I'm pleased to announce that I have the fix for America's troubled economy. It's not foreign jobs and it's not foreign loans, but it is a few seemingly foreign concepts: restraint, discipline, contentment and stewardship.
Oh, but that's no fun. That won't work fast enough. That's too hard.
Well, I don't see any miracles or get-rich-quick schemes working in Washington.
Instead, Congress keeps trying to cut down the deficit tree with a butter knife as one recent political cartoon depicted.
It seems to me the one thing a debt ceiling doesn't do is put a ceiling on debt.
I'm not sure our politicians on either side of the aisle will ever learn fiscal responsibility, but at the very least, I hope these challenging times push each of us to assess our own financial habits. They've certainly helped me reconsider a few of mine.
I've been raised by parents whose credit rating would impress Suze Orman, and they talked the talk and walked the walk in teaching me how to live within my means.
As a recent college graduate with looming student loan payments, working in a not-so-lucrative industry and married for almost two years, I've already learned a thing or two about living paycheck to paycheck.
I'm sure my wife and I are not the only ones living that way. In fact, statistics show that about one in 10 of you reading this right now is likely unemployed.
It sometimes takes a little creativity to stay afloat under such conditions. My wife is a masterful coupon collector (not the crazy kind from that TLC series) and bargain hunter, and it's saved us hundreds of dollars.
Sometimes it's also important to re-evaluate and prioritize needs.
Baraga County, whose unemployment rate is near 20 percent, provides a perfect example of making a financial decision fit a realistic situation. The county will eventually need to do something about the aging courthouse, but voters are in more need of money to pay their bills than the county is of a new courthouse building. If the economy was thriving and unemployment was half what it is, the millage possibly would have passed. Perspectives change in times of financial hardship, as they should.
Strangely enough, I've found that some of my fondest memories have been made during times of serious financial strain. Those times are never easy to go through, but they tend to bring people closer together, and they've always helped me better appreciate what I have and better enjoy what I get.
I have my doubts that Washington will ever truly fix the nation's house-of-cards economy, but hopefully refocusing on personal financial responsibility will allow each of us to get our financial houses in order, even with the difficult card we've been dealt.
Stephen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.