First-time readers, the dialogue in this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about Revenge Revolution and author, Entry #1. List and general description of entries to date. Annual assessment whether Revolution plausible.
Note: most characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations. Profile of characters. You’ll catch on quickly. Thanks for your time and interest…and comments.
Jordan: “Good. Make any changes?”
Gelly: “I tried to make the text more current by including excerpts from papers you wrote later, especially during the early days of the Trump Administration. Hope adding the more recent information was OK.”
Jordan: Glad you added the updates. Thanks. Let me take a look.”
(Chapter 1 of Primer. PDF Download will be available after a few more entries. Text of download will be formatted in columns.)
Imagine this: You need to get someplace quickly. You jump in the driver’s seat and start the car. But the windshield is covered by one of those sun screens. You can only see by using the rearview mirror.
Question: How fast can you drive when you can only see out of the rearview mirror? Not very fast and not very safely.
Where do we start? By removing the sun screen blocking the window. Start looking forward instead of only looking to the past. Duh, the future is different from the past. Yes, learning from the past is important so check the rearview mirror periodically, but spend more time looking ahead than looking behind.
Yes, like all countries, the United States needs to update its approach to economic development. However, the US is facing a major fork…maybe forks…in the road. The combination of a bifurcated economy, concern about our competitive position worldwide and a polarized Congress makes prospects for long–term growth problematic. Without a change in approach the US could fall behind global competitors.
Think it can’t happen? Roughly 100 years ago GDP/capita in Argentina was about 80% of the US GDP/capita. Today, GDP/capita in Argentina is a little over 30% of US GDP/capita. Argentina made some bad strategic economic decisions.
But what about decision–makers in the US? Why are most people in public positions, elected officials and many CEO’s, seemingly reluctant to take a stand on issues outside what is perceived as “mainstream” – thus the analogy of not driving fast while looking only through the rearview mirror?
And why, in 2017, is President Trump’s solution to “Make America Great Again” based on ideas that might have worked when kids hung dice on the rearview mirrors? The ideas are great for nostalgia but they have no basis in today’s economic world, no recognition how technology has affected manufacturing employment and no recognition of the impact on jobs of emerging technologies.
And, no Donald, merely claiming that GDP will increase 4.0% or more each year will not make it happen, nor will claiming “clean coal” bring jobs to back to West Virginia, nor will tweets or tariffs. Nor will pillorying anyone, even well-respected office holders, who question the logic of these retro positions.
So, What Are They Thinking? Given that kind of back-asswards thinking, it is no wonder that many of us get so frustrated with some government policy decisions. Is it no wonder we get angry when a CEO gets a large bonus after laying off workers? It is no wonder we get angry when tax policy encourages companies to send jobs overseas?
Among voters left, right and middle, many decisions by government and business seem to make no sense. In fact, many decisions by government and business seem to be exactly opposite of the best interest of the United States and its citizens.
Does Back-Asswards Have Negative Consequences? Yes, most emphatically yes. In searching for answers to what seem to me to be counter-intuitive decisions, three situations came to mind: (i) the town where I was raised and received my primary and secondary education has been devastated by job losses; (ii) my first post-college employer and a company which was the heart of US manufacturing for decades, General Motors, filed for bankruptcy (in 2011); (iii) thinking and analysis have been replaced by babble spouting talking–head entertainers.
Rather than “pouting and shouting” or even worse, “tweeting” about these frustrations, I decided my therapy was to write a primer outlining how using basic economic principles, business principals and more practical, affordable solutions to help address some policy issues facing the US public and private sectors.
A few years ago I wrote a short paper titled “Why a Healthy Domestic Auto Is Important.” After distributing to a few friends and colleagues, I was surprised by how many commented they had not heard such rationale, agreed it made sense and as such changed their mind about whether the US government should have supported bailing out General Motors and Chrysler. (The paper is included in this primer.)
With that encouragement I drafted other essays, which will be part of the primer. My hope is at least a few people read some or all of the primer and begin to think more broadly and take action on those thoughts.
The primer is designed to be apolitical. The ideas are not exclusively left or exclusively right. Quite honestly, the ideas are so common sense and so basic that at times I am embarrassed to publish them. You would think everyone knew these fundamentals. But apparently not since many are not applied, not understood or lost in political rhetoric.
The primer is also designed to help describe what I consider the cause of the deterioration in the ability of US companies to compete effectively worldwide. Some essays are purely educational; others propose solutions.
As you read these essays, please (i) keep an open mind about the analysis and proposed solutions; (ii) consider how you can implement part or all of the idea, whether you are a member of Congress, a CEO, employee or citizen; (ill) discuss ideas with friends, family and colleagues. The early entries are intended to offer an understanding of some common economic principles and terms. Other entries include common questions, claims and arguments for/against a particular government policy or action.
When you listen to others make claims about what government policy needs to change, or make such claims yourself, then think about the context of the argument and if some additional data or analysis would change your position.
The primer is work in progress. The intent is to add chapters regularly as topics arise. I will update existing chapters for new information and any necessary corrections.
The primer is not a source authority on economics. I would never be so presumptuous. So, if you are schooled on these subjects, please scan the chapters. If nothing else, you can offer ideas on how to improve them.
I hope you find the primer thought provoking, entertaining at times and educational. Please send ideas other topics as well. This primer is the beginning of a journey. I need some guidance on where to go next. Thank you for your time.
For Your Information: If you are curious about my background, raised in Danville, IL, then a town of almost 50,000 (now closer to 30,000). Danville is about 120 miles south of Chicago. Like many Midwest towns in my formative years, Danville was a mix of industrial plants surrounded by farms. Danville offered a good mix of ethnic groups and religions. The public school system was well respected, producing more than its share of successful entertainers, astronauts, educators, doctors and corporate executives.
- Education: Drake University (Des Moines, IA); Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Job locations: Detroit area (twice), New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Charlotte (currently).
- Politics: Fervent independent. Have voted for wide range of Republicans and Democrats. Some in the south consider me a liberal. I remind them of the history of the Republican Party…and that the Civil War ended 150+ years ago, ending with a gentle reminder to “get over it.” I skip “you lost.”