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Monday, November 24, 2008

We all “Don’t get it”

Ken Kerr Bio

When automotive industry executives arrived on Capitol Hill last week in private jets to beg for money, we shook our collective heads and said, "They don't get it." They are so out of touch with the real world that it never occurred to them that $20,000-an-hour plane rides would appear inconsistent with the message they had arrived to deliver.

They don't understand that before you can ask someone else to help you out of your financial crisis, you should have already done all you can to address it yourself.

During the campaign, Barack Obama repeatedly told us that John "The-Fundamentals-of-our-Economy-are-Sound" McCain "doesn't get it."

McCain, Obama reminded us, is a nice guy who has served his country with honor and should be respected for his lifetime of public service. But he, with his seven homes and $100 million wife, doesn't get it.

I think we all don't get it. We are all nice guys, who work hard and do the right thing by others, but we don't get it.

We complain about the cost of energy while wasting over $100-a-year in our homes by keeping our instant-on electronics on standby. Five to fifteen percent of our electric bill comes from appliances on stand-by.We leave our cell phone chargers plugged in even when we are not charging a cell phone. The computer is never turned off. And just exactly how many digital clocks do we need in one room?

We drink bottled water that comes from someone else's tap, at 240-10,000 times the price, rather than drink water from our own tap. The cost to manufacture and dispose of the plastic bottles and truck the 7-pound-per-gallon water around the country is gluttonous.

As for gasoline, we think in dollars—not gallons. We feel like burning $50 of $2.00-a-gallon gasoline is less than burning $100 of $4.00-a-gallon gasoline. We don't get it. We may be bottom-line people, but we don't think about how we got to the bottom line.

We drive our SUV to the bank to ask for a renegotiation of our mortgage. We call the utility company on our iPhone to ask for emergency winter heating relief. And we complain about the state-of-things as we watch the Tivo-ed news on our premium digital cable package. It may not be on the level of a private jet or 7th house—but it's the same thing. We don't get it.

I was out at my favorite simulcast horse racing establishment last week when my new acquaintance, Mike, asked me, "What do you do?"

"I am an English professor," I replied. To which he said, "Oh! You'll be fine." He then turned to our other new acquaintance, Danny, and asked the same question. Danny said, "I am in commercial printing. And we are hurting."

Danny then told us about how he had to lay off 25% of his 60-worker department before Christmas. Mike then talked about his commercial construction business and how he sees bleak times ahead. It seemed, for a moment, like these guys were starting to get it.

Then we all got up and bet on the next race.

We all don't get it—not yet, anyway.


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