the heck, just get it. Need a vacation to Bermuda to take your mind off the fact you’re living from paycheck to paycheck? Just charge the trip.”

Mom says what is wrong with the country is not hard to understand. We’ve simply forgotten the fundamentals. She says good sense and an allegiance to buying what we need, not just what we want, simply does not exist in this country. She says the people who have it are few and too old to swing any weight.

She was appalled at the CEO who flew to DC burning through $20,000 instead of paying $250 for a fare. And he went there to plead for bailout bucks. Deals like this set my mom into orbit. Her sense of priorities when it comes to money has not changed since she was a waitress at the truck stop.

She’s not too happy that my generation and others have lost our minds and gone stupid. Mom says we need to get “un-stupid” and quick.

We need her kind of discipline to lift us out of this mess.