Editor’s note: The "Innovation Exchange," a regular feature in Local Tech Wire, is written by Noah Garrett, former director of communications for the North Carolina Technology Association, a creative spirit, from writing music to news stories, and owner and operator NGC Communications. The focus of the Innovation Exchange is just that – creating a web community through which people can exchange ideas and foster creativity.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — How many of you are tired of reading about layoffs, stimulus packages, government bureaucracy, financial scoundrels and everything else sour in today’s marketplace – along with a feeling that there’s nothing you can do about it?

If we took a poll right now, my prediction is that about 88 percent of you are exhausted by the doom and gloom. The other 12 percent probably don’t read this column, because if they did, the prediction would be much higher.

For the last month, there have been beaucoup news headlines: 8,000 jobs cut here, 2,000 jobs cut there, 6 percent of the work force trimmed here and, my favorite, the company is undergoing a "resource alignment." The headlines to these stories should really read: 8,000 families unable to buy groceries this week, 2,000 workers lose their homes after layoffs, 6 percent of the work force is in the unemployment line and company "resource alignment" prevents employees’ children from going to college.

These staggering job loss numbers are not just statistics. These are real people, with real families, facing real economic hardships. I consider myself included in the crowd and so should you.

Every day that goes by without a solution, the situation gets worse. I’m not saying the stimulus package that passed Congress is the end-all answer. But, you know what, it’s something. The package may be a congressional wish list of sorts, but at least our elected officials are trying to get something done.

As you can tell, this is not a tongue-in-cheek column this week. I’m not cracking jokes or poking fun at an economy spoiled for so many with problems caused by so few.

Taxpayers are rightfully outraged about how little has seemed to change, especially in the banking business. Even though financial firms are now beholden to you and me, many are still spending heavily on outlandish bonuses and seemingly frivolous things like stadium-naming deals.

Last week, I attended a networking event – nothing out of the ordinary, but I did notice something rather extraordinary.

More people were there representing themselves instead of a business. In short, there was a tremendous amount of folks who basically didn’t have jobs and were attending to seek out leads to employment opportunities. Usually, there are a few who attend with that goal in mind, but the majority at last week’s event was there just to find employment.

I am optimistic and believe in the American dream, even if that sounds a bit naive. If you work hard, good things can happen and you are rewarded. The reality is that sometimes, even when people work hard, bad things happen. This crappy economy and heartbreaking loss of jobs are affecting all hard workers – good people, and the lazy ones, too.

The problem right now is that legitimate hard workers have no place to work hard.

The gloves are off here at the Innovation Exchange. Perhaps we can put our heads together and think of some ways to help not only ourselves but those around us.

Each of you has a talent or skill. Maybe we can find enough of us to pull all our resources together and come up with a totally new idea or even an economic solution. Maybe you have ideas on how to fix the economy? Maybe you have ideas about how to save money? Maybe you have ideas about how to find work?

All ideas are welcome because we are all in this together.

Our problems will continue to get worse if we all just sit back, do nothing and wait for the government to bail us out. At this point, doing nothing is not an option from a legislative standpoint or for the general public.

More Americans need to start exercising their basic First Amendment rights. All U.S. citizens, regardless of race, religion or social belief, must take into account that this country is founded on principles that state that we as citizens have "a duty and an obligation" to protect and participate in matters that face our country.

A democratic society cannot function without guaranteeing its citizens’ fundamental rights, and its citizens cannot function democratically without discharging their fundamental duties in society. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights state this, and both have withstood the test of time, serving as role models to the world.

Somehow, we place disproportionate emphasis on our rights against our duties as citizens. Our inalienable rights are inherent and fundamental; the constitution simply safeguards and guarantees them. As rights are inalienable, so are duties; for every right there is a reciprocal duty.

Let’s start this conversation and see where we can go. Together, we might come up with something that saves us all.

E-mail me at noah@thinkngc.com