Outside column: Nation's to-do list for 2009 is dire

Posted: Thursday, January 01, 2009

I've bought the Spanish turron, counted the grapes by bunches of 12 (one for each month of good luck in 2009) and bought the fizzy stuff.

My New Year's resolution starts today: I'm staying off the crazy highways New Year's Eve.

Curled in my jammies watching the ball drop will be just fine to say goodbye to 2008. No Cuba libre to celebrate yet. No rebounding U.S. economy. No world peace.

We have a lot of work to do in 2009.

Jobs, jobs and more jobs - and fixing the housing slump - have to be the priorities, but do we really want government calling the shots?

True, the mortgage industry and the Big Three in Detroit haven't helped make a case for smart planning by free enterprise. They give laissez-faire economics the bad name it deserves. Banks gave away risky mortgages and sold them to investors as if they were gold. Automakers, for their part, kept building bigger trucks and sport utility vehicles despite four-buck-a-gallon gas prices much of this year. Consumers kept borrowing to keep the party going.

Now that bankers and automakers have billions of our money to stimulate them, what will they do? Give away more risky loans to fix the housing slump, build more gas-guzzling road monsters now that gas has dropped under $2?

Somewhere between the zeal of free markets and capitalism's abuses lies the answer for government. What we need is more oversight to stem the abuses and more tax incentives to spark creativity and initiative in technology.

We need more "made in the U.S.A."

Making health insurance affordable without losing whatever quality is left - have you been to a hospital lately? - has to be on the nation's to-do list, too.

Because ineptitude, bad attitudes and carelessness rule in the health-care industry. I say this as one who has spent many days in several hospitals with sick family members this year - all of them insured, but you wouldn't know it by the way they were treated.

And in South Florida, the capital of corruption, the health-care business is costing us billions in fraud and waste.

I don't mean to be a downer - not when the new year is supposed to be a time of hope for a better future. But what we're facing as a nation is immense, and, unfortunately, Florida seems to be leading the downward spiral.

Florida's growth industry isn't sunshine anymore, it's food stamps. The number of Floridians on food stamps has jumped by 40 percent from two years ago - the highest leap into poverty in the nation - to 1.7 million. That's almost one of every 10 people in this state.

Only after Hurricane Andrew did Florida experience a larger jump in the percentage of Floridians using food stamps.

It has been that kind of year: cataclysmic in its intensity for almost 2 million Floridians and downright scary for the rest of us. We see an economic tsunami coming and no place to run uphill to stay above water in this flatlined state.

Savings? Our 401(k)'s are melting. Our property values are diving. We're told we need to save more. But, when we do, we're told we're not spending enough in goods and services to keep workers employed, which could put our jobs in jeopardy.

2008, good riddance!

Time to double the number of grapes at midnight and start imbibing the fizzy. Here's wishing you and yours good health and a fine job in 2009.

• Myriam Marquez is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to her via e-mail at mmarquez@miamiherald.com.



CONTACT US

  • Switchboard: 907-586-3740
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-586-3740
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-586-3028
  • Business Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-523-2230
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback

ADVERTISING

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES

SOCIAL NETWORKING