A brief rain shower moves across the Front Range onto Colorado Springs. The clouds change their patterns rapidly above Pikes Peak and I sip my coffee at a Starbucks that is unlikely to close.
Here, not far from the U.S. Air Force Academy, a brief drive from the U.S Olympic Training Center, the volume of cash passing hourly is heavy enough to ensure that the cappuccino soy latte and the mint mocha frappuccino will continue to be drawn for months, certainly, and years, possibly.
Starbucks may be closing some stores, but those are not expected to be on the Garden of the Gods Road. The economic problems of America have not reached a crisis level here that would suggest a wholesale abandonment of coffee chic. Mortgage foreclosures, rising inflation, disappearing jobs and bank-lending shyness are pervasive problems, but Colorado Springs’ residents know that all this is only temporary. The inexorable advantages of population growth, stimulated by more federal spending in the region, may be delayed, but they cannot be denied.
Indiana’s Princeton and Portland, Shelbyville and South Bend, Bloomington and Bluffton, New Albany and New Castle cannot share such confidence. Despite encouragement from state government emailers, in some cases despite reality, Indiana has emerged from its long lethargy only to show a fresh face of fear.
Where once it was “only a matter of time” before the good jobs returned, now citizens express persistent diminished expectations. Where once parents bemoaned the departure of their children for Colorado Springs or other picturesque settings, now there is the cold realization that “a better tomorrow” may be generations away.
Economic mortality has claimed Gary and struck terror into Terre Haute, Michigan City, Anderson, Muncie and Richmond. Now, the dark shroud is no longer a fiction in Frankfort or Fort Wayne. Grim possibilities invade dreams in Carmel, Fishers and other “immune” islands of affluence.
For years, all we had to do was wait. Now the concern is that all we can do is wait. That is not true, but the era of letting others attend to your future is over. If your economic status is going to improve, it will require that you (employer or employee) change how you approach your company or job.
Ask yourself, “What can I do with the skills I have to make more money?” Stop seeing yourself as a victim of something beyond yourself. True, you probably don’t know all you need to know, but for today, that’s how it is. Right, you don’t have enough money to do what you think needs doing, but today you have time to do something more than you did yesterday.
While the enthusiastic words of motivational speakers will not transform your life, self-pity is a non-starter. The problem is no longer the politician, the boss, the union, the market, the North American Free Trade Agreement or your DNA. The problem is you, your inaction, and your indifference to your degenerative social disease: sloth.
I know you think you work hard. But you and I know that you and I waste enormous amounts of time. Some of us do it writing in a Colorado coffeehouse, while others will turn this page and forget its message.
Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU’s Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com.