“Don’t hate the player, hate the game,” I heard a retail checkout attendant tell another when asked why she was given permission by the manager to leave early to catch the Bengals playoff game while the other had to work. I thought about the ramifications of her statement and marveled at all the Bengals paraphernalia the girl wore — the one getting to go watch the game, of course.

That playoff game was sure tough to swallow, but what an engaging ride to watch a successful season, with all its trials and tribulations. It’s only fitting that this month we profile Mike Brown as part of our annual Power 100 feature. The photo shoot was one of the highlights of my 2009. Mike graciously escorted us through the stadium and out onto the field. Did I mention I usually don’t go on photo shoots?

Being a part of the media does bring some perks; it often allows entry to meet many who are at the top of their fields. I frequently attend meetings of the Cincinnati State Workforce Development Advisory Committee. More than one story has come from the intense discussions this group has had because the committee is so well rounded to represent all the various sectors of our local economy, private and public. We were discussing the state of our local and national economy when it made me ask about this notion of when we will “return to normalcy.”

The short answer — at least from what I gathered from this group and many others I have spoken to, especially within the banking industry — is that this notion, and the fundamental question, is actually flawed. Point being: Normal is now. The state of lending to most businesses, let alone homeowners, is at a standstill. This, obviously, has many repercussions to our way of life, but it should also serve as a wake-up call to all forms of government that “waiting it out” is no longer a strategy. For example, the city of Cincinnati has hit the snooze button one too many times to nap through budget alarms. States such as Ohio and Kentucky need to figure something out, too. It’s as convoluted as it is simple: You need to cut services and payroll, and you probably need to increase taxes.

Yes, I said it — increase taxes. Unfortunately, these taxes are not to pay for services but to pay off debts. On the national level, it is my belief that those age 40 or under should not expect to receive any Social Security benefits; it’s simply a matter of budget constraints. The thought that new federal and local taxes would go to new initiatives without fixing the current ones seems less courageous and fiscally irresponsible.

I bring this up because I think there is a tremendous competitive advantage on the local level for our region and states to heed this call of the “new normal.” When railroads were becoming the new means of transportation in the 1800s, some towns benefited by embracing the changes. When the movement of civil and political rights swept the country through the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, some regions were more open to these causes and benefited economically in return. Those cities that address budget needs now will slingshot past those that wait on the sidelines. We should now embrace and support elected leaders who understand this.

To build on the checkout clerk’s slogan, no need to hate the players, or maybe even the game. But let’s at least accept that this game has changed.