Monday, November 23, 2009

Manufacturing in America: A National Catastrophe

I read an editorial in the NY Times by Bob Herbert (11/21/2009 edition) recently that echoes a theme I’ve posted here many times: too many of our best and brightest have been making up exotic financial instruments rather than making things people really need.  Today’s Chicago Tribune also had an article about manufacturing’s decline in our country. Lastly, 60 Minutes recently had a piece on cyber-terrorism. Part of the piece was about how generators could be destroyed through hacking into the software that controls them. As creepy as that is, I was even more bothered by the fact that NO electrical generation turbines are made in the US anymore. The same country that might be committing the terrorism (China was suspected) might also be the country we have to turn to for replacements. We are so short-sighted, so foolish.
From the article:
Detroit was the arsenal of democracy in World War II and the incubator of the American middle class. It was the city that taught mass production to the rest of the world. It was a place that made cars, trucks and other tangible products, not derivatives.
“We’ve been living with the illusion that manufacturing — making things — is so 20th century,” said Mr. Shaiken, “and that we could succeed by concentrating, for example, on complex financial instruments while abandoning the industrial base that sustained so many American families.”
I can hear my friends on the right now: government should not be picking winners and losers, BUT we need a industrial policy in this country that promotes making things here over shipping jobs and manufacturing expertise overseas. Perhaps we can start by NOT giving corporations tax breaks to open up shop in foreign countries. Give us something to keep, and create, jobs here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Support Main Street, not Wall Street

My rants against business are aimed at big giant corporations and the gigantic "too-big-to-fail" financial firms on Wall Street. I don't understand the big corporations that make millions or billions in profits, yet still lay off thousands. Why can't they bite the bullet for the good of the economy and make less money? Don’t they see the connection between unemployment and lower sales? I don't understand the thinking behind the huge bonuses on Wall Street, when it's the taxpayers that kept those businesses afloat. If they really earned those bonuses, why did we have to shell out almost a trillion dollars to keep them solvent? It is socialism! Socialism for the rich.

Yet, some of our local businesses here have been hiring! I know of a couple in my town of Batavia that have hired employees recently. I see people volunteering to help in my local community. I see people from "Main Street" USA trying to help the situation. I see very little of that same attitude from Wall Street or other big corporations. Why is that?

Support your local businesses. In the aggregate, they employ a lot of people. If there's innovation or a future high-flier, there is a good chance it will come from a struggling local business. Who would have thought a few geeks in an office in Albuquerque would turn out to be Microsoft and create thousands of jobs? And that one of those geeks would become the richest man on the planet?

Positive Thinking Leads to Poor Preparation

Those of us who went through Boy Scouts remember the motto: Be Prepared! We should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Our constant urge to unrealistically think positive often causes us to "stick our head in the sand" and leaves us ill prepared for the nasty things life can put in our way.

Monday, November 16, 2009

American Positive Thinking

Our American tendency to always think positive is responsible for many of our ills:

 
  • Give them a mortgage regardless of their income - houses will always increase in value. What can go wrong?
  • CEOs and corporations can be trusted to do the right thing for the shareholders and customers. There's no need to burden them with laws and rules.
  • We should be tolerant of other cultures - they'll stop hating us if we show tolerance.
Unrealistic expectations due to the positive thinking mantra led to the 2008 - 2009 financial meltdown.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I’m Sick of the Positive Thinking Industry

Are you sick of the positive thinking crowd? Are you tired of hearing people tell you that if you just think positive thoughts everything you've ever dreamed of will come your way? Have you read the The Secret and thought: what a pile of crap?

The positive thinking industry is huge. It fills the self-help shelves of bookstores nationwide. This industry peddles dreams - the dream that if you just think enough of the "right" thoughts - success will be yours. You will attract money, a spouse, success - regardless of your capabilities and preparation. I'm sick of it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Wall Street / Business Community Idiots

The Dow Jones Industrial Average went down 249 points on Friday. I was watching CNBC and the "analyst" they were interviewing said that "the market" was worried that consumers would not start spending. Maybe that's because consumers are worried that the business community would not start hiring?

It seems we're in a vicious circle here! Which "side" is going to blink first? There was a time when the business world realized that people had to work, had to have an income in order to afford the stuff they make and sell. Now it seems the business community wants us to just run up a pile of debt again to buy the stuff they make and sell. They need to do their part, show some cojones and start hiring again. Quit expecting the government to continually bail you out!