Hard work, financial insecurity

September 25, 2008 1:52:57 PM PDT
I grew up with parents who were incredibly hard-working. But if they were alive, they'd not hesitate to say that, while they worked hard, they didn't always work smart. They were small business people, which meant I was raised in a family business. I don't remember ever having it easy; in fact it was usually pretty rough.

They controlled their own destiny, yes. That's one of the benefits of running your own shop.

But the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was typically elusive for my parents.

I have fond memories about working hard in their store -- after school and on weekends. And I have not-so-fond memories about working after school and on weekends.

I remember as well the all-too-frequent experience of rushing cash to the phone company just before they closed at 5 p.m. to avoid having the business phone service cut off.

It all had an impact on me, I'm sure. The working hard part was passed on to me. And I tried to learn great lessons from my parents' mistakes about not always working smartly.

I bring this up because my childhood was hardly one of economic security, and that insecurity is burnished in me in some profound ways.

I become more aware of it during tough times - like the one we're in now. I've written it before in this space, one of my dad's favorite sayings: Rich or poor, it's nice to have money.

It doesn't solve all problems, of course. But a degree of financial security -- or at least not feeling financially insecure -- has a positive snowballing affect. You act differently, you make decisions differently, you can worry about bigger issues than how to make the rent at the first of the month. Life is better when the definition of a financial problem extends beyond how to afford health care, or how to pay to fix a flat tire.

Alas, way too many people these days are worried about how to afford the basics. And that level of financial insecurity affects how they think and behave and, perhaps, who they'll vote for.

And it's easy to understand how and why so many Americans are angry about and opposed to the proposed bailout of failed Wall Street firms that went way-too-far into debt and made far-too-many unwise business decisions. The debate on Capitol Hill is how much return on the $700 billion in taxpayers bailout money will taxpayers get. If the public is going to shoulder the socialization of losses, then shouldn't they also be able to pocket the socialization of any profits that hopefully result?

It's a fair question as this debate unfolds. And make no mistake, we are redefining the capitalistic system with this bailout. Those who have railed against government intervention are now making the case for the biggest government involvement in the private sector in U.S. History.

Do we have any reason to doubt their claims that the U.S. financial system came this-close to collapse? That's a basic question at play here. Perhaps if the case for invading Iraq hadn't been based on faulty intelligence and then, later, outright untruths, some Americans wouldn't be so skeptical about these claims.

Speaking of the man who made that case, much to-do today about the relative silence of President Bush during this bailout crisis.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the Senate floor and lambasting the President for "being absent" on the debate.

Maybe Mr. Bush was listening.

A little later, the White House said the President would speak to the nation - his 32nd prime-time address. He will make the case, we're told, for the bailout plan, arguing that the cost of acting is far less than the potential cost of not acting.

Meanwhile, John McCain -- now down 11 points to Barack Obama in the latest ABC News poll -- says he wants to suspend his campaign, postpone Friday's first Presidential Debate, and return to Washington to get the bailout plan passed. He thinks it otherwise will die. (WATCH VIDEO)

All this, after McCain blasted Obama for not openly talking about the plan while Congress negotiates the fine points.

Or, as one of our staffers put it, the biggest campaign spotlight will be in Washington. As for Sen. Obama - he said he's willing to return to Washington, but he doesn't want to postpone Friday's debate.

Talk about drama. And just moments ago, the Obama camp disclosed that Obama called McCain at 8:30 this morning, asking if he would issue a joint statement, urging Congress to pass the Treasury Dept. Proposal. Obama's spokesman said McCain called back at 2:30 p.m. to say he agreed to a joint statement, which they're working on right now.

ABC will broadcast the President's speech, tonight at 9.

And we'll have reaction, and the latest on the economic crisis, at 11.

One more note about the election, our Web peeps have launched a "Road to 270" program on our site, 7Online.com.

It is an interactive "map" that includes a description of the political status in each state, and the latest credible polls from that state. You can click on any state, then click on the "more state analysis" box on the right side -- that will launch the feature. The map will be updated twice weekly. Click HERE to see the site.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.