How are you doing in this shaky economy? I know I am barely hanging on. I checked my retirement fund the other day and was fortunate to see that its value had only dropped by three thousand dollars. And I use the term “only” carefully because I know people who don’t even have that much in a retirement plan or a retirement plan at all. They are living with the “I will deal with it when the time comes” mentality.

Who should we blame for the condition of this economy? The politicians, the financial institutions who played with our money and the stock market like it was a toy-or should we just blame ourselves? As we get ready to go into the November elections, many of the people who have been in office for years are asking us to send them back to do exactly what they have been doing-nothing!

As voters, we need to take elections seriously and make our decisions to vote for those who will represent us very carefully. Send people to represent you who don’t understand finances, economics and human nature and we end up in an economy and situation like we have today. When politicians allowed certain segments of the financial sector to be deregulated, the expectation was that the people in those institutions would do the right thing. But politicians didn’t take into account human greed.

Who among you can remember that not long after Congress deregulated the Savings and Loan industry, it went belly up in a situation that is reminiscent of today’s financial crisis. Yet those in Washington never seem to learn. We taxpayers are seen as the endless piggy bank who can constantly supply government with funds to bail out failing private financial institutions. Yet even though Congress is currently looking into a 700-BILLION-dollar bailout of financial institutions, who is helping the average taxpayer?

I know someone who has had to tap into their 401k during these rough economic times. They will have to pay taxes on the money they took out, plus a 10-percent penalty. How come our lawmakers aren’t doing something to suspend the penalty when people who are trying to live are using their last resources in order to stay afloat?

Here’s something for everyone to think about when politicians talk about giving us something. Always ask them how they will pay for it. And make sure the payment method is a concrete idea and not a lofty one based on a temporary solution. Also be careful of the freebies politicians offer to make you feel good. Free rides for seniors sounds good, but will you give up your seat on a bus to a senior who is riding free and you just used your last $2 to pay for the ride while the senior is taking the bus to Chinatown to catch the shuttle to the casino? Or will you struggle to pay your child’s medical bill because your insurance won’t cover certain treatments for asthma while a co-worker is benefiting from insurance coverage that offers special treatment because their child is autistic?

Our politicians are either standing in the limelight or under a spotlight. One is because they have done well, the other is because they are under scrutiny.