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Rules to live happier, more productive lives

People Make the Difference

By Byron McNutt

Over a century ago, Robert Louis Stevenson devised a number of rules to help people live happier, more productive lives. Like now, things were tough back then, too. These rules may be a century old, but they are still excellent guidelines to live by.
1. Make up your mind to be happy — learn to find pleasure in simple things. 2. Make the best of circumstances. No one has everything, and everyone has something of sorrow. (I believe Lenin once said, “If the rich aren’t happy, it’s their own fault.”
3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. 4. Don’t let criticism worry you, you can’t please everyone.
5. Don’t let your neighbors set your standards, be yourself. 6. Do things you enjoy doing, but stay out of debt. (Most people have found that last one nearly impossible.)
7. Don’t borrow trouble. Imaginary things are harder to bear than actual ones. 8. Since hate poisons the soul, do not cherish enmities and grudges. 9. Have many interests. If you can’t travel, read about places. (Go places via the Internet.)
10. Don’t hold postmortems or spend time brooding over sorrows and mistakes. 11. Don’t be the one who never gets over things. 12. Keep busy at something. A very busy person never has time to be unhappy.

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Why is it important to follow the rules Stevenson devised for us? If we don’t, and we agonize over the turmoil going on in our state, country and around the world, we will be miserable. Every generation has had problems that seemed insurmountable.
In one way, the world seems to be getting smaller, but in other ways, the problems we face seem to be getting greater. Think of the disasters we’ve been dealing with for the past 10 years!
We have a looming world financial crisis, we dealt with Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Oil Spill and horrific earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear power plant meltdowns. We’ve got wars and regime changes going on around the world, especially in the Middle East that aren’t resolved.
Anyone who reads or watches the national financial news has to be concerned about the future.
Here are a few of the headlines from the past two weeks. Past and future debt threatens to kill the American dream for coming generations.
Our national debt has soared from $6 trillion a few years ago to $14.3 trillion today. Congress is faced with raising the debt limit in the next week, or shut down the government. Based on budget estimates, the debt ceiling may be raised to $20 trillion to $25 trillion by the end of the decade. Some say raising the debt ceiling without a spending cut plan will result in an economic catastrophy. Not raising the debt limit would put the country in default.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reminds us that more than 50 million Americans depend on taxpayer-supported programs for survival. That’s about one in every six people. There’s unemployment compensation; there are 42 million people getting food stamps. Economist David Rosenberg has said, “The modern-day soup line is a food stamp check in the mail.”
A month ago filmmaker Michael Moore was in Madison during the union protests. Moore, by the way, is worth a reported $50 million. He told the crowd, “The wealthiest 400 Americans have a net worth equal to the total net worth of 50% of all Americans — about 155 million of our friends and neighbors. That’s a trend that doesn’t bode well for our economic future.
Most Americans can no longer save for retirement. We once believed our homes were a good way to help save for retirement, as their value increased. The housing bubble burst three years ago and now millions of homes are under water, a negative asset. And, people borrowed against them.
Millions of people took advantage of retirement accounts over the years. When they got into a credit crisis, they borrowed from those accounts. Now they are approaching retirement with no equity in their homes and very little left in their IRAs.
Good thing they have Social Security to rely on, right? Well, we all know the plight of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Over the next 25 to 30 years, they are underfunded by $100 trillion.
According to the Social Security Administration, there are 2.9 workers today for each beneficiary, but that number falls to just 2.1 by 2035. Officials say 31% of the workforce today has no savings set aside for retirement, and 52% do not have a private pension plan. That does not bode well.
Today there are 34 million retired workers receiving benefits. There are 41 million Americans age 65-plus, but that number soars to 76.3 million by 2035. In 2010, $703 billion was paid to Social Security recipients. That doesn’t include the money paid to Social Security recipients younger than age 65.
It gets worse. A front-page article in the Wall Street Journal two weeks ago proclaimed the Social Security Disability Fund portends “insolvency looms as states drain the fund.” It paid 10 million people more than $125 billion in benefits in 2010. The program is rife with fraud and outright cheating and the administrators are unable to do anything about it. Good to know!
In Wisconsin, according to the state Department of Workforce Development, the state has borrowed $1.56 billion from the federal government to keep unemployment checks coming to our residents. As we know, the federal government is borrowing 43 cents of every dollar it spends.
The state says they will pay the federal government back when the recession ends and state businesses start paying higher unemployment taxes. But if the recession doesn’t end soon, and the unemployment checks don’t decrease in number, the state may need to keep borrowing. Future projections are based on wishful thinking.
Maybe our problems will solve themselves? We need a lot of things to go right. We need all the wars being fought around the world to end peacefully. We need a moritorium on natural disasters, terrorist attacks and man-caused disasters. We need an agreement between liberals and conservatives and we need to find good jobs for everyone able to work.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 12:23 PM
Last Updated on Tuesday, April 05, 2011 12:28 PM

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