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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

SLIPPING INTO A NATIONAL DEPRESSION

BRYCE ON POLITICS

- And how the Tango can help.

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I recently read an article claiming Tango dancing was an effective means to eliminate stress and depression. Evidently there is something about the legendary South American dance exhilarating to the human spirit. Maybe it has something to do with restoring confidence. Afterwards, it occurred to me this might just be the tonic needed to lift the country out of the doldrums we are in.

Not long ago, I asked my accountant if he knew of any business in the area which was experiencing any true success; not just keeping their head above water, but was really doing well. After pondering the question for a few seconds he said, "No," he couldn't think of any. Keep in mind, my accountant's forte is in the area of small businesses in the Tampa Bay area. He may not know many big businesses, but he knows a considerable number of people and small businesses in the area, most of whom had settled into a survivalist mode of operation as opposed to a dynamic proactive company. I personally happen to know some medical equipment suppliers who are doing well, and some personal injury attorneys who know how to play the insurance game, but aside from this not too many other successful businesses. Owners are still trying new ideas and innovations, but most are cutting spending and treading water.

Over the last ten years I have also seen a decline in business ethics, possibly because of this survivalist mentality. Professional courtesy and craftsmanship have been replaced by micromanagement and cronyism. Companies may talk about teamwork and high professional standards, but this is mostly facade. It's still a "dog-eat-dog" world out there, maybe more so. To "Baby Boomers" like myself, the corporate landscape has radically changed since we entered the work force under the tutelage of "The Greatest Generation." Today, it's more about technology and less about people. More importantly, we have transitioned from a "can do" mentality to "can't do" or "why bother?" attitude. Entrepreneurs no longer talk about new industries to conquer. Most are burned out and want to quietly retire, but everyone is afraid to.

In our schools, "helicopter parents" keep a tight reign over their offspring. No decision is made without parental approval, particularly at the college level. It's no small wonder young people can easily adapt to today's corporate culture of micromanagement.

Retirees worry they have enough in their portfolio to see them through to their final days. Confidence in social security and Medicare is shaken. So much so, Baby Boomers are delaying retirement as they lack confidence they will be able to afford it. Despite this, there is a whole generation of doctors who are contemplating early retirement due to the harassment of government bureaucracy.

I don't know anyone, be it liberal or conservative, who has supreme confidence in our politicians in Washington, or the future of our country for that matter. Everyone is on tender hooks.

Plain and simply, the mood of the country is not good. This is why I believe we are slipping into a psychological depression, a national sense of hopelessness. Business people lack confidence in the future, as is the average worker. Our national psyche is probably as low as it was during the Great Depression of the 1930's when we felt we had lost control over our destiny. We are no longer optimistic about our future and our character has become highly volatile.

To overcome this problem we need to restore our confidence. What is needed are some successes or victories. Better yet, a clear vision setting the country in a positive direction. Americans do not just want to survive, they want to grow and prosper. Anything less causes a mood of frustration and hopelessness. Unfortunately, the country feels rudderless and is spinning in circles as the government is gridlocked. Unless we can regain our composure and confidence, our depression will only deepen.

Then again, there is always the Tango.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  SOMETIMES THE OLD MEDICINES ARE THE BEST - Why won't they just go away?

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