While we have our government bashing each other on the heads while trying to pass a debt limit increase, looking at unemployment that doesn’t seem to be going down, few new jobs being created, gas prices rising again, the crash of the housing industry, and a host of other issues, I thought it was a good time for us to take a look in the mirror and claim our part in the mess.

I know many of us think “what did I do”? I’m going to point out 5 things we did that have contributed to all this mess we have.

1. We buy things we can’t afford instead of concentrating on the things we need. We’re human; we want things. Often we buy things on credit because we know the monthly payments won’t be that high. The problem is twofold; one, we buy enough things and suddenly that “low” payment is pretty high. Two, we think the income we’re getting will continue to at least be steady, if not always increase. Turns out the first part comes true but that second part didn’t. Yes, banks are sneaky, and they did give you a $50,000 credit limit when you were only making $20,000 a year. But you should have known better to fall for it, and now look where everyone’s at.

2. You bought a house you should have known you couldn’t afford. Yes, everyone deserves to own a home if they can pay for it. That’s the crucial issue, though; can you pay for it. Whereas many banks in many states came up with these sneaky floating interest loans that turn out to be quite predatory, many of us didn’t use our own common sense when we knew what the terms were. You didn’t understand what you were signing up for? Shame on you; why didn’t you ask more questions? This wasn’t a puppy you bought, it was a house, a big, scary, very expensive piece of property. Sure, everyone told you prices would always go up; didn’t happen, did it?

3. You switch jobs all the time. I understand this one; you’re always looking for more money, or the next challenge. What are you missing? You haven’t built any equity into where you are because you’re always the new person. Whether or not you have a union job or not, you’re right on the chopping block whenever something bad happens. And every study out there says that even in a bad economy the people most likely to get a new job are those that are already working. You’re still trying to find yourself and find what you like? Find it faster or consider working for yourself.

4. You’re trying to impress others rather than making sure you can live well. Did you really need that $50,000 Escalade when the Hyundai Santa Fe would have done you well? Do you really need Jimmy Choo shoes when you could have gotten a very nice pair that fit well at Penneys? Many people these days are making due at stores like Walmart because they’re realizing they might not be getting name brand stuff, but they can buy 10 shirts for the price of one designer shirt, and with mixing and matching that’s a whole lot of ensembles. Stores like Kmart and Target have a lot of things for everyone that looks good and works good. If you have friends walking up to your clothes and looking at the labels then judging you for it, those aren’t friends worth having. Life within your means; if you can afford that other stuff, then have a ball.

5. Elect people for the right reasons. Yeah, I’m going there. Here’s the thing most people don’t understand about government; it’s a compromise. The reason things have always gotten accomplished in Washington is because no one gets everything they want. These people are skilled negotiators, and when they’re all working for the common good they get some amazing things passed. They also do some stupid stuff but you take the good with the bad.

If you elect someone that’s going to be inflexible, you start to find out that it hurts everyone, including you eventually. Be big and mighty and say “see how brave our person is, standing there clogging everything up”? What happens when your area is hit with the next earthquake and there’s no federal relief money for it? Look at health care for a minute. Is the policy you’re paying almost $700 a month for actually giving you better care than a government sponsored insurance might give you? If you lose your job and can’t afford COBRA, or end up working for someone that doesn’t give you health care coverage, and then you or your family member gets sick, who do you think eventually ends up paying for that? The government, that’s who.

If you’re going to be against something at least think about how you’d feel if it was you; it could always be you. Elect people who have a position, but are willing to negotiate; always better to get things done.

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