By Jules Lombard
In my last post (“We can change the world”) I quoted Steve Jobs as saying: Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the only ones who do.
The logical next argument is: When the world changes, most people are swept up by the change. They become either victors or victims.
Judging from the established fact that 2% of the people become unbelievably rich as a result of the world’s changes and 98% are struggling to make ends meet, we can safely conclude that most people are victims of the changes.
Consider the iphone.
1. It replaces the home telephone. Telephone-making companies such as Bell Labs have become obsolete. The workers at Bell Labs and other makers of telephones have lost their jobs. They are victims.
2. It replaces mapmakers, through the maps app. Map publishers have lost their jobs.
3. It replaces the phonograph and the cd player. Employees in those industries are the victims.
4. It replaces the desk calculator, the newspapers and magazines. More people lose their jobs. More victims.
5. Every app you see in the iphone represents an industry that is either obsolete or on its way to obsolescence.
What does this all mean? Change is dislocating. One minute you have a job and a career. The next minute you are pounding the pavement.
If you see history as a river, and all events feed into that river – most modern historians subscribe to this new reading of history – then that river now goes one way. From Shanghai to Rotterdam.
The big shipping firm, Maersk Line, according to Bloomberg Business Weekly, is betting its future on a giant ship that, when made to stand on its stern, is almost as tall as the Empire State Building. “It can carry 182 million ipads or 111 million pairs of shoes from Shanghai to Rotterdam,” is how the Bloomberg article describes it.
It’s a sign of the times. In the coming years, 20 of these ships will be built.
The world has indeed changed. China produces, the world buys and consumes.
Meanwhile, in America, employees of Walmart, McDonalds and foodservice workers at Las Vegas casinos are on strike. They are demanding a living wage. If you have a family, how can you survive if you are making $8 an hour, they ask.
You can’t. So the employees are demanding an increase in their wages to $12 to $15 an hour.
Guess what? Even if they get their higher wages, they won’t be able to make it either.
What does this all mean? It means that down the road, the Americans who work today will have very little to show for their lifetime of struggle and trying to build a nest egg. Most Americans will retire with practically nothing, or not retire at all because they can’t afford to retire.
The statistics are troublesome. 90% of working Americans are now working in service industries. Manufacturing accounts for 8% of working Americans, and agriculture represents the balance. In 1950, 30% of Americans worked in manufacturing and manufacturing-related jobs.
What this means is that only 8% of working Americans are assured of a middle-class lifestyle. The rest, the service workers, must choose which service sectors they enter, and must study long and hard to make themselves eligible to work in decent-paying service jobs.
Increasingly, today’s college graduates must go back to school to make themselves qualified for high-paying service sector jobs.
If they fall into the McDonald’s and Walmart type occupations, it will be a tough slog for the rest of their lives.
There are many reasons, many causes of the American worker’s decline. To us here at the American Consumer, the biggest symbol of this decline is the World’s Biggest Boat, the Maersk boat that carries goods from Shanghai to Rotterdam on that one-way river called globalization.
If you ask anyone, they will tell you there is no turning back. And we agree. We cannot bring back America of the 50’s, or the 60’s, or the 70’s. Or even America of the 80’s.
But we can build a new and vibrant America. Instead of only 8% of Americans working in manufacturing, we can bring the number to perhaps 20%. We will never be able to duplicate the 1950’s, when 30% of Americans worked in manufacturing. But certainly we can go up to as high as 20%.
It all goes back to the point that we have been trying to make over the past year in this blog. If we insist, as a country, that 51% of all manufactured products sold by the major multinationals and foreign corporations in the U.S. are manufactured within our borders, half of the manufacturing jobs that we have lost will start coming back.
Manufacturing jobs have always paid more than service jobs, so many more Americans will once again have the middle-class lifestyle within sight.
Over the past year, I have laid down a blueprint for achieving this goal of strengthening American manufacturing. A lot of you, dear readers, have encouraged me to write more on the subject. There is definitely a lot of interest in crafting America’s new world.
Are we “crazy” enough to get it done? We’ve always been a “crazy” people, a people who defy conventional wisdom, who challenge the elements, who blaze trails, who have tamed the West, who believe in a manifest destiny.
We are the American Consumer, the most powerful economic engine in the world. Let us never forget that. We decide if we are victors or victims. And hell, no, we will not be victims any longer.
We have always believed in ourselves. Let’s get this thing done.
(You may post comments in this blog or email me at JLombard88@gmail.com.)