Lost your job? Your health care insurance? Your retirement funds? Your home values, or your home itself? Stop being a damned crybaby! Remember what former Texas senator Phil Gramm said recently: “We have sort of become a nation of whiners. You just hear this constant whining.”

Gramm doesn’t seem to have much to whine about, however. In addition to his senator’s salary and all the resplendent perks that went with the office, Gramm managed to land himself quite a plum position – vice chairman of UBS, the giant Swiss bank. So from that lofty perch, you can’t blame him for accusing the media for fostering this glum and grim outlook for the future. “Misery sells newspapers,” opined Gramm. “Thank God the economy is not as bas as you read in the newspapers every day.”

Gramm must include newspapers worldwide, since the United Kingdom announced recently that more and more Britons are seeking mental health services for depression and perpetual stress. The Mental Health Foundation of Great Britain estimates that more than 7 million Britons are suffering from anxiety problems caused by the worldwide financial downturn. Dr. Andrew McCulloch, head of the foundation, says the report shows that “fear is having a serious negative impact on the mental and physical health of the nation.”

Former senator Gramm says of the same is true in this country, you can thank the media for its constant hammering on the nation’s economic woes and the fears and anguish the media have generated. “You’ve heard of mental depression; this is mental recession,” Gramm said.

Whatever you call it, social recession, mental recession, or general worry and anxiety, there are too many Americans who are perpetually sad and with little hope for the future. It’s one thing to lose one’s job in “normal” times. It’s another for an entire firm or industry to go belly up, leaving the former employees with instant poverty and little hope of ever regaining what they once had. It is reminiscent of the railroad industry in the 1960s. As soon as an interstate highway was funded, the railroad tracks it replaced were literally torn up overnight. In due time, if you were a railroad fireman, brakeman, switchman, or trainman, not only your job, but the caboose you rode it vanished. In the case of a fireman, his seat in the locomotive was taken by a conductor.

In the current recession/depression, feelings of hopelessness and lack of worth among the jobless are generated by the inference that even if times get better, your job will remain redundant and unnecessary. While all this pain is being generated among the unemployed or about-to-be-unemployed, they are being told to retrain and educate themselves in new, essential occupations.

Unemployed and underemployed individuals are turning to such stress relievers as smoking, drinking, overeating, gambling, spending what’s left of credit, even illicit drug use. But these activities only make matters worse, since the anxious individual functions even less efficiently than before. President Obama said recently what we see on the horizon “is not hope but a glimmer of hope.”

In countless instances, hope for the future or regaining any form of prosperity out-of-work Americans previously enjoyed is a long shot at best. And the shoulders they would normally cry on belong to individuals who themselves are struggling with emotional turmoil. The types and scope of financial hardships being experienced by millions of Americans really are something new. World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and now the Middle East were fought “over there.” We lost loved ones, embraced the wounded, changed our daily routines, but the bombs and shells and bullets fell almost exclusively “over there.” The winds of war are still not blowing down Main Street, where businesses are boarded over, homes are abandoned, and accusation numbers of Americans are “living lives of quiet desperation.”

To former senator Phil Gramm and other bloviaters who regard us as a nation of whiners suffering a mental recession, we don’t need your kind of “help.” Now is the time for Americans to become emotionally engaged – physically and perhaps even spiritually. Many Americans feel threatened and vulnerable. They have become more and more aware that the shockwave known as the current recession is their individual shockwave as well. Many of those whose jobs were spared and who remain employed have stopped spending. One manager noted that the recession “has taken the spring out of many a once-happy and bustling office.”

Another problem seems to be the uncertain and ambivalent predictions being made about the future. Will things be better in six months or worse? Do we have any hope or just a glimmer of hope? As one economist put it, “morale is at half mast.” Employers are no longer able to assure employees that hard work and loyalty will be rewarded.

Strategies need to be developed to survive the recession. If containing costs and reducing the workforce are the only things that will work, then so be it. But while we are making painful decisions involving survival and job cuts, what we don’t need are accusations of being a workforce of whiners and complainers as Phil Gramm suggests.

The Washington Post has named Phil Gramm one of the key players who pushed through several major bills deregulating the banking and investment industries. The deregulation is now blamed for the subprime mortgage crisis and the subsequent global economic crisis. Ask not for whom the nation whines, senator. It whines for thee.


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