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Let them 'think positive' - Joel Hall

Last week, I noticed that one of my usually chipper friends was in a bit of a slump.

I am not always a ray of sunshine myself, so the change in my friend's mood was very noticeable.

For the entire week, this person, who usually refers to me by a playful nickname, didn't respond to my humor. At the end of this week, I learned this person had recently suffered a housing foreclosure.

That makes two people I know who have had foreclosures in the last six to eight months. The crisis is very real.

However, many people running the campaign for presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain believe the pain many Americans are feeling right now is all in their heads.

This week, Phil Gramm, one of McCain's top economic advisors, said that Americans have become "a nation of whiners."

Gramm said that Americans are in a "mental recession" and the idea of a recession has been cooked up by the media in order to sell newspapers.

"Misery sells newspapers," Gramm said. "Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspapers every day."

First of all, misery doesn't sell newspapers. What sells newspapers is senior citizens who read religiously and enjoy the crossword puzzles on the back. Second of all, the idea that all the suffering is in our imaginations couldn't be further from the truth.

Georgia ranks among the top ten states with the highest foreclosure rates. In Clayton County, the number of houses waiting to be sold is visible. You can drive through some subdivisions and see two or three homeowners living in the middle of ten or fifteen vacant houses.

I come from a family that is very religious, slightly conservative, and that usually votes Republican. The reason why I have never been able to align myself with the GOP is because many people presently running it believe that people like my friends, who recently lost their homes -- the key to building wealth in America -- are entitlement-seekers.

In my experience, most people are not looking for a hand out. Rather, they are just looking for a fair shake.

In the last eight years, the deregulation of lending practices, attempts to privatize many of the services which hold our country together, and an irresponsible brand of rugged individualism have brought us to our current state of affairs.

Gramm's comments this week were the modern-day equivalent of Marie Antoinette's response to French poverty prior to the French Revolution. "Let them eat cake" and "think positive" are pretty synonymous ideas.

The idea that we can "think" our way out of a recession works for people who, like Gramm, the head of a Swiss bank, have deep pockets and long-established lines of credit. However, it doesn't work for many Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck.

Before people in the GOP accuse Americans of being cry-babies, they must first offer viable solutions to the current economic crisis. Right now, it appears the GOP is out of touch.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at jhall@news-daily.com.