Unless you have been on another planet for the last month, you know about the credit crisis in America. If you have been paying attention to the coverage, you have heard several reasons for the crisis — big firms on Wall Street, the Bush administration, fat cats in New York, even the guy who offered a loan with an adjustable rate. But there is one person noticeably unmentioned in this game of blame — you.

I must admit, I am not surprised you haven't been mentioned as at least an accomplice to the financial mess. Who would tell you? The media? No way. They need you as a customer to drive their ratings. It's not in their interest.

How about the politicians? Will they tell you it is your fault? Of course not, especially in an election year. You are their constituents and they need your vote. You can do no wrong in their eyes. So if the media won't tell you that you screwed up and the politicians won't say you have been living beyond your means, who will?

I take it upon myself — as a member of you — to give us all a dose of reality.

For years, you have been living beyond your means. You drive a car you can't afford. You bought a house that is way too big, just hoping the market would go up and you would get rich quick (like those horrible fat cats on Wall Street). You made short-term decisions that will have long-term consequences. You bet it all on the real estate market. You spend more than you make. You were greedy, and you lost.

I would like to mention three groups of people you can't blame for this mess.

First, fat cats on Wall Street: Their firms bought into your decisions. You decided to buy a house you couldn't afford, and they were dumb enough to lend you the money. They were greedy just like you, not more, not less. You are no different than those fat cats, except they were smart enough to negotiate severance packages and you didn't.

Second, the Bush administration: I know it's popular to blame them for everything, but I'm sorry, the president wasn't there when you signed the loan on your house. He didn't buy your cars. He didn't make the shortsighted decision to take a subprime finance gamble on shelter for your family. He didn't bet the farm on one real estate deal. You did.

Finally, the lenders: They made it possible for you to start making payments on your home. They qualified you for way too much borrowed money. You took it but didn't have to. In spite of what you are currently saying, they did not trick you. You knew the risk. You thought you were invincible.

I know it's hard to hear. The truth often is, which is why so few people actually tell it. Let's be honest about how we got here. We did it ourselves through poor decisions based on trying to get something for nothing in the housing market.

Let's turn off 24-hour news that panders to its customers and get back to the accountability, responsibility and self-discipline that made the United States of America the greatest and most prosperous country in history.

Let's all quit blaming others and take an occasional look in the mirror to ask the really difficult questions: "What did I do to contribute to this mess?" and "What can I do to solve it?"


Kent Cook of Spanish Fork is currently living in Switzerland with his wife and children.