'I'm mad as hell ... '

Odds are you're pretty frustrated, if not mad as hell.

It doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or a Republican, a tea partier or a coffee drinker, employed or unemployed. You're not happy with our government and our elected representatives.

In the latest New York Times/CBS News opinion poll, released last week, 82 percent of Americans disapproved of Congress, the highest such negative rating in the history of the poll. Democrats earned a 66 percent disapproval rating, while Republicans were at 72 percent. President Obama looks downright impressive with a traditionally weak approval rating of 48 percent.

According to a Rasmussen Reports poll from last week, 80 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track.

No kidding. Your 401(k) and IRA just tanked -- if you hadn't already drained your savings to get by. Your house is underwater and limiting your mobility.

Meanwhile, the national debt is speeding toward $15 trillion with no prospects of being paid down in the decade ahead. It's enough to make you ... retreat.

While a typical newscast might feature a handful of protests, led by engaged citizens from the right, left and center, plenty of folks in the silent majority, while angry, feel downright powerless.

It's a reasonable reaction to what's happened over the past few years. Congress and President Obama seem content to throw piles of borrowed money at every problem, when federal budget deficits are the biggest threat to this country's future. The status quo steams forward, no matter what signals voters send to Washington each election. All those campaign promises?

They're for suckers.

It's all enough to make you stew and resign yourself to enduring a long, slow decline into oblivion.

Which is exactly why you must channel your aggravation into constructive engagement.

Get informed. Devour information to develop an informed opinion. Call and write your representatives. Identify people and groups who support your values. Rally. Shout. Make your voice count.

Want the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan? Tell Washington. Will you blow a gasket if your taxes go up another cent? Tell Washington. Tired of government interference in commerce? Got an idea on entitlement reform?

Get your ideas out there. Go to candidate forums and events.

And in 2012, vote accordingly.