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Leigh Hart: It's time for spring cleaning

Posted: March 9, 2009 11:55 p.m.
Updated: March 10, 2009 4:59 a.m.
 
March is springing and sprouting its greenery in my neck of the woods. The birds are happily chirping, the ruby red leaves are popping on the roses and the hyacinths and daffodils are blooming. Okay, the traditional flowers of spring are growing in my neighbor's yard, but my lavender and rosemary are fragrantly blooming.

Growing up in Chicago gave truth to the maxim that "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb," but it took me several years of living in Southern California before I discerned the subtle and inconsistent seasonal transitions that we experience here.

When our last spring shower gave way to one glorious rainbow, I knew spring was coming.

Rainbows are joyous harbingers of good news, known as the pathways of the gods in Norse mythology or a promise from God in the Old Testament. Spring is the promise of rebirth. Regardless of one's religious affiliation, it is the season that affirms our faith in life and renewal.

While spring manifests itself in the world of nature and coincides with religious and cultural traditions, many of us feel spring's presence in our bones.

How many of you get a touch of spring fever each year? Certainly I see it in the children I teach. They hop and jump and cavort over steps and stones, smelling the flowers, digging in the garden, and enjoying the gentle warmth of the sun.

I sense it in my own body. I feel a bit more industrious and ready to tackle projects that have piled to embarrassing levels (the dreaded garage in my case).

Since President Obama took the helm of the presidency, we have witnessed his spring-cleaning efforts. The arduous tasks of reorganizing the "people's" house are many-fold, but Obama seems intent on clearing out the debris or at least providing economic life support until solutions can begin to remedy the problems.

The president and Congress are determining what policies to keep, repair or eliminate. This is a difficult job for any new administration, but an enormous undertaking in view of the problems that people in all walks of life are experiencing today.

Our garage holds the handy workbench, table saw and air compressor - essential for the never-ending repair that comes with home ownership.

It also houses cupboards stuffed with camping equipment, seasonal decorations and educational materials used in my business.

Grandpa Oak's 1951 Chevy truck (which holds more stuff) sits center stage. In addition, countless stuff collected over the past 30 years has been shoved into every corner.

Some of our collection has monetary value, but much of it is junk with only sentimental value, stuff I'm attached to for reasons I can't always explain.

Fortunately, the only person who is directly affected by the sorry state of our garage is my husband.

There are no political, fiscal, social, environmental, ethical or legal ramifications complicating our garage reorganization and we both agree that it has to be done. However, we both know that a successful outcome can only occur if we both make some sacrifices.

Now imagine the tasks facing President Obama and Congress. What cleanup tasks should they tackle first? Certainly the economic crisis looms high on the list. The subprime mortgage fiasco has entangled our financial institutions in ways never imagined.

A "perfect storm" of economic disaster is rolling throughout the country and affecting economies worldwide. Who could imagine that the financial giants we thought were indestructible would begin falling like dominoes?

With the ranks of the unemployed, uninsured and foreclosed-upon homeowners steadily increasing, the government is expected to sort out the mess (much of it brought about by financial greed) and resolve the problem without spending tax dollars or altering our way of doing business.

If Obama ignored the crisis or proposed no new ideas, he would be considered ineffectual or uncaring. When he and his administration proposed drastic actions, such as the latest infusion of $30 billion to AIG, he was criticized, yet I didn't hear any alternative recommendations.

I've heard the socialism/welfare state attacks, but lowering taxes is the only cure being proposed by the Republicans. This strategy has not worked well these last eight years; and frankly, I never found any tax relief from Bush's tax policies.

If you take the time to study the issues (reading, as opposed to simply listening to talking heads), you begin to appreciate the complexity of the corporate fiasco. AIG and other financial institutions have expanded exponentionally over the years, and their empires are now financially vulnerable or close to bankruptcy due to the sub-prime mortgage collapse.

If AIG topples, the negative consequences we can expect would be devastating to our economy. Unfortunately, economists worry there will be negative effects that are unknowable at this point.

Being a debtor nation is not what one would expect when accessing the resources, industry and human ingenuity found in the United States.

I, too, am concerned about the level of indebtedness that future generations will have to deal with.

However, the trillions of dollars spent on our war in Iraq (never part of the official Pentagon budget during the Bush years), the gaming of our energy resources by the likes of Enron, and the greed and irresponsible behavior fueled by the subprime mortgage frenzy existed well before Obama took office.

In reconfiguring the way our government does business, our leaders will have to start thinking outside the box. People are successful problem-solvers when they are willing to step out of their comfort zone and listen and consider many points of view.

I know my garage is a lot easier to straighten out than our current fiscal crisis, but I'm willing to make some concessions.

Let's hope our leaders can do the same.

Leigh Hart is a Santa Clarita Valley resident. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Democratic Voices" runs Tuesday in The Signal and rotates among several SCV Democrats.

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