Gramm's foolishness holds kernel of truth

Poor Phil Gramm.

There's not a lot that comes out of his mouth that I agree with, but his remarks recently that the United States is a nation of whiners weren't that far off base.

Gramm, who stepped down as co-chairman of John McCain's presidential campaign after a slew of complaints about his remarks, was wrong, however, when he concluded that we Americans are in a “mental recession.” Not a real recession, but one that is in our minds.

“I'm not going to retract any of it,” Gramm said when questioned about his statements. “Every word I said was true.”

Times are getting harder by the day, no doubt. We know that by simply looking at our grocery store receipts and our empty wallets when we drive away from a gas station.

I won't even mention the high costs of educating our children or keeping them in shoes.

So this recession, which hasn't been designated as one yet, is not just in our minds. It is in our bank accounts as well.

Gramm should have kept that comment to himself.

That being said, I think Gramm spoke the truth about us being a nation of whiners. It's just that he doesn't seem to characterize similar complaints from big business in the same way.

Come on, folks.

We are not all in foreclosure, and we aren't all unemployed. But you couldn't tell that by the slowed donations to charitable agencies to help those in actual need.

OK. Gas is $4 a gallon, milk is nearly as costly, and I don't think there is a single person left in Lexington who has not heard me complain about paying college tuition.

But we have it so good here when we compare our situation to the living conditions in other nations. So good.

In some instances — not all, but many — our financial problems stem from a willingness to spend more than we earn. Our state, local and federal governments are masters of that.

We have to tell ourselves no, and we have to learn how to do things for ourselves.

Instead of going to the beauty salon every two weeks, drop back to every three or four months. Do your nails yourself. Pass on the bottled water and drink water from the faucet.

Polish your shoes instead of buying new ones, and darn the holes in your socks. Prepare meals from scratch so you will have leftovers. If you can't cook, learn. Need an outfit for an upcoming event or for the kids to go back to school? Visit thrift or secondhand stores or sew it yourself. And tell me again why I can't live without a cell phone?

We should model ourselves after our parents and grandparents, who survived the truly difficult economic times of the Depression, and we'll be just fine.

We Americans have been through difficult times before.

But what's good for the goose should be good for the gander.

That might be the problem people have with Gramm, who is an advocate of deregulation and free markets. He has a history of focusing on the needs of business at the expense of consumers.

We don't hear him telling overextended businesses, burdened by bad investments, to suck it up. If businesses are not healthy enough to stand on their own, let them fall. And tell them to stop whining, too.

We Americans are some of the most innovative people in the world. When something doesn't work for us one way, we'll come up with another way.

That's what we have to do now.

We have to say no to using our credit cards or even putting non-urgent purchases in layaway. Prices fall along with demand.

Spending less might not be what some economists would like, but it is definitely what will save the family budget.

Whine if you must, but do it while tightening your belt.