Positive Things I See Happening In America Today

I am heartened by a lot of what I see in the marketplace. People are sobering up. They are more serious, less complacent. I see smart kids beginning to turn away from becoming aspiring hedge fund gamers to more meaningful work. The glumness in the media is probably a good contrarian indicator of a tilt in attitude toward productive work and away from the sickening day trader mentality of the last decade.

What does concern me a lot is the widening chasm between rich and poor in America. The success dream still lives on, but the path out of poverty seems more distant to me. Frankly, I am surprised we have not seen more demonstrations of angst and anger. The Tea Party has been relatively polite on the Right and the Lefties seem disoriented and despondent. No strident presidential candidate has any traction, which seems odd if we are in such a bad place.

Perhaps the government safety net has assuaged the rawness of popular opinion. Foreclosures get pushed back by legal maneuvering and unemployment benefits keep getting extended. Maybe we need more pain to move the needle.

American public education appears to be in a mess and we have nobody to blame except ourselves. We have tolerated mediocrity for so long we barely know what quality is. In manufacturing I see possibility primarily from small and midsize firms whose owners are willing to train smart kids with a glint in their eyes even though they may well leave them for future opportunity. The survival of family businesses is also hopeful. Immigration despite the idiotic hurdles government throws up still lives and rejuvenates the workforce and small business. The upward mobility of Hispanics is a very hopeful happening. The underclass, which sadly grows, is extremely discouraging.

Foreign competition increasingly feels like yesterday’s issue. Yesterday’s enemies are today’s partners. Sushi is now America’s grits.

Question: How do you picture America’s economic future, dire or hopeful?

This isn't a picture of Haiti or India, it's Camden, N.J.

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15 thoughts on “Positive Things I See Happening In America Today

  1. Ed Gnifkowski

    We will only go to work when the entitlements dry up.
    I offer 12.50/hour to start in the shop and more people turn it down than show interest.
    This is for very low tech labor.

  2. Alan Szablewski

    Maybe the demonstrations that we have seen recently against wall street are just the beginning. It’s wrong for so many people to be profitting from the troubles and misfortues of others. The Big Banks (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, etc.) who gave the mortgages that were high risk have turned around and profitted from the bail out by the government and then refused to renegotiate with people on their mortgages to reduce costs. The government keeps lookin to reduce the medicare and medicaid benefits and pushes up the retirement age so people either work longer or get less.

  3. Jim

    Hmmm, I see the stock market dropping huge in March, I see organized labor restless and working with can nots, will nots, do nots, to create stress at every oportunity. I see rights for everyone, yet the middle class paying for the rich and poor, I see huge debt on the national, state, and local levels, and people who are educated, working for the government and organized labor misguided thinking things are getting better when we will see incredible unrest and anguish in the next year.

  4. Richard Rudy

    The future for America’s economy is pretty grim in my view. Oh, we’ll eventually crawl out of Recession I (or II if you believe we’ve experienced a double dip). But the long-term prospects are poor because fifty years of government meddling have conditioned so many of our people to believe that the government can (and should) fix every problem, right every wrong, adjudicate every unfairness.

    In this they are encouraged by our elected representatives who, powerless to do anything but make laws and having little or no experience at anything else, respond to every perceived injustice or inequality by making yet another law.

    We lionize entrepreneurs, but we hate greed. We command our economic system to create a desired social outcome (like home ownership), but point the finger elsewhere when it goes terribly wrong. We want our economy to soar, but we don’t want anyone to earn “excessive” profit. Despite decades of failures, we encourage the government to pick winners and losers in commerce and then are astonished when they fail yet again.

    Our economy more and more resembles Jonathan Swift’s pitiful giant, bound and imprisoned by a web of hundreds of threads. Each new law and regulation is (usually) well-intentioned and seemingly innocuous, but the cumulative effect is paralyzing. If we continue to so intently “tame the beast”, we will starve the engine of prosperity. Those that have a lot will certainly have less, and so will everyone else.

  5. Keith Garrison

    Richard has said it very succinctly. It seems a tremendous hurdle to undo much of what has been done over the years. If we changed the rules in congress that the only bills that can be voted on have to be read out loud first, and that the entire congress has to be present for the reading. oh…one other thing; for each new law or executive order three old ones need to be removed. I do not wnat or need the government to help me except as stated in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

  6. Charlie

    A lot of good comments on this. I believe Richard says it best. In WI we are attacking the status quo and it is causing great angst with those who dislike change. We were all asking for all the taxes we pay where is it going. We found out in WI it was being eaten up in large pensions and astronomical cost for union insurance. Now that we have defeated collective bargaining in the public sector, local governments and school districts around the state report fantastic savings, balanced budgets and hiring of new teachers. Remember NO ONE SHOULD BE BARGAINING WITH THE PEOPLES MONEY. This is now gone in WI.
    Indiana, Ohio and many other states are doing the same. How is it that the second richest county in America, San Jose is broke. Simple all the tax dollars are going into the pockets of the union.
    By the way I had a union in my shop and when I communicated with them and told them we are on the same team and global competition was our enemy and when we gave them responsibility for quality and production and the authority to manage their cells it was heartening to see how quickly they came to us to discuss the low productivity of some of their colleagues. No more strikes and great cooperation. If you have union I suggest you communicate the company vision and mission and make them a part of the solution.
    With regard to our federal government we need to do the same. Communicate with our vote what we expect. Only the private sector creates lasting jobs. We need continuity and consistency. We need predictability. We have none of this now. America is not hiring because we do not know what it will cost us. We have no predictability in our economy, our tax structure our our personnel costs.
    Every day it is a new tax idea or revenue idea (one in the same). We need the government to do what the Constitution calls for Government to do. It really is a simple and concise document. There is no translation needed. The government needs to get out of the way of prosperity for all.
    You cannot have a President drawing lines in the sand between rich and poor. Those rich guys with the big jets earned the privilege.
    You get the point.
    We are hiring because we have to to grow. If we don’t grow we die.
    God Bless AMERICA, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. Be Brave!

    +1
  7. John Otto

    Regarding Alans comment, many people who were given mortgages were not qualified to have them. Government mandates forced the Banks to make ridiculous loans in the name of fairness, which drove the housing to unattainable levels.

    My wife and I have been playing by the rules for 31 years. We still have a mortgage, and now thanks to the stupidity in Washington we have two mortgages. And since most of the country is not going to pay their new mortgage either, I guess we have three!

    We had a 5% unemployment rate during the best of times in this country, so how did we require 20 million illegal immigrants? Many of these people now OWN (to name a few) the roofing, siding, painting, landscaping, and moving industries. So all these poor people must be poor due to a serious lack of ambition. They’re simply not hungry enough.

    Everybody wants to blame someone. Now we are blaming the Rich, or by current vilification standards, those making more than a million a year. So now our illustrious government wants to shift the blame of their own failed policies on the Rich, take their money and set up more failed programs.

    Until we get serious about reducing the size and scope of this bureaucratic runaway train, I vote dire. True leadership could make me hopeful, but I know for certain that it’s not what we have now.

  8. Dave Hildebrand

    This country needs a LEADER. Not someone that hope’s or dreams of things changing but someone that can stand up, kick the dead heads and do nothing in the butt and act with direction and confidence. Find an HONEST leader and this country will thrive again.

  9. Dick Crosby

    Lloyd: You are a ray of sunshine breaking thru this cloud of gloom that permeates and overshadows this land and apparently most of the world. Is anybody happy and content, anywhere? It seems socialistic and/or oppresive autocratic thinking abounds everywhere.
    But, unlike you with your daily bible reading/prayer session, I often lay in my bed in the middle of the night, and stare heavenward at the ceiling, wondering just how much God and Christ are going to put up with, before they wreck vengence upon the whole human race. Maybe we need another boat by Noah, some serious rain, and start over again.
    Politically and philosophically, I agree with the commentary above. Almost without exception, when I’m talking with new customers and contacts, I apologize for sending Obama and his tribe to Washington, and making it another suburb of Chicago. Like Springfield. Virtually, without exception, they all agree with my position. I can’t imagine any small or medium sized businessman approving of the way these damn give away governments, at every level, mishandle the public money and affairs, Could we / can we possibly sustain another (4) years of this absurdity? I hope not! At the moment, Herman Cain’s my man.
    I like the idea of fighting fire with fire. But Newt’s probably the most knowledgeable. And he sure would know the ropes as to how to get things done. How about Huckabee for veep? Bring a little Christian morality to the place. It needs it! But then, I’m prejudiced.
    The Lord takes care of used machinery dealers, and all other dumb animals!

  10. Carbide Dies

    Wow, great article. Its nice to hear something besides younger generation bashing. With the average machinist being middleaged these days we need them. bad. I feel like your right, people are starting to relize we need to make things here in America, and that takes hard work. I hope we figure that out fast enough though, I live in the Detroit area and see buildings like that every day. I’m sure America can and will be able to come out of it, its just a matter of how shitty we let things get before we put our noses back to the grindstone!

  11. Gary

    Great thread so I’ll add my thoughts. Dire. Why? Attitudes need to change. Everyone seems to want it all but nobody wants to work hard for it anymore. Rather than focus on the RICH, people need to focus on themselves by improving their skills and values that they can offer to an employer and which are trending on the market place, ex. help wanted in manufacturing goes unfilled despite a 9.1 unemployment rate. They also need to seek out alternative skills to be flexible as demands in the market change. In my 25 year career in manufacturing I never worked for a poor person or a poor company. In fact, I embrace the rich because they commonly share the same desires as most people – a home, a car, products, etc. but in most cases bigger, more expensive and they purchase a lot of things. They put people to work. We fail to recognize that those corporate profits are often engrained into our 401K. I want them to have huge profits. Further I know quite a few wealthy people. They would rather invest then to sit on their funds but if you create such a harsh business environment you will see them not investing as we see them today. I visited three large companies in the last few days and money isn’t an issue for investing in capital equipment. What is at issue is the business climate that has become so harsh, so unpredictable, simply due to our government’s policies and regulations.

    Our government needs to create a friendly business environment, promote manufacturing and educate people on its importance while family’s need to encourage their kids to seek out engineering, science and technology careers. We also need to address our trade situation with China while heavily promoting American manufacturing and encouraging “quality” over “volume” consumption. Rather than our government putting on silly ad campaigns on TV about “If you see something, Say something” perhaps they should promote ‘Buy American, Strengthen America, and you’ll find a job in America”

    People have such a fixation on what others have that it’s quite disgusting. Just look at these protesters and try to examine their point while seeking out their solutions. Life is about choices that we make as individuals yet when our choices and decisions are poor, we point the finger to blame rather than learn, correct and move on. Who signed that mortgage? The bank didn’t point a gun to your head yet you call them evil. The government encouraged relaxed credit from the banks. We purchase beyond our earnings yet complain when the banks change the rules on credit cards to secure their profits when the government places heavy regulations against them. Rules can change? Read the terms. Put yourself in their shoes. It’s about resisting temptation and making sound choices and this applies to corporations as well. If the risk is too great, they don’t invest nor hire. Wouldn’t you do the same? That is a sound choice for them. I would tell these people to focus on themselves rather than the rich. Protest Washington and not Wall Street.

  12. Steve Baranyk

    Lloyd, when you next have a chance to go Aliquippa, PA, about 15 miles north of Pittsburgh on the West bank of the Ohio. I was born there in ’39. The town (actually it was a Borough) vwas dominated by J&L Steel. The plant employed about 12,500 in head of household jobs.

    J&L never cared if you had a HS education – they wanted to know that you were at least 18, in good health and could/would take instructions in English. This was common throughout the old Rust Belt industries. It amounted to an unwritten social compact with the local populace. We won’t cause kids to drop out of HS to work in our mills, we will teach them what we want them to know to do the job we give them and we will pay them a competitive wage (once the Wagner Act went into effect) with better benefits (due to wage and price controls during WWII) than they would obtain elsewhere.

    The mills never committed to remain competitive with foreign or new competition. It was presumed they would always be there. The first sign I saw was in ’55 when J&L announced they were closing their nail mill because one could buy nails made in Germany outside the mill gate cheaper than the mill could produce them.

    Then the EPA came in and told the mills they were polluting the air and the water and under government fiat forced them to install equipment that did not reduce the costs of production but rather diverted capital away from improving productivity. The mills and the Federal government became adversaries in a mortal ballet that helped kill the mills.

    Young men continued to stay in HS until they were 18 without really learning much knowing they would work in the mills as did their fathers and their fathers’ fathers. So no new skills were acquired which might be transferable to other work. Most disgracefully, the schools did not teach their students the fundamental skill of learning how to learn so they could maintain marketable skills throughout their lifetime. But then everyone was happy – the mills provided jobs.

    As the mills died (the Aliquippa works of J&L are gone … torn down to realize the scrap value!) the towns died with them. Today the main street of Aliquippa (Franklin Ave) resembles a street in Berlin in May 1945. No economy, no jobs, no stores, buildings falling in on themselves and no hope for those living there.

    Go back to the ’40s and ’50s. Aliquippa produced Henry Mancini, a Surgeon General of the U.S. (Steinfeld), Press Maravich (Pistol Pete’s father), Mike Ditka, doctors and lawyers and “Tony” Ciccone, the father of Madonna. All of these were the children of immigrants. But we exhausted the American Dream through poor management augmented by poor politics.

    This sad story has been replicated across the U.S. The result is today we have millions of Americans who lack the basic skill to get up in the morning on time to be at a job on time with the will to do a good job for a fair day’s pay. There is no easy solution. We will pay for this for generations to come.

    Steve Baranyk – Indianapolis

  13. ALAN MORIN

    A lot of great insight and opinions. In conversations with business owners willing to put political & personal agendas, hyperbole and talking points aside in the interest of addressing the actual problems…common sense comes to the surface. Uncertainty keeps business from hiring and growing? Seriously?
    There are plenty of voters who can’t have sports center interupted and be bothered with learning boring history or econ 101 so I’ll simplify…
    70% of our GDP is driven by consumer spending. When 95% of those consumers have seen their incomes drop over the last 12 years (while the top 2% income earners has more than doubled/and not re-invested in long term US industry in spite of the most favorable tax environment in 80 years) and experienced dramatic increases in healthcare, energy, food, insurance, etc what do you think happens to consumer demand?
    An example? When car sales went from 17m/yr to 10m/yr were those layoffs due to the auto industry’s uncertainty or a balance sheet collapse? A business owner/operator cares about business as in doing some business and if demand (or lack of!) is there they are responding to it. Unless they have figured like many US businesses they can layoff 30%, cut the remaining worker pay 30%, lean hard on them because times are tough and unless they bellyup they will have the same fate as their laid off neighbors and friends, then hide their US earned profits in their offshore accounts by moving the expenses to the US balance sheet and the revenue to the offshore mailbox. How very patriotic we ‘job creators’ are.

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